Saturday, July 9, 2016

Great Quotes: Lesslie Newbigin, "God desires only a freely given obedience which is the expression of love"

From Lesslie Newbigin, “Conclusion: Towards the Good of the City”, in Lesslie Newbigin, Lamin Sanneh & Jenny Taylor, Faith and Power: Christianity and Islam in 'Secular' Britain (1998) (bold mine):
The only ultimate secure ground for religious freedom is in the fact that Almighty God, in the act of revealing his sovereign power and wisdom in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has at the same time established for his world a space and a time during which faith is possible because unbelief is also possible. And if we are tempted to cry out to God in impatience because he allows so much wickedness still to flourish in his world, we know that the answer to our cry is in his long, long patience which, as the Apostle tells us, is to lead us to repentance. I am sure that this is the critical point for all debate about the gospel as public truth. Christians agree with Muslims that God's will is to be done in the public no less than in the private sphere. The question is: what kind of obedience does God desire? The central affirmation of the gospel concerning the cross and resurrection of Jesus requires us to affirm that God desires only the freely given, eager, loving obedience of a child who loves and trusts the father. God does not coerce us with the threat of immediate punishment. He woos us, draws us to himself by taking upon himself the awful cost of our disobedience. Certainly the wrath of God against sin is a reality. Certainly God has provided parameters to be policed by the political authority so that our freedom may not lead to total self-destruction. But at the central point, at the point of the ultimate allegiance of the heart, God desires only a freely given obedience which is the expression of love. It follows that while the state with its coercive power has a necessary place in God's wise ordering of the world, for without it our anarchic and disordered wills would destroy the world, yet the state has only a limited mandate. It may not encroach upon that central and secret place where we at our deepest and most intimate are called upon to give our final love and allegiance to our Creator.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Great Quotes: Lesslie Newbigin, "that God created some men for the purpose of destroying quite false teaching"

From Reformed Theologian and Missionary Lesslie Newbigin in Sin and Salvation (1956) (you can read the whole book online in PDF from an external website here):
In the cross God’s judgment and His salvation are revealed, but they are not fully consummated. It is there revealed that the whole human race is under the condemation of God's holiness. But God has not carried out that sentence of condemnation. He holds it back, so to say, in order to give men time to repent. He sends out His Church to tell all men the gospel, in order that they may repent and be saved. His will is that all should be saved. He does not will the destruction of any soul. Some Christians have taught that God created some men for the purpose of destroying them, but that is quite false teaching. It is based upon a misunderstanding of certain passages in Scripture, but it is certainly not the teaching of the Gospel.
If God wills that all should be saved, does that mean that all will be saved? We cannot say that. We know that God has given men freedom to choose good or evil. We cannot say that it is impossible that men should finally choose evil. Christ has given us many terrible parables in which we have a picture of men finally cast out of the light and love of home into the outer darkness. He has also used the name Gehenna to describe this final destruction. Gehenna was the name of the valley where the rubbish and filth of Jerusalem was deposited. It was a place where there were always fires burning. It was a symbol to Him of the possibility of men becoming finally useless and fit only for burning. We cannot exclude this possibility from our minds, if we wish to remain true to His mind.  
The disciples once asked Jesus: ‘Lord, are they few that be saved?’ [Luke 13.23] Jesus answered: ‘Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in and shall not be able’. Jesus does not answer our theoretical questions about Hell. But He bids us recognize that the door into life is narrow, and that it is possible, and indeed terribly easy to miss it. In the end this is certain: that what opposes the love of God must be done away. We believe that God wills to knit together all His created world in one common salvation, in which the glory of His love will be perfectly revealed and reflected. We have seen in Jesus that this involves a judgment upon the whole human race as it is now. We know that He has given time for men to hear and believe the gospel, to repent, and to return to Him. But at the end we cannot deny the possibility that men – even the majority of men – may be left outside. If they are left outside, it will be because – like the elder brother in the parable – they are not willing to share the Father’s fellowship on His terms. 
His invitation is to everyone. ‘He that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.' [John 6:37] But when we begin to speculate about the question of eternal loss we are quickly in regions where we do not know the answer. We can only give heed to the words of our Lord: ‘Strive to enter in by the narrow door’.

You can read the whole book online here.

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