The Future of Faith | Notes & Review

Harvey Cox. The Future of Faith. HarperOne, 2009. (245 pages)

future of faith


Reviews at Spirituality & Practice, The Harvard Ichthus, and Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

Chapter 1 An Age of the Spirit

The Sacred in the Secular?

…three qualities mark the world’s spiritual profile, all tracing trajectories that will reach into the coming decades. The first is the unanticipated resurgence of religion in both public and private life around the globe. The second is that fundamentalism, the bane of the twentieth century, is dying. But the third and most important, though often unnoticed, is a profound change in the elemental nature of religiousness. (1)

It is true that for many people “faith” and “belief” are just two words for the same thing. But they are not the same, and in order to grasp the magnitude of the religious upheaval now under way, it is important to clarify the difference. Faith is about deep-seated confidence. … Belief, on the other hand, is more like opinion. … Beliefs can be held lightly or with emotional intensity, but they are more propositional than existential. (3)

Creeds are clusters of beliefs. But the history of Christianity is not a history of creeds. (4)

The nearly two thousand years of Christian history can be divided into three uneven periods. The first might be called the “Age of Faith.” … The second period in Christian history can be called the “Age of Belief.” …replacing faith in Jesus with tenets about him. (4-5)

Christianity is growing fast than ever before, but mainly outside the West and in movements that accent spiritual experience, discipleship, and hope; pay scant attention to creeds; and flourish without hierarchies. (8)

I would like to suggest we call it the “Age of the Spirit.” (8)

There is an irrepressible visionary or utopian streak in almost everyone. (9)

Robert Withnow estimates that 40 percent of all adult Americans belong to one or another of a variety of small groups both in and out of churches, and that many join them because they are searching for community and are “interested in deepening their spirituality.” He adds that these small groups are “redefining the sacred…by replacing explicit creeds and doctrines with implicit norms devised by the group.” (12)

…large numbers of people are drawn more to the experiential than to the doctrinal elements of religion. (13)

“Spirituality” can mean a host of things, but there are three reasons why the term is in such wide use. First, it is still a form of tacit protest. It reflects a widespread discontent with the preshrinking of “religion,” Christianity in particular, into a package of theological propositions by the religious corporations that box and distribute such packages. Second, it represents an attempt to voice the awe and wonder before the intricacy of nature that many feel is essential to human life without stuffing them into ready-to-wear ecclesiastical patterns. Third, it recognizes the increasingly porous borders between the different traditions and, like the early Christian movement, it looks more to the future than to the past. (13-14)

…what some people dismiss as deviations or unwarranted innovations are often retrievals of elements that were once accepted features of Christianity, but were discarded somewhere along the way. (14)

The line between belief and unbelief runs through the middle of each one of us, including myself, a bishop of the church. – Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini

As Christianity moves awkwardly but irreversibly into a new phase in its history, those who are pushing into this frontier often look to the earliest period, the Age of Faith, rather than the intervening one, the Age of Belief, for inspiration and guidance. (19)

Chapter 2 Einstein’s Snuffed-Out Candles

Awe, Wonder, and Faith

Faith starts with awe. It begins with the mixture of wonder and fear all human beings feel toward the mystery that envelops us. But awe becomes faith only as it ascribes some meaning to that mystery. Since we are creatures who use language and symbols that vary from age to age and culture to culture, the meanings we ascribe inevitably differ. All religions and cultures are responses to the same fundamental mystery, but each perceives and responds in its own way. (22)

Flannery O’Connor once wrote that mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind. (22)

…the beauty and complexity of nature have been eroded by both a cool, objective science and a religion too wedded to a human-centered view of the universe. (22-23)

Awe is a basic and nearly universal human emotion. Not to feel it was, for Einstein, to be less than human. Faith, on the other hand, is a particular human response to what awakens awe. It differs from person to person and culture to culture. Spirituality, as we have seen, is an ambiguous term, but often implies an element of dissent against belief-bound religion. The sage of Princeton (Albert Einstein)’s refusal to bite on the rabbi’s bait (“Do you believe in God?”) recognizes once again the folly of reducing either awe or faith to “belief,” and it helps explain why “spirituality” has returned as a rejection of this distortion. (23)

Struggling with these questions has generated our greatest art, music, poetry, and literature from the cave paintings at Lascaux to Mozart’s Requiem. To repress such thoughts would not be to “grow up,” but to regress to a pre humanoid state. We would wilt into snuffed-out candles. (25)

Human beings might be defined as Homo quaerens, the stubborn creatures who cannot stop asking why and then asking why they ask why. (26)

This is where the distinction between faith and belief is vital. These stories [Gilgamesh epic, Aztec creation stories, and the first chapters of Genesis] are–literally–“not to be believed.” They are, rather, artifacts human beings have crafted to try to wring some meaning from the mystery. They are not themselves the mystery. They seek to find a place for humankind in the face of it. (26-27)

Today this luxuriant legacy of the myths through which we have striven for meaning and the rituals that dramatize them has become morally and intellectually confusing. Much of the misunderstanding is due to the way religious leaders, especially in Christianity, have cheapened them into doctrines, propositions, and pseudoscientific theories, which people are exhorted to “believe.” But the result of this “liberalization of the symbolic” is that something essential has been lost in translation. The ill-advised transmuting of symbols into curious kind of “facts” has created an immense obstacle to faith for many thoughtful people. (27)

However well-intentioned and however trimmed the list of “must-believes” becomes, it simply reinforces the belief/nonbelief axis. … | This is no solution. Rather, we should stop asking whether we “believe” them or not. Instead, we can appreciate this dazzling array of myths, rituals, and stories as an invaluable legacy of the human race. (28)

…we find ourselves in a long human saga, reaching out for what is never fully attainable and trying to name what is essentially unnameable. It is that effort, with all its frustrations and rewards, that has made our ancestors and ourselves human, and if we ever give up on it, we could become sputtering wicks of once burning tapers. (28)

Both the universe and the self can stir up tremendum [overwhelming/trembles] as well as fascinans [fascinated] [via: That we are both attracted and repelled by this mystery.] Faith involves our response to both. (31)

For [Emmanuel] Levinas, as we experience longer-term encounters with the “other” repeatedly, we notice something focal. our compulsion to dominate or to withdraw is limited by two qualities. First, the “face” of the other carries with it a message that is almost like a plea. … Second, I begin to notice that my encounter with the “other” opens a dimension of reality I do not find anywhere else. (33)

…the objective knowledge science rightly insists on is not the only kind of knowledge human beings need. … It is, Levinas believes, “a signal of transcendence,”… (33)

Faith, although it is evoked by the mystery that surrounds us, is not the mystery itself. It is a basic posture toward the mystery, and it comes in an infinite variety of forms. (35)

Chapter 3 Ships Already Launched: The Voyage from Mystery to Faith

The various world religions constitute complex codifications of these responses, and they differ from each other in significant respects. This is what makes the study of comparative religion so absorbing. If all religions really were essentially the same, it would soon become unbearably boring. (38)

…the Judeo-Christian tradition within which I meet the mystery has three main foci.

1. The Hebrew Cycle. Rituals are enactments–in song, story, visual representation, and gesture… (39)

The biblical story portrays a universe that is “going somewhere,”… (41)

The biblical story is neither static nor cyclical. [via: it is the opposite: “creative,” or perhaps “creational.”] (42)

2. The Christmas Cycle. The Christmas stories distill the themes of the Old Testament in the life purpose of one man. (42)

It has sometimes been said that while Christians have tried to have God without the Kingdom, secularists have tried to build the Kingdom without God. But this is an oversimplification. (45)

To be a “follower” of Jesus means to discern and respond to the initial signs of this “happening” (the “reigning of God”) and to work to facilitate its coming in its fullness. To follow Jesus, however, does not mean to be a mimic. It means to continue in our times what he did in his. (45)

…by seeing the way he lived his life, we learn what his primal orientation was and see what he trusted and placed his confidence in. (45)

So much Christian theology and preaching has fastened on to the need for faith in Jesus that the faith of Jesus has often been ignored. (46)

When we try to figure out again today how to describe the relationship between Jesus and God, as the bishops tried to do at Nicaea, we ought to stay away from the mistake they made in completely leaving out any reference to the Kingdom. WE should also avoid the archaic language they used about the two being of the “same substance” (homoousios), which means little to anyone today. Rather, we could say that Jesus in his life trajectory completely embodied the purpose and “project” of God. | Moving the focus from Jesus as an individual to his life purpose greatly widens his relevance in a religiously pluralistic world. (47)

Christianity has no monopoly on Jesus. (48)

3. The Easter Cycle. Christianity has blended “pagan” elements into its worship. We should not fret unduly that the same blending continues in African and Asian churches today. (51)

One of the most devastating blunders made by the church, especially as the Age of Belief began, was to insist that the Spirit is present only in believers. (53) [via: I would like to coin the term “pneumatological agnosticism,” that no one knows “where [the Spirit] comes from and where it goes” (John 3:8)]

The faith of the earliest Christians combined that of the Old Testament with the Christmas story, the other accounts of Jesus’s life, and the Passion and Easter stories. Their faith took the form of a loyalty to Jesus rather than Caesar and a hope that the new world of shalom Jesus personified would one day appear in its fullness. They lived their faith in fellowships that, even amid fierce persecution, needed neither creeds nor clergy. But by the time Constantine became emperor, much of that original lifestyle had already begun to corrode. Hierarchy had begun to replace fellowship, and belief to replace faith. (53-54)

Chapter 4 The Road Runner and the Gospel of Thomas

What Happens When It Wasn’t Really That Way?

Recent discoveries about the first three centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus shed a bright new light on a series of old enigmas. They help clarify how Christianity deteriorated from a movement generated by faith and hope into a religious empire demarcated by prescribed doctrines and ruled by a priestly elite. They trace how a loose network of local congregations, with varied forms of leadership, congealed into a rigid class structure with a  privileged clerical caste at the top ruling over an increasingly disenfranchised laity on the bottom. They help explain why women, who played such a vital leadership role in the earliest days, were pushed to the underside and the edges. These discoveries suggest that Christianity was not fated to develop as it did, that what happened was not simply a natural process like a tiny acorn growing into a mighty oak. A different historical trajectory was possible, and this has significant implications for the future.

| In short, Christianity now has a second chance. A combination of circumstances makes possible a new outlook that might be more like the first three centuries and less like the last fifteen hundred years. (55-56)

What Christianity should be doing today and tomorrow must continue what jesus and those who immediately followed him were doing; otherwise it has become something different. (56)

Knowing about the past is vital not to return to it, but to learn from it, from both its mistakes and its successes. (57)

The past, as someone has said, is not forgotten; it isn’t even past. Our past shackles us, especially when we don’t realize it. But it can also liberate us. Understanding our past can reopen roads that might have been taken, but were not. This is why it is so imperative that we have both the most accurate picture of the origins of Christianity as possible and the clearest grasp of the sweep and dynamism of the new global Christianity. (57)

The biggest hurdle we face in thinking about Jesus and early Christianity is the skewed image we carry in our heads of that period. The picture is littered with debris, and much cleanup work is required before reconstruction can begin. (57)

The following are now evident. First, there never was a single “early Christianity”; there were many, and the idea of “heresy” was unknown. Second, it was not the apostles themselves, but subsequent generations who invented “apostolic authority,” and both creeds and hierarchies emerged much later than had been thought. Third, an essential key to comprehending the earliest Christians, including those who wrote the New Testament, is to see their movement as a self-conscious alternative to the empire that tyrannized them. And the best way to understand the succeeding generation of Christian leaders is to notice how they reversed course and gradually came to admire and emulate that empire. (58)

History, as the old dictum puts it, is always written by the winners. Not only did the winning contenders among the many first “Christianities” write the history; they also tried to destroy any counter evidence. This is why the so-called heretics hid their texts in caves, only to be discovered many centuries later. Then the winners used their rewritten history to bolster their own claims to authority. In the meantime, they softened their attitude toward the Roman Empire from passive resistance to docile subservience; then they tried to suggest that the Christian movement had been made up of loyal subjects of the divine emperor from the beginning. This primitive revisionism produced a clumsy effort to shift the blame for Jesus’s death from the Romans to the “Jews,” with what turned out to be disastrous long-term consequences. Today, however, it is evident that this whole winners’ version is not only wildly inaccurate, but demonstrably dangers. (38)

A better metaphor for early Christianity might be of seeds widely sown and sprouting in varied soils and climates. … They free us from the narrow picture that reigned for so long, and they enable us to reexamine both the roads not taken and the paths that were closed down by those who eventually came into power. How is that distant past relevant to the immediate future? (59)

The first thing recent research on early Christianity reveals is how multifaceted it was. …there was no standardized theology, no single pattern of governance, no uniform liturgy, and no commonly accepted scripture. (59)

Yet, despite their dissimilarities, these widely dispersed congregations plainly felt a strong sense of unity. (59)

…it was a powerful confidence that they shared the same Spirit and were all engaged in the common enterprise of following Jesus and making his message about the coming of God’s Reign of shalom known to the world. (60)

The distinction we still make today between “orthodox” and “heretical” movements did not exist. There was nothing inevitable or preordained about which version, if any, would predominate. This, in turn, suggests there is nothing fated about how Christianity could develop in the third millennium. The most disturbing question is how the degeneration into hierarchy, imposed uniformity, imperial organization, and a standardized creed happened.

The second key discovery about early Christianity critical for today is that what came to be called “apostolic authority” is a fiction invented considerably later. (60)

Paul never claimed that this authority derived from previous apostles. In fact, he often denied it. It came from his personal encounter with Christ. (61)

What came to be called “apostolic authority” was not early. What happened, instead, was that, later on, the concept was read back into the earlier history. It was read back by those who, after the original apostles were dead, wanted to claim authority for themselves. … When we realize that the idea of apostolic authority did not originate with the apostles, who themselves placed their confidence in the authority of the Spirit’s presence among the people, this has major implications today for the future of global Christianity. (61)

…the Roman Empire…was never merely the “background.” In one way or another it preoccupied Christian thinking. The first Christians understood themselves as an essentially anti-imperial movement, one whose vocabulary, organization, and rituals created an alternative to those of the Roman Empire, whose imminent collapse they expected. (62)

For the early Christians, including John of the book of Revelation, what was about to end was the imperial world of Rome, not God’s physical creation. Jesus had taught that God’s Kingdom would come on earth. (62)

…as the empire became nominally Christianized, the church also became imperialized, blurring the essence of Christianity almost beyond recognition. (63)

Four developments in historical research have radically altered our understanding of the first centuries of Christianity…

1. The first was triggered in 1946 when a young boy looking for some stray sheep chanced upon a whole library of ancient texts stashed in a cave near Nag Hammadi in Egypt. (64)

Whereas we might have expected these works to solidify the ancient distinction between orthodoxy and heresy, instead [they show] that distinct varieties of Christianity developed in different geographical areas, at a time when the boundaries of orthodoxy and heresy were not yet fixed. – Karen King

2. The second new development, the one that exposed the myth of apostolic authority, was more the result of connecting dots than of the discovery of new sources. (65) …authority based on an alleged “apostolic succession” should be understood as an invention of later arrivals, and that authority in early Christianity was actually far more protean and diffuse. (66)

Unfortunately, once they are established, some myths–especially myths that give certain people power over others–often survive for a long time after convincing evidence against them is widely known. (67)

3. The third development that came…is the emergence of what is called “people’s history.” (67)

The Christian refusal to participate in the emperor cult was persecuted not because it was “religious,” but because it was treasonous. Doing obeisance at the altar of the divine emperor, far from a merely symbolic gesture, was the key ritual of the ideology through which Rome ruled. (70)

Chapter 5 The People of the Way

The Devolution from Faith to Belief

…in a relatively short time, faith in this inclusive new Reign faded, and what had begun as a vigorous popular movement curdled into a top-heavy edifice defined by obligatory beliefs enforced by a hierarchy. (73)

After that, composing creeds quickly became a habit–some would say an addiction… (74)

During the first two centuries, a period of unparalleled growth and vigor, the only “creed” Christians had was not an inventory of beliefs. It was a straightforward affirmation: “Jesus Christ is Lord,” which was more like a pledge of allegiance. It meant, “I serve Jesus, not some other sovereign.” … the dispute was not about a clash of creeds; it was about a clash of loyalties. It was about two different ways of life. (77)

Today historians of the creeds often explain them as fences, boundary markers delineating who was in and who was out. However, a more appropriate metaphor would be “partitions.” A fence is constructed on the outside edges of the property. A partition is something built inside a house, separating those who live in it from each other. (83)

…not only were the creedal barriers directed against brothers and sisters; they were, in retrospect, a painful example of overkill. (83-84)

Chapter 6 “The Bishop Is Your High Priest and Mighty King”

The Rise of the Clerical Caste

Paul’s letters should not be read as laying down theological formularies, but as ad hoc political and administrative advice to particular local churches. Paul had no interest in nurturing uniformity, but was mainly concerned that Jewish and Gentile followers realize they now all belonged to the same community, one that had come to birth with the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, described in Acts of the Apostles: “And it shall come to pass, says God, that in the last days I shall pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (2:17).

But within a few decades this effervescent diversity began to worry a new generation of Christian leaders. (86)

…the terms heresy and orthodoxy are anachronistic. – James Robinson

…the issue today, as it was in the early church, is not about creed or belief. It was, and is, about order, an appropriate chain of command. (94)

Chapter 7 Constantine’s Last Supper

The Invention of Heresy

The Romans had always believed that invoking the gods was the only way to assure victory in war and that the most powerful deity would win. (100)

The cross, which had once functioned as an instrument of torture on which a Roman brigade had executed a radical Jewish rabbi and was then one of the signatures of a harassed and persecuted minority (another was the fish), now festooned the shields of the successors of the same imperial troops who had carried out the execution on Calvary. (102)

Constantine not only pronounced himself to be a convert to Christianity; he also made himself its principal patron and chief administrator. … he was not just to rule the empire, but to govern the church as well. (102)

The second of the emperor’s worries was this: his fond hope that Christianity as a religious ideology would unify the empire was just not working out. … disputes among Christian bishops and theologians, often based on jealousy, pique, and ambition or sometimes on theological differences that might once have seemed less urgent, now popped up everywhere. (103)

It should be noted that it was an emperor, not the bishops, the congregations, or the bishop of Rome, who convened this first council in 325 CE. Also, the 220 bishops were not to gather in a church building, but…in his sumptuous palace in Nicaea, on the lovely western coast of what is now Turkey. (104)

After the fall of Rome in 476 CE, the ensuing centuries toll a dismal story of the repeated failure of using creeds and excommunications to achieve any result, except for further rancor. If, as some psychologists claim, at least one form of mental illness can be defined as doggedly repeating the same tactic over and over again even when it has always failed, creeds could be thought of as symptoms of a long psychological disorder. (108) [via: Wow. You went there!]

…within Christianity, movements once considered heretical are now often welcomed into the ecumenical household. All protestant churches fall into this category… (108)

Chapter 8 No Lunch with the Prefect

How to Fix the Papacy

The flaw in the idea of infallibility lies not in whether the pope should have it or not, but in another direction. The very concept of “infallibility,” no matter who has or does not have it, is itself misleading. … It means that such propositions are accurate and must be assented to as true. It requires not faith, but belief. (120)

Chapter 9 Living in Haunted Houses

Beyond the Interfaith Dialogue

As human beings we live in both nature and history. We fuse two modes of existence. (128)

Whatever else they may disagree on, fundamentalists in every tradition concur on one thing: they vociferously oppose interfaith dialogue. (132)

What dialogically oriented Christian would not rather spend an afternoon with the Dalai Lama than with Pat Robertson? (133) [via: :-)]

intrafaith dialogue is often more difficult than interfaith dialogue. …the result is that tensions between the wings within each tradition deepen, and instead of communication we fuel confrontation, calumny, and the constant threat of schism. As conditions worsen we feel ever more uncomfortable talking with coreligionists who–many of us believe–distort and demand what we both share. (135)

Conservative Christianity in America–and in many other parts of the world–is not a phalanx. The Spirit is moving. Faith is becoming more salient than beliefs. … The opportunity for useful conversation with the “other wing” may be more promising than ever. (138)

We should seize this opportunity. Unless we do, we face the dour prospect of a future in which open-minded members in each religion devote increasing amounts of time to friendly conversations with like-minded members of others, while the conservative wing in each becomes more inaccessible and hostile. We will end up with more and deeper divisions than we once had, only running along internal rather than external fault lines. Ironically, the interfaith movement would then be defeated by its own success. (138)

Chapter 10 Get Them into the Lifeboat

The Pathos of Fundamentalism

The fundamentalist obsession with correct beliefs often makes faith, in its biblical sense, more elusive. It replaces faith as a primary life orientation with a stalwart insistence on holding to certain prescribed doctrinal ideas, and this in turn often promotes a kind of taut defensiveness and spiritual pride that are not in keeping with the love ethic of Jesus. (141)

Fundamentalists have always regarded their beliefs as under attack, and therefore have engaged in counterattack, on two fronts. (149)

From its launching, American fundamentalism was an aggressive and argumentative affair. There was, indeed, so much to be against. (150)

These disagreements may sound puny or precious to some people today, but fundamentalists fought each other savagely over them, frequently “separating” from those with whom they did not agree. One result of this internal bloodletting was that it undermined the primary objective of the whole fundamentalist movement, which had been to quell the slide toward doctrinal cacophony by insisting on one unquestionable source of authority, the Word of God. (151)

Chapter 11 Meet Rocky, Maggie, and Barry

Which Bible Do the Bible Believers Believe?

…since what we have is not the Bible, but interpretations, and interpretations of interpretations, we are forced to look beyond and through the texts to the people who wrote them and to the mystery they are pointing to. (166)

There are four significant turning points in the recent history of how Christians have viewed the Bible. (167)

  1. …the invention of printing…
  2. …the application of the historical-critical method…
  3. …the advent of the fundamentalist view of the Bible…
  4. …the “liberation” of the Bible from both historical critics and fundamentalists…

…[the Bible is] a fascinating record of how people in our own tradition wrestled with the same perennial issues we face, like the meaning of life and love, betrayal, suffering, and death. (170) [via: see Peter Enns]

Chapter 12 Sant’Egidio and St. Praxedis

Where the Past Meets the Future

In 1900, fully 90 percent of Christians lived in Europe or the United States. Today 60 percent live in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, and that figure will probably rise to 67 percent by 2025. About 1975, Christianity ceased to be a “Western” religion.” (173)

This “de-Westernization” of Christianity has produced a wave of new forms of religious life and a variety of liturgies and creative theologies. It also highlights the remarkable similarities between the first three centuries and our own times. (173)

In those first centuries Christianity was not yet “Western”; today it is no longer Western. (174)

Christianity today is more planetary than it has ever been. It is also more culturally heterogeneous… (175)

Religion often follows the money and the sword. (175)

The era of Christianity as a Western religion is already over. Instead of “Western Christianity,” we now witness a post-Christian West (in Europe) and a post-Western Christianity (in the global South). America is somewhere in between. | This is not just a geographical issue. It means that the new homelands of the faith of Jesus of Nazareth are not the inheritors of either Greek philosophy or Roman civilization. (177)

Since the vast majority of people in this “new Christendom” are neither white nor well-off, their theological questions center less on the existence or nonexistence of God or the metaphysical nature of Christ than on why poverty and hunger still stalk God’s world. It is little wonder that liberation theology, the most creative theological movement of the twentieth century, did not originate in Marburg or Yale, but in the tar-paper shacks of Brazil and the slums of South Korea. (177)

How will things change when it becomes known in every pew that the “official” version of early Christianity–whether it is deployed by Catholics or Protestants–was a work of fiction and is no longer credible? (178)

[Galileo] and the science he represented actually rendered an invaluable service to Christianity. They dismantled the church’s claims to competence in describing the workings of the natural world, thus helping Christianity to regain its original impetus as a movement of faith. (182)

Even though we still live with the scars Christianity has inflicted on itself, we cannot dismantle the soaring cathedrals, silence the music, shred the theological texts, or discard the splendid liturgies. They are ours as well as theirs. As we enter this Age of the Spirit, they can still inspire us, and they have much to teach us. But we need to understand our past in a new way, because we still inhabit a world in which that past exercises a heavy hand and will not easily loosen its grip. (185)

Chapter 13 Blood on the Altar of Divine Providence

Liberation Theology and the Rebirth of Faith

Liberation theology is not, as its critics charge, a political movement hat deploys religious language. Rather, it is a profoundly religious movement with important political implications. Nor is it a theological trend or school of thought like other twentieth-century ones such as the Catholic “Neo-Thomism” associated with Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) or the Protestant “Neo-Orthodoxy” of karl Barth (1886-1968). Rather than new ideas or theories, liberation theology represents a whole new way of engaging in theology. | It begins by rethinking the Christian message from the point of view of the poor and the outcast. (190)

It is not a “trickle down” theology, but one that has “percolated up” from thousands of grassroots groups and movements. (191)

…the Christianity of the twenty-first-century has begun to look more like that of the first two centuries, when streams of women, slaves, and impoverished city dwellers joined the new congregations. The original idea of Christianity as a faithful way of life has begun to displace the enforced system of creeds that defined it during much of the intervening time. (195)

Chapter 14 The Last Vomit of Satan and the Persistent List Makers

Pentecostals and the Age of the Spirit

The essential qualities of a religious faith can be discerned most clearly in the shape it gives to the institutions it spawns. (204)

Chapter 15 The Future of Faith

Give us this day our daily faith, but deliver us from beliefs. – Aldous Huxley

In entering the Greek world, the early Christians mixed biblical ideas into a Greek framework that often distorted their original meaning. They tried to fashion a Christian philosophy to replace the pagan one, and Christianity gradually slipped away from faith and into ideas. The triumph of the clerical elite under Constantine cemented this perversion into the structure of the church. (221)

— via —

One of my favorite reads, not just because of its erudition, thoroughness, and inspiration, but also because I felt affirmed and confirmed by his thesis. We began our church with a set of core values, not core beliefs. Why? Any explanation I could give pales in comparison to Cox and my highlights above. In addition, the idea of first-century faith potentially being “revived” in new and fresh ways is exciting and encouraging.

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  1. Daniel Kao

    Mr. Neuner,

    I took so much away from your notes on this book. It really gives me a lot to think about in terms of the whole history of Christendom, and where it’s headed in the future. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Pingback: The Gay Christian Network Conference, 2015 | Reflections & Open Letter | vialogue

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