Just finished book by Harvey Cox, professor emeritus and religion scholar at Harvard. The Future of Faith, HarperOne, NY, NY, 2009
This book suggests Faith is gaining, Christian faith, throughout the world. Europe remains more stagnant, America has its strengths, but Asia and Africa continue to grow. The foundations for growth are coming from Faith similar to that of the early Christians. In the two to three hundred years after Christ and before Constantine The Great there was little but to believe in Jesus, Christ as Lord and have faith is the Way he lived his life. His Resurrection is then reflected in the nature of those of Faith continuing to live the life Jesus led and would have continued to lead.
The creeds, doctrines and the hierarchy of the Church that grew in later years, introducing the more human sinful elements of greed and power, changed the nature of Faith to Belief, but belief or believing more in the structure and the dogma of the Church – which until the Reformation was the Roman Catholic Church. Heretics were often people of Faith, but not followers or supporters of the Church and its dictates. Even in the many denominations of the Protestant Church there have been similar problems with structure, the politics of the denomination, overshadowing true Faith.
Here are a few quotes from his book:
- “the original idea of Christianity as a faithful way of life has begun to displace the enforced system of creeds that defined it during much of the intervening time.” — (pg-195)
- “…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.” — (pg-179)
- As for the Bible, “It should help us not to bite into the package instead of what the package contains.” (pg-166) “We all need to have the courage to let it speak, which I believe it can. But we may need to work hard to hear.” — (pg–170)
- “Fundamentalism…often promotes a kind of taut defensiveness and spiritual pride that are not in keeping with the love ethic of Jesus.” –(pg–141)
- “…any institution (the Catholic Church) that has survived that long, despite fornicators and four-flushers who had actually occupied the office (of the Pope), must be taken with some degree of seriousness. If the God of the Bible, as I believe, acts in and through human history, then it has to be conceded that the papacy occupies a not inconsiderable chunk of that history, and not just in the West.´ — (pg–123)
- “There can be little doubt that many people who today feel a strong attachment to the life and message of Jesus become disenchanted, and sometimes even disgusted, with much of what historic Christianity has become.” — (pg–80)
- “Today historians of the creeds often explain them as fences, boundary markers delineating who was in and who was out.” — (pg–81)
- “The time is ripe to retrieve the term ‘Way’ for Christianity and ‘followers of the Way’ for Christians.” — (pg–78)
- “…the idea of apostolic authority did not originate with the apostles, who themselves placed their confidence in the authority of the Spirit’s presence among the people.” — (pg–61)
- “Research on early Christianity reveals….there was no standardized theology, no single pattern of governance, no uniform liturgy, and no commonly accepted scripture. In faith all focused on Jesus, but there were decisive differences in interpretation….some… emphasized the historical Jesus; others, the universal Christ; and still others, a mystical inner Christ….The older and more experienced members guided the younger…, there was no clerical caste….all shared (in liturgy) a common meal of bread and wine, prayers, and readings, but the patterns differed from place to place….All Christians were baptized, but the modes varied.” — (pg–59)
- “To follow Jesus…does not mean to be a mimic. It means to continue in our times what he did in his.” — (pg–45)
- “Faith starts with awe. It begins with the mixture of wonder and fear all human beings feel toward the mystery that envelops us. But awe becomes faith only as it ascribes some meaning to that mystery….All religions and cultures are responses to the same fundamental mystery, but each perceives and responds in its own way.” — (pg–22)
I found the book revealing and loved the many opportunities to quote (far more than presented here) Professor Cox and use his statements to explain to everyone that fundamentalism has got to go, more objective thinking needs to prevail, and faith needs to become the buzz-word for future followers of Jesus. Yes, maybe we need to return to the “Way.” There are differences is Religions (Islam, Christian, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist) and they are not all the same. There are fundamentalists within the body of each Religion and often their struggles are more within than without. We all must find the “Way” that provides the Faith to care for humanity (individually or as community, not necessarily as Government) and the ethical and moral values that must govern the way we live and deal with each other. It becomes a personal decision, not dependent on thrid parties to provide, but via the inner strength we gain having faith and seeing the beauty of creation and our roles in the ongoing creation process. With each newborn child creation continues. With each scientific discovery or realization creation continues. God has challenged us all to discover and understand His mysteries. They are boundless, but as we learn and grow we will be able to understand each other and our need for each other and need to care for each other in an ever growing, population increasing environment. God will provide what we need as we need it. Have Faith.
Grace and Peace.