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Book review

‘Doubts and Loves: What is left of Christianity'

By Richard Holloway. Cannongate, Edinburgh, 2002.

“In contrast to the endless resourcefulness and creativity of humanity, religious institutions often give the impression that they have heard the last word on God and know God's settled opinion on everything. But the history of humanity's struggle with God is a history of constant surprise and discovery.”

This book describes the religious quest as the “deepest passion of our nature”, but views Christianity as an ancient galleon, encrusted with customs and attitudes which make it a poor vehicle of that passion. In the opening chapter the author suggests three possible responses. We can give up on Christianity altogether. We can hold on to an outmoded and irrelevant version. Or we can find a new way of interpreting the Christian tradition which expresses that passion. The rest of the book explores the last option.

Richard Holloway builds from the assertion that “there is no absolute and irrefutable version of the truth”. Using the idea of ‘paradigms' (provisional systems of thought and practice), he comes to what he describes as a “pragmatic faith”. This faith values the useful ideas and principles from the past, but is welcoming of new ideas and understandings of God which lead to a more loving, humane and life-enhancing faith.

‘Doubts and Loves' is a stimulating and thought provoking book which I have read several times. It is an exciting and wide-ranging mix of scientific theory, philosophy, theology, literature, personal experience and recollection. Notwithstanding the richness and depth of content, it is written in an accessible style with realism, humour and compassion.

I particularly liked the idea of “following the way” rather than “believing in” a specific set of beliefs relating to Christianity. It is an encouraging and helpful book for those who want to consider issues of faith in a complex world.

Fiona McDougal

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