Theology

Coronavirus, Creation and the Creator

This week, my colleague Mark Brett and I wrote a little piece on coronavirus, creation, and the creator.

Eucharist, and the stuff that matters

Supper at Emmaus. Triptych #1 of polyptych from 9 parts, 2007. Lambda print, Diasec on Dibond, wood frame, 191 × 363 cm.jpg

A pastoral letter by Trevor Hart, to the congregation of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, St Andrews, Scotland

One of the things that sets Christianity apart from most other religious traditions is the centrality and the value it places on the body. Not anybody’s body in particular, but the flesh and blood reality of what it means to be a human being in a world created by God with all sorts of thoroughly ‘material’ aspects. The world was created by God, the Creed tells us, as a reality made up of things ‘visible and invisible’ – things that can be touched and seen and heard and tasted and smelled, as well as others that can’t. So ‘matter’, we must suppose, matters to Christians because it matters to God!

Not for us, therefore, the elevation of some purely ‘spiritual’ reality as an ideal, as though the thing we should long and hope for most is the escape of our ‘souls’ from their current messy and inconvenient entanglement with the world into which our bodies enmesh us. That’s a very common idea in all sorts of other religious and philosophical traditions. But it has nothing to do with Christianity. For Christians, we need to remember, God is to be apprehended and grasped most fully not by leaving our bodies behind (or even, for the time being, straining to do so by screwing our eyes tightly shut and blocking their world out), but precisely when God himself ‘takes flesh’, so making the stuff of touching, tasting, smelling, hearing and seeing his own in a radically new way. And doing so in a way that accommodates God’s own reality to the limitations of our human condition and our human knowing, not merely as a temporary measure, but permanently! (Jesus does not leave his body behind when he returns to the Father, but takes our whole flesh and blood humanity home with him into the Father’s presence.) And, of course, the ‘life eternal’ that God tells us is both our purpose and our promised end is not some wraithlike spectral existence bereft of substance, but something more solid, more real, more substantial even than the world we know and experience now. It will not be the disembodied survival of ‘souls’, but the resurrection life, enjoyed in a material creation restored by God’s love.

The eucharist or Lord’s Supper, so central to our usual diet of worship, is one point in our life together as the ‘Body’ of Christ where all this is paramount and taken fully seriously. Here, instead of mere words – of which our worship already contains plenty! – God calls us to take physical things (bread and wine) and to do physical things with them (breaking, sharing, eating and drinking). And as we do this together in the flesh and blood reality of our gathering as a congregation, God etches the meaning and the reality of the gospel into our hearts, minds and, yes, our bodies in a way that goes far beyond anything which words alone could ever communicate.

The ‘sensory overload’ of eucharist as distinct from some other forms of worshipping is, in other words, a divinely mandated bodily practice; and our bodily presence, bodily proximity to one another, and bodily involvement with solid, flesh and blood elements (taking, breaking, giving, receiving, eating and drinking) are all essential rather than incidental to its meaning. To strip away these things, to take our bodies out of the equation, or even to reduce the multi-sensory experience to one of seeing and hearing alone, is, I believe, to end up with something that is no longer eucharistic worship at all. Worse still, it risks complicity in the wider cultural and religious myth that tells us that disembodied realities are the only ones that really matter at the end of the day.

If anything like the current health crisis had occurred thirty years or more ago (that is, across most of human history), Christians would not have been able to share eucharist together, nor, indeed, any other form of worship. Our generation, with its technological prowess, enables those of us equipped with computers, tablets and smartphones to be ‘virtually’ present to one another. I don’t doubt that this is something to be grateful for and to give thanks for. It is certainly better than doing nothing. But virtual reality is not ‘virtually (‘more or less’) reality’, but in reality a far cry from reality itself. Its modes of rendering us ‘present’ to one another fall woefully short of the embodied engagements and relationships for which we were created, and which are the stuff not just of life but of ‘life in all its fulness’.

So, let’s by all means celebrate the power of Zoom and other bits of clever software that enable us to enjoy this pale reflection of things when the reality of things themselves is not available. But let’s never mistake their thin surrogates for a viable alternative to our embodied dealings with one another. And let’s not pretend that those things to which our bodily presence and participation together is essential rather than merely desirable can carry on perfectly meaningfully for the time being via such fleshless, virtual provision.

That’s why, in this time of exile, although we shall continue worshipping together in ways that Zoom does make meaningfully possible if not exactly as we would choose, I shall nonetheless not be doing what some clergy are doing — that is, livestreaming themselves saying the eucharistic liturgy. For the reasons outlined above, I do not believe this is a meaningful thing to do; indeed, I think it risks (unintentionally, of course, but genuinely) missing the point of eucharist altogether, and encouraging the largely un-Christian notion that disembodied, non-material, so-called ‘spiritual’ (or in its more secular version ‘digital’) realities are not only perfectly satisfactory but may even be what really matters most. They are not and cannot be! Not for Christians at least.

So, bear with me, and join me as your Rector in looking forward to our eventual return from eucharistic exile, when among many other things we shall rejoice in our ability to celebrate the eucharist together once again, and in doing so become more fully who God intends and desires us to be as the Body of Christ.

[Image: Raoef Mamedov, Supper at Emmaus. Triptych #1 of polyptych from 9 parts, 2007. Lambda print, Diasec on dibond, wood frame, 191 × 363 cm. Galerie Lilja Zakirova, Heusden, Netherlands.]

Descent From The Cross

Marc Chagall, Descent From The Cross, 1941. Gouache with Indian ink, 49.53 x 32.38 cm. Andrew Weiss Gallery, Los Angeles, USA.

Lent, Easter, and COVID-19

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Plunged into a time of such disruption, it can be difficult to feel that we are still in Lent. And while some disruptions demand more of our immediate attention than do others, Lent remains an annual interruption to our ‘normal’ modes of living, the reminder that while we are made for life, life neither precludes nor dulls the actualities of death.

We experience some of this twin reality, for example, in the way that unforeseen joy and absolute despair pair up in our lives. It is also a coupling we read about in the Easter narratives, and which we experience in the proclamation activities of baptism and eucharist. Each in their own way recalls that the tragedy of the grave is not territory of which God is unfamiliar, and anticipates that whatever comes next will be euchatastrophic. Such is the character of hope.

Such events bear witness also to an important and easily-forgotten truth; namely, that in this world there exists nothing stable, nothing wholly reliable, nothing immune from absolute vulnerability. This year, we are learning these same lessons in other ways. COVID-19 brings closer to home than we are comfortable with what is true for us always – that to be alive is to live continuously suspended over the abyss of nonbeing, upheld solely by the voice of one who even in his proximity to us remains a Stranger to us.

Some of us are already imagining a return to those death-denying routines upon which we depend to return life to normality. It’s hard to stay in Lent. It’s impossible to stay in Easter.

The French polymath Blaise Pascal (1623–62) famously suggested that ‘Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world’. Pascal’s words exhort us to a twin resistance – a resistance to becoming nostalgic for the past and a resistance to taking refuge in some imagined and enchanting future. It is, in other words, a call to stay with Christ wherever Christ is, however unbearable that proves to be. This too is the call of Lent, and of Easter. May this call be met with a response of our faith, however fragile.

Image: Douglas Purnell, ‘C-V 1’, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 180 x 122 cm. Private collection, Sydney. Used with permission.

Holy Communion and COVID-19

Certain things last week got me thinking about what celebrating Holy Communion via Zoom might mean. The result was a few thoughts on the subject which have now been published by the ABC on their Religion & Ethics site.

You can read them here.

On the formation of moral communities

‘… the presence, inclusion, and participation of the less abled, the unwell, and the most vulnerable among us is integral to the proper formation of moral communities, and is basic if we are to take the body of Jesus seriously’. – ‘Dying Without a Script: Some Theological Reflections on Voluntary Assisted Dying’. Colloquium 51, no. 1 (2019), 31.

I wrote these words in a piece published last year on voluntary assisted dying. They seem to have taken on a new focus in recent days.

Rowan Williams on Coronavirus

Rowan Williams speaks with Emily Maitlis (BBC Newsnight) about some implications for living amidst the coronavirus crisis.

on eucharist and absence

J. M. W. Turner, Seascape with a Sailing Boat and a Ship, c.1825–30. Oil on canvas, 46.7 × 61 cm. The Tate Gallery, London.jpg

Scott Kirkland writes:

COVID-19 has brought the frailty and vulnerability of the body into sharp relief. Some have suggested that in the wake of COVID-19 we should consider practices such as virtual eucharists. I would like to suggest we resist that, and think a bit more about what bodily absence might symbolise.

COVID-19 provides occasion to think about the bodily absence of Christ in productive ways. There’s something about the absence of the eucharist which gives way to a realisation that it is always an act of hope, of anticipation. The Eucharist, however, can be something we take for granted, something we don’t miss until it is gone. The absence of the eucharist is also indicative of the absence of an ability to meet together in, as, and through the body of Christ. That which binds us together as one body is taken away for a time.

Søren Kierkegaard tells a story of a lover watching the beloved disappear on a ship over the horizon. It is in that moment of absence that love is somehow brought to attention. This is more than not knowing what you have until it’s gone, it is a matter of not knowing what we don’t have in the first place. We don’t have Christ, his body has ascended and we await his coming. The eucharist is an enactment of this hope.

Image: J. M. W. Turner, Seascape with a Sailing Boat and a Ship, c.1825–30. Oil on canvas, 46.7 × 61 cm. The Tate Gallery, London.

Williamstown, 25 March 2020

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On the Gifts of Street Art

I was delighted to receive an invitation to contribute a short piece for Zadok and their issue on ‘Urban Spirituality’. It’s a great issue, with pieces by some amazing people – Karina Kreminski (who edited the issue), Alison Sampson, Simon Carey Holt, Glenn Loughrey, Siu Fung Wu, Jo Kadlecek, Sherry Maddock, Geoff Maddock, Melinda Cousins, Joel McKerrow, and Matt Anslow. My own contribution is some scribbles about street art. Details: ‘On the Gifts of Street Art’. Zadok 146, Summer (2019): 13–15. [pdf]

I was even more thrilled when they chose to use one of my photos for the front cover.

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Vision, Voice, and Vocation – registrations and a call for papers

Vision, Voice, and Vocation_ Arts and Theology in a Climate for Change

Art/s and Theology Australia is excited to provide an update about our upcoming conference – Vision, Voice, and Vocation.

Keynote speakers and a rich offering of short papers, creative presentations, and workshops, will lead us in stimulating conversation about what roles the imagination and the vocations of the artist play in navigating and shaping the complex and changing climates of contemporary life.

The keynote speakers are Emmanuel Garibay (a visual artist from the Philippines), Lyn McCredden (an academic and poet from Melbourne), Jione Havea (a Melbourne-based bible scholar), Trevor Hart (a theologian and priest from Scotland), and Naomi Wolfe (a Melbourne-based historian). Emmanuel Garibay will also be Artist-in-Residence, and his presentation on Thursday 16 July will be open to the public.

Registrations are now open for the conference, with early bird and day-only rates available.

And we are issuing a call for short papers and presentations. Academics and practitioners in the fields of theology, visual art, music, performance, literature, cultural studies, poetry, philosophy, and/or history are invited to send an Abstract (approx. 250 words) of their proposed presentation, plus a short bio, to Jason Goroncy (email) by 31 March 2020.

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‘Lest we forget’

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I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned here on the blog that I’m currently on sabbatical, and that the major focus of my work during this time is on trying to better understand and to write about trauma. Today marks Remembrance Day, and I happen to have been reading a fine essay by the American sociologist Neil Smelser wherein he makes the following apt observation:

When seeking an analogy [between individual trauma and socio-cultural trauma] at the sociocultural level, we discover such dual tendencies – mass forgetting and collective campaigns on the part of groups to downplay or ‘put behind us’, if not actually to deny a cultural trauma on the one hand, and a compulsive preoccupation with the event, as well as group efforts to keep it in the public consciousness as a reminder that ‘we must remember’, or ‘lest we forget’, on the other. A memorial to an event, it has been pointed out, has elements of both reactions: to memorialize is to force a memory on us by the conspicuous and continuous physical presence of a monument; at the same time a memorial also conveys the message that now that we have paid our respects to a trauma, we are now justified in forgetting about it … One major qualification on psychological analogizing, however, should be stressed. At the psychological level the battle between the two tendencies goes on within the psyche; at the cultural level, there may be instances of alternating between compulsive avoidance and compulsive attraction in some individuals and groups, but the major manifestation is a conflict among different groups, some oriented toward playing down the trauma and others in keeping it alive.

(I share this from a smoky room, not too far from the fires that are currently ravaging large sections of Australia’s east coast. I share this as the ‘conflict among different groups’ in response to those fires is being played out across the endless news and social media circus. I share this as Walpiri people in Yuendumu are in grief and anger over yet another needless death at the hands of the police. I share this in the hope of better and patient understanding.)

The photo was taken by me this morning.

‘“A Pretty Decent Sort of Bloke”: Towards the Quest for an Australian Jesus’

 

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Queenie McKenzie, People talking to Jesus in the Bough Shed, 1995. Christof Collection of the Diocese of Broome. This painting was the theme image for Catholic celebrations of NAIDOC Week 2019.

HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, a South African-based open-access journal, has just published a little piece that I wrote:

‘“A Pretty Decent Sort of Bloke”: Towards the Quest for an Australian Jesus’. HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 75, no. 4 (2019), e1–e10. (HTMLEPUB | PDF)

Abstract

From many Aboriginal elders, such as Tjangika Napaltjani, Bob Williams and Djiniyini Gondarra, to painters, such as Arthur Boyd, Pro Hart and John Forrester-Clack, from historians, such as Manning Clark, and poets, such as Maureen Watson, Francis Webb and Henry Lawson, to celebrated novelists, such as Joseph Furphy, Patrick White and Tim Winton, the figure of Jesus has occupied an endearing and idiosyncratic place in the Australian imagination. It is evidence enough that ‘Australians have been anticlerical and antichurch, but rarely antiJesus’ (Stuart Piggin). But which Jesus? In what follows, I seek to listen to what some Australians make of Jesus, and to consider some theological implications of their contributions for the enduring quest for an Australian Jesus.

The article can be accessed here.

Vision, Voice, and Vocation

Vision, Voice, and Vocation_ Arts and Theology in a Climate for Change

I am very excited to announce that Art/s and Theology Australia will hold its first conference on 16–19 July next year.

This four-day event will provide a unique conversation space for artists, performers, creatives, academics, and activists, to consider the vital role of the imagination in today’s complex climates – social, cultural, environmental, political, racial, religious, spiritual, intellectual, etc.

It will also invite conversation around further questions: What kinds of change? What are the grounds and manner of hope, transformation, and resilience? What might the arts and theology have to contribute to such discourse and action, if anything? How do we attend to the margins of this discussion, and speak and act more holistically as communities of change?

More details here.

Please:

  1. save the date
  2. help spread the word
  3. get in touch if you would like to offer an academic paper or creative presentation

The Demon and Attendants in Hell

Among the National Gallery of Victoria’s newest acquisitions is this small and intricate okimono, carved out of ivory and finished with ink. It comes from the Meiji Period (1868–1912) in Japan, and is titled ‘The Demon and Attendants in Hell’. I stand to be corrected about this, but it appears to be a Shinto rather than a Buddhist vision of hell, for whereas Buddhist hells (see here and here) give Dante a run for his money, Shinto hells are not very hellish at all. This one reminds me of a children’s playground.

Japan - The Demon and the Attendents in Hell, Okimono (1868–1912)a.JPG

Euthanasia/Voluntary Assisted Dying: Some Theological and Pastoral Resources

‘People clearly do not need [pastors and theologians] to live. But it seems like they want to use us to die; their entire lives stand in the shadow of death. History marches along at its pace without us, but when the eschatological, the final things, appear on their horizons – and which problems in history do not ride the wave of the final things? – we apparently ought to be there and have open and decisive words to say. They are for the most part well adjusted in themselves and their own capacities and life possibilities. But amazingly, when it comes to the state of the gossamer upon which the entire net of this life hangs, when it comes to the razor-sharp ridge between time and eternity along which they suddenly find themselves wandering, after having long forgotten it, they want to hear from us. The theological problem comes into being on the boundaries of humanity. The philosophers know this, but quite often, it appears that we theologians do not’. – Karl Barth, ‘The Word of God as the Task of Theology, 1922’, in The Word of God and Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2011), 178.

I thought I’d start to put together in one place a list of resources that I have found helpful and that might serve as a resource to guide the church in its responses to the challenges posed by Euthanasia/Voluntary Assisted Dying. The list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will be constructive. I intend to keep editing it as other resources become known to me. Suggestions welcome.

Theological Resources

  • Allison Jr., Dale C. Night Comes: Death, Imagination, and the Last Things. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2016.
  • Anderson, Ray S. Theology, Death and Dying. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.
  • Badham, Paul. ‘A Theological Examination of the Case for Euthanasia’, In Facing Death: An Interdisciplinary Approach, edited by Paul Badham, and Paul Ballard, 101–16. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1996.
  • Banner, Michael. ‘Christian Anthropology at the Beginning and End of Life’, In Christian Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems, 47–85. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • ––––––––––. ‘Scripts for Modern Dying: The Death before Death We Have Invented, the Death before Death We Fear and Some Take Too Literally, and the Death before Death Christians Believe in’. Studies in Christian Ethics 29, no. 3 (2016): 249–55.
  • Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics III.4. Translated by A. T. Mackay, T. H. L. Parker, Harold Knight, H. A. Kennedy, and J. Marks. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1961.
  • Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. Translated by Reinhard Krauss, Charles C. West, and Douglas W. Scott. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 6. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005.
  • Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Homebush: Society of St Pauls, 1994.
  • Duff, Nancy J. Making Faithful Decisions at the End of Life Paperback. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018.
  • Dutney, Andrew. ‘Christian Support for Voluntary Euthanasia’. Monash Bioethics Review 16, no. 2 (1997 April): 15–22.
  • Fiddes, Paul S. ‘Acceptance and Resistance in a Theology of Death’, Modern Believing 56, no. 2 (2015): 223–36.
  • ––––––––––. ‘The Living God and the Threat of Death’, In Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity, 224–50. London: Darton Longman & Todd, 2000.
  • Goroncy, Jason A. ‘Dying Without a Script: Some Theological Reflections on Voluntary Assisted Dying’. Colloquium 51, no. 1 (2019): 23–37.
  • ––––––––––. ‘Euthanasia: Some Theological Considerations for Living Responsibly’. Pacifica 29, no. 3 (2016): 221–43.
  • Gustafson, James M. ‘Suicide’, In Ethics from a Theocentric Perspective, Volume 2: Ethics and Theology, 187–216. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984.
  • Hauerwas, Stanley. Naming the Silences: God, Medicine, and the Problem of Suffering. London: T&T Clark, 2004.
  • ––––––––––. ‘Rational Suicide and Reasons for Living’, In On Moral Medicine: Theological Perspectives in Medical Ethics, edited by Stephen E. Lammers, and Allen Verhey, 461–66. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987.
  • Jenson, Robert W. ‘Thinking Death’, in On Thinking the Human: Resolutions of Difficult Notions, 1–15. Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003.
  • John Paul II. ‘Declaration on Euthanasia: The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 5, 1980’.
  • ––––––––––. ‘Evangelium Vitae’.
  • ––––––––––. The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan. Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1997.
  • Jüngel, Eberhard. Death: The Riddle and the Mystery. Translated by Iain Nicol, and Ute Nicol. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1975.
  • Küng, Hans. ‘Assisted Dying – Also Active?’, in Eternal Life?: Life After Death as a Medical, Philosophical, and Theological Problem, trans. Edward Quinn, 209–13. London: Collins, 1984.
  • Küng, Hans, and Walter Jens. A Dignified Dying: A Plea for Personal Responsibility. Translated by John Bowden. London: SCM Press, 1995.
  • Lewis, Alan E. ‘The Theology of Death and the Care of the Dying: Affirmations, Attitudes and Actions’. Theology in Scotland 2, no. 2 (1994): 7–20.
  • Messer, Neil. Respecting Life: Theology and Bioethics. London: SCM Press, 2011.
  • Rahner, Karl. On the Theology of Death. Translated by Charles H. Henkey. Frieburg: Herder, 1961.
  • Stoneking, Carole Bailey. ‘Receiving Communion: Euthanasia, Suicide, and Letting Die’, In The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, edited by Stanley Hauerwas, and Samuel Wells, 375–87. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
  • Sutherland, D. Dixon. ‘From Terri Schiavo toward a Theology of Dying’, In Resurrection and Responsibility: Essays on Theology, Scripture, and Ethics in Honor of Thorwald Lorenzen, edited by Keith D. Dyer, and David J. Neville, 225–46. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2009.
  • Swinton, John. Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2016.
  • Swinton, John, and Richard Payne, eds. Living Well and Dying Faithfully: Christian Practices for End-of-Life Care. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2009.
  • Williams, Rowan. ‘On Making Moral Decisions’. Anglican Theological Review 81, no. 2 (1999): 295–308.

Pastoral Resources

Other Resources

  • Duckett, Stephen. ‘Arguing in the Public Square: Christian Voices Against Assisted Dying in Victoria’. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion 30, no. 2 (2017): 165–87.
  • Gleeson, Gerald. ‘Is it Always Good to be Alive?’. Interface: A Forum for Theology on the World 13, no. 1 & 2 (2010): 97–111
  • Hitchcock, Karen. Dear Life: On Caring for the Elderly. Carlton: Black Inc., 2016.
  • May, Arnd T. ‘Physician-Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia, and Christian Bioethics: Moral Controversy in Germany’. Christian Bioethics: Non-Ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality 9, no. 2/3 (2003 Aug-Dec): 273–83.
  • Singer, Peter. Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics. Melbourne: The Text Publishing Company, 1994.
  • ––––––––––. ‘Taking Life: Humans’. In Practical Ethics. 2nd ed., 175–217. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  • Stefan, Susan. Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws: Examining Current Approaches to Suicide in Policy and Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • Tolstoy, Leo. ‘The Death of Ivan Ilyich’, in The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories, 39–91. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009
  • Waters, Brent P. ‘From Death as Necessity to Death as Choice’. Ethics, Medicine and Public Health 2, no. 3 (July–September 2016): 442–47.

Why four Gospels and why are they different?

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My esteemed colleague, Dr Keith Dyer, Associate Professor of New Testament at Whitley College, will be leading a series of Bible studies on the four Gospels. This is a relatively-rare opportunity for Melburnians to study the Bible face-to-face with a top notch biblical scholar at an affordable cost. Here are the details:

Topic: Why four Gospels and why are they different?

Dates: Thursday evenings August 1, 8, 22 & September 5, 12, 26

Time: 6:30 start with soup and rolls, then 7:00–8:30 for study

Venue: Westgate Baptist Community, 16 High St., Yarraville [map]

Cost: $80 or $50 concession

Contact: To book your place, or to find out more, contact Kaye Cameron (email) or Neville Taylor (ph: 0417 003 115).

Dying Without a Script

The latest edition of Colloquium includes a little piece that I wrote on Voluntary Assisted Dying:

“Dying Without a Script: Some Theological Reflections on Voluntary Assisted Dying.” Colloquium 51, no. 1 (2019): 25–39.

Abstract

In theological discourse about voluntary assisted dying, two of the most contested areas are those that relate broadly to matters of individualism, autonomy, and rights, and those that are concerned with interpretations around the sanctity of human life given by God. These two areas represent unavoidably difficult theological spaces, with profound implications for Christian theology, especially for theological anthropology and for theologies of death. Drawing upon a range of sources mostly from Christian traditions, this essay locates these two concerns in a broader milieu, and engages in some critical discussion around their theological complexities. It argues that fidelity to competing theological commitments presses against the temptation to make the terrain of relevant moral judgements incontrovertible.

A study tour to Japan

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Japanese Christians in Portuguese costume, 16–17th century. Reproduced in Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History.

I am excited to announce that Dr Gwyn McClelland and I are seeking expressions of interest for a study tour to Japan during Easter next year (8–16 April, 2020).

The trip offers an opportunity to encourage ongoing learning about past mission, issues of colonialism, peace and reconciliation, and the contextualisation of Gospel. The tour includes participation in Good Friday Mass at the Urakami Cathedral, which was destroyed in the blast and is only 500 metres from Ground Zero, a visit the Atomic Bomb Museum, the Nagai Takashi resource room, and, if possible, speaking with a survivor about their experience of the bombing. We will also visit the remote Goto Islands, relevant to the Hidden Christians who were persecuted for over 250 years.

Further details here.

Exploring Indigenous Theology

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