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.


2 Responses to 'Jig and a Book'

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  1. Steve H said,


    I’m so thankful to hear your questions have been answered. I respect such deep desire to know and understand these things. As it sounds like the book mentioned, who would have thought they weren’t actually things we are trying to know, but a person. That person, a real one, with thoughts and feelings and maybe even idiosyncrasies we just wouldn’t think a ‘God’ would have, at least from a Greek-influenced point of view, is intensely relational. And why wouldn’t God be relational .. as made in His image, aren’t we? And what is a relationship, but to know and be known? I believe that’s where we start in getting to know God. We just ask him, and then he reveals things about himself, like any other person. And like any other person, He WANTS to be known. He never said “you can’t know me.” It’s only true that we can’t know Him if we only use our mind. But He gave His spirit.

    “But let him who boasts boast of this, that he understand and knows me.” – Jeremiah 9:23

  2. amandalaine said,

    Hey Steve, thank you. Kind words. Very very kinds words. I appreciate it.

    I have a tendency to be overrational – which should be completely obvious – so when I’m presented with something not processable by the mind – like another being – it’s just about impossible for me to accept. But then those things that aren’t processable by the mind are eternally interesting, right?

    Good verse. Thanks. Let me know if you read the book! I would love to hear your thoughts, as always.

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