Creative Faith: Religion as a Way of Worldmaking by Don Cupitt
Polebridge Press, 2015
Reviewed by Lloyd Geering
This is Cupitt's 50th book, one in which he gives us, I suspect, his final reflections about life. I found myself likening him to a modern day Ecclesiastes for, as the ancient sage found it best simply to accept life with all its frustrations, and find happiness by making the best of it, so Cupitt concludes that, since the old triumphant religion is dead his "remaining faith is purely philosophical, with a dash of loyalty to Jesus and to the ancient humanitarian strand in the Christian tradition".
The book sets out from the thesis that "very early Christianity split between two different pathways: one path stayed with the teaching of Jesus and the primacy of ethics, and the other path started with the return of Jesus and therefore with supernatural belief".
Following the Westar scholars, Cupitt sets aside as quite unhistorical the traditional account of Christian origins — the triumphant resurrection of Jesus on Easter Day, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and its subsequent proclamation by the apostles "in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth”.
Cupitt goes back to the twenty years following the death of Jesus, a period about which we now know all too little but which he sketches in the long footnote at the very end of the book. It is briefly this: the followers of Jesus were shattered and scattered by his unexpected crucifixion and only slowly began to gather in groups, recall his teaching and ponder it.
As shown by the most genuine surviving sayings of Jesus — the parables and one-liners — he was a moral teacher who had a vision of what the world would be like if only we cared for one another and learned to love our enemies. Jesus made no claims about himself and did not even talk much about God. Rather, like Martin Luther King, Jesus had a dream of what the world be like if we followed his simple, yet demanding, teaching and he called his dream 'the Kingdom of God'.
But this early ‘Kingdom form of ‘Christianity’ became transmuted from about 50 AD onwards, (and largely under the influence of Paul) and then evolved into what we have long known as the Christian orthodoxy, as set out in the Creeds.
Cupitt calls us to "explore what Christianity might look like today if it had stuck to the teaching of Jesus and the primacy of ethics". To do this we must be creative in the way Cupitt himself sets out to be in the rest of Creative Faith.
What he gives us is neither a new doctrinal system t replace the outmoded one or even any kind of developing logical argument. Rather the book is Cupitt' own stream of consciousness as he ponders the problerr In doing so he provides us with a variety of interesting insights and observations about life and religion. Indeec as the title of his last chapter asserts, the pursuit of theology has now become the activity of philosophizing about life.
I detected hints of sadness and resignation in this book. His acceptance of his own mortality lies just beneath the surface. His very last word to us could be easily missed for it appears on the last page and at the end of the very last footnote, where he simply adds "Goodbye".
To which we respond, "If this is your goodbye, Don, your readers wish to thank you warmly for the inspiring lead that you have given us over these many years".