Australian theologian Scott Cowdell explores how 'having faith' has changed under the influence of modernity and post-modernity in the West. He returns faith from pious sentimentality and arid philosophy of religion to the realm of 'participating knowing', 'paradigmatic imagination', and personal transformation where it belongs as a 'form of life', shaped by encounter with Jesus Christ and worked out through the Eucharistic community. This is shown to have been the typical understanding of faith from Saint Paul to the Fathers to the medieval monastic theologians. Since the rise of nominalism, however, modern individuals reflecting a God newly remote from the world have struggled to maintain this participatory vision of faith as a formative habitat. Mysticism is as close as modernity got, while 'officially' faith was annexed by modern Western culture, coming to share its anxious need for certainty and control-systemic, exclusive, and violent-tending.
Scott Cowdell is an Associate Professor at Charles Sturt University, Australia and holds a research fellowship in public and contextual theology. An Anglican priest, he is Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Canberra & Goulburn.