This is Salvation.
I am just getting into the book Sin and Salvation from Lesslie Newbigin. It’s not one of his more famous books but I recently heard it described as the most important book that he’s written. He actually wrote in response to a need when he was a missionary in India. He wrote it for “village teachers of elementary grade who – although without training – have to bear a heavy share of the responsibility for the pastoral care of several thousand village congregations in the Tamil country.” Upon hearing that, I decided I needed to read it. Also, it’s an old book, written in 1956. (The copy i am reading looks about that old). So you know its good (be sure to read that last sentence with a good Will Farrell / Anchor Man accent.)
The introductory chapter did not disappoint. In fact, it is strangely familiar to Scot McKnight’s description of the Gospel in his book Embracing Grace (which is also a great book). Now, I’m not saying Scot stole this stuff from Newbigin (you didn’t, right Scot? :-). I just think its great that they follow along some same lines.
The reason I love this section from Newbigin so much is that over the last few years I have become more and more convinced that the gospel that focuses only on sin and salvation of mankind is just too narrow in scope. I’ve come to believe that the Bible talks primarily about how God is fixing a broken cosmos, not just broken people. Of course, I believe that in God’s creation of the world mankind was put at the center of it. So, you can’t talk about the salvation of the world without talking a heck of a lot about the salvation of mankind.
I think that Newbigin address this well in this introduction. He talks about how “Man is in a constant state of self-contradiction.” This contradiction expresses itself in four main ways:
- Man is in a state of contradiction against the natural world.
- Man is in a state of contradiction against his fellow-man
- Man himself in a state of inner self-contradiction
- Man is in a state of contradiction against God
Then goes on to write this fantastic paragraph:
All nations and tribes and people shall be gathered together in one fellowship to worship God; all war and hatred shall cease; there shall be no more sorrow nor sighing, death itself shall be done away; even the wild creatures shall learn to live at peace – the wolf with the lamb and the bear with the ox; all the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of God; God himself shall dwell with them and be their God; all the glory and honor of the nations shall be gathered into God’s holy city, and nothing unclean or impure shall ever enter. It is in such words that the Bible describes to us the fulfillment of God’s saving purpose. All mankind shall live together in one holy family, as children of the Father, in new-created earth and heaven. This is salvation. Because we have received the first-fruits of it, we long for its completion. We know something of salvation now, because God has given us the earnest of it; we shall not know it fully until He has completed what He has begun.
Great stuff from Newbigin. Of course, he’s pretty much quoting scripture here…