contribution through difference

January 14, 2009 | 4 Comments

Every nation has a peculiar contribution to make to the interpretation of Christianity. The Son of man is too great to be expressed by any one portion of humanity. Those that differ from us most will probably contribute most to our expression of Christianity.” — E. Stanley Jones (once again, 80 years ago) in The Christ of the Indian Road

This quote wraps up a prominent theme in my own Christian journey over the last few years. With technology shrinking our globe, there is more potential for learning from those who are different from us than ever before. And more potential to guard and protect ourselves from the “threats” of those not like us. May we choose the former.

  • a good word. thanks for the jones quotes. i continue to be stunned by the radical thinking that was going on in missions during the early part of the last century (Donovan, Newbigin, Bosh, Jones…). it’s a shame its been ignored for so long.

  • Thanks for the comment…I agree!

    Tell me about Donovan…I’m not familiar.

  • wilson nb

    I think this is right on… there’s a great passage from Jonathan Edwards’ miscellanies that expresses this sentiment in really compelling language (in the eighteenth century!). It is, without a doubt, limited by Edwards’ anglo-centrism, but it’s still a remarkable vision:


    3 How happy will that state be, when neither divine nor human learning shall be confined and imprisoned within only two or three nations of Europe, but shall be diffused all over the world, and this lower world shall be all over covered with light, the various parts of it mutually enlightening each other; when the most barbarous nations shall become as bright and polite as England; when ignorant heathen lands shall be stocked with most profound divines and most learned philosophers; when we shall from time to time have the most excellent books and wonderful performances brought from one end of the earth and another to surprise us—sometimes new and wondrous discoveries from Terra Australis Incognita, admirable books of devotion, the most divine and angelic strains from among the Hottentots, and the press shall groan in wild Tartary—when we shall have the great advantage of the sentiments of men of the most distant nations, different circumstances, customs and tempers; [when] learning shall not be restrained [by] the particular humor of a nation or their singular way of treating of things; when the distant extremes of the world shall shake hands together and all nations shall be acquainted and they shall all join the forces of their minds in exploring the glories of the Creator, their hearts in loving and adoring him, their hands in serving him, and their voices in making the world to ring with his praise.

    What infinite advantages will they have for discovering the truth of every kind, to what they have now! There will continually be something new and surprising discovered in one part of the world and another [because of] the vast number of explorers, their different circumstances, their different paths to come at the truth. How many instructive and enlightening remains of antiquity will be discovered, here and there now buried amongst ignorant nations!