I would not be working in San Francisco to help start the Newbigin House of Studies if I was not a fan of the great British missionary-theologian Lesslie Newbigin.  I was first introduced to his works in college, and I’ve been hooked since.  I’ll likely talk more about him later, but one big idea has captivated me – Confidence trumps certainty.

Confidence emerges from trust.  Certainty emerges from insecurity.  Confidence breeds humility.  Certainty breeds arrogance.  Confidence manifests in a concern for the doubter, the weak, and the fragile.  Certainty manifests in violence and fractured relationships.

I want to be a confident Christian, not a cocky Christian.  Anne Rice just ‘quit’ Christianity (whatever that means) because she was tired of a Christianity steeped in certainty.  But, confident Christianity isn’t weak-kneed and cynically doubtful, either.  Newbigin says, “…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.”  At 40, I am thankful for God’s fidelity, which trumps my feeble attempts to build a Tower of Babel into the heavens…

More from Newbigin:

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”.

Read Newbigin’s Proper Confidence here

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