- Paperback: 111 pages
- Publisher: Eerdmans (March 30 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802808565
- ISBN-13: 978-0802808561
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.7 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 136 g
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #119,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship Paperback – Mar 30 1995
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From the Back Cover
'In this short by acute book, Bishop Newbigin unmasks the unspoken and concealed conditions that have intimidated and effectively held Christians in check, making their taming by modern cultural forces easy and comprehensive. It follows from this that any home for renewal of mainline Christianity cannot take place without the kind of critical probing of those unspoken conditions that Bishop Newbigin presents here. This book begins the process by turning the searchlight on Christians themselves, charting a course between the fundamentalist reaction and postmodernist radical nihilism. Whether or not the book results in the long-overdue shake-up Newbigin calls for, it is bound to be included in the arsenal of any meaningful response to the contemporary challenge.
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
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.
In Chapter 1, Newbigin begins with a brief history of the relationship between faith and reason. Augustine and the early fathers viewed faith as the way to knowledge, a sentiment encapsulated in the motto credo ut intellegam. The early Christians sought to take the language of the dominant Greek philosophy and infuse it with new meanings. Their use of logos is a good example.
Chapter 2 chronicles the Thomist synthesis. Newbigin sees Aquinas as separating knowledge from faith. Aquinas asserts the existence of certain knowledge - knowledge that does not depend on faith. Aquinas also brings the division between the god of the philosophers and the God of the Bible. The first is the one known through reason alone; the second is known only through revelation. In addition, Aquinas based faith on reason, a move that led to the skepticism of Hume, who disproved Aquinas's theistic arguments and thus left faith without a basis. The Thomistic tradition of the search for a certain foundation found its most radical expression in Descartes. Newbigin points to Descartes as the beginning of the idea that certainty could be found through radical doubt, doubt that pared away unjustified beliefs until only the self-evident foundation remained as the Gibraltar upon which an entire body of knowledge could be built.
This search for certainty brought only nihilism, Newbigin asserts in Chapter 3, as Descartes' starting point produced a number of dualisms that have plagued Western philosophy since. Newbigin believes that Michael Polanyi shows the way out of this skeptical nihilism, with his repudiation of the objective/subjective dualism. Polanyi's notion of personal knowledge aids Christianity by showing that all knowledge is contextual - that is, part of a tradition - and that beliefs do not have to be justified or even justifiable in order to rise to the level of knowledge. This is because all knowledge depends on certain assumptions that can not be proved, but that are accepted on faith. Any philosophy that requires certainty can never transcend the solipsism of Descartes' cogito. The redemptive narrative of Scripture can never provide that kind of certainty, but neither can any other livable philosophy.
This realization leads to Newbigin's exposition of the Christian doctrine of revelation and knowledge. Knowledge comes by grace alone. We do not gain truth by free inquiry. Instead, truth is the precondition for free inquiry. Because all truth claims by necessity occur within a context, there are few demonstrably objective truths, which isn't to say that there is no objective truth.
Newbigin concludes with a rousing affirmation of the historicity of the resurrection, the infallibility of the Scriptures, and the fiduciary nature of all knowledge. He ends by advocating a form of apologetics that is virtually identical to evangelism, but which includes the destruction of non-believing systems. Apologetics is first and foremost proclamation.
This is one of the best books on apologetics and religious epistemology that I have ever read. It is clearly written and persuasively argued. Together with the work of Gordon Clark and Alvin Plantinga, the ideas in this book should change the face of apologetics and the nature of the Christian defense as it confronts an increasingly postmodern world. Evidentialists and classical apologists continue to adhere to unbiblical notions of knowledge, proof, and certainty at their own peril. Their apologetic paradigms are exposed as powerless in the face of the postmodern onslaught. Newbigin was prophetic in his prescience and should be heeded by all Christians who are interested in the defense of the faith.
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