Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lesslie Newbigin on Salvation With and Through the Neighbor

"From its very beginning the Bible sees human life in terms of relationships. There is no attempt to strip away the accidents of history in order to find the real essence of what it is to be human. Human life is seen in terms of mutual relationships: first, the most fundamental relation, between man and woman, then between parents and children, then between families and clans and nations. The Bible does not speak about "humanity" but about "all the families of the earth" or "all the nations." It follows that this mutual relatedness, this dependence of one on another, is not merely part of the journey toward the goal of salvation, but is intrinsic to the goal itself. For knowing God, for being in communion with him, we are dependent on the one whom he gives us to be the bearer of this relation, not just as a teacher and guide on the way but as the partner in the end. There is, there can be, no private salvation, no salvation which does not involve us with one another. Therefore, if I may venture to use a metaphor which I have used elsewhere, God's saving revelation of himself does not come to us straight down from above -- through the skylight, as we might say. In order to receive God's saving revelation we have to open the door to the neighbor whom he sends as his appointed messenger, and -- moreover -- to receive that messenger not as a temporary teacher or guide whom we can dispense with when we ourselves have learned what is needed, but as one who will permanently share our home. There is no salvation except one in which we are saved together through the one whom God sends to be the bearer of his salvation."

--Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 82-83

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