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The Future of Faith

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  382 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
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, ...more
Kindle Edition, 258 pages
Published (first published 2009)
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Ed Cyzewski
Dec 16, 2009 Ed Cyzewski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 a
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
Thurman Faison
Jun 22, 2010 Thurman Faison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 05, 2010 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 e ...more
Cody Bertram
Apr 29, 2015 Cody Bertram rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
pretty bad
John II
Jun 08, 2015 John II rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 un
Feb 19, 2010 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"...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" repres
Jul 18, 2011 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alex by: Rowland Croucher
Shelves: ebook, christianity
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
Johannes C
Feb 26, 2017 Johannes C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bob Buice
Nov 02, 2015 Bob Buice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
T Fool
Sep 21, 2011 T Fool rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-books
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 beca
Dec 22, 2010 Charlotte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual-ethics
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 aro
Paul Rack
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.

Nathan Wheeler
Jan 08, 2012 Nathan Wheeler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 young ...more
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 cree
May 10, 2010 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 i ...more
Michael Dunn
Jun 03, 2013 Michael Dunn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Christi ...more
Brad Rice
Jul 15, 2014 Brad Rice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Hansen Wendlandt
Feb 02, 2013 Hansen Wendlandt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 pa ...more
Sep 13, 2013 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 action ...more
Mary Gail O'Dea
Apr 10, 2011 Mary Gail O'Dea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 kee ...more
Eric Johnson
Jul 06, 2010 Eric Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 'libera
Sep 25, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 view ...more
Dec 07, 2010 Katherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
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 sh ...more
Mar 28, 2011 Amani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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 religio ...more
May 13, 2011 Jonelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Feb 21, 2015 Ci rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, part ...more
Nov 18, 2010 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
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 ...more
Oct 25, 2013 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 grandchildre ...more
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The Future of Faith Cox 2 4 Jul 04, 2014 10:57PM  
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Harvey Cox is Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, where he has been teaching since 1965, both at HDS and in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. An American Baptist minister, he was the Protestant chaplain at Temple University and the director of religious activities at Oberlin College; an ecumenical fraternal worker in Berlin; and a professor at Andover Newton Theological School. His re ...more
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“Scholars of religion refer to the current metamorphosis in religiousness with phrases like the “move to horizontal transcendence” or the “turn to the immanent.” But it would be more accurate to think of it as the rediscovery of the sacred in the immanent, the spiritual within the secular.” 1 likes
“Rick Warren, the influential evangelical pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, says that what the church needs now is a “second Reformation,” one based on “deeds, not creeds.”2” 0 likes
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