you should read newbigin

November 17, 2008

The picture to the right is Lesslie Newbigin. It’s not exactly the kind of picture that will score an author a big book deal these days. Glance at the back cover of the best sellers rack, and you’ll see lots of hip, yet pensive, looking people. Or perhaps pensive, but hip.

Lesslie doesn’t really look like either. That’s why you should read his books.

With a growing list of books that I want to read, I’m accepting the reality that I’m not going to read them all. In fact, I’m finding freedom in saying no to many so I can say yes to the best. New books about how a church should, could, or might engage with it’s culture come out every week. Some are good. Some are fluff. But so many owe the origin of their thinking, at least some of it, to Lesslie Newbigin.

Newbigin’s bio will tell you all you need to know about why you should read him. You can find a good summary on WIkipedia, but for the sake of summarizing said summary… Newbigin was raised in the UK but spent 33 years in India in the middle of the 20th century. When he returned to the UK in 1974, he saw how much it had changed. In his time away, the UK, like much of Europe, had moved the Christian faith from the center of culture to the edge.

His experiences in India helped him to see the UK in a way that others could not. It was Newbigin who helped shift Christianity to see that it must rethink how it must engage with culture from the margins instead of the center. It is a message that the church, including me, is still trying to learn.

So where should you start? Thanks for asking. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society is considered his most important work, with Foolishness to the Greeks getting mentioned a lot too. Those are the two I’ve read so far. My buddy Todd has a series of posts interacting with The Open Secret and mi amigo Dean loved Proper Confidence. And if you’re on a tight budget (and have an aversion to libraries), you can always dip into the hundreds of article available for free on

Get your Lesslie on.

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