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The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,992 ratings  ·  75 reviews
How does the gospel relate to a pluralist society? What is the Christian message in a society marked by religious pluralism, ethnic diversity, and cultural relativism? Should Christians encountering today's pluralist society concentrate on evangelism or on dialogue? How does the prevailing climate of opinion affect, perhaps infect, Christians' faith?

These kinds of question
Paperback, 264 pages
Published October 30th 1989 by Eerdmans (first published 1989)
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May 15, 2013 rated it liked it
This is one of the most overrated books I have encountered among thoughtful Christians in the last couple of decades. I still scratch my head trying to account for its widespread popularity.

Since I have no widespread popularity to put at risk, here's my guess: This book presents a wide range of good ideas that many people encounter in this book for the first time. The good ideas are generally not Newbigin's. They are not always well phrased. In my view, they are frequently oversimplified and not
Jason Leonard
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is one of the more important books I've read. It has helped me to critically think about the concept of truth, the doctrine of election, the role of the church in the world and how church leadership ought to help.

In light of it being written 20 years ago, it is very prophetic and is most helpful in its critique of pluralism: are we really a pluralistic society? Is a secular culture even possible? How do we come to know truth at all?

Seriously, this book is amazing and I can't wait to read s
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
It seems nearly every author writing about missions, the church and the gospel in the last decade point back to this one from Newbigin. It's not an easy read, and I didn't agree with everything, but it's an important book that has stood the test of time.
Jul 09, 2018 marked it as to-read
Recommended here.
Oct 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
In our church we read this for our men's book study. I think it was a little too heavy on philosophy for the group we had, and a few guys dropped out early who don't get into academic studies very well. The five of us who stuck it out to the end really enjoyed the discussions, though. Everyone found it helpful, even when the chapters got pretty heavily academic. With discussion everyone came away understanding the concepts and benefitting from it.

Newbigin is odd. Most of the book is fantastic an
Steve Penner
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Despite the naysayers in other reviews, I think this may be one of the best books of the late 20th century. One indication is that reading it 25 years later the issues are still at hand and contested. The one that stands out is his outing of the secularization thesis. Much more has come to light since his book that validates Newbigin's critique of the thesis. I appreciated his application of Polyani to the missional context in the first several chapters. The practical application of being a miss ...more
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
A classic work which I'm embarrassed to be reading just now. Newbigin's book is a treatise on understanding and living Christianity in an age of pluralism, and his primary argument is that the Christian faith is both contextual and relatively understood as well as universal and intended as truth for all. He bases his argument in a comparison with science, arguing that faith and science are both ways of knowing that have their own fundamental assumptions. In this way, he attempts to demonstrate t ...more
Mar 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Probably the best book I've found dealing with Christian interaction with culture. One of Newbigin's main points - that (despite its continuing failures) the Christian community is exclusively charged with the task of proclaiming and embodying the completely non-exclusive grace and love of God - has probably been the most important step thus far in my questions about Christian exclusivity. I recommend this book for people in the church trying to find a sense of truth between extremes of a self-r ...more
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I finally sat down and read this cover to cover. I've read chapters in it off an on over the years, but never worked through the whole thing. This is vintage Newbigin, and while there are things to take issue with throughout the book, what he does well he does EXCEPTIONALLY well. I think every seminary student should be forced to read his chapters on epistemology (the first several chapters), as well as the chapters on "The Myth of Secular Society" and "The Congregation as Hermeneutic of the Gos ...more
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting book.

I believe readers’ prior expectations determine whether they will have feasted or left the restaurant still hungry when they finish Newbigin's work. At the very least, it provides fertile ground for discussion. For readers looking for a Christian manifesto—a rhetorical, defining call to gospel allegiance with a deeper understanding of the gospel mission and its juxtaposition with culture, then Newbigin’s book is ideal. However, if the reader is expecting a practical how-to for
Uchenna Anyanwu
Nov 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Newbigin’s Thesis:
The thesis advanced in this book could be framed as follows: In a pluralist society that has become pervasive (globally, but particularly in Europe and North America), a bold confident proclamation of the gospel is the proper attitude Christians should adopt, for they “must welcome some measure of plurality but reject pluralism.”(Newbigin 1989, 243) Newbigin’s reason for this is that the plurality of society provides a broad spectrum of experiences and diversity upon which the
Hannah Evans
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this on the recommendation of a dear professor and mentor. It’s pretty dense, especially in the beginning, since it’s a very philosophical book. Even with my best efforts, it took me 2 months to read between reading assignments for classes. But if you’re looking for an intellectual argument for the Christian faith, this would be a good place to look. I didn’t agree with all of it, but it was a thoughtful analysis and I was forced to engage with why I disagreed, which still brought me to the ...more
Ethan Adkins
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an essential text for the Church. The Church in America is just starting to realize that we are no longer in Christendom. Some have realized this and have started reading Newbigin and talking about missional churches, but few have actually tried to take these insights have Newbigin and live them out. Newbigin charts a good path for us Western Christians to deal with the current time and remain faithful to God's purposes. Can't recommend this book enough.
Ben Haworth
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-library
By far Newbigin’s most comprehensive book. His vision and scope is as broad as any theologian I have read and yet he is succinct and articulate with his discourse. His commitment to the Scriptural narrative shapes his hermeneutic and provides an outlook not only for the Church community but for the shaping of society.
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
I have copious notes on this book, but it's overdue at the library, so I hafta send it back. No thorough review forthcoming anytime soon. C'est la vie. Suffice to say I very much appreciated this particular book at this particular point in my life. A lot of goodness here.

I'll seek out more from Moretruth Oldsmallout (as T calls him).

May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: porirua
I really enjoyed this book. I didn't agree with every conclusion or thought process, but it challenged me and presented me with some new angles of looking at things and how to think through them. I highly recommend it for people willing and able to read something humbly and with a critical eye
Dan Bouchelle
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essential book for anyone doing ministry/missions in this era. Insightful and practical. Ahead of it’s time. Don’t depend on those shaped by Newbigin, read this primary source for yourself.
vittore paleni
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A neglected voice.

Also, requires rereading.
May 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
We live in a pluralist society, and that variety of cultures, religions, and lifestyles is celebrated and approves as right. This pluralist society is conceived to be a free society, willing to put any truth (religious or otherwise) under the microscope of criticism. This is seen as a huge change from the formerly monolithic Christian worldview of earlier centuries. The rise of humanism and critical rationality marked the fall of Christendom. Too often, Christian apologists accepted humanist pre ...more
Feb 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Adam by: Preston Sharpe
This is one of the best books on theology, modern philosophy, and Christian worldview and application that I've read in a VERY long time! It's not a simply-worded entirely captivating read like one of N.T. Wright's books (probably Newbigin's closest famous contemporary), but in abandoning pure popular appeal, I think that Newbigin has achieved so much more.

What Newbigin produces here is an entirely consistent and cohesive worldview that is true both to its Biblical foundation and the history of
Michael Philliber
First time I read "The Gospel in a Pluralist Society" was in 2003, and now I have completed my second reading. A lot has changed in my experience and comprehension since my initial reading, and there are things I picked up this time I didn't before. Since there are loads of reviews of the book filling the virtual pages, I'll simply point out a few of the highlights I enjoyed being reminded of in my second reading of the book.

To begin with, Newbigin sought to practice what he preached. This book
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this book to anyone hoping to live missionally in the real world. It's a tough read, but incredibly rewarding throughout. My copy is extensively marked up now as Newbigin includes several powerful ideas on every page. Near the end, he offers a balanced and compelling vision of the local congregation, which overcomes the divide of many of today's churches between an overly insular approach, on the one hand, and the impoverished view of church as primarily a force for social acti ...more
Noel Walker
This book surprised me. I have heard people in missional circles quote Newbigin often and assumed that it would be filled with good material (although dated, it was written in 1989) from the primal days of the missional church movement.

Newbigin, however, is a missionary anthropologist and he frames his discussion of the post modern moment with excellent theological framework and with helpful mental scaffolding which leaves room for lots of fruitful dialogue. Newbigin first explains that we are
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: campus ministers
Lesslie Newbigin (1909 - 1998)was such an amazing missiologist. He had a keen understanding of the postmodern world, as well as a firm grasp on the social construct of both the Old and New Testament worlds. Because of this, he was able to look to the past with an eye for present application.

Bottom line: Newbigin clearly understands that we now live in a very pluralistic world. He speaks not only of religious pluralism, but pluralism in ideas, perspectives, and worldview.

In terms of this latter t
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Where do I begin? Lesslie Newbigin was one the leading missiologists of our time. Newbigin pastored for many years as a Bishop in the Church of South India while serving as a delegate to the World Council of Churches. After retiring from his pastoral/missions work in India, Newbigin assisted in planting an inner-city church in Birmingham, England. With that in mind, the reader should know that the views expressed in this book have not only been conceived mentally, but lived practically. *Th ...more
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
In the series of lectures that became The Gospel in a Pluralist Society Newbigin attempts to steer a middle way through "fundamentalist" and "liberal" extremes - and in the process Newbigin likely angers and speaks to both camps. Newbigin blends together Michael Polyani's epistemology, a postliberal emphasis on narrative, a Barthian influenced Christocentrism, along with an emphasis on how the gospel itself is the center of mission to provide an account of the "church congregation as hermeneutic ...more
Sara Best
Lesslie Newbigin’s book, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, is a philosophical discussion of the historical development, contemporary practice of, and the Christian response to, pluralism in contemporary society. It is rather dry reading but very thorough in the historical and philosophical approach to the issue of pluralism. He introduces the topic with a lengthy discussion of the distinction between scientific reasoning and revelation including the historical context of each.

The middle section
Thomas Grosh IV
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Leslie Newbigin's thought provoking work emerged from returning to Britian after being a missionary in India. I think that The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Eerdmans, 1989) is the best summary of his thoughts. But Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Eerdmans, 1986) is shorter and focused on the intellectual train of thought.

Foolishness to the Greeks The Gospel and Western Culture by Lesslie Newbigin
Melisa Blankenship
Newbigin is ahead of his time in his approach to living out your Christian faith in a pluralist society. He insists that faith cannot be coerced, he doesn't advocate for going backwards to some perceived Christian glory-days and rightly identifies that when Christianity was tangled up with political power it became corrupted. Newbigin balances the need for holding to the truths of the faith while listening and conversing long term to those around us who belong to other faiths. He doesn't see con ...more
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the second time I've read this book, and I must say I appreciated it more this time round. Newbigin writes from a position of long experience of living in a society where there are a number of different religions (ie India), and uses that experience to look at pluralism in the West. It's a book I need to read again at some time (along with innumerable others).
My only quibble with it is that it was written at a time when writers were attempting to be even-handed about pronouns. Instead o
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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
“The relativism which is not willing to speak about truth but only about ‘what is true for me’ is an evasion of the serious business of living. It is the mark of a tragic loss of nerve in our contemporary culture. It is a preliminary symptom of death.” 20 likes
“The gospel is not just the illustration (even the best illustration) of an idea. It is the story of actions by which the human situation is irreversibly changed.” 6 likes
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