‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: let the whole earth tremble before him’ (Psalm 96:9)

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Ron Nicolson


My main question in this article is: Is there a place and a future for persons who still hold to the centrality of Christ, or of Jesus of Nazareth, in their lives, but who are agnostic about what traditional Christianity would hold to be central points of dogma or even about the existence of what Cupitt and others have called an ‘objective God’? My view is that the liberal theology which dominated the 1950s and 1960s has given way to more conservative and indeed near fundamentalist views in both Protestant and Catholic Theology. It is to be noted though, that within both evangelical and catholic circles, there is some evidence of a swing back to more liberal views. Most people in the Western world have however lost any link with the church or with institutional Christianity. Yet, according to polls, a surprising number still claim that they ‘pray’ and believe in a ‘higher power’. Movements such as the Sea of Faith, or Progressive Christianity attempt to hold on to Christian imagery and cultus while leaving open the question of whether the concept of God is any more than a human construction. Attendance at Cathedral-type worship where dignified ceremony and beautiful music leave the worshipper free to place his or her own interpretation on the words is steadily increasing. Given this state of affairs, my question is: Does this signify a new form of religious belief, more fluid and less linked to institutional dogma? Following James Fowler, my view is that the direction that the most mature form of faith, is that which acknowledges ambiguity and unknowableness in religious belief. Robert Ellwood also suggests that the Western post-Christian world is moving unto what he calls the ‘folk-religion’ stage where persons may follow many different religious beliefs and practices simultaneously in a syncretistic way without believing any of them in a literal sense, or alternatively believing them all, despite difference and incongruity. Is this the future of religion? Is there a future for a type of Christianity which still reads the scriptures, practices the liturgies, tells the stories but does not necessarily believe that Jesus is God incarnate or indeed that there is any God? These are the issues the chapter addresses.

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How to Cite
Nicolson, R. (2018). ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: let the whole earth tremble before him’ (Psalm 96:9). Journal for the Study of Religion, 31(1), 237-249. Retrieved from https://journals.ukzn.ac.za/index.php/sra/article/view/762
Historical Perspectives on Theology
Author Biography

Ron Nicolson, University of KwaZulu-Natal