Read The Future of Faith by Harvey Cox Online


“A beautiful book and a Cox classic….Readers will be grateful that they joined him on his journey.” —E.J. Dionne Jr., author of Souled Out“Insightful, provocative, and inspiring—I even found myself uttering a hearty evangelical ‘Amen!’” —Richard Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary, and author of Calvinism in the Las Vegas AirportThe Future of Faith is Harvard reli“A beautiful book and a Cox classic….Readers will be grateful that they joined him on his journey.” —E.J. Dionne Jr., author of Souled Out“Insightful, provocative, and inspiring—I even found myself uttering a hearty evangelical ‘Amen!’” —Richard Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary, and author of Calvinism in the Las Vegas AirportThe Future of Faith is Harvard religion scholar Harvey Cox’s landmark exploration of why Christian dogmatism is giving way to a grassroots Christianity rooted in social justice and spirituality. Cox laid the groundwork for modern religious writing with his 1965 classic, The Secular City, paving the way for writers like Diana Butler Bass, Karen Armstrong, Stephen Prothero, and Deepak Chopra, who calls The Future of Faith “a fresh vision for the resurrection of a new global Christianity.”...

Title : The Future of Faith
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Number of Pages : 256 Pages
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The Future of Faith Reviews

  • Ed Cyzewski
    2019-02-20 23:02

    Distinguished Religion scholar Harvey Cox of Harvard Divinity School delivers a powerful and timely assessment of the past, present, and future of Christianity in his book The Future of Faith. Cox asserts that we are moving from an age of belief into an age of the Spirit with the rise of Christianity in the global south.After a pre-Constantinian age of faith that followed closely in the pattern of Jesus, Christianity moved into an age of creeds beginning with Constantine and petering out today as Christians outside of the west bring a charismatic, Spirit-led Christianity to the table that will resemble the age of faith in many ways.Writing in an engaging, page-turning style, Cox deftly carries readers through his own journey through fundamentalist Christianity and into the conversations with individuals and groups who are leading today’s renewal. He shares a vision of real hope in this account of the rise of Christianity in Africa, Asia, and Latin America rather than a lament of the West’s decline.From liberal to conservative, there is a fairly strong consensus among scholars that Constantine’s endorsement of Christianity surrendered far too much in the interest of state legitimacy. Indeed, many of those we celebrate from church history either aimed to reform or to separate themselves from the bulk of the established church. The collapse of Constantinian Christianity is widely celebrated.Cox is correct to that extent, and his celebration of liberation theology and the rise of indigenous worship from Africa to Asia points toward a future of Christianity that celebrates the indigenous expressions of Christianity, the very thing that many of today’s missionaries have known for years—which their sending congregations tragically ignored even in the midst of celebrating their work.From start the finish the book is simply superb. In a broad sense Cox presents what I believe to be a very compelling and accurate case for the future of faith. However, his arguments are not above critique, and I trust that many of my readers on the conservative end of the spectrum would be concerned should they read my endorsement of such a book without a few caveats. Well, there are probably more than a few.Cox and CaveatsCox’s account of such events as the Council of Nicea don’t always match up with the accounts I’ve read in a number of other sources. Written for lay readers, Cox passes on extensive end notes and citations from historical documents, so there’s no way to determine the accuracy of his whirlwind tour based on this book alone.Based on Cox’s story we get the idea that the divinity of Christ hung in the balance and really wasn’t that big of a deal, so Constantine twisted a few arms, expelled a few freshly minted heretics, and pushed for a handy creed to separate friend from foe. While Constantine’s presence at the council is troubling and his expulsion of some Christians is very problematic, every other account I’ve read of Nicea mentions that those who would downgrade the divinity of Christ were practically shouted down when they presented their views to all present.The majority of Christians at that time believed in the full humanity of Christ, though we can debate the value of this argument that was based on Greek conceptions of divinity. Was Nicea much ado about nothing? I’m not the one to say that, but so far as I know, it was not a toss up that Constantine refereed.Nicea may not have been as close as Cox insists, but without knowing his list of sources I don’t think I can say much more than noting that several other notable scholars would certainly take issue with him, especially leading scholars from Latin America such as Justo Gonzalez. See Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity for a competing view.It’s hard to know if Cox sometimes romanticizes a bit too much about the age of faith that followed Jesus. To be sure, Christianity was quite different then from today. Creeds were not in the picture in the picture then, and neither was scripture.However, Cox conveniently passes over the Judaizer controversy that nearly tore the early church apart along racial and cultural lines. At one point in the controversy Paul said that he wished those who distorted the Gospel with the Law’s requirements would emasculate themselves. The result of the Jerusalem council was a written document that all churches were expected to obey.It was no Nicea for sure, but to a certain degree there was an effort to promote a certain message about Christ. Faith and faithfulness were certainly the point, but I doubt that the early church was quite so… liberal with their theology at that early stage as Cox suggests. In addition, Cox seems to think of Constantine as the one who virtually created heresy, but as early as 200 AD theologians such as Irenaus wrote Against Heresies, though I hasten to add that Irenaus was primarily concerned with the effects of Gnosticism on Christian practice (see Bass’s A People’s History of Christianity).Was there diversity of belief? For sure. Certainly more than we would tolerate today. But Cox has a suspicion of creeds that I find a bit tough to swallow at times. Perhaps the creeds did a lot of harm, but perhaps the larger problem was the way in which they were used rather than their existence. Perhaps Cox didn’t spend enough time suggesting the future of belief and creeds in an age of the Spirit. In addition, he sometimes levels a heavy critique against the beliefs of the global south, which makes me wonder what he expects the age of the Spirit to be like. Will there not be a place for certain lines to be drawn in the sand? This is a gray area in the book that I would have liked to see clarified.Cox is not unique in presenting a fairly romantic view of the early church, though I’m sure a work such as this isn’t intended to provide all of the angles in favor of providing a rough overview. Nevertheless, I can’t help wondering if Cox has mistakenly thrown out theology/creeds as hindrances to Christianity when perhaps they have been divorced from faith and action and need to be reunited. In a broad sense I agree with Cox, but I don’t feel I can go quite so far as he does.There were other points in the book where I felt Cox belabored a few points, but his oversights in these instances don’t change the overall value of this book. In fact, I would say that it is not only one of the best books I’ve read this year, and it may be one of the more significant books on religion of this century thus far.If Cox is right, then Christianity may look quite different over the coming centuries, but those changes may well be for the best. Nevertheless, there are essentials to Christianity that we dare not leave behind in our quest to live by faith under the lead of the Spirit. Finding that balance will be the work of the church in the years to come.

  • John
    2019-02-21 22:02

    I know I've been on something of a religion streak on the blog of late, and this will be the last such post for awhile.I first hear of Harvey Cox's book The Future of Faith during an excellent hour-long interview with NPR's Diane Rehm. It was intriguing enough that I bought the Kindle edition of the book and read it.The title of the book is both very accurate and rather misleading. A lot of the book -- and, to me, the most fascinating parts of it -- focus on the history of faith. Cox's repeated point is that we are only now regaining a notion of faith that the earliest Christians had, and it is a notion that happens to be compatible with modern science and incompatible with fundamentalism and intolerance in all its stripes.Throughout this post, it should be understood that quotes or passages are from the book. Cox is so quotable that a good chunk of this review will be showing you some of his quotes, with a bit of discussion around them. I very much enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it.Faith vs. BeliefIt is true that for many people "faith" and "belief" are just two words for the same thing. But they are not the same ... and it is important to clarify the difference. Faith is about deep-seated confidence. In everyday speech we usually apply it to people we trust or the values we treasure... a matter of what the Hebrews spoke of as the "heart."Belief, on the other hand, is more like opinion. We often use the term to express a degree of uncertainty ... We can believe something to be true without it making much difference to us, but we place our faith only in something that is vital for the way we live.This is an important distinction, and if you stop and think about it, Cox is arguing with a common notion about faith almost from page 1. Faith isn't about intellectual assent to a set of propositions. It's about what we hold dear, what we think works for us in life.CreedsCreeds are clusters of beliefs. But Christianity is not a history of creeds. It is the story of a people of faith who sometimes cobbled together creeds out of beliefs. It is also the history of equally faithful people who questioned, altered, and discarded those same creeds ... But both the doctrinal canons and the architectural constructions are means to an end. Making either the defining element warps the underlying reality of faith.Cox here reinforces the point that Christianity isn't about believing certain statements, and it isn't even about a literal (or not) reading of the Bible. It's what C. S. Lewis talked about as the inward transformation in onesself. Creeds, such as the Nicene Creed, are rather irrelevant to him.Cox separates the history of Christianity into three periods: the age of faith, stretching from the time of Jesus only a few centuries until Constantine; the age of belief, stretching from Constantine until the 20th century; and the age of the spirit, now dawning. During the age of faith, "their sharing in the living Spirit of Christ united Christians with each other, and 'faith' meant hope and assurance in the dawning of a new era of freedom, healing, and compassion that Jesus had demonstrated." Cox makes the point that doctrinal questions just weren't all that important back then, and though differences existed, they weren't considered to be fundamental to the religion. "Confidence in Christ was their primary orientation, and hope for his [earthly:] Kingdom their motivating drive." Further, he argues that the age of the spirit is a return to this earlier age, albeit with modern twists.Christianity is growing faster than it ever has 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. We are now witnessing the beginning of a 'post-Constantinian era.'"Cox describes a person that described himself as "a practicing Christian, not always a believing one." He suggests that the belief/non-believer statement is a disservice to Christianity and to other religions. He then quoted a Catholic bishop as saying: "The line between belief and unbelief runs through the middle of each one of us, including myself, a bishop of the church." In other words, "The experience of the divine is displacing theories about it."Faith and Belief in Bible readingCreation myths such as ... the first chapters of Genesis were not primarily composed to answer the "how" or "when" questions. They are not scientific accounts, even though their poetical language, when read literally (which is always a mistake), may sound that way. Rather, they grapple ... with the linked mysteries of both why there is a universe and what our place in it is ... They are more like lyrical cantatas, symphonies of symbols through which humans have tried to make sense of their place in the world...This is where the distinction between faith and belief is vital. These stories 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.I liken this to Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park. If you were to read it 1000 years in the future, it might not have been conveniently shelved above the word "fiction." Would a reader in the future know that it was not meant to be a literal description of facts? I think sometimes we make this mistake when we read the Bible. Note, though, that although we all understand that Jurassic Park wasn't meant to be a literal description of facts, it seems to have been valued by quite a large part of society. And it didn't even address big mysteries.Cox argues against ridding ourselves of the creation myths, suggesting that they are an important reminder that we are similar to humans who grappled with the same big questions centuries ago as we do today. The ill-advised transmuting of symbols into a curious kind of "facts" has created an immense obstacle to faith for many thoughtful people. Instead of helping them confront the great mystery, it has effectively prevented them from doing so ... the objective knowledge science rightly insists on is not the only kind of knowledge human beings need ... Faith, although it is evoked by the mystery that surrounds us, is not the mystery itself.Constantine and the Age of BeliefOne 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.Cox spends a lot of time covering the very interesting topic of how and why the church moved to the Age of Belief. His central thesis is that money, power, and prestige were primarily responsible, and that an unrighteous collusion between bishops and Constantine, each using Christianity for their own purposes, finally made it happen. This is very interesting stuff, but this post is too long already, so I will not spend a lot of time on it. I found the Council of Nicea to be particularly interesting, considering that the Nicean Creed came about partially by exile or execution of those Christians that disagreed with it. Cox also points out that "there never was a single 'early Christianity'; there were many, and the idea of 'heresy' was unknown." The time is ripe to retrieve the term "Way" for Christianity and "followers of the Way" for Christians. It is at once more accurate, more original, and more contemporary than "believers."To the futureCox describes attending a meeting of the church in Hong Kong in 2003, and uses it as a metaphor for the future of faith:Their idea of interfaith dialogue was to work with their fellow Asians of whatever religion to advance the Kingdom that Jesus had inspired them, as Christians, to strive for, regardless of what the others called it. They were neither "fundamentalist" nor "modernist." They seemed more attuned to the element of mystery at the core of Christianity and to its vision of justice. They were also clearly impatient with many of the disputes that preoccupy the different wings of the American churches."ConclusionI found this book to be both enlightening and informative. I highly recommend it, even if you disagree with some of Cox's conclusions. It is a fascinating view into how the world's largest religion evolved over the years, and a candid look at the mistakes it has made in that time.This review was also posted on my blog at

  • Thurman Faison
    2019-01-25 20:11

    Dr Cox is imminently qualified to take the reader from the beginnings of the history of Christianity up to the present day and he convincingly makes the case for the future of faith which will not and cannot be controlled by religious institutions. He clearly indicates that it will never be "creeds" alone which will determine the future forms of Christianity, but rather the "deeds" which Jesus exemplified as the prime elements of the kingdom. I might suggest that there is also another dimension in this equation which I would include along with this illiteration and that is "needs". The needs of the people play an important role in the changing expression of the church and it could easily be placed alongside of "creeds" and "deeds". The needs of the people who do believe, and many of them thirst for the mysteries and power of the kingdom to manifest in their personal lives. Jesus did say that "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled". There are those who have thirsted not only for righteousness but for spiritual gifts and powers, whose prayers God has heard. Dr Cox does state this fact in other lines of thought when he refers to the "age of the spirit" and the rise of "Pentecostalism". He makes it very clear that "we need not assume that creedal Christianity is the only option" p78. Here is the crux of the matter, there are other options in the experience and expressions of the Chritian faith that have continued to break out of the molds and constraints of both hierarchical and creedal Christianity. In chapter three, Dr Cox uses the metaphor, "we find ourselves on a ship that has already been launched" pg 37. We are passengers among many others who are sailing in the midst of spiritual mystery,"but how we live with it differs". He deals with this fact throughout the book and tries to impress upon the reader that Christianity has never been monolithic and never will be. As long as people can think, question, and interpret for themselves truth and meaning, there will be differences in perception and changes in the expression of the gospel of the kingdom. Dr Cox indicates that changes in the interpretation and expression of the gospel will contiune to come as Christianity moves forward into the future. He says on pg 196, "Christianity understood as a system of beliefs guarded and transmitted through a privileged religious institution by a clerical class is dying. Instead, today Christianity as a way of life, shared in a vast variety of ways by a diverse global network of fellowships is arising". The book is scholarly written and yet the author expresses a spiritual sensitivity toward the church at large. There are no overtones of harshness in the pages as he presents the things he is seeking to share. There are no attacks, simply an earnest attempt to present the facts as he sees them. After all, he is on board the same ship of Chrisitanity that many others are sailing on.

  • Jen
    2019-02-01 16:02

    This was a fascinating take on Christianity in the 21st century. Cox outlines three 'ages' of Christianity: the age of faith (first 300 years or so), the age of belief (from @300 AD until now-ish) and the age of the spirit (what he suggests is evolving). Cox describes the age of faith as a time when community and following the example of Jesus was more important than a specific creed or set of beliefs. Then, as Christianity became co-opted by the roman empire and a priestly class arose, a need emerged to define core beliefs and class people as in/out of the box so as to shore up ecclesiastical power. Cox argues that the current time is the last gasp of the age of belief, and the begining of a time when people are more interested in spirituality than in creeds. The third age, in other words, could look more like the first. And this explains in part the vociferousness of fundamentalists - along with the age of belief, they are in their last throes. The tide is moving in another direction.

  • Cody Bertram
    2019-02-17 16:54

    pretty bad

  • John II
    2019-01-25 20:14

    I encourage you to read this far-reaching history, current state and future of faith—primarily Christian insights, but also important reflections on religions in general.It seemed religion was fading and not to shape politics or culture. But that is not the case, as it is showing new vitality all over the world.Some confuse this new resurgence with fundamentalism; but, fundamentalism is dying. “Fundamentalisms, with their insistence on obligatory belief systems, their nostalgia for a mythical uncorrupted past, their claims to an exclusive grasp on truth, and—sometimes—their propensity for violence, are turning out to be rearguard attempts to stem a more sweeping tidal change.”People are in awe of our own world and concerned with a faith that affects us here and now rather than the hereafter.A key statement is, “We can believe something to be true without it making much difference to us, but we place our faith only in something that is vital for the way we live.” I have faith in Almighty God and that little piece of God in each of us and all of us. Thus, I feel I owe kindness to all and invite others to develop the same faith.Cox makes a wonderful point, “But faith, which is more closely related to awe, love, and wonder, arose long before Plato, among our most primitive homo sapiens forebears. Plato engaged in disputes about beliefs, not about faith.”The first three centuries after Christ is what the author calls the Age of Faith. Then came Emperor Constantine the Great (d.387 CE), the second most important person in Christianity after Christ. He ushered in the Age of Belief that, quite unfortunately, lasted for fifteen hundred years.The author explains its demise quite adroitly, “. . . ebbing in fits and starts with the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the secularization of Europe, and the anticolonial upheavals of the twentieth century. It was already comatose when the European Union chiseled the epitaph on its tombstone in 2005 by declining to mention the word ‘Christian’ in its constitution.”Despite many who expected Christianity to diminish, instead, it has taken on new life, mostly outside the West in the “Global South.” Women are coming into prominence as they did during the first three centuries after Christ—before Constantine. In the Global South the Pentecostals are by far the fastest growing Christian group.Cox states that many people call themselves spiritual, but not religious—differentiating themselves from doctrines, dogma and creeds. After a long spiritual journey, that’s the way I describe my faith—spiritual, but not religious. Cox puts spirituality well, “. . . a way of life rather than a doctrine structure.” Kindness for all and from all, including oneself is the way of life I try to pursue. A researcher named Seth Wax gathered 105 interviews with people who said they were “spiritual” and concluded that this quality “. . . increased their sense of responsibility in their work and society due to having a larger goal.”There are now more than four hundred mega churches and they are not fundamentalist. One estimate is that 40 percent of all adult Americans belong to some of the many small groups that are part of these churches.Cox makes a perceptive statement concerning the world today, as far as spirituality: “The atmosphere today is more like that of early Christianity than like that obtained during the intervening millennium and a half of the Christian empire.”Beliefs and faiths can be tested and vary in the best of us. “Mother Teresa (1910-1997) confessed that for years she had harbored troubling doubts about the existence of God, even as she worked ceaselessly to relieve the anguish of the sick and dying in Calcutta.” Many criticized her for her doubts. But a student wrote, “Mother Teresa’s life exemplifies the living aspect of faith, something sorely needed in a society where Christian identity is most often defined in terms of what a person believes rather than how he or she lives. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?” I think so, quite fervently.Cox states directly that, “We have been misled for many centuries by theologians who taught that ‘faith’ consisted in dutifully believing the articles listed in one of the countless creeds that have spun out.” He explains that Buddhists and Hindus don’t use “beliefs.” Even Islam only expects the affirmation, “There is no god but God, and Mohamed is his messenger.”The earliest manner in which the New Testament was described was living “The Way,” pursuing faith rather than beliefs and creeds. Cox writes, “The experience of the divine is displacing theoriesabout it.”Albert Einstein considered himself to be a “devoutly religious man.” But his was a faith built on wonder and awe of the universe, not any creed or religion as such. The author thinks Einstein would probably call himself “spiritual, but not religious” if he were living now. I have a customized license plate on my car which says WONDER. I firmly am in awe and wonder of Almighty God’s handiwork in everyone and everything.The author states, “The awareness of one’s own mortality raises the question of the meaning of life, and this eventually spawned philosophy, religion and culture.” For me, I find the greatest meaning in life is in serving, using my mind, body and little piece of God in my calling. I find my calling is calling right now as I write these words. Of course, we all have our calling(s) and they vary as we progress through our lives.The author goes on to say. “Faith does not mean ‘belief in’ this or that myth of creation.” Cox writes, “Some well-meaning theologians think Christians are indeed asked to believe too many things.” I certainly think that’s true, very true.Cox makes a very good point about values. He writes, “What should I do? Is always linked to Who am I?” He further writes, “The self is not a static entity.” He makes the comment, “The ‘universe within’ is just as mysterious as the universe out there.”Cox makes a wise statement: “The three ways we encounter the great mystery—the universe, the self, the other—all leave us with a sense of uneasiness, incompleteness, and dissatisfaction.” His solution is faith. “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.”I think our minds and spirit can only comprehend a finite part of these highly complex and vast mysteries. Yet, God has a plan and knows about the universe—right down to every single person—on a moment by moment basis for all of eternity.Cox writes, “Faith begins with awe in the face of mystery.” Later he describes life as an “unfinished epic” as we live our lives “. . . in a world whose potential is yet to be fulfilled.” I believe humankind is proceeding forward toward a heaven on earth. I seek to become a pathfinder for that ultimate journey.Cox explains, “The Hebrew prophets, Jesus Himself, and the last pages of Revelation, the final book of the Bible, all teach that the Kingdom of God is something that happens in and to this world.” My wording is “ heaven on earth.”Cox writes, “Moving the focus from Jesus as an individual to His life purpose greatly widens His relevance in a religiously pluralistic world.” Jesus’ “. . . hope and confidence –His faith—was constantly focused on the new world God had promised ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’”Cox explains, “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.” I deeply believe that there is a little piece of God within each of us and all of us since the dawn of humankind.New discoveries, according to Cox, give Christianity a second chance. These new findings help explain why women who were so important in the earliest days “. . . were pushed to the underside and the edges.” Visiting early Christianity shows diversity, no “apostolic authority” and the view that the Kingdom of God was seen as an alternative toward the Roman Empire that “tyrannized them.”Paul “. . . underscored time and time again the greatest of these [Christian] gifts was love.” I agree that love, kindness, and compassion are the foremost gifts of all the great religions. I believe that radical Islam, which breeds hate, does not come from God. It is a perversion of a peaceful Muslim religion. Unfortunately, there are extremists who do evil deeds in the name of other religions as well—and none of these actions come from God.Cox wrote, “Jesus had taught that God’s Kingdom would come on earth.” In other words, Christ pointed toward heaven on earth. Cox explains, “Actually, however, Jesus’ enemies understood Him all too well. He was, in truth, a real threat to the empire . . . Religion was political, and politics were religious.” When Christ taught the prayer, “. . . on earth as it was in heaven”. . . it was all too clear then whose Kingdom would have to go.It was much later in the late eighteenth century, when the separation of religion and state emerged, that Christ was separated from Roman politics, although Constantine had a part, too. Cox wrote, “for nearly three centuries the Age of Faith thrived.” Cox presents different viewpoints as to why the age ended, but there is no question that creeds and dogma took over and became “. . . obstacles to faith.” Rick Warren, of Saddlebrook Church in Orange County, California, is quoted as saying, “. . . what the church needs now is a ‘second Reformation,’ one based on ‘deeds, not creeds.’” I agree. It’s what we say and do that counts, and I believe that this is what our loving God wants.Constantine “. . . was undoubtedly responsible for the murder of both his son and his mother.” Yet, he made Christianity the state religion and organized and served as “. . . patron-in-chief” of the church. He organized, funded and hosted the counsel of Nicaea. Even though he had little knowledge or interest in theology, he in effect dictated the fundamentals of the Age of Beliefs, lasting for 1500 years. Odd things followed. “In 1431 Joan of Arc was burned as a heretic. In the twentieth century she became a saint.”In the twenty-first century all the great religions are mostly everywhere. Cox states, “Due not only to tides of immigration, but also to jet travel, the internet, and films; the dispersion of religions all over the globe now makes us all each other’s neighbors, whether we like it or not.”Religion can be hazardous. Cox writes, “It was not a Muslim who killed Gandhi, but a fellow Hindu. Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto was murdered by a fellow Muslim.” Cox concludes that we not only need interfaith dialogue, but also intrafaith discourse.Cox writes, “Fundamentalists collapse faith and belief. He rightly writes that “. . . many fundamentalists are also people of genuine faith who trust God as they understand Him and try to love their neighbors.” However, as Cox and I agree, “. . . the fundamentalist obsession with correct beliefs often makes faith, in its biblical sense, more elusive.” Cox explains a key observation. “Contrary to the image they have had, fundamentalists were not mostly rural, nor were they an uneducated or semiliterate gaggle.” He concludes that being a fundamentalist is hard because you not only have to contend with the skepticism around you, but your own doubts as well. Living your own faith is, in my opinion, a fulfilling, meaningful and fruitful way to journey toward heaven on earth.Cox notes that there are many bibles—ones for Jews, Catholics and Protestants. He makes an interesting point, “What if they were Bible-believing Christians in the second century CE? At that time the only Bible Christians had was the Old Testament. The New Testament had yet to be compiled.”Cox puts it quite frankly and I certainly think he’s right. ”The idea that ‘The Bible’ has always been the same book year in and year out and you either believed it or you did not may be comforting, but it has no basis in reality.” There are multiple translations, some of which still puzzle the scholars to this day, such as the ending to the Book of Job. To point out the difficulty in saying there is “The Bible” Cox points out that a publishing house listed, “. . . twenty different versions of the Bible in print and selling well.” Also, there is no original Bible. All are copies.Cox thinks of the Bible somewhat the way I do, that we should, “. . .take the Bible back from the fundamentalist hijacking and make it once again a genuine support of faith, instead of an obstacle.”In 1900 Cox writes that fully ninety percent of Christians were located in Europe or the United States. Now, sixty percent of all Christians live in Asia, Africa or Latin America. He writes that this sixty percent is expected to swell to sixty-seven percent by 2025. Most Christians now live in the Global South. Christianity is no longer a Western religion, and the practices in the Southern Hemisphere are different. They are also mostly not white, but black, brown or yellow.Cox relates an interesting story. A hero priest stood up in San Salvador after a fellow priest was killed by a death squad. Father Romero started announcing the names of the victims and disappearing persons from the pulpit. He knew he was a dire risk for his actions, but his faith led him to do the right thing. He said, “If they kill me, I will live on in the life of the people.” The death squad did murder him.But, this brave priest lives on. Cox writes, “Romero’s violent death also made him the saint and martyr of liberation theology, the most innovative and influential theological movement of the twentieth century; and also probably the most misunderstood.” Cox goes on to explain, “Liberation theology is not, as its critics charge, a political movement that deploys religious language. Rather, it is a profoundly religious movement with important political implications.”Christianity is alive and well as a way of life. But, Cox writes, “In those countries where the clerical leadership clings to the older model, the churches are empty.” I believe we are in The Innovation Age—in technology, faith, government, education, life itself—and we will move forward in love into the Spiritual Age. This will encompass the whole world, each of us and all of us.Cox explains it is not fundamentalists who have grown so much, but that ninety percent of the amazing increases have been Pentecostals, who are quite spiritual, not literal. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, they are following the way of Christ with “. . . outreach efforts to drug addicts in Hong Kong, sex workers in Bangkok and Calcutta, babies with AIDS in Africa, and dozens of other programs.” Another key item that Cox reveals about Pentecostals, “They school people in the indispensable skills needed to make democracy work.”Cox writes, “Pentecostals are known everywhere in Latin America for their straight-forwardness and honesty. They are sought out for middle-level jobs because employers know they will stay sober, arrive for work on time, and not steal the petty cash.” These statements speak highly of these people. Cox also states that because of their advocacy for changes that some “. . . believe that Pentecostals could become the core of fundamental non-violent transformation.” Thus, in my words, they may become pathfinders toward heaven on earth.The final chapter of this interesting, informative and captivating book has the same title as the book itself, “The Future of Faith.” Cox writes quite clearly, “Faith is resurgent, while dogma is dying.” That’s exactly what happened to me personally. I was brought up a Presbyterian, with the Apostle’s Creed and other dogma. I have put much of that behind me, though my faith in Almighty God and that little piece of God in me is stronger than ever. I try to live my faith.Cox thinks that this change from dogma to faith “. . . is taking place along with similar reformations in the other world religions.” Cox states categorically, “A religion based on subscribing to mandatory beliefs is no longer viable.” That’s certainly true with me personally.Religions are more and more global, less dogmatic, and women are playing a greater role. Cox writes, “Women are publishing commentaries on the Qur’an, leading synagogues, and directing Buddhist retreat centers. There are now women pastors, priests, and bishops in Christian denominations.”Cox concludes the whole book with the following comment, “All the signs suggest we are poised to enter a new Age of the Spirit and that the future will be a future of faith.” I heartedly concur. But first, we must navigate The Innovation Age, which is present right now.

  • Jonathan
    2019-02-09 22:04

    "...the era of a thousand flowers blooming"Harvey Cox, (retiring Harvard professor of divinity) succinctly described many concepts in this book that I have been trying to articulate and live out myself. In fact, there is much in here that touches on my own motivations for joining a Quaker meeting as a modern expression of Christian mysticism.Harvey Cox frames up two thousand years of Christian history into three periods of time. First, he calls the first three centuries the "Age of Faith" represented by Jesus, his immediate disciples and subsequent followers who were united by a lifestyle of faithfully living in the Spirit and continuing the work of Jesus in a new era of freedom. Second came the "Age of Belief" period where starting around the time of Constantine (d. 387 CE) " leaders began formulating orientation programs for new recruits...instruction kits thickened into catechisms, replacing faith in Jesus with tenets about him" (p. 5). This period of Christian history lasts for roughly fifteen hundred years dominated by creeds which Cox describes as "symptoms of a long psychological disorder" (p. 108). Cox suggests that currently we are in a time of transitioning into what he calls an "Age of the Spirit." He states, "Despite dire forecasts of its decline, Christianity is growing faster than it ever has 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. We are now witnessing the beginning of a 'post-Constantinian era'" (p. 8).As a professor of comparative religion, Cox observes that major world religions are becoming less hierarchical, strengthening pragmatism over dogma. "Religious people today are more interested in ethical guidelines and spiritual disciplines than in doctrines. They are also becoming less patriarchal, as women assume leadership positions in religions that have barred them for centuries, sometimes for millennia" (p. 223).My favorite excerpts of this book:"The recent rapid growth of charismatic congregations and the appeal of Asian spiritual practices demonstrate that, as in the past once again today, large numbers of people are drawn more to the experiential than to the doctrinal elements of religion. Once again, this often worries religious leaders who have always fretted about mysticism" (p. 13)."To focus the Christian life on belief rather than on faith is simply a mistake. We have been misled for many centuries by the theologians who taught that 'faith' consisted in dutifully believing the articles listed in one of the countless creeds they have spun out" (p. 18)."In fact none of the other major religions has a 'creed'...In all these traditions, religion means something quite different from attaching credence to doctrines...Once I realized that Christianity is not a creed and that faith is more a matter of embodiment than of axioms, things changed. I began to look at people I met in a new way. Some of the ones I admired most were 'believers' in the conventional sense, but others were not. For example, the individuals with whom I marched and demonstrated and even went to jail, during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam protests, included both 'believers' and 'nonbelievers.' But we found ourselves looking out from the iron bars in the same jail cells. This suggested to me just how mistaken conventional belief-oriented Christianity is in the way it separates the sheep from the goats. But then according to the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46) Jesus also rejects this predictable schema. What he said then no doubt shocked his listeners. He insisted that those who are welcomed into the Kingdom of God-- those who were clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and visiting the prisoners-- were not 'believers' and were not even aware that they had been practicing the faith he was teaching and exemplifying" (p. 19)."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" (p. 58)."During the first two and a half centuries of [the Christian movement's:] life...what we now call doctrines of dogmas, let alone creeds, were yet to appear. Historians of that period agree that what bound Christians together in their local congregations was their common participation in the life of the Spirit and a way of living that included the sharing of prayer, bread, and wine; a lively hope for the coming of God's shalom on earth; and putting the example of Jesus into concrete practice, especially his concern for outcasts. In other words, in this most vibrant period in Christian history, it was following Jesus that counted; there were no dogmas to which one had to adhere, and a rich variety of theological views thrived. It was the era of a thousand flowers blooming, and the idea of 'heresy' had not yet stepped onstage" (p. 77-78)."At its outset 'faith' meant a dynamic lifestyle sustained by fellowships that were guided by both men and women and that reflected hope for the coming of the Reign of God. But when Christianity became swollen into an elaborate code of prescribed beliefs and ritual obligations policed by a hierarchy, the meaning of 'faith' was warped almost beyond recognition. Initially faith had meant a primary life orientation, but the evolving clerical class now equated 'faith' with 'belief in' certain specified doctrines and patterns of authority, which, in any case, themselves changed periodically depending on who held the ecclesial scepter. The result was a disaster for dissent and open discussion. Yesterday's heretic may be tomorrow's saint, but the heretic is still dead" (p. 179)."[T:]he 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" (p. 141)."The truth is we do not have the original manuscript of one single word of the Bible. All the Bibles we now have are copies, which are therefore prone to errors and insertions, or translations, which by their nature are also always interpretations that always bear the telltale marks of the eras in which they were done and the theological biases of those who did them. But I think this is vastly better than having, perhaps preserved under glass somewhere in a temperature-controlled room, the Bible. If we had such a document it might mislead people into thinking that believing it is what 'faith' is all about. This is, of course, exactly the view fundamentalists hold of 'the Bible.' Now, however, 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. It should help us not to bite into the package instead of into what the package contains" (p. 166)."The Bible is more like Shakespeare than an ancient history textbook. Don't look for history in our modern sense, or for geology, or even quick answers to ethical problems" (p. 168)."Today there is no basis for any 'warfare' between science and religion. The two have quite different but complimentary missions, the first concerning itself with empirical description, the second with meaning and values. Unfortunately, however, although the war is over, sporadic skirmishes between die-hards on both sides continue. Biblical literalists, who totally misunderstand the poetry of the book of Genesis, try to reduce it to a treatise in geology and zoology. The mirror image is found among the atheists and agnostics who mount spurious pseudoscientific arguments to demonstrate that the universe has no meaning or that God does not exist. Both parties are fundamentalists of a sort, deficient in their capacity for metaphor, analogy, and the place of symbol and myth in human life" (p. 183)."Christianity understood as a system of beliefs guarded and transmitted through a privileged religious institution by a clerical class is dying. Instead, today Christianity as a way of life shared in a vast variety of ways by a diverse global network of fellowships is arising. The initial fruits of this resurrection are already obvious. In those countries where the clerical leadership clings to the older model, the churches are empty. Any visitor to Europe can witness these vacant pews at first hand. But in those areas of the world where creeds and hierarchies have been set aside to make way for the Spirit, like the stone rolled away from Christs grave in the Easter story, one senses life and energy. There is no question that some of this spills into directions that might once have been called heresy or schism (and still are by some quibblers). Still the fact that the most fruitful and exciting movements in Christianity today are taking place on the margins of existing ecclesial structures should not surprise anyone. Historically speaking, 'schism' and 'heresy' have often heralded the deepening and extension of the faith. Pioneers always step outside of established boundaries. Sometimes they are condemned, sometimes honored, and sometimes both, starting with the first and only later ending up with the second" (p. 197).

  • Alex
    2019-02-03 17:05

    As a Charismatic-Evangelical moving into Pentecostalism, I found 'The Future of Faith' by recently retired Harvard professor Harvey Cox quite a challenging read. In places I fundamentally disagreed with him, other place I found plain frustrating, but then at times I was cheering in agreement. Cox's basic thesis is that Christianity began as a movement of faith, defined as "deep-seated confidence." "Belief, on the other had, is more like opinion." Faith responds to mystery and is mystical, belief is cognitive and creedal. Most of the book Cox's basic thesis is that faith is good, belief is bad and robs us of the faith impetus, although later in the book he softens this a little.Cox divides Christian history into 3 parts - the age of faith (the first 200-400 years), the age of belief (everything up until roughly now) and the emerging age of the Spirit. The age of belief was, in Cox's opinion, a hijacking of a dynamic faith movement by hierarchs who used creedal formulas to cement their power. While the church started moving away from faith and towards belief within decades of it's emergence, it was Constantine that brought the age of belief crashing in and plunged Christianity, and European culture, into a dark age. There may have been candles of hope burning from time to time, but even the 16th century Reformation couldn't halt the momentum.Only now is the age of belief reluctantly giving way to the age of the Spirit. The age of belief is exemplified by hierarchical religion, chiefly Roman Catholicism on the one hand, and the literalism of Fundamentalism on the other. The age of the Spirit is manifest in movements as diverse as South American Base communities (based in Liberation Theology) and the Pentecostal movement. My single-biggest problem with his approach, and it is quite fundamental to his argument, is his dualism in regard to faith and belief. He sees creeds as bad - tools used by ambitious power-mongers to secure their position over an increasingly passive congregation. The problem with Fundamentalists, he says, is their literal view of Scripture, bolstered by their doctrine of inerrancy, which reduces faith to the level of affirming certain dogmas (this critique isn't without merit in many cases). And their end-times eschatology which robs faith of it's socio-political edge. Rather, the Bible is myth, a book of inspirational stories essentially to be read at the level of poetry. Jesus is a man who lives on through his followers commitment to his ideals. Faith is a commitment to the idea of the Kingdom of God, or better, the reign or Shalom of God but, apparently, not to God himself.I really have problems at a very basic level with some of his interpretation of Jesus. Yes, Christ came preaching the Kingdom, or reign of God, but where Cox emphasises the Kingdom, I think Jesus and his interpreters emphasise God (rather than the REIGN of God, it is the Reign of GOD, or GOD's reign/Kingdom). Any socio-political dimension (and I don't deny it) comes because the presence of God is near. Nor can I accept a purely mystical resurrection. If Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead then his teachings are good ideas, but he has not been vindicated. 1Cor 15.14 "If Christ has not been raised,a our preaching is useless and so is your faith" - in context Paul is arguing for a bodily resurrection. But there you go, maybe I'm one of those pesky Fundamentalist literalists and this is, after all, a book written by a Liberal scholar enamoured with Liberation Theology. (Actually, I don't think I'm a Fundamentalist - I agree with some of his critique, but don't take it as far as he does. I'm no Liberal either.)I really think this faith/belief dichotomy is simplistic and artificial. In reality there is a place for belief alongside faith. Faith has content. We are not just mystical beings, we are rational also. This isn't to say belief has to be a strictly creedal like the Catholic hierarch's or the Fundamentalist's that Cox argues against. In fact, I entirely agree with him that faith must have primacy - it is trusting God, relationship, that saves, not holding the right dogma. (Although he dismisses the need for personal saving faith in preference for a socio-political expression). Jesus said they'd know us by our love, not our doctrine. The evidence of faith is love - faith has feet. And as a charismatic, experience is a foundational part of my understanding of Christianity. I also know what it's like to be rejected and misunderstood by parts of the movement I've been a part of because of my beliefs. But we must have some basis for faith and some points of agreement - something we believe and can articulate (or even beliefs, it's OK to disagree, but let's know what and why we disagree). Moving on... I found his placement of Liberation Theology alongside Pentecostalism as part of the move of the Spirit (along with various feminist, mystical, syncretistic and alternative Christian spiritualities) quite jarring. In the context of the book I understand why he does this, but really they're completely different animals. Not to mention that one is all but passed away and the other is on the rise. This partly reflects his greater familiarity with Central- and South American Christianity along with his Liberalism and Liberation Theology. I'm not sure he grasps what it means on a global level (I say that very humbly because if he doesn't grasp it, I'm sure I do so less). It's ironic that Pentecostalism has risen from a certain, literalist reading of Scripture, something he otherwise rejects. I'm not sure how he reconciles this.One final reservation about the book is that I think he's arguing for something that's already been happening for the last 50, if not 500 years. He argues that Christianity must break out of dogmatism and embrace the vast diversity of faith it expressed in it's early years but that the elites tried to suppress - not going back to the age of faith but forward into the age of the Spirit. Creedalism and Fundamentalism are enemies of this. But the reality is that Christianity is probably more diverse than it's ever been. Liberalism, Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, Pentecostalism, Liberation Theologies, syncretism, and more with all their denominational, non-denominational and cultural sub-genres. Pentecostalism, by his own admission, is the fastest growing and largest segment of the church. In this regard I'm not quite sure what he's worried about except that perhaps he is trying to find a place for his Liberalism which, let's face it, is fading into insignificance in the face of more dynamic, lively and, frankly, faith-filled expressions of faith. Some brief positives (there are more, but need to wrap up)...Cox deals with Pentecostalism fairly, even warmly, if narrowly. Of course, as someone who stands in that stream, he gets points from me!His analysis of the emergence of Christianity as a force not just in the Roman Empire, but for it, is very good. Possibly the book's biggest strength. Cox highlights the persecution of Christians by Christians throughout history based mainly on dogmatics. This is a great tragedy - an abomination even. His recounting of the first Christian martyrdom at the hands of other Christians is sobering. I resonate with his plea to make room for diversity, even if I don't always like what that means in practice. Despite my reservations and disagreements with the book, I really appreciated the spirit with which Cox approaches all of this. Even his pet peeve - Fundamentalism - he admits to a brief dalliance with and residual sympathy for. He seems to be a gracious and irenic person. There's a lot material that's of interest in this book. I certainly found it a page turner. But I can only give it two stars because I have some deep reservations about it.3 stars, I like it, but with deep reservations.

  • Johannes C
    2019-02-01 00:10

    A treat to read. Maybe because my parents were a part of the Pentecostal movement in the Global South described here, and I love how Cox is sympathetic to these more vernacular expressions of Christianity. I learned so many neat things in this book, some just from internet browser bookmarks I made while reading: Christian base communities, Tissa Balasuriya, Paul David Devanandan, M.M. Thomas, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Emmanuel Mounier, Dalit theology, Minjung theology, Jacques Maritain, Episcopa Theodora (very interesting and related to women's ordination), Pudentiana, Community of Sant'Egidio (doing some incredible work), Arvind P. Nirmal, Leonardo Boff, Waldensians, Chagall's stained glass (beautiful stuff).I picked up this book, because I was trying to read up on the Holy Spirit, and though Cox does emphasize the Spirit in the book's opening and its closing, it's not necessarily a dominant focus of the book. But what a lovely read nonetheless. One fascinating thing after another, and very accessibly written.

  • Bob Buice
    2019-01-26 21:09

    The history of Christianity may be expressed as two phases: the “Age of Faith” and the “Age of Belief”. Christianity is presently entering a new phase: the “Age of the Spirit”. These are the views described by Harvard historian Harvey Cox in The Future of Faith.The “Age of Faith” began with the ministry of Jesus and the apostles and continued into the fourth century. This phase occurred without creeds, church hierarchy, or organization. There were many different theologies but neither was cited as the “true belief”. Laity in each group governed themselves and Christians were held together by love - A desire to feed the hungry, to treat the sick, and to generally take care of fellow believers. To be a Christian meant to live in Christ’s spirit, embrace His hope, and to follow Him in the work that he had begun. Confidence in Christ and hope for his Kingdom were the driving forces.During the third century, this loose network of local fellowships with no uniform creed, polity, or ritual was propelled into a clerically dominated bureaucracy, with creeds and standard mandated “beliefs”. Laity were essentially excluded from church governance. This seems woefully inconsistent with Jesus’ washing his disciples’ feet (John 13) and calling them “friends” (John 15). This “Age of Belief”, lasting some 1500 years, began when Constantine I (r 306 - 337) issued the Edictum Mediolanense, permitting Christians to worship freely and without offering sacrifices to Roman gods. Moreover, the Council of Nicaea (325) ruled that future Christianity would believe in the Trinity, issued the Nicene Creed, and decreed that all other belief systems were to be considered heresy. Finally, Theodosius I (r 379 - 392) mandated Trinitarian Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire. Overall, Christianity was institutionalized, with a hierarchy similar to that of the Roman Empire – Creeds instructed members as to what they must “believe” and bishops, who claimed to have obtained their authority through “apostolic succession”, governed the churches. Over the centuries, separate sects and denominations developed due to a variety of religious leaders creating doctrines that various groups of people were convinced to believe.Dr. Cox analyzes the above referenced phases and suggests that Christianity is entering a new phase: the “Age of the Spirit. This new age tends to resemble the original “Age of Faith”, as Christians are becoming less focused on denominational doctrine and are delving into spirituality. Churches and church hierarchies are becoming less important and even fundamentalism is beginning to decline. All over the world, Christians are looking for a social theology that includes peacemaking, striving for racial justice, and combating poverty. Christianity is rapidly spreading into regions dominated by other faiths and adapting to the mores and customs of each location. Consider the “Liberation Theology” originating in Latin America, an attempt to view Christian faith through the eyes of the poor. Also note the many Asian Christians who are finding that arguing over doctrines and beliefs is too “Western” and a little boring. Their idea of interfaith dialogue was to work with their fellow Asians of all religions to advance the teachings of Jesus. Dr. Harvey uses dualism, “we live in the best of times and in the worst of times”, to describe the Western status quo as related to the impending worldwide changes. He follows with, “We have more conversation and more conflict than ever”. He concludes with a suggested solution: “We need to turn our attention to the religious dimensions of political strife and the political dimensions of religious discord. We need to face in three directions: toward other faiths, toward the ‘other wing’ in our own tradition, and toward the complex political context of our fractured world”.This book is a very informative, moving, and pleasurable read. I highly recommend it to everyone who is interested in theology.

  • T Fool
    2019-01-28 19:58

    Approached from the outside, this book gives an available snapshot of the 'politics' of Christian religious denomination, the ups, the downs, the rising stars, those declining. Harvey Cox is an American, a Baptist of 'liberal' credentials, a known public figure, a writer of books. Though his book handles this current history in terms of some of his own life experience, it's intended to reflect trends he sees occurring broadly. His view is clearly not restricted to the United States, perhaps because the trends seem sweeping up from the southern global hemisphere.Anyone dealing with 'the future' really deals with 'the present'. Human predictive powers don't do well, and usually include wish-fulfilling hope. Cox is no exception, but he is seasoned and he is smart and he does care. It remains to be seen whether the decline of the more conservative elements in the Western religions actually do continue to decline and whether more 'grass roots', less top-down hierarchical organization becomes a norm.Insofar as Christianity goes, Cox sees the more 'community level' movements as being truer not only to the type of milieu Jesus encountered and which encountered him, but as being true to what 'faith' itself means. Cox underscores often that the establishment of Christianity as the imperially-favored religion under Constantine set a standard for the up-to-then beleaguered Christians to emulate Greek philosophical protocol and imperial models of procedure and hierarchy. Among such 'hardening' or 'reconstituting' would be counted articles of faith requiring belief in certain truth propositions and requiring command structures to enforce such beliefs. Cox sees these as antithetical to the teachings apparently at play in the earliest days.The book works as a quick and honest history, and from a liberal churchman, it's very good to note that this is not all 'feel-good'. Perhaps the most important point arising from the book is its realization that inter-denominational outreach fails the most difficult task: intra-denominational discussion. However 'hard-core' a believer is defined to be, there are such believers in Christianity, in Judaism, in Islam. Those believers, not wanting to deviate from very sharply-devotional ways, are the people who must be reached.Not for 'conversion', but for conversation. People must talk and they must think. They must share what they can.What the book doesn't do well is what any projection doesn't: remove basic obstacles.1) There're the 'sociological' questions. How do you organize a billion -- or more -- people? Can a billion people NOT be organized or be 'non-organized' only locally without a hierarchy and still prevent dislocations and marginalizations, even absurdities? What levels of agreement can be reached given the variance in people's understanding of the world?2) There're the 'conceptual' questions. What is faith in the first place? If not 'belief in' a set of propositions, then what? Behaviors? If moral behavior -- and if that can be universally defined -- must one be a theist to have faith?Is faith the sharing of goods, the helping of people in need? Does a person of faith NOT share and help at ANY time during his life, say, to make a living by selling tough, but compostable, bicycyle tires? Is faith an emotional stance alone, a caring toward others insofar as one encounters the need? How much does one have to adhere to the life of Jesus, of Lao Tse, of Mohammed, of Moses, of The Buddha, of Confucius, of any or all the saintly people in order to be said to 'have faith'?The future of faith may lie in discovering what it means. Some people believe they know. Or is it that they DO and consequently know? To find out, do you just take a Kierkegaardian leap? Then whose guidance to rely on before making the jump?Yes, I'm certainly skeptical about all this, but not antagonistic. Somebody got answers? Or is puzzlement all?

  • Charlotte
    2019-02-20 19:55

    We used Harvey Cox's The Future of Faith in the Tuesday morning discussion group. Harvey Cox is a Professor of Divinity emritis at Harvard where he has taught since 1965. The publishing of this book in 2009 coincided with his retirement. Coincidentally his book the Secular City was published in 1965 and was an international best seller. A Christian theologian married to a wife who is Jewish, Cox has a lifelong interest in studying all faiths.Cox's sees an unanticipated resurgence of religion around the world, but also observes that there is a profound change in the nature of being religious, and the change spans all world religions. People are turning to religion more for support in their efforts to live in this world, and make it better and less to prepare for the next! This he sees as a return to more of what the original faiths were like. Christianity began with Jesus and his immediate disciples and a buoyant faith propelled the movement he initiated. During this period of both explosive growth and brutal persecution, sharing in the living Spirit of Christ united them. Faith meant hope and assurance in the dawning of a new era of freedom, healing, and compassion. To be a Christian meant to live in his spirit, embrace his hope, and follow him in the work he had started. However, before long, a power based system began to develop with church leaders setting forth creeds and belief statements and requirements for being a part of the faith. Two of the examples he points out are the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and Fundamentalists with their list of required beliefs" (the fundamentals) that must be adhered to for salvation. Christianity is now growing fastest in third world nations where small groups in poverty situations are finding hope and empowerment in a Çhristian faith not unlike the early groups in the first century (Christian calendar .)Cox traces similar developments in Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism. The hope he puts forth in this book is that while Fundamentalists in all religions will cling to their beliefs and attempt to fight change, their influence is waning. In a world where almost everyone is exposed to a variety of religions, the future is going to be driven by acts of faith and cooperation rather than adherence to limiting sets of beliefs. Recently DIL Jessica posted to FB a link to an article about a Jewish youth who took on as his bar mitzvah project, the gathering of Christmas gifts for a Christian orphanage. To me, that epitomizes what Cox is saying in this book!

  • Paul Rack
    2019-02-14 19:00

    Very good overview of the religious situation right now, with an extended vision into the future. Comes out in the same place as many emergence thinkers: hierarchy, dogma, and institution are over; the new faith expressions will be informal, equalitarian, mystical, and social justice oriented. He makes a big point of distinguishing between belief, which he sees as cognitive, dogmatic, and propositional, and faith, which is more interior, spiritual, physical, and holistic. I think he's right.Than being said, he also does a few things that I felt were annoying, self-righteous, and hypocritical. Like, he is very hard on the bishops of the early church, accusing them of selling out to the Empire out of venal "empire envy," and to line their own pockets. This is not fair. While I'm sure there were a few like that, he forgets that the church had been through a couple of centuries of sporadic but brutal persecution. I think it more likely that the church felt itself forced to adopt centralized, hierarchical structures as a matter of survival against persecution from without and rot (the gnostics were about nothing so much as buying into imperial culture) from within. The situation was more like that of the Israelites when they wanted a king.I get testy when comfortable academics throw judgmental stones at people who have endured great violence. And how does what Cox is charging the bishops with doing compare with his own decision to work for one of the most empire-friendly/dependent institutions on the planet: Harvard?Then there is his self-righteous bias about the history of biblical translation. I think the RSV Bible was perhaps the greatest achievement in the history of English Bibles. But how can Cox say that its choice of the Masoretic Text for the Old Testament was "right." It was a choice base on a particular bias, perspective, and agenda. Would using the Septuagint be the "wrong" choice? No, just a different one. And the KJV did not, as Cox says, pick their favorite ending to the gospel of Mark. (This is a common charge against Bible translators we don't like; we say they had no criteria other than their own arbitrary taste.) In fact, the translators of the KJV simply translated the Greek text available to them, the Textus Receptus.Aside from my idiosyncratic complaints, this is a very good book and worth reading.

  • Nathan Wheeler
    2019-02-09 19:01

    Many Christians are seeking a faith that makes sense in today's world. Some find the church of the past 100 years satisfying, but for many younger Christians, they are seeking a faith that resembles the early followers of Jesus, not modern-day followers. In his book, the future of faith, Harvey Cox writes beautiful a brief history of the faith. The first phase he states as the Age of faith, then to the Age of belief, to what he calls this movement today the Age of the Spirit. Being around younger Christians I've heard the talk about Acts 29 churches or formation of house churches. To many, this represents a more pure version of what the earliest followers practiced. For Harvey, these movements do not go far enough. As he states, "We cannot and should not try to reinstall the first Age of Faith. We live in a different world". This to me is the most striking point he makes. Movements and new expressions of faith do not go deep enough, if all we want is to emulate the faith of the earliest followers. For those like me who find church history tedious this book does an excellent job of tracing the history of the church. Using the age of faith, belief and Spirit the author weaves the history of not only the Western church but the church universal. There's lots of talk about the move of dominate Christian influence from the "north" to the "global south". A movement away from the ivory towers of western ideals, the future of faith is growing fastest in Africa, South America and Asia. One of the more powerful chapters in the future of faith is Chapter 9, Living in Haunted Houses: Beyond the Interfaith Dialogue. The author points that intrafaith dialogue is as vital or if even more vital than interfaith dialogue. As one who has given up trying to have a conversation with fundamentalists of my own faith this chapter hit home. As he correctly points out, if those of us who wish to see a more open and understanding Christianity do not reach within our own group then will nothing changes. Outsides can not change an insiders issue. Without intrafaith dialog, "We will end up with more and deeper divisions than we once had, only running along internal rather than external fault lines". For some this book will be a breath of fresh air but I suspect some will gawk at some of the author's prose. I hope that people would suspend judgment until after they have finished the entire book. If anything, it is a great reminder of the history of the faith.

  • Les
    2019-02-01 00:04

    There is an essential change taking place in what it means to be "religious" today. Religious people are more interested in ethical guidelines and spiritual disciplines than in doctrines. The result is a universal trend away from hierarchical, regional, patriarchal, and institutional religion. As these changes gain momentum, they evoke an almost point-for-point fundamentalist reaction. Fundamentalism, Cox argues, is on graphic display around the globe because it is dying. Once suffocated by creeds, hierarchies, and the disastrous merger of the church with the Roman Empire, faith—rather than belief—is once again becoming Christianity's defining quality. This recent move away from dogmatic religion is best explained against the backdrop of three distinct periods of church history: The Age of Faith: the first three centuries of Christianity, when the early church was more concerned with following Jesus's teachings than enforcing what to believe about Jesus The Age of Belief: marking a significant shift between the fourth and twentieth centuries when the church focused on orthodoxy and "correct doctrine" The Age of the Spirit: a trend that began fifty years ago and is increasingly directing the church of tomorrow whereby Christians are ignoring dogma and breaking down barriers between different religions—spirituality is replacing formal religion The Future of Faith is a major statement and a hopeful look at a movement that is surfacing within Christianity and other religious traditions by one of the most revered theologians today.The Future of Faith is Harvard religion scholar Harvey Cox’s landmark exploration of why Christian dogmatism is giving way to a grassroots Christianity rooted in social justice and spirituality. Cox laid the groundwork for modern religious writing with his 1965 classic, The Secular City, paving the way for writers like Diana Butler Bass, Karen Armstrong, Stephen Prothero, and Deepak Chopra, who calls The Future of Faith “a fresh vision for the resurrection of a new global Christianity.”

  • Robert
    2019-02-10 23:15

    Cox's reflections on some hopeful developments in contemporary religion. Based on previously given lectures, the book is not comprehensive - has rather specific emphases, mostly Christian, and is perhaps too dependent on personal anecdotes. But is quite good - is particularly informative on Christianity's adaption to the non-Western cultures of the "Global South" - on its explosive growth in the form of Pentecostalism - on its new freedom from authority, whether Biblical or ecclesiastical - on its increasing "Spirit" orientation - on its new emphasis on faith rather than belief, on trust in God rather than assent to particular creeds or theology. Cox's statement of this distinction (now almost orthodox in liberal circles) is quite convincing - is powerfully and memorably expressed. The book is quite hopeful - is probably too optimistic about the future of Christianity. Still, Cox, as a man of faith, having defined that faith as trust in the imminent "Reigning" of God, can not be otherwise. I myself am not. Whatever comfort this book provides me is in the knowledge that the Christian faith - the old faith - the one of love and acceptance, of concern for social justice and for following the example of Jesus, of being open to the spirit - still exists. Whether that faith ultimately triumphs is not that important - I am no longer young - it is enough to know that it still has adherents.

  • Michael Dunn
    2019-02-08 00:05

    This is an excellent and tremendously important book for every Christian wanting to understand the global and sweeping changes that are happening with religion. You - like me - may not agree with everything, but it is helpful to see the movement of religion today, in light of it's history. Harvey Cox, Professor of Divinity at Harvard, shows how Christianity, which began as a movement of the Spirit, soon clotted into a catalog of beliefs administered by a clerical class. Then he shows how Christianity is re-capturing its roots from the first three centuries as it makes a clear distinction between faith and beliefs, that is, a distinction between a way of life following Jesus in the Spirit, and a list of right beliefs about Jesus to which we intellectual assent. Faith that looks for places where the kingdom Jesus described appears and works with whomever is there being led by the Spirit, and beliefs which strives to define the limits and is suffocated by creeds, hierarchies, and the disastrous merger of the church with the empire. Faith, rather than beliefs, is once again becoming Christianity's defining quality, and this is actually reclaiming what faith meant during its earliest years.

  • Brad Rice
    2019-02-23 00:05

    There were moments of brilliance here. I like that the author worked so hard to distinguish faith from dogma. That isn't always easy to do. Especially for a Christian who holds a high view of scripture. Mr. Cox levels the hierarchial ground, showing that dogma generally leads to a pyramid society where clerics gain power over the faithful and generally leads to discriminatory power struggle. He points out that first century Christianity had a more egalitarian structure. As church doctrine became codified women were relegated to the background. Further when Constantine legalized Christianity, priests became powerful courtiers and used their power to formulate creeds to solidify their position over the church.Cox believes we are entering a new age were creeds are no longer trusted and faith is beginning to lead us out of oppressive church government systems.. This is an intellectual, good read, well written and not dry for this type of subject.

  • Hansen Wendlandt
    2019-02-12 16:45

    There are plenty of books about the current changes happening in Christianity. Some analyze very well what has led to and is motivating our present situation (Tickle, Butler Bass). Others are quite prescient at pointing and encouraging us toward what is coming next (Claiborne). Some defend the changes theologically (McLaren), others through some integrity of practice (Jones, Bolz-Weber). Where Harvey Cox excels, is at framing our own transformation through other major religious changes in the past. The Future of Faith has that wise, long view. And yet more than simply history or a sociological study, Cox addresses the very depth of faith, even reaching well into Jesus to show the value of what is happening. His critique of old patterns of religiosity is not nearly as engaging, and there is very little here that is genuinely new, but Cox has brought it together well.

  • Jon
    2019-01-29 16:54

    This is the first book I've read by Harvey Cox since The Secular City many years ago. It is partly a short history of Christianity, breaking the two thousand years into three periods: the first 300 years (the age of faith) the next 1700 (the age of belief) and now (the age of the spirit). It's easy to nit-pick such a sweeping summary, so I won't. But it's also partly prediction. He regards current fundamentalisms, in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, as being desperate, losing, rear-guard actions as the age of belief comes to its close. Liberation theology and emerging Christianities all over the southern hemisphere, with their emphases on the Spirit, social justice, and care for the poor, are the real future of religion. As a liberal Christian, I hope he's right, but his book was a little too tidy and glib to convince me.

  • Mary Gail O'Dea
    2019-02-11 22:53

    The author, Harvey Cox, is the Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard and author of the classic The Secular City. Like so many other contemporary theologians, he incorporates relatively recent findings in cultural anthropology, archaeology, and religious studies to speculate about the future of faith. He sees a move away from "belief" -- reliance on creeds and dogmas -- to "faith" -- a life of the Spirit devoted to a community of the Kingdom here on earth -- that in fact is more in keeping with pre-Constantinian Christianity. After Constantine, Christianity morphed from an egalitarian, radically inclusive "Way" to an imperial, power driven religion dependent on a clerical elite. Cox is readable and hopeful and exciting.

  • Eric Johnson
    2019-02-02 20:54

    Two points in this book caught my fancy: Early on, Cox discerns between 'belief' and 'faith'. He doesn't mention any other authors, but I shall, because Sam Harris' "The End of Faith" is a case in point. Harris' book makes a strong case that people should drop religion, based on the historical atrocities committed in the name of religion. Cox would rightly point out that it is 'enforced beliefs' that are the problem, and faith is altogether a different thing.Near the end, when discussing 'liberation theology', Cox gives credit to his time spent at CIDOC, Cuernevaca Mexico, summer 1968, with Ivan Illich. I spent five weeks there in 1967, and the short time with Illich is still a high point of my education. I commend Illich's essays to everyone.

  • Michelle
    2019-02-20 16:59

    This book is thought-provoking but dense. Cox addresses the growing trend of people to identify themselves as "spiritual" instead of religious and the church's role in that shift. Primarily, Cox blames the church's increasing reliance on doctrine with a decreasing emphasis on faith and relationship with God. I was fortunate to hear Cox speak and found him to be engaging and charming. I wish some of that charm had come through in his book. Instead, the Harvard professor emeritus supports his views with dense, often dry, history and political commentary. Still, it’s worth a try if you’re interested in diving deep into the modern church and its evolving trends.

  • Katherine
    2019-02-11 16:47

    An enjoyable, informative reflection of Christianity, touching on topics such as fundamentalism, literalizing the symbolic, apostolic authority, the history and development of Christianity, as well as the fallacy of the belief of one unified early Christianity, and so much more. I absolutely love the points about faith degenerating from something full of life and spirit into a mere set of creeds and obligatory beliefs, as well as the points about how the culture and traditions we’re raised in shape our understandings in a way that becomes foundational to our worldviews. A quick, easy read full of information that is imperative for a Christian’s understanding of the faith s/he follows.

  • Amani
    2019-01-23 20:00

    Cox is a superb scholar of Christian history and theology. He argues that faith was replaced by belief, causing Christian officials to narrowly draw the lines of who was and was not a Christian for so many centuries. That trend is now being reversed, however, evidenced by a resurgence of interest in Protestant denominations which expand the Christian experience instead of restrict it. It got me thinking about the evolution of Islam and Reza Aslan's No God But God. There are definite similarites between the history of the two faiths, though the orthodoxy of Sunni Islam remains the authoritative Islam for most Muslims today.

  • Sally
    2019-02-14 17:08

    A consideration of where Christianity is headed now that the majority of its adherents live outside Europe and North America. The author compares today to the pre-imperial Christian period, seeing many similarities. He discusses findings of recent decades about the first three centuries of Christianity and how this period differs from the emphasis on belief and hierarchy of the imperial Christianity of the 300s through the 19th century. He also discusses Christianity in relation to other religions, and all religions as ways of life based on stories or the lives of founders rather than as systems of dogma or theology.

  • Jonelle
    2019-01-29 18:05

    Harvey Cox, retiring professor of divinity and world religions at Harvard, offers his view on what is happening with religion and faith in our country and around the world. His very well informed viewpoint leaves me with a much more optimistic view than I would have ever thought. He says that fundamentalism is actually waning across the world (for all faiths) and that religious creeds, beliefs and dogma are giving way to grassroots movements rooted in social justice and spiritual experience. How exciting and promising is that?

  • Ci
    2019-02-13 23:02

    The subject matter is worthy and directly relevant to history as well as present and future. The author categorizes the ages of Christianity into the Ages of Faith (the teachings of Jesus Christ), Belief (doctrinal standardization and enforcement), and the present hopeful age of Spirit (a returning to the earlier Christian faith and diversity of practice). Yet the intended audience of this book may be intended somewhere between general readers and scholars, hence the tonal effect is uneven, particularly so when the author laps into self-referential experience and thoughts.

  • Rick
    2019-01-24 15:58

    According to the author Christianity is moving into an era he calls the Age of the Spirit, which follows the Age of Belief which held sway since the days of Constantine. It's an excellent analysis of these changes in religious emphasis and practice. There are great sections on how the church was merged with the Roman Empire, on fundamentalism, and on Biblical accuracy. This new Age of the Spirit is not reliant of creeds and dogmas, but rather on living a way of life much as the early Christians lived, on faith and following Jesus' teachings.

  • Sandra
    2019-01-30 20:06

    I was fortunate to hear Dr. Cox speak at a two day lecture series entitled "Will There Be Church?". As in his book, he gave a brief history of the Christian church and a look at the church of the future. He concluded that there will be church, but questioned will there be earth. As Christians, we need to be more concerned about global climate change and how human activity in our use of carbon fuels is affecting God's creation and what this portends for the future of our children and grandchildren.