New Wave Believer The Sea of Faith


When Don Cupitt presented this series way back in 1984, he was described as the ‘New Wave Believer’. New Waves come and go. The irony here was that there was nothing new even in the early to mid nineteen eighties in anything Cupitt was saying. The genius here lies in the sheer volume of information condensed into such short episodes. The tragedy was and is that so many members were lost and are still being lost to the church because this information which has been around for decades, centuries, has not been shared.

This series from the BBC was groundbreaking when it aired in 1984 and yet it presented us with nothing new. Like ‘Honest to God’ two decades before this is simply a survey of where theological thinking was going and where it had been going for a century and more.

I had completed a Religious Studies degree a couple of years before this series aired on BBC Television and was about to embark on a Theology Degree but it still remains on of the most powerful and influential ‘moments’ in the evolution of my theological thinking. By the time I watched it and read the accompanying book – and these were the days before YouTube and even, for the vast majority of us, any means of recording and re-watching TV programmes – my relationship with conservative theology was at best strained. I remained orthodox and although I had read – or at least dipped into the work of most of the people featured in and referred to the programmes, I still found myself unsettled by what I was watching.

This series asks the questions everyone was asking and which every intelligent member of any congregation should be free and encouraged to ask.

This should be compulsory viewing for anyone who is or who is considering becoming a member of the church. It is basic and essential for anyone who is looking for a meaningful faith which makes sense in the world in which we live. It goes without saying that theological students and ministers should be familiar with this. These isn’t anything new or surprising here and this is the point. This is not new. The series itself is decades old and what it describes was old news even when the series was broadcast. What it does do and it does it really well is to package and present a lot of information in a very short space.

If you watch this then you will have at your fingertips a survey of some of the most influential thinkers who shaed and are still influencing and shaping the church and theology today. It is presented in six episodes. And each is included below.

Episode 1, The Mechanical Universe – Copernican revolution. Blaise Pascal and René Descartes respond differently.
Episode 2, The Human Animal – Genesis account. Revolutions of Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
Episode 3, Going by the Book – Scripture and practice. Views of Martin Luther, David Strauss, and Albert Schweitzer.
Episode 4, Prometheus Unbound – Karl Marx and Søren Kierkegaard, society and the individual.
Episode 5, Religion Shock – Encounters with the world religions. Arthur Schopenhauer and Eastern religions. Vivekananda, Hindu missionary. Annie Besant, atheist and anthroposophist.
Arthur Schopenhauer and Eastern religions. Vivekananda, Hindu missionary. Annie Besant, atheist and anthroposophist.
Episode 6, The New World – Friedrich Nietzsche and the death of God. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s austerity and precision in terms of language, his suspicion of built-up religious theories.