The poem is a typically Victorian one as it is concerned with the loss of religious faith that came about as the result of the scientific discoveries of the age. For example, if we are now to believe in evolution then where is the idea of God? Arnold imagines faith as kind of sea that is now withdrawing to leave man confused as to what to believe. Arnold uses the term 'the sea of faith' to encapsulate this idea.
Arnold seems to suggest that without the love of God all we have left is the love we have for each other. Arnold seems pessimistic about humans with their love of violence; 'ignorant armies' and seems to fear for the future.