Gleanings from Newbigin’s The Open Secret, chapter 8
The church is
- the death-transcending people of God in Jesus by the Spirit to bear before the world a fully embodied praxis-situated theology.
Précis of key ideas on the missional identity of the church
Current culture and the rejection of the colonialist mentality require that the church honestly consider a missiology of liberation. Such a theology holds that theology begins with praxis, not with ideas. Liberation from injustice is the primary focus of this praxis and the exodus from Egypt is the paradigm. Salvation, therefore, pits the exploited against the exploiter and always involves the liberation of the exploited. Gustavo Gutierrez, a liberation theologian, speaks of three types of liberation: political, cultural, and spiritual. These three are part of salvation, but no one is the whole of salvation.
In this view, “religion” concerns a particular aspect of people’s lives, namely, that which is private, personal, interior. It concerns the “soul.” It looks for a “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…
In contrast to this ancient and dominant view, the Old Testament insists on seeing the human person as a single reality in whom body and soul are two aspects of one being. (p.102)
Human experience makes it difficult to accept Old Testament anthropology. Death severs us from the shared experience of history. Therefore, individual experience becomes all too important. Christianity provides a solution by providing a way through death and by making us a continuing people in the Spirit. Therefore, in Christ suffering is not submission to evil, but rather a witness against evil. In the Eucharist, we each acknowledge our sin, our need for grace, and the fact that oppressor and oppressed both stand in need of salvation.
There can be no “academic theology,” if that means theology divorced from commitment, faith, and obedience. On this issue the liberation theologians are right. Where I think they are wrong is in the identification of this commitment with acceptance of the Marxist analysis of society. The commitment is not to a cause or to a program: it is to a person. At the heart of mission there must always be the call to be committed to Jesus Christ in his community. (p.120)