‘The Future of Faith’ by Harvey Cox (and the future of reddresstheology)

(New York; Harper Collins; 2009)

My horoscope prediction tells me that my love life is likely to improve from this date!  How interesting… for today I am in Canberra chatting to St Mark’s faculty and refining my PhD abstract.   Yes, that’s right, I am taking a deep breath and diving into insanity: and what else would a reddresstheology PhD be about other than love?!?

Well it might have been about the global turn towards experiential expressions of truth, life and human Being in psychology, religion and culture… but Harvey Cox has already written that book, so now I can move on!  The Future of Faith was published by Cox to honour his retirement from the Chair of Divinity at Harvard University.  He argues that despite his predictions in the 60s that the world was going secular (The Secular City, 1965) there has in fact been a revival of religion and spirituality across the globe and religion has re-entered the public sphere as a cultural category to be reckoned with.  Think: rise of Islam in global geo-politics.

Cox thinks this is so much more than a fundamentalist response to a crumbling world – he actually thinks fundamentalism is on its way out.  In fact, he thinks that ‘dogma’ and ‘belief’ are on their way out as centralising principles for religion, including Christianity.  As a Christian, he sees this as a good thing: a return to the early church where christians were in fellowship with each other by virtue of the spirit and their faith in Jesus.

‘Do you believe in Jesus?  Great!  Let’s break bread together’

As opposed to the Christendom epoch in which fellow christians might say:

‘Do you believe in… substitutionary atonement? the infallibility of scripture? the subordination of women? the transfiguration of the bread into the corporal blood of jesus? the supreme authority of the pope? etc. etc.

And that’s where Tina Turner comes in.  I can’t help but start singing (a noble form of contemplation you must agree):  what’s love got to do with it

So, even though I don’t have the PhD topic even vaguely under control, I feel that I’m wandering around in this field of questions.  What does a theology conceived with/through/in/by Love look like when love is the object not just the subject?  What do the 2 commandments (foundational for christian ethics and morality) look like if we switch to a mystical and ‘expansive’ concept of Love rather than a platonic one?  If personal experience is the basis of our theology and spirituality, how can we create shared meaning together in church and society?  What about the problem of pluralism – we all have different experiences so is a shared meaning system even possible.  But most importantly, what a wonderful opportunity to recover the inspired teaching of Jesus who developed a ‘public contextual theology’ and religion based on love not law!

All suggestions for PhD title/topic gratefully received! What do you want to read about on reddress for the next 3 years???

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