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Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History [Paperback]

By Lesslie Newbigin (Author) & Geoffrey Wainwright (Editor)
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Item description for Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History by Lesslie Newbigin & Geoffrey Wainwright...

Ecumenicist Newbigin was widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most significant voices on Christianity and culture. Collected here are previously unpublished works of continuing relevance---his 1941 Bangalore Lectures on God's kingdom and modern "progress," his 1986 Henry Martyn Lectures dealing with Christian mission, and more. 121 pages, softcover from Eerdmans.

Publishers Description
The late Lesslie Newbigin was widely regarded as one of this generation's most significant voices on Christianity in relation to modern society. Now that he is gone, there is a call for his unpublished writings to be made available. To that end "Signs amid the Rubble" gathers some of Newbigin's finest statements on issues of continuing relevance. The first set of chapters consists of the 1941 Bangalore Lectures, in which Newbigin speaks powerfully of the kingdom of God in relation to the modern - severely deficient - idea of "progress." The second group of writings, the Henry Martyn Lectures of 1986, deals mainly with the importance of Christian mission. In the last piece, his address to the World Council of Churches conference on mission and evangelism in Brazil in 1996 - which editor Geoffrey Wainwright calls his "swan song on the ecumenical stage" - Newbigin wonders aloud how future generations will judge today's practice of abortion.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Pages   136
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.01" Width: 6.01" Height: 0.42"
Weight:   0.43 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2003
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802809898  
ISBN13  9780802809896  

Availability  67 units.
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More About Lesslie Newbigin & Geoffrey Wainwright

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! (1909-1998) Lesslie Newbigin was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, U.K., in 1909. He completed his undergraduate studies in Cambridge and then served as Staff Secretary of the Student Christian Movement in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied theology at Westminster College at Cambridge and was ordained by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, Church of Scotland in 1936. That same year Newbigin married Helen Henderson and the two of them left for India where he was to be missionary of the Church of Scotland In 1947 Reverend Newbigin was consecrated Bishop in the Church of South India, formed by the union of Anglican, Methodist, and Reformed churches. He also served on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and as Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the main theme of the Second Assembly. Other members of the committee included famous theologians such as Barth, Brunner, and Niebuhr In 1959 Newbigin was called to be General Secretary of the International Missionary Council with offices in London and New York. He was responsible for carrying through final negotiations for the merger with the World Council of Churches. In 1962 he became the first director of the Division of World Mission and Evangelism, and Associate General Secretary of the World Council of Churches with headquarters in Geneva.

Lesslie Newbigin was born in 1909 and died in 1998.

Lesslie Newbigin has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Osterhaven Lecture

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Church & Ministry > Church Life > Church History

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Reviews - What do customers think about Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History?

Important Lectures by Newbigin on Eschatology and Evangelism  Sep 8, 2009
This collection of Newbigin's lectures demonstrate his ability to think theologically, logically, fairly and passionately about Christian engagement in the world. It is not surprising that many have found Newbigin to be a helpful guide through these difficult waters.

Signs Amid the Rubble contains three sets of lectures by Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998) introduced by Duke University theologian Geoffrey Wainwright, author of Lesslie Newbigin: A Theological Life.

The first are a set of 4 lectures given in Bangalore, India in 1941 when Newbigin was 32 years old called "The Kingdom of God and the Idea of Progress" (pp. 1-55). Newbigin criticizes the prevailing view that the world is becoming better and better. He points out the evidence against this view and then makes the case that the concept of the Kingdom of God is far more useful as a framework for understanding reality. In particular he singles out C. H. Dodd for his over-realized eschatology. "The eschaton, the end, enters into our present experience by qualifying all present action: that is its significance. But the point is whether it does not lose that significance unless it be also a fact which is really going to happen" (33-34). Indeed, Newbigin goes on to emphasize that in fact he believes the eschaton is "really going to happen"--it is not just a symbol.

The second set of three lectures are The Henry Martyn Lectures delivered at the University of Cambridge in 1986 when Newbigin was 77 years old (57-109). These have the theme of "mission then and now" (97). Newbigin addresses some of the most difficult questions that missionaries face. Will all people be saved or only some (66-75)? Newbigin writes, "As I find myself in D'Costa's book classified as an exclusivist, I will try to say why" (72). He goes on to criticize the trendy terms "dialogue" and "conversation"--arguing that there is a legitimate place for "preaching" and action (75-77). He then looks at the ways missionaries have engaged culture--arguing that conversion is a legitimate pursuit despite the errors of colonialism (78-94). Christianity is something that affects "facts" of life (the important stuff!) and not just the "values" (one's preferences and feelings) (90). Finally, in the last lecture of the Martyn lectures, Newbigin soars. This piece perhaps could be read by itself for its clarity on the question of the relationship between evangelism and social justice (95-109). He explains that social justice is not a substitute for evangelism but that it is still appropriate to love through healing and caring ministries while proclaiming the gospel. "Election" (103) reminds Christians that they are blessed by God that they might be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2). Newbigin also addresses the relationship between the church, the kingdom of God and politics. The church is to be "a sign, instrument and foretaste" of the reign of God (103).

The third set of addresses by Newbigin takes up just 10 pages (111-121) at the end of the book. They are brief remarks Newbigin made in 1996 (at age 87) to the The World Conference on Mission and Evangelism in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil in December 1996. They are blunt and informal remarks about the importance of evangelism. He criticizes the god of the free market and the lack of prioritizing of telling the story of Jesus. He goes on to criticize abortion on demand, point out the challenge of Islam, and recommend the pursuit of the glory of God from a heart of joy.

I would recommend reading these addresses in reverse order. Read the ones from 1996 first, then the 1986 Martyn lectures, then the 1941 Bangalore lectures. The Bangalore lectures are slightly more philosophical and thus slightly more difficult. The Martyn lectures wonderfully summarize many of the themes in Newbigin's later works The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture, and The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. The most accessible place to learn about Newbigin though is his own autobiography: Unfinished Agenda: An Updated Autobiography, which I have reviewed on this site.

Christians looking for a guide on how to think about engagement with the world will find a trustworthy, experienced, and wise voice in Newbigin.
A Timely (and Timeless) Reminder  Apr 27, 2009
Newbigin was an early proponents of congregational worship fellowships as the true Body of Christ in opposition to the turf-protecting parochial, and primarily political denominations that came to prominence in support of world missions and, in the USA, in support of Midwestern colonization by anti-slavery forces prior to the US Civil War (efforts that were too costly to be meaningfully supported by individual fellowships). He did not throw the baby out with the bath water, working as he did within denominational Protestant church groups his whole life; but he always came back to the evangelistic model of small, independent fellowships with indigenous leaders as a worship ideal.

As our 19th/20th C. "Age of Reason" thought paradigm made Biblical scholarship increasingly the province of specialists, with graduate degrees conferred by Denomination-supported seminaries becoming roughly equivalent to ordination of literate scholars by Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations during the "Age of Faith" - Newbiin saw the same kinds of faith-obstacles develop that lead to to profound changes during both the Protestant Reformation and reformation(s) within the Roman Catholic Church.

Fortunately, Newbigin's experience as a village evangelist, denomination-leader/politician, and thoughtful person of prayer, lead him to ask, "What's next?" If the Age of Faith transitioned to the Age of Reason during that period of incredible upheaval, creativity, and flux we call the Renaissance, what will our next epoch look like after our own 200 year "Renaissance" period or re-thinking?

Newbigin's answer is realistic, if somewhat distressing: no matter how clever we think we are, in the comfort of our culture's de facto worship of science, progress, and advances in humanitarianism, everything we consider good, and noble and just - all that the Word of God that Christians and Jews accept by faith as historic facts and that other people of faith affirm as "written on their hearts"- will all be blown to ashes. How it happens makes little difference: whether by human mistake, by human cruelty (which he points out is advancing apace with progress in making our world a better place), or as the result of the inescapable explosion of our sun as it cycles through its own life as a super-nova, white dwarf, or eventual black hole, everything we know or do or say will be reduced to dust.

Still, the old missionary sees "Signs Amid the Rubble." His hope, in faith, is that the love, goodness, and caring we show one another in the here-and-now, the same stuff of everyday life that will be quickly and completely forgotten no matter what immediate consequence our little lives may see to have in the moment, will ultimately be preserved by G-d in ways that we can't imagine now and, in that way, our puny, imperfect offerings to our Creator will ultimately be perfected and incorporated into a new heaven and new earth, fully redeemed yet also fully alive "more abundantly" than fallen creatures like us could ever see on this side of our own certain deaths.

We do not know if Jane Goodall's predicted "Age of Love" will follow these immediate, restless times. But Newbigin offers hope that, from what he sees for us as G-d's children, it doesn't matter. Our Creator will take our best and perfect it as the earth and all who inhabit it are redeemed.
Gift from God  Mar 2, 2009
What a beautiful gift - Newbigin was blessed by the Holy Spirit to share these teachings - deep insight into the broken reality in which we live, yet blossoming with hope for the even deeper whole and pure reality of God's eternal love and healing plan. Highly academic prose, but if that's something you appreciate, dig in, because it is rich in its message!

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