Bonfire of the certainties

Bonfire of the certainties


Set up as the Sea of Faith to explore religious thought and expression from a non-dogmatic and human-oriented standpoint, the New Zealand wing of the organisation is now called SOFiA. It’s made up of mainly practising and former Christians; some think of themselves as ‘secular Christians’.

The focus of the Sea of Faith NZ conference in Timaru, New Zealand, in 2002 was ‘Creative uncertainty’. Keynote speakers brought in from overseas were the British Christian theologian Don Cupitt, who spoke on The uncertainty of life, and Stephen Batchelor – yet to refer to himself as a ‘secular’ Buddhist – who addressed attendees on The practice of negative capability, Buddhist reflections on creative uncertainty.

The final session of the conference was titled, intriguingly, Bonfire of the certainties. Stephen Batchelor and Don Cupitt were joined on the panel by Lloyd Geering, and they clearly had a good time exchanging thoughts and ideas. Noel Cheer chaired the session in his inimitable manner.


Tuwhiri is really happy to be able to share these conversations with you.

And we are really grateful to the national committee of SOFiA – the recently-adopted new name of Sea of Faith (NZ) Inc. – for allowing us to post this material here.

What do you think about what the three panellists had to say?

To what extent is their message timeless, and in what ways have we moved on?

Send us a message with your thoughts on these talks, this discussion, by email or using the Contact form.


What is SOFiA?

An association of people bringing together practising and former Christians in Aotearoa New Zealand, they: 

  • affirm the continuing importance of religious thought and practice as a vehicle for awe and wonder and for the celebration of key social and spiritual values;
  • draw freely upon their spiritual heritage without being bound by it;
  • promote the quest for meaning and fulfilment as a human activity; and
  • provide encouragement, stimulation and support in fellowship with others engaged in the quest.

To find out more about SOFiA go to

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