Harvey Cox in Chapter 1 of The Future of Faith begins with the history of Christianity in three ages: the Age of Faith, the Age of Belief, and the upcoming Age of the Spirit. Briefly describing each, Cox contrasts the difference between Faith and Belief. After outlining these differences, the more lively Age of Spirit is presented. Cox says, and I would tend to agree, that the Age of the Spirit will look more like the Age of Faith than that of the Age of Belief. I must admit that living in the transition between the Ages of Belief and Spirit can be quite difficult. Yet, there is a freedom in living in the Age of Spirit. First of all, having a line list of “beliefs” can be quite burdensome, especially for those (like myself) that have terrible memories. I have always struggled with the “beliefs” because of all the study required to memorize all of those things I am to believe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against studying, and we should study to show ourselves approved. However, true Faith is not shown just in the study, but also in the deeds.
Another point of tension is how divided the study time can become. We spend a great deal of time studying what we believe, but never practicing/doing what we believe. And the problem with beliefs, especially in the context of our times is that present day Christians are better known for what we believe we are against (homosexuality, abortion, and pre-marital sex) rather than what we are for (faith, hope, and love). Jesus said that people would know that we are His disciples by our love, not by our beliefs.
Cox also describes this coming Age of the Spirit as one that will rediscover “the sacred in the immanent, the spiritual within the secular” (page 2). I agree. People are looking to see how we can live our whole lives as worship unto Jesus. No more compartmentalization – Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength. People are looking for something to live for now, not just the hereafter.
I agree that our Faith in Jesus should be more about a direct encounter with Jesus. After all, I am a Pentecostal. However, my only contention with Cox’s proposal so far is that the Christian Faith is never to be lived in polar extremes. Just as Cox points to the abuses of creeds and party line stances, many can point to abuses of the freedom of the Spirit. A life following Jesus is not just our reasoning out our beliefs, but it is one of weighing out what the faithful hear the Spirit saying. Does it line up with what has already been revealed in the Holy Bible? Yes. I believe and trust and have faith that the Spirit who blows where He wills speaks to us today. Never should we only look to one aspect of our faith. We should always have a healthy, holistic, Spirit filled Faith.