“I hope people come ready to be disrupted”: Dr Paul Dominiak on his book The Falling of Dusk
In an age of uncertainty and suspicion, Paul Dominiak's new book, The Falling of Dusk, explores how each of the seven last words of Jesus on the Cross attends to doubt as the refining fire of faith, rather than as its enemy.
We spoke to Paul to find out more about it.
If you had to summarise your book’s argument in three sentences, what would they be?
The Falling of Dusk puts into critical conversation some of the great doubters of religion with the breadth of the Christian tradition and contemporary theological voices. It’s aimed at those who embrace, reject, or are sceptical about faith alike. It invites us all to reflect in unconventional ways about our assumptions, suspicions, and beliefs through a conventional form of meditating upon Christ’s seven last sayings on the cross as he dies, placing each of those last sayings into conversation with reasons to doubt.
What is the significance of the title “The Falling of Dusk”?
The title of the book riffs off two things. The first is the darkness that descends as Jesus dies. The second is a line from the German philosopher Hegel that ‘the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk.’ Hegel means something like history only comes to understand itself at the end – much like we perhaps only understand the significance of our individual lives as we approach death. In The Falling of Dusk, I want to explore how we might come to understand the meaning of faith, doubt, and the human condition in the preternatural dusk that falls on the cross.
What made you decide to write this book? Why now?
The genesis of the book was in my teaching on the Theology Tripos and in various discussion groups over the years at Trinity College and Jesus College. In academic supervisions and informal discussion groups, I have loved exploring with students of all faiths and none the relationship and tension between faith and doubt. Those conversations fed into and shaped the content and the tone of this book, which seeks to move beyond the polemical binary between faith and anti-theism to a more constructive and mutually enriching conversation. Since religious belief has not died away to be replaced by secularism, as it was once predicted to do, but continues to play a major global role, it feels timely to explore how we all might better learn to understand religious belief, and how religious belief might be chastened and refined by doubt.
What significance and impact do you see your book having? How would you like your book to change things (or people)?
I hope The Falling of Dusk will help religious communities and those who are sceptical about religion alike. I hope it can shift the horizon for both about what faith means, the value of questioning and doubt, and how to have better conversations together. In short, I hope the book disrupts the believer and non-believer alike into a new understanding.
What is one piece of information or advice you would give to people who want to read your book? How should they approach it?
I hope people can enter the book with a sense of hospitality, openness, and charity to views that they may not ordinarily find themselves inclined to welcome at first. That is true for those who read it as people of faith as it is for those who read it with a sceptical attitude about religion. I hope people come ready to struggle with questions about faith, belief, and doubt without predetermined conclusions. I hope people come ready to be disrupted.
Paul Dominiak is the College's Senior Tutor. He is also Director of Studies in Bachelor of Theology for Ministry Exams and Acting Director of Studies in Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion. After serving his curacy in the Diocese of York, Paul spent eight years in higher education chaplaincy in Cambridge, first as Chaplain at Trinity College and then as Dean of Chapel at Jesus College. For the past three years, Paul has worked as Vice Principal of Westcott House.
The Falling of Dusk will be available from 8 December 2022, or by pre-ordering now. The Intellectual Forum will be hosting a book launch on 12 January 2023, where Paul will discuss his book and signed copies will be available.