Review and update for Future of Faith by Harvey Cox (2009)


Harvey Cox’s book provides a wonderful and durable foundation for understanding the complexities and toxic elements of healthy spirituality in 2022.

Other reviews on Amazon summarize his original, revelatory (to me) history of how Christianity descended into a Dark Age of Doctrine, starting with Constantine and the Council of Nicea. I have not seen this analysis elsewhere and am grateful for it here.

Also unmentioned in reviews here is Cox’s focussed comment on fundamentalism, entirely appropriate for Nov. 2022. From page 223: [my additions in brackets]:

As these changes gain momentum, they evoke an almost point-for-point fundamentalist reaction. For example:

- Some Shinto leaders retort by emphasizing the [traditional] sacredness of Japan,

- The Barata Janaka party seeks to “Hinduize” India again,

- Radical Islamists dream of re-establishing a caliphate encompassing all of Allah’s lands.

- Some Israeli settlers on the West Bank want to establish a “Torah state,” a holy land governed by scriptural law,

- In the USA, the religious Right insists America is a “Christian nation,”

- Literal bishops in Africa and their American allies threaten to split the world-wide Anglican Communion over the ordination of of gays and women. Indeed a core conviction of all fundamentalist movements is women must be kept in their place [under the domination of males].

All these examples are, in the true sense of the word, “reactionary” efforts [efforts aimed at turning back the clock to a time when dogma, creeds, whiteness (or another color) and maleness were Top Dog].

Fundamentalist efforts attempt to stem an inexorable movement of the human spirit towards [more coherency, more freedom; and. more service, freely chosen, to those in the human family deserving of more support] (p. 223).

I can also add how much this book has dated since its publication in 2009. Instead of the sunny uprising of more humanistic Pentecostal, Evangelical and emergent churches Harvey predicts, something different happened:

“Though a subject of great discussion in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the emergent church movement has seemingly dropped off the map as of late. Part of this stems from the difficulty in defining just what the Emergent Movement is.” (Lots of great articles at this website)

“For centuries prior to WWII religion was commonly defined in doctrinal, cognitive terms. Up to WWII religion in Western Europe was predominantly defined by brick-and-mortar church congregations who distinguished themselves doctrinally, which beliefs are accepted and which are rejected.

“WWII ended by affirming democracy and human rights. [The spread of universal K-college education] subjected the top-down pedagogical system to a silent revolution. Religions too were affected. New generations learned to question authorities, including religious ones. [Since 1985], new generations regard religion in the West less as allegiance to doctrines and more as subjective emotional affiliations. This post-dogmatic stance is not necessarily superficial nor fashion-driven. It may be intense, integrated and pro-social. However these tend to connect more with service orgs and service projects and less to building, attending and preserving brick-and-mortar houses of worship. Therefore this movement is much more difficult to trace sociologically (revised for clarity)

“… the individualization of religion is expressed in modern sociology by de-institutionalized spirituality or post-dogmatic religion (Riis 2012). People are today reflexive individuals who create their own religious identities and fashion their own cosmologies. …”

“… The peak was in 2004 and since decreased; however, it clearly demonstrates the current popularity of the term ‘spirituality’. This is part of the emerging post-dogmatic religion as explored recently by Riis (2012). As new generations of believers are taught to question religious authorities, more and more people attempt to establish their own beliefs rather than affiliate themselves with an established dogma. …”

These quotes put together, suggest why and how fundamentalist AND un-churched spirituality are both tenuous.



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