Newbigin, a thoughtful, wise and compassionate missionary asserts that the only interpretation "of the gospel is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it." He comments that, "Jesus did not write a book but formed a community." It is thoughts like these and others that compels him to write in his helpful book "The Gospel in a Pluralist Society" about six characteristics of this kind of community that believes Jesus and lives by his words and deeds. The first one I wrote about in a prior post: it is a community of praise and thanksgiving.
The second characteristic: it will be a community of truth.
This seems, as the author also notes, an obvious point to make. However, earlier in the book he takes pains to outline for the reader what he calls a "plausibility structure", core beliefs by which we define reality and thus base all of our knowledge upon. Truth is then understood as that which affirms your core beliefs, even if you can't articulate them. Our society constantly sends out "ideas, images, slogans and stories which presuppose a plausibility structure radically different from that which is controlled by the Christian understanding of human nature and destiny."
But most people don't consider how bland acceptance of these messages builds up a plausibilty structure, a form of interpreting reality that may or may not align with God's truth on reality. Consider the commercials created in New York; does the reality they portray stem from a plausibilty structure that takes seriously God's concern for the poor, God's interest in shalom for all, in Gods' desire for people to live free from greed and envy?
Newbigin goes on: "A Christian congregation is a community in which, through the constant remembering and rehearsing of the true story of human nature and destiny, an attitude of healthy skepticism can be sustained, a skepticism which enables one to take part in the life of society without being bemused and deluded by its own beliefs about itself."
Our society is based upon secular ideals heavily influenced by the plausibilty structure of the Enlightenment. The public square of politics, economics, warfare, entertainment and culture are discussed in secular terms. Much room is made for all sorts of religious ideas, as long as none of them claim superiority.
So how to be a Christian community of truth in a land where many other religions and secular organizations declare their way to be right and true? Live it. Live out what we believe, what we understand of Jesus; and communicate the truth of Jesus like he did: out of deep love and wisdom.