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Odyssey on the Sea of Faith: The Life & Writings of Don Cupitt [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   140
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.14" Width: 6.06" Height: 0.32"
Weight:   0.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2003
Publisher   Polebridge Press
ISBN  0944344623  
EAN  9780944344620  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In "Odyssey on the Sea of Faith, Nigel Leaves maps the ways in which the ideas of Don Cupitt have developed, evolved, and changed--from mildly evangelical to liberal, to leading exponent of the view that there is not God out there and that we must create new religious ways of being. This book makes sense of Cupitt. For those interested in the ideas of Don Cupitt, it will be the authoritative resource for many years to come.

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More About Nigel Leaves

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Leaves is Director and Dean of Studies of Wollaston College, Perth, Western Australia. He is also Chair of the Perth branch of Sea of Faith in Australia Network.

Nigel Leaves currently resides in Perth. Nigel Leaves was born in 1958.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An indispensable volume  Dec 16, 2006
Of all the well-known promoters of radical (Christian) theology, I find Don Cupitt and Lloyd Geering the most impressive. Yet I have read only a few of Cupitt's books because many titles are not readily available and because I am less than eager to track down earlier works, inasmuch as Cupitt is continually changing his positions on key issues. It is time-consuming to study the writings of a protean thinker who has long been churning out a book a year. The bibliography in "Odyssey on the Sea of Faith" indicates thirty-six!
Thus this book has special value as a compact source for understanding Cupitt's "faith journey." Leaves shows how his ideas have evolved from mildly evangelical to liberal to the view that in the absence of any God "out there" we must create new religious ways of be-ing.
According to Leaves, Cupitt is concerned with two main areas:the nature of God and that of human consciousness -- in short, what we moderns might derive from experience and thought after we have given up the the notion of an external God or even a liberal "God within."
Cupitt has also stressed the matter of ethics, stating that the outward-loooking dimension of the best Christian practice continues to link him to his Christian roots rather than place further reliance on Buddhism. Still, I am not alone in feeling some uneasiness with his conclusions in this matter, for as much may be gained by trusting in the Kingdom of God as by seeing this life as all we have and making the most of it. Will this latter view generate compassionate action towards others? Does it not require self-sacrifice -- externally or internally motivated -- to create a better world? Replacing Jesus' injunction "Love God" with "Celebrate life" is one thing; but can we do without "Love thy neighbor as thyself"? Fortunately, Leaves points out how Cupitt has sought to deal with these concerns.
Several years ago Cupit noted that Leaves probably knew more about his writings than he did himself, and he all but confirms as much in the foreword to this book. Lloyd Geering puts it in a nutshell: "Nigel Leaves' in-depth study of Don Cupit's theology is of such quality that it may be rgarded as definitive."
Anyone who wishes to understand Cupitt must read this book.
Insightful introduction to Cupitt's thought  Nov 1, 2004
In the mid-1930s, French existentialist Albert Camus developed an imaginative picture of a `saint without religion', an atheist who would heroically struggle against the evil of the world for the good of others. This struggle would be based upon authenticity and engagement with the present moment. Later, as part of the French Resistance, Camus saw many `saints without religion' in action in occupied France, and drew on these real life heroes in his 1946 novel, The Plague.
In this story, the Algerian city of Oran is besieged for five years by a plague. Two heroes arise: Father Paneloux, the parish priest, and the municipal doctor, Rieux. Camus draws both these characters with generous respect. The priest preaches two powerful sermons exploring the nature of evil. But Rieux, the atheist, is the saint. Rieux spends himself in working with the plague victims. Rieux gives himself for others because that is the only way in which he can authentically be himself.
As I read Nigel Leaves' account of the thought of controversial theologian Don Cupitt, I was reminded of Camus' concept of a saint. Where Camus' saint is a doctor imprisoned by plague in his city, Cupitt's post modern saint is a médecin sans frontières; where Camus' saint becomes well-known to his patients, Cupitt's UN peace-keeper and aid-worker saints are `unidentities', but the cores of these two saints have much in common.
Two similarities in particular stand out. Both Camus' saint without God and Cupitt's solar ethics draw sharp criticism from conventional Christians. People recoil from any idea that heroic goodness could arise without God and so dismiss all that these writers have to say.
Paradoxically, the same conventional Christians are often the first to point out how close Camus and Cupitt are to orthodox Christianity. One hopeful Christian wrote after Camus' death in a car accident in 1958 "If only he had lived a little longer, because he was moving towards Christianity..."
This ambivalence may derive from the recognition of the honesty of these two writers.. Both welcome the possibility of living for the good that comes from Christianity, but both are too honest to be content with lazy depictions of truth in Christianity.
Nigel Leaves - as he confesses in the very last line of the book - wants to draw our attention to the ways in which Don Cupitt's religious writings are "of some use" (as Cupitt modestly puts it) and "much too valuable to go unrecognized."
Dr Leaves is an exemplary interpreter of Cupitt. He guides us authoritatively but gently through the `seven stages' of Don Cupitt's thought. He packs Odyssey with lucidly presented information. Leaves' prose is a model both of clarity and enthusiasm.
I found it an enticing book: I read it in one weekend and was greatly enlightened, not only about Cupitt's constantly transforming theological project, but also about philosophical theology in general. It sounds an abstruse subject, but Nigel's enthusiasm for the task carries the reader easily.
Nigel traces the beginnings of Cupitt's thought in negative theology (the mystery of God is so great that we can say nothing meaningful about God), through non-realist God-talk (the word God may have meaning but it applies to nothing `real' or `outside') into expressionism (being a Christian is pouring yourself out in heroic ethical living) to discovering that the everyday language of the post-modern world is kingdom, not secular, language.
Leaves points out the dangers of seeing stages and schemes in Cupitt's thinking. - Cupitt draws no conclusions or systematic explorations of the nature of things., just a developing understanding of how to live religiously in a world where God is left behind.
Dr Leaves is masterly in identifying the academic sources of Cupitt's work. Not only does he show the influence of philosophers like Heidegger and Nietzsche on Cupitt's thinking, but has also shows how Cupitt's contemporary critics have misunderstood Cupitt's use of his sources. To do that with simple clarity demonstrates great control of his material.
Nigel Leaves sees himself as carrying on the conversation about Cupitt of fellow Australian Scott Cowdell. There's a question here: there is something very English about Cupitt - an academic Church of England clergyman who enjoys watching butterflies and pond skaters for recreation. This very English thinker attracts interpreters here in Australia and New Zealand. Does Cupitt strike a chord with us in whose country Christianity has never really taken root? It's not so much that we are secular, but that our culture has never really been ecclesiastical. Cupitt's post-ecclesiastic thought may have found a surprising home here.
I found myself wishing that Nigel had written more about Cupitt's understanding of language. He describes Cupitt's thought as `linguistic textualism' in opposition to the `radical orthodoxy' of Milbank and others. The distinction is helpful. But Cupitt's claim for linguistic textualism is that there is only language. Language is the sole reality. Language has replaced God in our thinking. These ideas launched me straight into the phenomenonalism of Merleau-Ponty, who sees language not as a skill or acquisition of human beings, but an environment which flows around and between us, and into which we enter. Is this the way forward for Christianity - into the richness of the words of humanity?
For Leaves, Cupitt is prepared not only to honour the traditional ways of the past, but also to leave it behind. Cupitt is an honest pilgrim concerned to find richer ways of religious living in genuine freedom and democracy.
Who is this Odyssey written for? My clergy colleagues will find it an accessible introduction to Cupitt - and hopefully will be inspired to read further. The publisher seems to have aimed the book at the Sea of Faith Networks. Leaves' book has the distinctive advantage of being an introduction to, rather than an argument with, Cupitt. Networkers will snap up the bookl use it as a solid base for further thinking.
Will educated lay-people find it `useful religious writing'? The book's strength is the clarity with which Leaves deals with complex philosophical issues. While keeping track of the huge cast of philosophical actors from Augustine to Milbank may stretch the lay reader, the general thrust of the book should be accessible for them.
It would be good, too, if Christians who are of persuasions other than the radical, would engage with this book. As a liberal, or as an evangelical, or as an orthodox Anglican, you may find that Cupitt is closer to the kingdom than you thought!
Writers like Cupitt make us uncomfortable: they remind us that we are often content to live with half-baked ideas of truth and not want to be disturbed with deeper ideas. My conviction is that the community of faith needs these pioneer thinkers if we are to survive, but I am grateful to Nigel Leaves for throwing a bridge out to me from the frontier territory traversed by Cupitt. We more timid travellers appreciate the help.

A bracing voyage  Sep 29, 2004
Nigel Leaves' "Odyssey on the Sea of Faith" is a remarkable book - a scholarly critique of all Cupitt's books published over the last 30 years, a sympathetic introduction for those who have never read Cupitt, an excellent foray into radical theology. That Leaves manages to do all this in under 150 pages is quire remarkable.

I read this book in 2 sittings - an devoured it like an engaging novel. The writing is direct and simple whilst never being simplistic. The glimpses into the life-story of Don Cupitt set his writings in fascinating context.

I highly recommend this book.

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