Australian theologian Scott Cowdell explores how "having faith" has changed under the influence of modernity and post-modernity in the West. He returns faith from pious sentimentality and arid philosophy of religion to the realm of "participating knowing," "paradigmatic imagination," and...
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Australian theologian Scott Cowdell explores how "having faith" has changed under the influence of modernity and post-modernity in the West. He returns faith from pious sentimentality and arid philosophy of religion to the realm of "participating knowing," "paradigmatic imagination," and personal transformation where it belongs as a "form of life," shaped by encounter with Jesus Christ and worked out through the Eucharistic community. This is shown to have been the typical understanding of faith from Saint Paul to the Fathers to the medieval monastic theologians. Since the rise of nominalism, however, modern individuals reflecting a God newly remote from the world have struggled to maintain this participatory vision of faith as a formative habitat. Mysticism is as close as modernity got, while "officially" faith was annexed by modern Western culture, coming to share its anxious need for certainty and control--systemic, exclusive, and violent-tending.Scott Cowdell has written a wide-ranging book, bringing together several normally separate debates while tackling the problem from a distinctive perspective. He explores faith against the backdrop of secularization, the collapse of community, and the encroachment of an intentionally destabilizing consumer culture. He expounds the nature of desire in terms of imitation and rivalry, and the violent false-sacred roots of cultural formation evident in the modern West's many victims, all according to the uniquely comprehensive vision of Rene Girard. Finally, he dismisses today's growing mood of militant religious skepticism as philosophically outdated and out of its depth before the resilient confidence of a genuine living faith. What Cowdell calls "abiding faith" emerges as a venerable yet strikingly contemporary possibility. This is good news for today's "homeless hearts"--there is the gift of a secure identity and a mature spirituality on offer, within a liberating, inclusive, world-affirming, ecclesial form of life.
Scott Cowdell (PhD, in modern Christology, University of Queensland) has been Rector of St Pauls Anglican Church, Canberra, Australia, since Easter 2002. He also teaches theology at Charles Sturt University (through St Marks National Theological Centre), and is the Editor of St Marks Review.
Dr Cowdell taught in the United Faculty of Theology for a year at Trinity College, Melbourne, then moved to Adelaide as Principal of St Barnabas Theological College for four years. He has been a Member of the Doctrine Commission of General Synod since 1995, bringing considered written contributions to the Churchs debates on women bishops, lay presidency and homosexuality. Elected in 2004 as a Fellow of St Pauls College at the University of Sydney, he spent sixteen weeks in residence there in late 2004 as a Visiting Scholar during a period of Long Service and other accrued leave. In late 2006 he was appointed one of six Founding Fellows of the new Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.
Dr Cowdell is the author of four books, most recently Gods Next Big Thing: Discovering the Future Church (Melbourne: John Garratt, 2004) and A God For This World (London & New York: Continuum, 2000). As time allows he is currently working on a topical book about the nature of faith today, tentatively entitled Abiding Faith: Christianity Beyond Certainty, Anxiety and Violence.