What’s with the title of this blog? It has to do with the best book that I read while in Seminary. Proper Confidence is a book by Lesslie Newbigin, a British missionary to India who helped unite many of the mainline denominations into one church, The Church of South India. When he came back to Britain he found that he was returning to another mission field. While he had been away in India, the West had lost its faith. He began a prolific writing project in an attempt to convert the West back to Christianity. The Missional Church movement was born out of Newbigin’s project. His most famous book in this attempt is The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, but my favorite is Proper Confidence.
Proper Confidence provided for me an intellectual framework for understanding how uncertainty and faith work together. At the time I was struggling with how to understand more fully what it meant to live with uncertainty while at the same time being a follower of Jesus Christ. The subtitle of the book—Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship—caught my eye. Of course I wanted to know myself what a “proper confidence” meant.
When Newbigin talks about a proper confidence he means this: “If the biblical story is true, the kind of certainty proper to a human begin 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” (28). In other words, faith does not remove uncertainty from our lives. Rather, our faith is properly confident not because of our ability to be certain about it, but because of who our faith is in, God. Newbigin points out that faith is always active in knowing. Even scientific knowledge is founded on faith. There is no way to know anything that doesn’t include the risk of personal commitment to knowing. That risk of personal commitment is faith. Newbigin says, “Faith is the only certainty because faith involves personal commitment” (105).
This kind of faith comes by living into the story of God where we put our confidence in the storyteller, not in ourselves. Newbigin says, “The business of the church is to tell and embody a story” (76). That’s what I hope this blog will be. That’s what I hope Sycamore Creek Church will be: an embodiment of God’s story of salvation. Will you join in the story?
For further reflection:
Lost in Lost