Dunedin to host two theology conferences

There can be little doubt that the 5-month delay of the parousia (until 21 October) is principally so that Dunedin – the global centre for theology, semi-decent coffee, and steep streets – can serve as host to two planned theological conferences.

The first, from July 29–30, is a conference on theology and art titled ‘To Mend the World’. The keynote speaker will be Professor Bill Dyrness from Fuller Theological Seminary and the conference will include an exhibition on the conference theme at the Temple Gallery, and a special screening of ‘The Insatiable Moon’ followed by discussion with the writer Mike Riddell. Further details here.

The second conference, to be held from September 2–3, will offer a Christian response to the phenomenon of  ‘The New Atheism’ as represented by writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. This conference, ‘The New Atheism: A Christian Response’, will be jointly hosted by the Faraday Institute at Cambridge University and the University of Otago. Further details here.

Saturday Link Love

Slavoj Žižek on ‘The Death of God’ (AAR Annual Meeting 2009)

Slavoj Žižek‘s presentation on ‘The Death of God’, given at the recent AAR meeting, is worth watching [HT: to CT Moore], especially for those unfamiliar with Žižek’s atheistic sterilization of the centre of Hegel’s attention to the kenotic reality witnessed to in the gospel. Strange, then, that apart from Adam’s lament of Zizek’s predictable ‘long-windedness’ (a post, by the way, which includes some great discussion and a link to Kotsko’s own article ‘Politics and Perversion: Situating Žižek’s Paul’) I’ve heard/read very little about this session. Anyone who was present at that session care to remedy this for us?

Here’s a snippert: ‘Not only is atheism the truth of Christianity but one can only be a true atheist by passing through the Christian experience. All other atheisms continue to rely on some form of the Big Other’.

The New Statesman on ‘God – what do we believe?’

The latest New Statesman is a special issue on God and belief. Some of the more interesting pieces are:

New Zealanders are becoming less religious

beliefSurprise, surprise: a recent survey has found that New Zealanders are becoming less religious:

‘There has been a sharp rise in the number of New Zealanders with no religious affiliation, new research shows.

In a study by [Massey] University, 40 per cent of respondents say they have no religious affiliation compared to 29 per cent 17 years ago. Just over a third of New Zealanders describe themselves as religious.

Fifty-three per cent say they believe in God (although half of those say they have doubts), 20 per cent believe in some form of higher power and about third say they don’t believe or don’t know.

However, 60 per cent say they would prefer children to have religious education in state primary schools with strongest support for teaching about all faiths.

Researchers from the Department of Communication, Journalism and Marketing received responses from 1000 people as part of the International Social Survey Programme.

Professor Philip Gendall, who led the research team, says the view that New Zealand is a very secular country, is supported by the relatively low levels of active involvement in religion. “The survey shows that God is not dead, but religion may be dying,” Professor Gendall says.

“There is evidence that New Zealanders have become less religious over the last 17 years; however, most New Zealanders believe in God and there has been no change in the proportion of those who say they believe in a higher power.”

“So perhaps the apparent decline in religiosity reflects a decline in traditional religious loyalties – rather than a decline in spirituality as such.”

The study found that significant numbers of New Zealanders believe in the supernatural with 57 per cent believing in life after death, 51 per cent believing in heaven and 36 per cent believing in hell.

A quarter of those surveyed think star signs affect people’s futures, 28 per cent say good luck charms work and 39 per cent believe fortune-tellers can foresee the future.

The survey also asked questions about euthanasia and 70 per cent of respondents supported assisted suicide for someone with a painful incurable disease, provided a doctor gives assistance’.

[Source: Scoop]

Around the traps …


2008 Gifford Lectures: ‘Religion and Its Recent Critics’

Professor David Fergusson (Professor of Divinity, The University of Edinburgh) will deliver the 2008 Gifford Lectures on the topic ‘Religion and Its Recent Critics’. The program for the 2008 Gifford Lectures is available here, and it looks impressive.

Tuesday 8 April
The new atheism: historical roots and contemporary context.

Thursday 10 April
The implausibility of religious belief: claims and counter-claims.

Tuesday 15 April
The genesis of religion: can Darwinism explain it away?

Wednesday 16 April
Religion, morality and art: invention or discovery?

Tuesday 22 April
Is religion bad for our health? Saints, martyrs and terrorists.

Thursday 24 April
Sacred texts: how should we treat them?

Sounds like something in there for everyone. The lectures will be held at the Sir Charles Wilson Lecture Theatre, University Avenue/Gibson Street, Glasgow @ 18.00. They are free and open to the public. Registration to Clare Laidlaw (0141 330 4978)

Recent meanderings from around the traps



Firstly, I loved this quote: ‘The old pagans had to choose between a brilliant, jangling, irresponsible universe, alive with lawless powers, and the serene and ordered universe of God and law. We modern pagans have to choose between that divine order, and the grey, dead, irresponsible, chaotic universe of atheism. And the tragedy is that we may make that choice without knowing it – not by clear conviction but by vague drifting, by losing interest in Him. A nominal deist will say: “Yes, of course there must be some sort of Force that created the galaxy. But it’s childish to imagine that it has any personal relation to me!” In that belief atheism exists as an undiagnosed disease. The man who says, “One God,” and does not care, is an atheist in his heart. The man who speaks of God and will not recognize him in the burning bush – that man is an atheist, though he speak with the tongues of men or angels, and appear in his pew every Sunday, and make large contributions to the church’. –– Joy Davidman (Smoke on the Mountain). (HT: Linus)

Jim has been posting some great reflections here, here, here, here and here on Van Balthasar and Karl Barth; and Halden from Inhabitatio Dei has been posting on NT Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God here.

I was disappointed to read here that the Vatican had banned its priests and nuns from taking part in demonstrations in Burma.

For those who have not yet heard, on 5 October Fixed Point Foundation will sponsor a debate on the existence of God between Prof Richard Dawkins and Dr John Lennox. The debate will center on Dawkins’ views as expressed in The God Delusion. The debate is currently sold out, but it will be broadcast live by Moody Broadcasting, Salem Radio Network, and their affiliates. For live online streaming of the debate, click here. More information here.

Found this video on ‘Ebay’ by Weird Al Yankovic clever! And George Bush outlines his plan to provide health insurance for sickly kids here.

Spong: Bishop for the non-religious

John Shelby Spong is in Melbourne this week, promoting his new book, Jesus for the Non-Religious, explaining again why he discounts almost everything in the Bible as unreliable but still believes Jesus has much to offer.

In this article, Barney Zwartz writes that ‘Spong admits that he is not a theist and rejects the idea of a personal God, but says that doesn’t make him an atheist either. He dislikes simple categorisations’. He goes on:

The problem I have with Bishop Spong is not that he is an interesting and challenging thinker, the problem I have is that he is a bishop. Because I cannot see in what meaningful sense of the world he could be called a Christian. I think he is a secular humanist – an entirely respectable position but not one that should be funded by the Anglican church. And I suspect, though this may be unworthy, that he wouldn’t have received the same notoriety as plain Jack Spong.

C’mon Zwartzy, tell us what you really think! What do you think?

Gerald Bray and Alister McGrath in OZ

Those back in OZ may be interested to know that Queensland Theological College will be hosting Drs Gerald Bray and Alister McGrath in the coming months. Here’s the details and the related blurb:


Dr. Gerald Bray is Professor of Theology at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama and formerly taught at Oak Hill Theological College in London. A prolific author, Dr. Bray has published many scholarly articles and books, including The Doctrine of God. He is considered by many to be one of the foremost thinkers and theologians in the contemporary church. Free Public Lecture held at Queensland Theological College, 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start. Dr. Bray will also be giving a three-day seminar: Controversies over Christ: Then and Now. The seminar runs September 11-13, from 9:30am to 3:00pm each day at QTC.


Dr. Alister McGrath is Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University and formerly Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He is a world-renowned theologian, the author of over 30 books, which have been translated into over 20 languages. Dr. McGrath is known for explaining difficult ideas to lay audiences. In his talk he will challenge the assumption that the world is becoming more secular and discuss why atheism cannot provide the moral and intellectual guidance needed for modern life. 7:00 for a 7:15 start at the Raybould Lecture Theatre on the University of Queensland campus.

For more information contact QTC here.