Going Downunder
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Proper Confidence and the Place of Certainty

After some chats with a number of fundamentalists over my posts on contextualization, and being falsely accused of being "liberal" . . . again . . I thought I would post these notes from the best book I have read on the subject of confidence and certainty. I am talking about Lesslie Newbigin's excellent book called "Proper Confidence: faith, doubt and certainty in christian discipleship" (1995). I wish John MacArthur would have tackled this book in The Truth War because it gives what i believe is a far more balanced approach to the subject of certainty that what is presented as typical of emerging church views.

I have blogged a paragraph or two at Newbigin on Fundamentalism and Liberalism but I might will put a few more of his words here for those who dont have the book. Basically, Newbigin locates his faith in the person of Jesus Christ rather than scientific methods. Which reminds me of the hymn, "I will not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand"

Check out Proper Confidence on Google books and read on for some quotes.

Newbigin rejects the necessity of the three dualisms created by Descartes thinking - that of mind/matter, subjective/objective and theoria/praxis. Since these dualisms were in some form present in Greek and Roman thinking, the early church had to overcome them to present the story of God through Christ.

"My commitment to the truth of the gospel is a commitment of faith. If I am further pressed to justify this commitment (as I have often been), my only response has to be a personal confession. The story is not my construction. In ways that I cannot fully understand but always through the witness of those who went before me in the company of those called to be witnesses, I have been laid hold of and charged with the responsibility of telling this story. I am only a witness, not the Judge who alone can give the final verdict. But as a witness I am under obligation - the obligation of a debtor to the grace of God in Jesus Christ - to give my witness. I cannot pretend to anticipate the final judgment by offering any proof other than the fact that my life is committed toe the truth of this witness.
In my own experience, I find this position is questioned from three sides: from the Catholic tradition of natural theology, from Protestant fundamentalism, and from liberal theology of all kinds."
page 94- 95

"I have every sympathy with the fundamentalists rejection of scholarship that denies any real authority of Scripture, but I cannot accept a kind of defence of the Bible that rests on a surrender to the very forces threatening to destroy biblical authority." page 86

"The manner in which Jesus makes the Father known is not in infallible, unnrevisable, irreformable statements. He did not write a book which would have served forever as the unquestionable and irreformable statement of the truth about God. He formed a community of friends and shared his life with them."

"We must guard against the imposition on the Scriptures of the dichotomy between objective and subjective ways of knowing. We are not required to choose between two alternative ways of understanding Scripture. The prophets and apostles of of the Old and New Testaments belonged to the same world as we do, a world in which knowing is a matter of commitment of personal subjects to the clearest possible understanding of the reality of which we are a part. The church has defined the boundaries of Scripture as canonical and thus having a position of decisive authority within the ongoing tradition . . . " page 90

I have argued (in agreement with the postmodernists) that all truth claims are culturally and historically embodied. The Christian gospel arises out of the culture of one people among all the peoples of the word, the people of Israel.

In seeking a kind of supracultural and indubitable certainty, these [fundamentalist] Christians have fallen into the trap set by Descartes. They are seeking a kind of certainty that does not acknowledge the certainty of faith as the only kind of certainty available. The only one who has a context-independent standpoint is God. . . . To convert the Bible into a compendium of indubitably certain facts is to impose upon it a character alien to itself, a character that is the typical product of minds shaped by the Enlightenment". page 99-100

"The confidence proper to a Christian is not the confidence of one who claims possession of a demonstrable and indutitable knowledge. It is the one who has heard and answered the call that comes from the God through him and for whom all things were made: "Follow Me". page 105.