The Sea of Faith 1

The new theology course for the Autumn began by looking at some of the contributing factors to the ongoing decline in Christian affiliation, in the United Kingdom. It is using the 1980’s series ‘The Sea of Faith’ which was written and presented by Don Cupitt and is a very useful tool for understanding the changes that have taken place. The aim of the course is to see how the church can re-engage with society and how the great treasures of our religion can be articulated to coming generations. Or, put more simply, to understand how to chat to our grandchildren about Jesus in a way that opens conversations not closes them!

Are you living in a church ‘bubble’?

Were you brought up going to church?
Have you had times when you didn’t spend time around church?
Would you call yourself a Christian if we had a census now?
How many of your friends and family are connected to church? Out of twenty? Is it more than 7%? More than one?

The most resent surveys show the following trend for those of you who like graphs!

How many hymns can you think of that have a medieval cosmology? God in his heaven, the heavenly realms above?
Are there any hymns that don’t!!!?

Is that your understanding of the Cosmos? What might other people think about the universe?

Think about the revolutions and how Kings were dethroned. What did this do to peoples faith given that the King ruled by the will of God? (‘The Rebel’ by Albert Camus is a wonderful analysis of this)

Galileo 1564

Galileo Galilei ; 15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an astronomerphysicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath from Pisa.Galileo has been called the “father of observational astronomy“, the “father of modern physics”,the “father of the scientific method“,and the “father of modern science“.

Galileo’s championing of heliocentrism and Copernicanism was controversial during his lifetime, when most subscribed to geocentric models such as the Tychonic system.He met with opposition from astronomers, who doubted heliocentrism because of the absence of an observed stellar parallax. The matter was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, which concluded that heliocentrism was “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture”.Galileo later defended his views in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), which appeared to attack Pope Urban VIII and thus alienated him and the Jesuits, who had both supported Galileo up until this point. He was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. While under house arrest, he wrote Two New Sciences, in which he summarized work he had done some forty years earlier on the two sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials

Do you live with two books in your head?Do you try to reconcile faith and science?
Do you agree that all theories have a limited life? Do you believe that the truth is in the Quest? (This is the root of postmodernism)
Do you worry about any of this??
Do you think that your friends outside the church do???

Pascal, Descartes and the New Science Paris

Blaise Pascal, French: ; 19 June 1623 – 19 August 1662) was a French mathematicianphysicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen. Pascal’s earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalising the work of Evangelista Torricelli. Pascal also wrote in defence of the scientific method.

In 1642, while still a teenager, he started some pioneering work on calculating machines. After three years of effort and fifty prototypes,he built twenty finished machines (called Pascal’s calculators and later Pascalines) over the following ten years, establishing him as one of the first two inventors of the mechanical calculator.

Pascal was an important mathematician, helping create two major new areas of research: he wrote a significant treatise on the subject of projective geometry at the age of sixteen, and later corresponded with Pierre de Fermat on probability theory, strongly influencing the development of modern economics and social science. Following Galileo Galilei and Torricelli, in 1647, he rebutted Aristotle‘s followers who insisted that nature abhors a vacuum. Pascal’s results caused many disputes before being accepted.

In 1646, he and his sister Jacqueline identified with the religious movement within Catholicism known by its detractors as Jansenism. Following a religious experience in late 1654, he began writing influential works on philosophy and theology. His two most famous works date from this period: the Lettres provinciales and the Pensées, the former set in the conflict between Jansenists and Jesuits. In that year, he also wrote an important treatise on the arithmetical triangle. Between 1658 and 1659, he wrote on the cycloid and its use in calculating the volume of solids.

Throughout his life, Pascal was in frail health, especially after the age of eighteen; he died just two months after his thirty-ninth birthday.

The Universe without God

Do you sense the ‘nothingness beyond our reach’?
Does the dumb universe fill you with dread?
Are we incapable of knowing anything?
Do you feel that the heart has reasons that the reason can not know?
Have you experienced any ‘Certainty’?

Can you feel the spell of the mythical and the supernatural?
Does God really send sickness as a warning or punishment as the Prayer Book says it does?
If God really heals as an answer to prayer why doesn’t he do it more regularly?
If these supernatural explanations are correct, then why go to hospital?

Is faith about affirming the value of human life?
Is it about affirmation of human life in the face of the indifferent universe?

The Human Animal….. Who are we?

How can we tell children that they are both children of God and of the evolutionary process?

The age of the Earth

William ‘Strata’ Smith (23 March 1769 – 28 August 1839) was an English geologist, credited with creating the first detailed, nationwide geological map of any country. At the time his map was first published he was overlooked by the scientific community; his relatively humble education and family connections prevented him from mixing easily in learned society. Financially ruined, Smith spent time in debtors’ prison. It was only late in his life that Smith received recognition for his accomplishments, and became known as the “Father of English Geology“.

We have access in this Benefice to the map making genius of Henry Englefield as well in the form of a copy of Description of the Principal Beauties, Antiquities and Geological Phenomena of the Isle of Wight, with engravings from his own drawings, and a portrait (London, 1816);

Henry Englefield was born at the family mansion, Englefield House, near Reading, Berkshire, the eldest son of Sir Henry Englefield, 6th Baronet (d. 1780) and his second wife, Catherine, daughter of Sir Charles Buck, 3rd Baronet. His father, who was the son of Henry Englefield, of Whiteknights Park at Earley near Reading, had in 1728 succeeded to the title and the Engelfield estates at Wooton BassetWiltshire, so that he inherited both Whiteknights and Wooton Basset on the death of his father, 25 May 1780.

In 1778 at age of 26 Englefield was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in the following year Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. For many years he was vice-president of the latter, and succeeded George Townshend, Earl of Leicester as president. Owing, however, to his being a Catholic, objection was taken to his re-election; another factor was his opposition to the 1797 election to the Society of the architect James Wyatt.[1][2] He was replaced by the Earl of Aberdeen. Under his direction the society produced between 1797 and 1813 a series of engravings of English cathedrals, to which he contributed dissertations on DurhamGloucester, and Exeter.

In 1781 Englefield joined the Dilettanti Society and acted as its secretary for fourteen years. Besides his antiquarian studies, which he published in contributions to Archaeologia, he carried on research in chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, and geology. His “Discovery of a Lake from Madder” won for him the gold medal of the Society of Arts. He took no part in politics, owing to Catholic disabilities, but was close to Charles James Fox. His portrait was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, and two bronze medals were struck bearing his likeness.[1]

In 1782 Englefield was elected in 1782 to the Catholic Committee. In its conflict with the Vicars Apostolic he contributed a pamphlet in answer to Samuel Horsley, an Anglican prelate, later pro-Catholic, before the Catholic Relief Bill of 1791. Englefield took an independent line. In 1792 he was prepared to move a strong resolution at the general meeting of English Catholics. He was dissuaded by mediators between the two parties.

During his last years Englefield’s eyesight failed. He never married, and died at his house in Tilney Street, London, the baronetcy becoming extinct. He is buried in Englefield Churchyard.

Charles Darwin probably needs no introduction, but if you would like a new and controversial view of him then you could try the excellent book Charles‘Darwin:, Victorian Myth-maker’ by AN Wilson.

Do you feel that we are products of nature, embedded in nature?
Do you think our true home is somewhere else?
Do you think that the Christianity you know is ‘giving up the idea of punishing and repressing human nature for the sake of a better world somewhere else’?
Is this why we have enjoyed the book God in All Things?

Do you feel that we are products of nature, embedded in nature?
Do you think out true home is somewhere else?
Do you think that the Christianity you know is ‘giving up the idea of punishing and repressing human nature for the sake of a better world somewhere else’?
Is this why we have enjoyed the book ‘God in all things?


Sigmund Freud ; born 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst.

Freud was born to Galician Jewish parents in the Moravian town of Freiberg, in the Austrian Empire. He qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1881 at the University of Vienna.[5][6] Upon completing his habilitation in 1885, he was appointed a docent in neuropathology and became an affiliated professor in 1902. Freud lived and worked in Vienna, having set up his clinical practice there in 1886. In 1938 Freud left Austria to escape the Nazis. He died in exile in the United Kingdom in 1939.

In founding psychoanalysis, Freud developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association and discovered transference, establishing its central role in the analytic process. Freud’s redefinition of sexuality to include its infantile forms led him to formulate the Oedipus complex as the central tenet of psychoanalytical theory. His analysis of dreams as wish-fulfillments provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptom formation and the underlying mechanisms of repression. On this basis Freud elaborated his theory of the unconscious and went on to develop a model of psychic structure comprising id, ego and super-ego. Freud postulated the existence of libido, a sexualised energy with which mental processes and structures are invested and which generates erotic attachments, and a death drive, the source of compulsive repetition, hate, aggression and neurotic guilt. In his later works, Freud developed a wide-ranging interpretation and critique of religion and culture.

Though in overall decline as a diagnostic and clinical practice, psychoanalysis remains influential within psychologypsychiatry, and psychotherapy, and across the humanities. It thus continues to generate extensive and highly contested debate with regard to its therapeutic efficacy, its scientific status, and whether it advances or is detrimental to the feminist cause. Nonetheless, Freud’s work has suffused contemporary Western thought and popular culture. In the words of W. H. Auden‘s 1940 poetic tribute to Freud, he had created “a whole climate of opinion / under whom we conduct our different lives.”

Do you worry that religion is a form of illness?
What do you think of Freud’s ideas?
Could it be that we need religion to access the subconscious ?
Do we need to access once again our mythic understandings, the stories to live by, that fuel the subconscious and energise the conscious?
Could this be the root of a new Christianity for the twenty first century?

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