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Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship [Paperback]

By Lesslie Newbigin (Author)
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Item description for Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship by Lesslie Newbigin...

Seeing both liberal and fundamentalist Christians imprisoned in the epistemological presuppositions of the Enlightenment, Bishop Newbigin attempts to unmask the unspoken and concealed conditions that have intimidated and effectively held Christians in check, making their taming by modern cultural forces easy and comprehensive. The best form of apologetics, he contends, is the preaching of the particular yet universal gospel. Lesslie Newbigin is a prominent leader of the ecuminical movement and has served as general secretary of the International Missionary Council and as associate general secretary fo the World Council of Churches.

Publishers Description
Looking to end the divisive conflict that has raged between Christians who attack each other either as "liberals" or as "fundamentalists," Newbigin here gives a historical account of the roots of this conflict in order to begin laying the foundation for a middle ground that will benefit the Christian faith as a whole. What results is a perspective that allows Christians to confidently affirm the gospel as public truth in our pluralistic world.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   110
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.05" Width: 6.09" Height: 0.31"
Weight:   0.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2000
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  0802808565  
ISBN13  9780802808561  

Availability  0 units.

More About Lesslie Newbigin

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! (1909-1998) Lesslie Newbigin was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, U.K., in 1909. He completed his undergraduate studies in Cambridge and then served as Staff Secretary of the Student Christian Movement in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied theology at Westminster College at Cambridge and was ordained by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, Church of Scotland in 1936. That same year Newbigin married Helen Henderson and the two of them left for India where he was to be missionary of the Church of Scotland In 1947 Reverend Newbigin was consecrated Bishop in the Church of South India, formed by the union of Anglican, Methodist, and Reformed churches. He also served on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and as Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the main theme of the Second Assembly. Other members of the committee included famous theologians such as Barth, Brunner, and Niebuhr In 1959 Newbigin was called to be General Secretary of the International Missionary Council with offices in London and New York. He was responsible for carrying through final negotiations for the merger with the World Council of Churches. In 1962 he became the first director of the Division of World Mission and Evangelism, and Associate General Secretary of the World Council of Churches with headquarters in Geneva.

Lesslie Newbigin was born in 1909 and died in 1998.

Lesslie Newbigin has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Osterhaven Lecture

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism > Missions & Missionary Work
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Pneumatology

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Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > Apologetics

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Reviews - What do customers think about Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship?

Insightful  Dec 21, 2007
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.

The conclusion, then, is that biblical faith can not be defended through the wrong-headed doctrine of verbal inspiration, which rests on the foundation of Cartesian objectivism. Nor is it subject to the historical-critical challenge of liberalism, which, he says (with little explanation), is just a faith commitment of another kind. Instead, we believe in order to know, and faith in the person of Jesus is that hanging onto a branch which validates itself by holding us up.

The book is beautifully written, taut, and profound. If this is your first reading of Newbigin, you're bound to read more. I'm not altogether convinced that he has worked out a kind of religious knowing that is not just blind faith, though he says it is not. At some point, he would have to explain why a satisfying illusion is not equally as plausible as Christianity, or why Christianity isn't one. But truly a great read for all modern thinkers and church leaders.

James W. Miller is the author of God Scent
Proper Praise  Mar 10, 2007
I just completed Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship by Lesslie Newbigin. It gets my four star rating. This little book(105 pages) is of tremendous help in reflecting on apologetics in a postmodern West. The usual Newbigin fusion of Christo-centric, missions-oriented, impeccable scholarship, and concern for faithful Gospel witness all are here. In addition, Newbigin takes on a Cartesian approach to the defense of Christianity that has pervaded Western Christian thinking and must now be seen for its inability to fulfil God's purposes in the world. In his chapter, "Through Faith Alone," Newbigin says, "The reasonableness of Christianity will be demonstrated (insofar as it can be) not by adjusting its claims to the requirements of a preexisting structure of thought but by showing how it can provide an alternative foundation for a different structure (93-94)"

Newbigin is, as this new century goes by, the kind of pastor-missionary-theologian that we need to consider. I find his writing of immense help. While I prefer to read Newbigin while reading Spurgeon or Ryle at the same time (outside of the box thinking tempered by clear, orthodox Protestant preaching), I still do like to read him and end up preaching better as a result. He excites my devotion to the Christian and Biblical vision of the Church in the world for God's purposes in the world. And in Proper Confidence he demonstrates a keen insight into how "to commend the truth of the gospel in a culture that has sought for absolute certainty as the ideal of true knowledge bu now despairs of the possibility of knowing truth at all... (93)"
A Good Saturday Morning  Jan 22, 2007
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. If we all read Polanyi (or Newbigin's short version of Polanyi), this trend would evaporate.

Newbigin shows here that Christianity simply cannot just append itself to other plausibility structures, but is itself a plausibility structure which claims a place of judgment over the others. We do not make Christianity acceptable by fitting it into modern epistemological systems. This is because Christianity is not just a set of propositional beliefs, but a comprehensive personal reality (Christ), embodied in the life and message of the Church.
Silliness  Sep 13, 2002
Essentially asserts that, since knowledge is difficult to come by, and since certainty is virtually impossible because all experience is subjective, that the Bible should be taken as historically accurate.

Asserts that believing that Jesus actually rose from the dead, requires the same amount of faith as believing that 2+2=4. Because we only 'really know' that 2+2=4 because we are willing to accept our current society's definition of '2.'

Ignores that this same philosophy can be applied just as easily to defend *any* other system of faith.

This book is a blast of fresh air.  Oct 12, 2000
I believe Lesslie Newbigin is a great saint of the Church. His book, "Proper Confidence," is an invigorating defense of the synthesis of faith, reason and discipleship. He reclaims theology for the Church. What I found especially refreshing was his head-on challenge to the Enlightenment-rationalist boxes that modern scholars have constructed to contain Christianity. Newbigin confirms what I have long suspected from my Biblical studies classes at seminary; that instructors rule out certain possibilities that do not fit in with the paradigms that press down upon most seminaries like a totalitarian dictatorship. Since it is not "rational" to believe in supernatural events, the possibility that Scripture has been divinely inspired as it appears is ruled out. The funny thing is, the professors have no more evidence for their theories than I do for a claim that the Holy Spirit is responsible for the similarities between various Gospels. Instead, the professors literally must *invent* a common source (that no one has ever found) in order to shoe-horn the Bible into an Enlightenment framework. Thus, instead of the academy serving the Church and God (which is really what a seminary should be doing), God's Word is made to serve the biases of the academy. Instructors who formally profess belief in the Trinity fall at the feet of the "historical-critical method" of Biblical interpretation. That is, I believe, tragically misguided. Lesslie Newbigin's book gives faithful people the intellectual skills to finally fight back and hopefully reclaim academic theology for the Church.

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