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The Sea of Faith (SCM Classics)
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75 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2000
C S Lewis, among others, pointed to the gulf which separates the God who is master of the universe from the personal God we need to pray to. We cannot call on the first or find intellectual room for the second. Cupitt's treatment of the problem, its roots and its resolution, is not only thorough and systematic but leads to the optimistic conclusion which modern mysticism had already embraced - that we need God but not as traditionally conceived. He traces the encroachment of secularity into the religious sphere over the last 500 years (as the churches lost control of the activities of daily life) and the steady loss of belief in traditional religion over the last 150 years (since Darwin and biblical criticism struck at the cosmological basis of Judeo-Christianity. Yet he sees a persistent need of God in the Western world and a changing conception of what the word means.
Kant's recognition that knowledge can only be about the human mind, that it is essentially not about things out there, that it is subjective and never objective, has led others to see that the idea of God must also be anthropocentric. If all we know is what is in the mind then that is where God is. This was clear to the highly religious Pascal as much as to the irreligious Marx. Kierkegaard saw it in his life of withdrawal, Schweitzer in his life of ethical commitment. Wittgenstein saw that what we mean by God is determined by the limits not only of the mind but also of language.
Cupitt concludes that we need to see God as the focus of our lives, our values, our hopes, but we do not need an objective 'out there' God. It may be painful to walk away from the divine Father Christmas but we will be greatly enriched if we do. We can similarly accept Christ as a personification of human striving for selfhood while rejecting the mythology surrounding the name of Jesus.
On a strictly personal note I have been tremendously helped by this book. I found it full of gems. My doubts have been calmed, my seeking has found a direction, and my vague thoughts have been given substance.
howard_versey@lineone.net
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