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Yacine Tamsamani The Future of Faith
by Harvey Cox

BOOK REVIEW by Yacine Houhoud Tamsamani

In his most recent book, The Future of Faith, Cox begins with a question: “What does the future hold for religion, and for Christianity in particular?” to analyze this question he guides readers through proposing a different relationship between ‘‘faith’’ and ‘‘belief, and understanding phases of the evolution of Christianity, among other religions, and the current movement of religion back into the dimensions of faith that closely resemble the period directly following the time of Jesus.

To begin with, Cox started arguing against the idea that the growth of modernity would make religion insignificant in human life. Instead, he states that the world’s religions have had a flowering and there has been the resurgence of religion in various places in the world.

The key idea of the book is the distinction between ‘‘faith’’ and ‘‘belief,’’ which many people erroneously assume are two words for the same thing. Cox explains that Faith is about deep-seated confidence – vital for the way we live – it is primordial – hope and assurance that translates into the way we live our lives — each and every day (pp.3-5) different to the “opinion” found in belief.

“We can believe something to be true without it making much difference to us. In other words, religion is about more than beliefs. Religion is primarily about faith” (pp.3-5).
Hence, Cox divides the history of Christianity into three major periods:
1. The age of faith, which lasted from the time of Jesus until Constantine adopted Christianity as the state religion (the first 300 years of Christianity). This Age was more concerned with following Jesus teachings (which is good) Instead of a specific creed or set of beliefs (which is bad).
Cox sees in this time a great tolerance for diversity in worship, in leadership structures and in theology.
2. The Age of Belief, stretching from Constantine until the late twentieth century, when the church replaced faith in Jesus with dogma about him (which is bad) (p46).
3. The Age of the Spirit, which began in the 1960s, is shaping not just Christianity but other religious traditions today; this age is ignoring dogma and breaking down barriers between different religions.
According to Cox, “pragmatic and experiential elements of faith as a way of life are displacing the previous emphasis on institutions and beliefs.”
This new Age of the Spirit, Cox argues, has much more in common with “the age of faith” than with “the age of belief” and amid an unexpected resurgence of religion, fundamentalism is dying out (which is good).
One can see that he separates the history of the Christianity in this way in order to highlight the driving force behind the church and the faith in each period. Interestingly, is that the three stages also reflect the changes in Christianity in relationship to the power.
Cox leads readers to think that the world's religions are all undergoing reforms and in the last chapter of this book (213-124), the author charts a few of them in Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism moving from hierarchy to egalitarianism, ecumenical and to commitment to human rights and peacemaking. In general, religious people are becoming "less dogmatic and more practical. . . more interested in ethical guidelines and spiritual disciplines than in doctrine".
He writes: “The spiritual, communal, and justice-seeking dimensions of Christianity are now its leading edge as the twenty-first century hurtles forward, and this change is taking place along with similar reformations in the other world religions. Recent developments in Islam and Buddhism provide good examples . . .” (p213).
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” (p223).
Cox thinks that the age of the spirit will be a very good development for interreligious dialogue. He calls for an exposition of fundamental reasons for tolerance and peaceful coexistence between the world's religions. He explains that “Adherents of the different world religions can no longer avoid each other, so understanding each is no longer merely an option, but a necessity”. “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” despite the fact that there are some “fundamentalist” movements who puts the interfaith conversation in a difficult bind. Therefore, all religious people have the responsibility to stand up against fundamentalists and place greater emphasis on educating moral principles of peace, harmony, compassionate and tolerance that have been developed and practiced in early years.
All these, according to Cox, are positive signs that the future of faith is open, expansive, and hopeful and The Age of the Spirit will be a Future of Faith!
Despite my reservations and disagreements with Cox’s important thesis, his spirited approach of world’s religions challenges us to think in a new ways about faith. The Future of Faith is accessible, readable and highly recommended for all interested readers.


message 2: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Wow, this book sounds like pure evil to me. Remember that snake that talked to Eve? This all sounds somewhat similar.

Does the truth of the Bible really mean so little to so many religious people? Apparently yes! So sad.


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