The Open Secret by Lesslie Newbigin Book SummarySeries: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII

The final chapter of this book discusses what it looks like to dialogue with people of other religions. How does this look? How do we approach these people? One view that he deconstructs is that we call those who are serious, committed adherents to another faith “anonymous Christians.” He rejects this view as valid for a couple reasons.

First, he notes that it fails to take the person’s other faith seriously (172). Second, “it assumes that our position as Christians entitles us to know and declare what is God’s final judgment.” (173) In reading this, my first thought was, “well, don’t we?” But, he writes, “I find it astonishing that a theologian should think he has the authority to inform us in advance who is going to be ‘saved’ on the last day” (173).

This concept is difficult to work through because it seems to take the Lordship of Christ lightly. On the other hand Newbigin has a very valid point when we writes, “This is not a small matter. It determines the way in which we approach the man of another faith. It is almost impossible for me to enter into simple, honest, open, and friendly communication with another person as long as I have at the back of my mind the feeling that I am one of the saved and he is one of the lost” (173).

When it comes down to it, I believe this actually takes the Lordship of Jesus Christ more seriously. While we might not claim to know the destiny of this persons soul, we “meet the person simply as a witness, as one who has been laid hold of by Another and placed in a position where I can only point to Jesus as the one who can make sense of the whole human situation that my partner and I share as fellow human begins. This is the basis of our meeting.” (174) Here we see why in the beginning of this book Newbigin states that he is “wagering his life on the faith that Jesus is the ultimate authority.” (15)

This has been a challenging book for me. I have found it quite difficult to try and summarize such a well articulated thought pattern (which shows by the length of this review!). This book has not so much given me brand new information as much as it has given me a deeper theology to explain my understanding of mission. It has also really challenged me to think carefully about how we individualize and privatize our faith rather than giving it its proper place in world history. To me, this is a revolutionary way to look at the church’s involvement in the culture. It demands that we take issues of social justice seriously, especially for those of us who are pastoring in wealthy (by world’s standards) suburban contexts.