A few weeks ago I heard a radio broadcast of Professor Harvey Cox's address to the Westminster Forum in Minneapolis. His topic was the Future of Faith. He spoke mostly about a difference he understands between Faith and Belief. I had to listen carefully and subsequently read his recent book of the same title to follow him.
A paraphrase of his insights would emphasize an Age of Faith in the early days of the Christian experience. At that time ones' belonging to those local and varied communities who followed the way of Jesus was based on a commitment to a way of life, a foundational attitude and behavior, what he calls Faith.
The age of Belief began to dominate later and accelerated with Emperor Constantine's approval of Christianity as an approved state religion in the Fourth Century. The criterion for being a Christian changed from how a person lived to what a person thought (or "believed") as expressed by a Creed. The social order within the Church became increasingly hierarchical, probably as an efficient way to enforce the orthodoxy Creeds inevitably define and require.
Professor Cox sees this Creedal and Hierarchical order breaking down all around us as so many people step away from this and look again for a way of life in which they experience intimacy with God.
I think he is on to something those of us in the Centering Prayer community will find helpful to our practice but I find it a struggle to give these insights a clear voice. Perhaps some of you who read this will be helpful in your responses.
Sitting quietly with an attitude of openness to God does not seem to have much to do with my Belief, my Creeds. I even have to let them pass. Rather, I am having an experience which, if it does anything, convicts me of the variety of Gods' availability and later calls forth a response to preserve that awareness in the way I live.