Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"A Genuinely Missionary Encounter": The Proper Lens for Viewing Lesslie Newbigin's Theology
by West, Thomas Andrew, Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2017, 251; 10277007
Abstract (Summary)

This study argues that Lesslie Newbigin’s doctrine of Scripture is best seen when viewed through the lens of his theology of missionary encounter. For this point to be made, two important aspects of Newbigin’s thought must be systematized and related to each another. First, it will be shown that Newbigin has a theology of missionary encounter. Second, Newbigin’s theology of missionary encounter will be shown to function as a lens to view his theology in general and his doctrine of Scripture in particular. Chapter 1 explains the research topic and the limits of the thesis. Chapter 2 shows the presence of Newbigin’s theological ambition that led to his theology of missionary encounter. Chapter 3 reveals the formative role that Newbigin’s theology of missionary encounter had on his theological method and theological project as a whole. Chapter 4 builds upon the previous two chapters by using Newbigin’s theology of missionary encounter as a lens to view his doctrine of Scripture. Chapter 5 considers what the nature of Newbigin’s theology reveals about Newbigin as a theologian.

Chapter 1, “Introducing The Research Topic,” introduces Lesslie Newbigin and the thesis of this research. The purpose of this chapter is to provide the reader with the research focus, understanding of key concepts, and the delimits of the issues involved. First, attention is given to understanding the place of this dissertation within the literature and the personal journey that led to the writing of this dissertation. This chapter will highlight the importance of the topic by explaining the ways it contributes to the field of Newbigin studies as well as the discipline of theology in general.

Chapter 2 is an overview of Newbigin’s life and work. This chapter demonstrates the presence of Newbigin’s theological ambition to engage in a missionary encounter that resulted in his theology of missionary encounter. By examining Newbigin’s missionary theology, this chapter outlines the development of Newbigin’s theological ambition throughout his life. It is shown that his ambition to engage in a missionary encounter reached maturity later in his life as he articulated his theology of missionary encounter. At its core, Newbigin’s theology of missionary encounter is aimed at helping the Church recover the gospel, indwell the biblical story, and challenge the axioms of the culture with the axioms of the Bible in order to live as a faithful witness. The missionary encounter, this challenging of competing stories, takes place within the individual lives of members in a local congregation.

In order to show that Newbigin’s theology of missionary encounter best mediates his doctrine of scripture, consideration must be given to understanding the form and function of his theology as a whole. Chapter 3, “Newbigin’s Theological Method,” explores the structure of Newbigin’s theology. After surveying the structure of Newbigin’s theological method as a whole, the focus of this chapter narrows on a series of unpublished articles which Newbigin thought of as a sort of Dogmatics of his thought. The contextual nature of Newbigin’s theology makes it clear that a robust understanding of what Newbigin believed about anything must be understood in relation to his desire to bring the gospel story to bear on the cultural story. The intended point is that Newbigin’s theology of missionary encounter has a permeating presence throughout the form and function of his theology as a whole.

Chapter 4, “Systematizing Newbigin’s Doctrine of Scripture,” presents a systematization of Newbigin’s doctrine of Scripture with the help of his theology of missionary encounter. Building upon the previous two chapters, this chapter utilizes Newbigin’s theology of missionary encounter as a lens through which his doctrine of Scripture can be understood. The clarity of Newbigin’s doctrine of Scripture emerges as his theology refracted through the lens of his theology of missionary encounter. Newbigin’s doctrine of Scripture is presented in one summary sentence followed by seven categorical statements which are intended to exegete the summary sentence. Observing Newbigin’s missionary encounter between gospel and culture provides the proper lens for seeing what Newbigin believed about Scripture.

Chapter 5, “Newbigin’s Public and Prophetic Theology,” raises the question about what the nature of Newbigin’s theology reveals about Newbigin as a theologian. This chapter provides a concluding summary of the research involved and clears some paths for future research. While demonstrating the usefulness of Newbigin as a dialogue partner this chapter provides some cautions for appropriating Newbigin’s thought uncritically. Combining these different levels of analysis highlights the central role of Newbigin’s theology of missionary encounter in his theology.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ashford, Bruce R.
Commitee: Goheen, Michael W., Whitfield, Keith S.
School: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Department: Department of Graduate Studies
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 78/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Religion, Religion, Philosophy, Theology
Keywords: Lesslie Newbigin, Scripture, Theological ambition, Theological method, Theology, Theology of missionary encounter
Publication Number: 10277007
ISBN: 9781369735192
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