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Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship Paperback – March 30, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 111 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (March 30, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802808565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802808561
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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It's only 105 pages and is written in a very accessible style.
Douglas Searle
This quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer opens the book, and--now that I understand it better--sums up Newbigin's ideas well: Faith alone is certainty.
J. Williams
We know anything of importance, really, because we have heard His voice talking to us.
Mennonite Medievalist

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By J. Williams on October 6, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a short paperback, but a good piece of lucid writing. Newbigin spent thirty years in India as a missionary, and learned there how to talk about his faith to people who grew up with a different view of how the world is. Then he retired and returned to his native Great Britain, only to discover that his homeland had become a place in which had a different view of how the world is.
Newbigin spent another couple of decades learning about the changes that had occurred in society, as well as how the Gospel message fits in with this, and wrote this book at the end of his life.
The book describes with great clarity the impact of Cartesian ideas on our society ("Doubt as the path to certainty"), the correction provided by Michael Polanyi and others, and the Biblical picture of how we should think about knowing and believing. The book ends with a marvelous address in three directions: Newbigin defends his conclusions against Catholic natural theology, liberal theology, and fundamentalist theology. It is a really good book, and I recommend it highly. It is already changing the way that I think about apologetics.
But it also affects the way I think about my Christian discipleship across the board. Newbigin centers on the person of Christ. This quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer opens the book, and--now that I understand it better--sums up Newbigin's ideas well:
Faith alone is certainty. Everything but faith is subject to doubt. Jesus Christ alone is the certainty of faith.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Miller on December 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
Newbigin's little text from the final years of his life is a brilliant analysis of the history of religious epistemology. He critiques the spectres of Enlightenment rationalism that still dominates theological discussions today and offers an alternative form of knowing that withstands the scepticism of postmodernity.

He opens with a clever look at the worldviews of the ancient world. The certainty founded in the logos of Greek philosophy and that in the Israelite anthropomorphic God were suddenly challenged by the ultimate reality that was knowable in Jesus Christ. This led to Augustine's affirmation that he believed in order to know, an affirmation which Newbigin is essentially trying to resurrect.

Chapter 2 explores the Thomistic synthesis, in which natural theology and the proofs of God create a cleavage between truths demonstrable by reason and truths known only through faith. This, Newbigin says, was a mistake, because it implies that more sure grounds than the biblical narrative should be sought in the communication of the faith. This in turn led to the rationalist of Descartes which, he says, erodes inevitably into nihilism, because no knowledge can claim the kind of certainty that Descartes insisted was essential.

Chapter 4, the philosophical center of the book and foundation for Newbigin's epistemology, is an analysis of Michael Polanyi's writings. Polanyi argues that knowledge is "personal," that it is never objective and removed from the subject which claims it. Later in the book Newbigin will cite a helpful analogy from William James, that knowledge is like hanging on a breaking branch on the side of a cliff and deciding whether or not to leap to another branch. Knowledge involves personal commitment and risk.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Searle on January 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
I spent this morning with two of life's great pleasures, a great cup of coffee and a really good book. The coffee was Kenyan Kiaguthu Peaberry roasted to the City+ level. Mmmm. The book is called Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt & Certainty in Christian Discipleship by Lesslie Newbigin.

If you knew me, you would've heard me talk about Michael Polanyi, the 20th century scientist and philosopher whose work was the subject of my Master's thesis. Newbigin's book is a great quick reference for the application of Polanyi's thought to the Christian life, and I highly recommend it. It's only 105 pages and is written in a very accessible style. I read the whole thing this morning.

If you're curious about how Christian thought fits (or doesn't fit, as Newbigin shows) into classical, modern, or post-modern ideas about knowledge, you should read this book. If you're one of those young evangelicals that is disenchanted with the hyper-rationalistic hyper-individualistic concepts of Christianity, you should read this book. If you want to figure out whether truth is objective or subjective, you should read this book. If you want to know what is really wrong with "fundamentalist" Christianity or with "liberal" Christianity (perhaps surprisingly, it's something they have in common), you should read this book.

A few weeks back, my friend Jon (who also introduced me to home roasted coffee) wrote an interesting piece for his blog about a recent trend among young evangelicals in which many are departing to more liturgical versions of Church, especially various Eastern forms (by the way, I think the Emergent Church is sort of a wimpy American-consumer version of the same trend). It's all a sort of pre-modern postmodernism.
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