When Leslie Newbigin served as the Bishop of Madras, India, visiting pastors, theologians and denominational leaders rang at his door for a meeting with the intellectual and pastoral star of the ecumenical movement, before catching their flight home. Newbigin’s home was conveniently on the way to the airport, which only increased traffic. He graciously invited in the unsolicited visitors for tea despite his busy schedule. Many guests inevitably asked him for his opinion on the still toddler-aged Church of South India – an ecumenical church formed in 1947 from several Protestant churches and of which Newbigin played a vital role and had been appointed as one of its first bishops (serving from 1965-1974). Some were skeptical, waiting for the seams of integration to fray in due time. He answered them, “I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and therefore the question doesn’t arise. In regard to a fact, one is not optimistic or pessimistic. One is believing or unbelieving.”
I imagine Newbigin’s reply offended some – he rarely cushions his words, instead preferring clarity and directness. Succinctly, Newbigin presented the essential conflict between the modern Western world and the gospel with the subsequent compromise: the scientific and individualistic worldview that whittles resurrection (a public truth) into a private opinion (a matter of psychological state) ….