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Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  633 ratings  ·  63 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 111 pages
Published March 30th 1995 by Eerdmans
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Steph Miller
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
At the risk of sounding fanatical, I will begin by saying I wish more Christians would read Newbigin! He is such a *deep* thinker, and has really helped me sort through my uneasiness about the fundamentalist focus on "certainty." He traces this back to Descartes and the West's resulting dependence on dualistic thinking, particularly where it comes to the objective vs. the subjective. I love how he so eloquently brought Michael Polanyi into the conversation, with an emphasis on his concept of "pe ...more
Emily Jusuf
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily by: Molly
Shelves: religion
This text was recommended by an IV staff member to a friend who at the time was struggling with, amongst other things, how we could know Christianity to be true, and how we could be sure that we were not just making a huge mistake. The friend and I bought the book to read together. In short, from what I understand, Newbigin’s answer is that we can’t, but that it is deeply wrong to think that only what is indubitable can be true. God has revealed himself to us not through incontrovertible evidenc ...more
Joel Wentz
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding, and worth revisiting (which I plan to do regularly). Newbigin is conversant in broad streams of history, philosophy, and theology, and manages to weave them all together into a an argument with seismic implications: the West's worship of epistemological 'certainty' inevitably leads towards nihilism and disaster (a proposal that's hard to ignore in 2019). He systematically responds to thoughtful counter-arguments, ultimately leveling a significant critique at both liberal and fundame ...more
Dan Glover
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars. The following is not strictly a review but a brief reflection I wrote for a class at Regent College where this was required reading.

Lesslie Newbigin’s essay on what constitutes a proper level of knowledge or confidence (‘with faith’) does an excellent job of making both the valuable insights and the fatal flaws of postmodern hermeneutics available to the church. He shows how the new paradigm or framework through which to interpret reality, made available in God’s self revelation in
Soren Johnson
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, theology
Fantastic! Newbigin beautifully argues that the postmodern critique of modernist epistemology (which has undergirded the supposed divide between science and faith) reveals the untenability of Cartesian certainty and the necessity of faith within any belief system.
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cindy by: Emily Jusuf
Shelves: faith, own
A challenge to those who hold tightly onto the superiority of scientific objectivism (via Polanyi). Also compares/contrasts objectivism with the certainty Christians hold for the Jesus narrative.

Quotations with page numbers from the Eerdmans 1995 print.

In one of the most concise statements of his position, Polanyi, after speaking of “the personal participation of the knower in all acts of understanding,” goes on:
But this does not make our understanding subjective. Comprehension is neither an arb
Dan Bouchelle
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essential Read

This is Newbigin at his best. Helpful for responding to the new atheists, reductionist modern theological liberals, fundamentalists, and post-modern nihilists. He explains well that we cannot know anything with the kind of certainty that modernity tried to promise, but we can know with confidence the God who calls us into his story. He demonstrates well that the concept of objectivity is naive, but that does not mean we are only left only with subjective leaps of faith and arbitrar
Andrew Van Os
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
whew! great book!
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this in the same way I enjoyed a bowl of ramen as I read the final chapters. All together good and rich, but like the ramen had a floaty egg that I avoided...Newbigin too had a few things I would caution to avoid.
Jul 01, 2010 rated it liked it
A very helpful book. Newbigin critiques Descartes' program to find absolute certainty in our knowledge, "certainty" here meaning validation of a truth claim beyond any conceivable doubt. He succinctly maps out many of the historical consequences of the Descartes' influence on western thought and culture, a culture which has largely and with deep irony abandoned the possibility of having absolute certainty in knowledge.

In place of exalting doubt as the key principle in a search for knowledge, Ne
Jaran Miller
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
While providing a helpful critique of Descartes' epistemology, Newbigin has bolstered my confidence in Jesus and the appropriateness of my adherence to Christianity. Newbigin claims that possession of demonstrable and indubitable knowledge is far inferior to personal commitment. For Christians, this is a commitment to a relationship with Jesus. I've never before read a defense of Christianity as contained in this book, but I have found it to be truly helpful.
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Simply put, this is essential reading for understanding the Western mind in relation to "faith, doubt, and certainty." Being only a little over 100 pages it is mostly introductory, but what a full introduction it is.
Israel Ruiz
May 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
You can' afford not reading it.
Mike Joyce
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A powerful tool for addressing the secular, postmodern world.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an amazing read. Honestly, this is a book I will probably come back to again and again. It is full of incredibly thoughtful ideas that are important to consider, many of which I hadn't considered in the way that Newbigin articulates. I'm not sure I agree with everything he says, but he is clearly brilliant, and I really want to contemplate it some more.

So, why not 5 stars? Well, It's very short. I like that, but he packs so much into it and covers so much ground, that it make for a very
Caroline Abbott
Jul 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
I know this book is supposed to be a classic theological book, but I had a very difficult time getting anything out of it. I had to read it for a theology class I'm taking. It was written in 1995. I guess they didn't use headings and sub- headings back then, or at least this author didn't. Each long chapter was just paragraph after paragraph of difficult concepts. If there were subheadings, I feel like I might have been able to focus and concentrate on all the subjects. As it was, it was a waste ...more
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physical-library
Well-written and balanced, the author discusses the role of faith and reason in ordering the human life and understanding. This is particularly relevant to apologetics. It's a short read, but it required concentration and thought. I do not know whether I agree with the author about the limits of reason and the role of faith, but I respect his argument and I am grateful for this book. I recommend it to any thinking person.
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: apologetics
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Newbigin does a great job here of demonstrating the truth of this proposition. His discussion of Descartes and absolute certainty shows the important between certain knowledge and useful wisdom. He shows the bankruptcy of all non-Christian epistemologies and the supremacy of the Biblical meta-narrative.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant.... How have I never heard of Newbigin?!

A bit heavy at times but often simple too.
Newbigin works his way to an understanding of where we really can have our confidence.
He deflates the self-confidence of the Post-Modernist and the Liberal and makes a great case for why we should have less confidence in ourselves and more confidence in he who said "Follow Me."
Robin Seyfert
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book should be read by every believer in the Bible and follower of Jesus. First so we can learn to think (I had a hard time following as my brain is so sloppy). Second so we know what questions we want to answer about our faith.
Reese Anderson
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Helpful in rearranging mental furniture shaped by enlightenment rationalism. Noticeable caricature of the doctrine of inerrancy and I’d probably differ in my view on the role of reason, but I was encouraged and challenged to rethink my sources of confidence.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it liked it
The first half of this book hurt my brain. (I deal much better in the world of concrete thoughts and actions than I do in abstract thinking.)
Richard Mounce
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very good with a few gaffes.
Cameron Combs
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Newbigin was Tim Keller before Tim Keller was Tim Keller.
Alex Lomangino
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read for those who struggle with doubt
Aug 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably really good, if a little hard going! It just wasn’t what I was expecting or hoping for. An entirely subjective 3 stars.
Tim Hoiland
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith, anglican
My interest in Newbigin was rekindled after hearing Michael Goheen speak recently about his personal and scholarly interest in bringing the best thinking of Newbigin together with the ideas of Abraham Kuyper as a cohesive framework he calls “missional Kuyperianism.”

With this in mind I recently read Newbigin’s Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (Eerdmans). It’s a little book with big implications. Newbigin presents an alternative to both the theologically lib
Nate Walker
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life my first year of seminary. It taught me the humility to see my knowledge of God was not as a scientist mastering his subject, but as a person being mastered and encountered by a personal God. The fruit of this was it freed me to listen to others much better than I had. I will never have the level of control over the knowledge of God that modernity and fundamentalism seek. I have simply responded to Jesus call, "Follow me." There is no avoiding that my knowledge of him i ...more
Peter Bringe
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, apologetics
Very insightful and helpful, except for a few pages at the end. In short, Newbigin explains how a pursuit for an impersonal objective certainty based on reason has led the West into doubt and skepticism and how hope lies in recovering a theory of knowledge that includes personal commitment. By definition, only God can explain His purposes in creation and providence, and by definition we must trust Him on His word.

While this book has many good insights (historical and theological), near the end
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is extremely helpful in understanding today's division between liberal/fundamentalist Christianity. Newbigin traces the path of secular ideas throughout modern history and shows that our understanding of "truth" is more bound by the psuedo-logic of Descartes and Enlightenment thinking than anything truly biblical. (For example, why start our foundational knowledge with "I think, therefore I am" instead of "I love, therefore I am"? It is an arbitrary starting point.) If our confidence a ...more
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What is Newbigin's approach to apologetics? 1 6 Jun 15, 2014 11:52AM  

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Bishop James Edward Lesslie Newbigin was a British theologian, missiologist, missionary and author. Though originally ordained within the Church of Scotland, Newbigin spent much of his career serving as a missionary in India and became affiliated with the Church of South India and the United Reformed Church, becoming one of the Church of South India's first bishops. A prolific author who wrote on ...more

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23 likes · 5 comments
“One does not learn anything except by believing something, and -- conversely -- if one doubts everything one learns nothing. On the other hand, believing everything uncritically is the road to disaster. The faculty of doubt is essential. But as I have argued, rational doubt always rests on faith and not vice versa. The relationship between the two cannot be reversed. ” 12 likes
“But if the biblical story is true, the kind of certainty proper to a human being will be one which rests on the fidelity of God, not upon the competence of the human knower. It will be a kind of certainty which is inseparable from gratitude and trust.” 5 likes
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