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Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture
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Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  637 ratings  ·  66 reviews
How can biblical authority be a reality for those shaped by the modern world? This book treats the First World as a mission field, offering a unique perspective on the relationship between the gospel and current society by presenting an outsider's view of contemporary Western culture.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published June 1st 1988 by Eerdmans (first published April 1st 1986)
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Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Newbigin gives us an analysis of Western culture from the perspective of a long-term missionary. His primary question is, "What would be involved in a genuinely missionary encounter between the gospel and modern western culture?" His close reading of the modern western world is insightful, revealing our long held but mostly subconscious presuppositions. He shows us a culture which is committed to the autonomy of the self and to a deep public/private divide, a society which is safely inoculated a ...more
Mark Jr.
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, audio, library-book
Remarkable book. Way back in the 80s Newbigin was saying what struck me as new in the late 90s and early 2000s. I wish I'd been exposed to his way of thinking earlier.
Josh Wilhelm
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review forthcoming. An excellent book!
Glenn Wishnew III
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Paul Mullen
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faith-vocation
Leslie Newbigin writes with a kind of clarity of thought that I really love. The central idea of this book is the answer to the question, "If one were a missionary to the modern western culture, what approach would one need to take?"

A key idea is that all cultures have a plausibility structure... a system of cultural artifacts and belief systems that make a new idea either acceptable or unacceptable. He decodes the enlightenment-informed plausibility structures of the society of his time. (He w
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a MUST read for any Christian minister on a college campus as Newbigin’s cultural exegesis is poignant and spot-on. This is invaluable insight since the university is the center of the propagation of the worldview held by those to whom we are to witness to. Newbigin is ahead of his time and incredibly well read in various fields of study. He sees clearly that the West needs to be re-evangelized with the true gospel (as opposed to the accommodated gospel it currently possesses which it ha ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-audio-books
A layered and rich witness testifying to what Mission is and should be about. Newbigin dismantles the idols of secularism and pretensions of 'neutrality', recalibrating our orientation towards The One Living God. Lesslie's prodigious publication fills in the Christ-shaped holes in Rabbi Sacks' otherwise excellent book The Great Partnership. Furthermore, foolishness To The Greeks fits neatly with Edward Rommen's and Alexander Schmemann's books on Christian Mission. Lesslie has studiously explored ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Newbigin has executed a fascinating and concise engagement with modern, post-Enlightenment culture. I find it interesting that he doesn't really use the term "post-modern," and ultimately I do not think his book lacks anything for that omission. The book is concise, but Newbigin packs quite a punch in the pages. He is pretty unflinching when it comes to the reality that Enlightenment thought has quite thoroughly relegated religion (and religious thought/action) to the private sphere in the Weste ...more
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book has given me so many things to think about. Its primary strength is pointing out the fallacies embraced by Western culture that make people resistant to the gospel, and the changes that need to happen within the Church to effectively address the culture.

The points that made the biggest impact on me were:
1. rejection of the idea that humans can separate their public witness from their private beliefs.

2. identification of the flaws in the western plausibility structure which is based on
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I recently took an ecclesiology class where my professor quoted Newbigin often and urged us to read everything that he wrote. This book is listed as required reading for my next class that I am taking on Christianity and Culture. I guess because of the missiological conversations we had in class around Newbigin concepts, I expected this book about culture to involve a bunch of ministry strategies, drawings or graphs, and 10 ways to engage culture type of things. What I found instead was a thorou ...more
Sean Post
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As much as I didn't care for "The Open Secret", this book seems to be the crowning masterpiece of Newbigin's life as a missiological practitioner.

The latter chapters were what really grabbed my attention. The author's discussion of the church's dialogue with science and the limitations of rationalism and post-Enlightenment though were very insightful. He persuasively makes the case that we live in both a rational and contingent universe.

However, my favorite part of the book were the final two
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Hope that the West can indeed be transformed once again by the Gospel.
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A must read as Christianity, and the Church at large, struggles to find it's identity in a post-enlightenment culture.
Chris Schutte
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book full of profound wisdom as we seek to understand and share the gospel in our increasingly secular context.
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Even though this book was written in a different time and thus in a different political climate, there are many relevant comments that apply to society today. Western culture is still influenced by that past in which Newbigin was writing; in fact, those events have led to an even more extreme society than the one he described. While the practical advice of reaching members of Western culture is lacking, the analysis of how we got to where we are, and how that affects society's reception of the g ...more
Reuben Huffman
Like many books I admire and by which I aim to learn, this one kept well ahead of me; my head barely above water, my mental capacity barely keeping up.
The author admirably holds many diverse fields of interest in his head at once; he surveys the expanse of the past two thousand years with a confident sense of familiarity; he reviews various philosophers and worldviews, witnesses the rolling changes as the western nations emerged from Medieval times through the enlightenment to the era of today.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The basic idea is for Newbigin, a veteran missionary, to treat Western modernism as a mission field and describe how the gospel can make inroads in this "foreign culture," just as Newbigin studied his own turf, India, for so many years in an attempt to reach it with the gospel. Most of it is very good, at least until he interjects his own politics (such as the line about how the current governments of Thatcher and Reagan will "destroy our societies"--it was a little harder to take Newbigin serio ...more
Joel Wentz
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's stunning how much Newbigin can say in such a deceptively-short book. His diagnosis of the state Western culture is the best I have ever read, and he manages to level devastating critique with deep intellectual integrity and proposing hopeful ways forward. The way he explains the unique and precarious state of Christianity within the post-Christendom (and deeply secular) West, without lapsing into simplistic readings of history, resonated with me on a deep level.

This is an absolute must-read
Rasool Berry
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to have a “missionary encounter“ with a secularized world.

Newbigin is one part philosopher, one part scholar, one part prophet, and one part pastor in this sprawling tome which effectively unveils the post enlightenment assumptions of secularized culture in order to I asked the fundamental question ”what contribution if any can the gospel and the Christians who believe it offer to such a culture?” Using a great breadth of research from science to history tophilosophy he treats this question
Shawn Woo
May 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Much like Hellenistic civilization at the zenith of its influence, modern Western civilization is the most pervasive and persuasive contemporary culture in the world today. While there has been much discussion on “contextualization” in missiological writings, argues Lesslie Newbigin, the problems of contextualization in this predominate, Western culture has been largely ignored--mainly due to the fact that most of the missiological perspectives are themselves saturated with Western culture. To t ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good pastor friend passed this book along to me. "Josh, I think you'll like this," he said.

I did.

In ch 1, Newbigin develops a helpful model of cultural engagement. The subsequent chs read like they were written in the 1980s (because they were). Still, the instincts on display still prove true guides nearly forty years later.
Ben Haworth
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-library
Newbigin’s assessment of Western culture—to one familiar with Wendell Berry—is Berry-esque. Perhaps this is because both analyze Western society from a Christian perspective (not vice versa) and thus see the pervasiveness of Western idolatry.

Newbigin’s analysis is deeply important for the Western Church and, though written over three decades ago, is incredibly relevant to the current political, economical, ecological, and religious state of Western society.

For those grappling with the place of
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a great read for anyone living or working cross-culturally. It is the development of a lesser thesis and is extremely valuable. Newbigin is very articulate and at times his vocabulary gets a little lofty, but he uses it with ease. The book is simply planned and expertly executed. A very good read. Highly Recommend.
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
My recommendation: Read the last chapter. It’s just the most wonderful stuff in the book.

The rest is so verbose I think it’s meant to be enjoyed by someone other than myself (perhaps Mark Sayers or Tim Keller).

That said, I found myself highlighting every sentence Newbigin ended with a “?” - He truly was a brilliant question asker.
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, theology
Great philosophy is early chapters gives way to recommendations for a Christian engagement with the state. Not sure if I can agree with everything in later chapters. Still, it is a book with much to say about culture and the church.
Joshua Rowland
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Prescient, masterful. Didn’t agree at every single turn, but the questions raised and insights provided are remarkable. I’m sure there are great reviews if you’d like to read more, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Newbigin is always a favorite. Helpful critique of western culture and its influence on shaping the American Christian worldview.
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Stunning assessment of the state of the church in the "modern" West. I could imagine a similar seminar series at Princeton 30 years later.
Matthew Weston
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Some very helpful thoughts alongside some impenetrable ones.
Mark Nichols
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian
Excellent. Insightful and authoritative. Newbigin is an articulate critic of Western society and its response to the Christian gospel.
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Bishop James Edward Lesslie Newbigin was a British theologian, missiologist, missionary and author. Though originally ordained within the Church of Scotland, Newbigin spent much of his career serving as a missionary in India and became affiliated with the Church of South India and the United Reformed Church, becoming one of the Church of South India's first bishops. A prolific author who wrote on ...more

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“A person who wields power cannot see truth; that is the privilege of the powerless.” 11 likes
“This withdrawal of theology from the world of secular affairs is made more complete by the work of biblical scholars whose endlessly fascinating exercises have made it appear to the lay Christian that no one untrained in their methods can really understand anything the Bible says. We are in a situation analogous to one about which the great Reformers complained. The Bible has been taken out of the hands of the layperson; it has now become the professional property not of the priesthood but of the scholars.” 8 likes
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