This missionary mindset is quite distinct from evangelistic enthusiasm. Evangelism can be (and usually is) carried on within the constraints of a culture. For example, Jesus can be preached as satisfying modern desires for self-fulfillment. The missionary, however, sees the gospel as an invasive force, challenging culture, compelling a higher allegiance.
Since the time of Constantine, few Western Christians (including Western missionaries) have been able to look at their own societies that way. Christianity was identified with European culture ("Christian civilization"), which by definition could not be converted, since it already had been. More recently, modern Western culture offered truths to which Christianity was expected to conform. Christianity had to be converted, demythologized, or otherwise transformed to meet the requirements of Western culture.
Newbigin's years in India developed habits of mind that he used to rethink all that. In India he had engaged a powerful, religious world-view, as intellectually sophisticated as anything in Europe. Preaching in Tamil (a difficult language that few outsiders master), he had to think through the Christian doctrines in a language formed by Hindu thought, to people accustomed to a Hindu way of thinking. He learned to read a culture with a view to its transformation in Christ.
Naming GodAs a young missionary, Newbigin regularly visited a Hindu monastery, its great hall "lined with pictures of the great religious figures of history, among them Jesus. Each year, on Christmas Day, worship was offered before the picture of Jesus. It was obvious to me as an English Christian," says Newbigin, "that this was an example of syncretism. ...1
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