Old-Time Religion or Risky Faith?: The Challenge and the Vision


107 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55126-073-5
DDC 262'.001'7




Reviewed by A.J. Pell

A.J. Pell is the rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Diocese of New
Westminster, British Columbia.


Religion in our Canadian society is at a crucial crossroads. Behind the
outward signs of declining numbers and financial cutbacks lies a deeper
crisis of faith. Is faith as we have understood it possible as we
approach the 21st century? If so, how is it possible? What effects will
this have on the structures, life, and mission of the church? These are
the central questions addressed in John Bothwell’s latest book.

Bothwell’s argument is based on three theoretical concepts: (i) his
version of Alvin Toffler’s three waves of human history (agricultural,
industrial, and cybernetic); (ii) the now too-familiar dichotomy between
the Hebrew and Greek worldviews, the former rooted in a transcendent and
immanent God and human partnership with such a God, the latter rooted in
philosophy and a spirit-matter separation; and (iii) the construct that
gives the book its name—risky faith (based on Hebrew ideas) and
old-time religion (based on Greek ideas). Old-time religion denigrates
the present material world and reveres the other-worldly. Risky faith
integrates the spiritual and the material, and stresses the
human–divine partnership in the present.

Bothwell advocates the value of risky faith as an approach to modern
concerns in such areas as sexuality and church renewal. In his view,
risky faith deals with the dilemmas head-on, whereas old-time religion
escapes into simplistic solutions. Bothwell, the retired archbishop of
the Anglican Diocese of Niagara, has written a clear and thoughtful
book. However, its brevity tends to simplify what risky faith means in a
person’s life, and so flirts with the danger of becoming an old-time
religion of its own.


Bothwell, John., “Old-Time Religion or Risky Faith?: The Challenge and the Vision,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/13809.