Abiding Faith: Christianity Beyond Certainty, Anxiety, and Violence

By Scott Cowdell

An investigation into the influence of Western culture on religious faith, pointing the way towards a more authentic form of faith as a way of life.

ISBN: 9780227173404


Australian theologian Scott Cowdell explores how “having faith” has changed under the influence of modernity and postmodernity in the West.

Following the understanding of faith typical of Saint Paul, the Fathers and the medieval monastic theologians, faith is returned 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.

However, since the rise of nominalism, modern individuals who reflect upon 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 tending to violence.

Cowdell has written a wide-ranging book, bringing together several normally separate debates while tackling the problem from a distinctive perspective. He explores faith against the backdrop of secularisation, the collapse of community, and the encroachment of an intentionally destabilizing consumer culture. He expounds the nature of desire in terms of imitation and rivalry, and the violent false-sacred roots of cultural formation evident in the modern West’s many victims, all according to the uniquely comprehensive vision of RenĂ© Girard.

Finally, he dismisses today’s growing mood of militant religious skepticism as philosophically outdated and out of its depth before the resilient confidence of a genuine living faith. What Cowdell calls “abiding faith” emerges as a venerable yet strikingly contemporary possibility. This is good news for today’s “homeless hearts” – there is the gift of a secure identity and a mature spirituality on offer, within a liberating, inclusive, world-affirming, ecclesial form of life.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 232

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

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.



Part I: Faith in the Crucible of Modernity
1. Homeless Hearts: Faith and the Modern Self
2. Faith in “the System”: The Modern Captivity of God
3. The False Sacred: Modernity and Its Victims

Part II: Belonging, Believing, and Behaving
4. At Home in Jesus Christ: Abiding Faith
5. Faith’s Knowledge: Abiding Faith and Modern Doubt
6. Behold, I Make All Things New: Vision, Self, Spirituality



Endorsements and Reviews

… he writes in a compelling way about a mystical, relational faith that can and should be the basis of a modern, western apologetics.
Ian Markham, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary

A theology of vast learning and generous spirit, rare in its mystically tinged but resolute faith.
Catherine Keller, Drew University

Scott Cowdell’s Abiding Faith will appeal to those who want a real theological challenge. A major strength is that it is extremely wide-ranging, referring to numerous theologians and philosophers and bringing an exhilarating coherent perspective to theological development over the centuries.
Richard Warden, in Modern Believing, Issue 54.2, April 2013