The Open Secret by Lesslie Newbigin Book Summary – Part V
Chapter 7 seeks to answer the question how the gospel fits into world history, specifically, the other religions of the world. He answers this question with a lengthy discussion on the doctrine of election. He states that it is this doctrine that allows us to find an answer to this question. This cannot be understood as elitism but must rather be understood that “he chooses one to be the bearer of his blessing for the many.” (68) He continues to make his point by stating, “Israel has to learn that election is not for comfort and security but for suffering and humiliation…to be elect is a fearful responsibility.” (73) As he continues his discussion he enters into the difficult subject the eternal destination of other people’s souls. As we begin to try and understand the depths of God’s salvation he has a few important suggestions. First, we must never give into the idea that God’s love means the salvation of every soul (79). We must also refuse to “engage in speculation about the ultimate salvation of other people.” (79)
As we look at how the story of the scriptures fits in with the story of the world, it is absolutely necessary to realize that the point and meaning of the world is found in the narrative of Scripture. Because of this, we must proclaim this faith in a public way and not privatize our faith as if it is not part of world history. Newbigin writes, “Since the Christian faith is a faith regarding the meaning and end of the human story as a whole, this faith cannot be confessed except the context of the actual secular history of the present hour.” (89)
As we continue our discussion on mission in a Trinitarian sense Newbigin warns us to be careful not to separate the preaching of the gospel from action for God’s justice (91). It seems we have two ways of approaching this issue. We either preach the message of the gospel or we do take a concern for justice. Over the years we have seen the church take both these approaches. Being passionate about one without the other always leads to an unbiblical view of justice and mission. Of course, for missionaries this is different. Newbigin writes that despite the many efforts to try and keep out of social issues, the missionaries find that “again and again the simple logic of the gospel itself has drawn them irresistibly into some work of education, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, helping the homeless.” A very important argument he makes in this chapter is about how we have regulated faith to the private sector of life. As we have seen in the previous chapters, this is a mistake that we all too often make. If we regulate faith the “private sector of human affairs” it is all too easy to think that we can separate faith from justice. He writes that it is this view that “religion concerns a particular aspect of people’s lives, namely, that which is private, personal, interior. It concerns the “soul.” It looks for salvation that is outside of history. From this point of view the events of political and cultural liberation are only significant insofar as they contribute to or hinder the development of the soul considered as a spiritual monad” (102). When we view salvation as the culmination of God’s creation we see that salvation is and must be about this present world. It is not detached from reality and is not simply personal and private. In Jesus Christ, through his life, death and resurrection he opened up for us way that we can travel to the New Jerusalem, something to which my personal history and public history share. With this knowledge, we can “lose ourselves in the service of God’s cause” knowing that he will make us and our works worth something. (105) Newbigin does a great job of emphasizing how important the role of the death and resurrection of Jesus are in this.