Beyond Reason


Jig and a Book

Posted in Faith,Philosophy,Writing/Reading by Abigail on August 6, 2008

What do you do when your biggest questions have been answered? Well, dance a jig or something. Since you can’t see my jig I’m currently dancing, I’m just going to post about the book that caused the jig. (Actually, the only time I “jig” is on the tennis court and that’s really more of a victory dance… which isn’t really condoned in tennis… very sad, as it’s the best part of my game.) It is Proper Confidence by Leslie Newbigin. The subtitle is Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship. Many of the questions I’ve posted on this blog I’ve viewed as, essentially, unanswerable. But he answers them! At least to my satisfaction.

So I’ll provide a rundown of the book and hopefully persuade you also to pick up this gem.

1) First it should be noted that this is a Christian book. That means he operates out of a worldview soaked in Christian assumptions and beliefs. For the non-Christian, I still think this book would be beneficial because it is primarily philosophical – and only secondarily theological – and deals with problems that affect the church only because first they affected our culture at large. He is well spoken and thought provoking.

2) The first point of the book: Christian epistemology requires a scrapping of classical Greek epistemology. This has a thousand implications – many of which are disturbing, all of which are interesting – but I’ll leave those inside the book.

3) His next topic is what happens when that scrapping does not occur and instead classical Greek epistemology holds sway, as it does today. As you might imagine, Descartes gets a lot of air time.

4) Nihilism is next.

5) He discusses different kinds of knowledge: intellectual versus personal, in other words, knowing a fact versus knowing a person, and the inherent risks of knowing a person.

6) Fascinatingly, he attacks the dichotomy between objective and subjective knowledge. He bases his thoughts off a 20th century Russian scientist turned philosopher. It is decently convincing and is core to the argument of his whole book. (I’ve never heard anyone challenge this dichotomy. Am I out in left field? Perhaps it is more common than I realize?)

7) But primarily he dismantles some of the core principles of modernity. In its place, he talks of personal knowledge, how a knower must “commit” to what he knows, and the inherent personal risk always involved.

Unfortunately, my above post is not particlarly well written and, conceptually, does this book little justice. Please keep that in mind. I view this post is as a bit of a conclusion to the many conversations occuring previously on this blog: interesting thoughts, but mostly unanswered questions. As he makes his points far better than I would, I am just pointing to this book. At only 100ish pages, it is an easy read! I feel like I could stop blogging now – because he actually answered the questions I thought couldn’t be answered.

And for the record, I’m still jigging.