Reflections on Harvey Cox and The Future of Faith

I just interviewed the noted theologian, Harvey Cox, on his new and provocative book, The Future of Faith. I strongly recommend the book.

Cox divides the history of Christianity into three "ages": the Age of Faith (the early Church up to Constantine), the Age of Belief (Constantine to about the mid-20the century), and the new Age of the Spirit (still emerging in the last 50-60 years). At the risk of oversimplifying, he says that the second age, the “Age of Belief,” emphasized subscribing to proper and orthodox teachings. It was pre-occupied with creeds, and statements of belief. Thus, it discovered heresies, inquisitions and other ways to exclude people from the community of “belief.”

The third age, which he says is still in formation, is the Age of the Spirit, which emphasizes – not what people believe – but how they live, how they treat one another, how they experience the divine through spiritual practices or ritual. It is global, and in many ways, interfaith, with practices being borrowed across faith traditions. His examples include a wide range, from the Community of Sant ‘Egidio to liberation theology to global Pentecostalism.

We refreshed our website! Drop us a line at to tell us what you think. We value your feedback.

But I had another reflection. His history may explain the Vatican’s investigation of nuns. The Vatican has never left the Age of Belief, and it just doesn’t understand nuns, who live in the Age of the Spirit!

NCR ran an interview with Cox a week or so ago: 10 Minutes with ... Harvey Cox

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.