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Paper to British and Irish Association of Practical Theology
July 13, 2022 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
The paper offers a critical evaluation of the notion of ‘embodied spirituality’ by examining the ideas of the theologian and philosopher of religion Don Cupitt (1934-). In his work, Cupitt argues that talk of God in transcendent and metaphysical terms belongs to an intellectual epoch that has long since passed. Realist doctrines of God have little or no credibility for a society shaped by contemporary scientific thought and the linguistic turn in philosophy: in other words, a fully materialist and embodied society which rejects notions of transcendence.
Cupitt did not argue, however, that Christianity should be discarded as intellectually outdated and outmoded. Rather he suggests it needs to adapt to these contemporary norms by developing in a non-realist direction. His work is, in part, an exploration of the implications for spirituality of a theology which proposes that religions, including Christianity, are fully embodied and immanent, in the sense of being human constructs contributing to human well-being. Instead of a faith grounded in belief in propositional truths or doctrine, Cupitt favours a this-worldly, practical spirituality which bears fruit in ethical and selfless living. For Cupitt, such a spirituality is far from reductionist, to be experienced as a loss of metaphysics and transcendence, but rather it is liberating, invigorating and relevant and appropriate to contemporary society.
As a radical theologian Cupitt is both a resource and a challenge for those practical theologians who wish to take into account important developments in theological thought, addressing the accusation, sometimes made, that practical theology evades fundamental questions to do with the existence and nature of God. Illustrations of Cupitt’s thought will be offered together with some major critical evaluations.