The Sea of Faith

Mervyn Willshaw wrote this review of Time and Tide for the Methodist Recorder, 9 August 2001. Click on the cover icon to order this book online.

People of all faiths and none need to talk together freely and honestly today. Without such dialogue religion too easily becomes divisive. For that reason alone, Time and Tide deserves to be read. Time and Tide is a volume of essays which conveys a sense of discussion. Each contributor offers a variation on a common theme which is the central contention of the Sea of Faith Network that faith is "wholly of this world, wholly human and wholly our own responsibility."

The first Sea of Faith conference was held in 1988. It followed Don Cupitt's magnificent television series about the way in which intellectual developments over the past 200 years have changed our ways of thinking and impacted upon the Christian faith. In 1989 the Sea of Faith Network was established and has grown steadily ever since.

Cupitt insists that the Network offers a draft of the first truly liberating Church, because it is the first really free religious society. But readers will ask whether that claim is true.

The intention of the Sea of Faith Network is "to explore and promote religious faith as a human creation". How is that statement to be understood? Can a free society promote a particular line?

Of course, all theology is a human activity. Theologians are human beings. Does that mean that all religion, all theology, has no reference beyond this world? Is there no transcendent reality to which human thought approximates? Is there no such things as revelation? Do we surrender entirely to a post-modern way of thinking which relativises everything or do we cling to the conviction that there is an intelligence "out there"?

Paul Davies is one contributor who is sure that there is some sort of objective reality "out there" which is both rational and intelligible. Otherwise science is impossible. Karen Armstrong, Richard Holloway and Graham Shaw also make particularly helpful contributions.

All in all, this is the best introduction to the Sea of Faith I have come across. I still think that the Sea of Faith ignores the "givenness" of existence but, if I am not persuaded by it, I shall certainly want to go on reflecting on this book for some time.