Theology

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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Voluntary Assisted Dying – a public forum

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Explore the practical, legal, pastoral, and theological implications of Victoria’s new Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation.

Presenters:

  • Jenika Graze is a palliative care nurse who serves in numerous roles in the residential and community aged care sector.
  • Joel Hallinan is the Inquiry Officer with the Legal and Social Issues Committee, Parliament of Victoria, which led the inquiry into and reporting on the end of life choices legislation.
  • Jason Goroncy is a church minister who teaches in the area of systematic theology at Whitley College, University of Divinity.

Register-now

Theology and the Arts, at Whitley College

In February 2019, I will be coordinating and teaching an intensive class on Theology and the Arts at Whitley College. The class is an introductory-level doorway into a range of other related subjects, including those on film, on imagination, on poetry, and on creativity and spirituality. It is aimed at practising artists, theologians, curators, pastoral workers, and anybody else with interests in the arts and/or Christian theology.

This year, I am delighted to announce that a number of wonderful people will also be contributing: Peter BlackwoodAnne MallabyPádraig Ó Tuama, Safina Stewart, Christina Rowntree, Rod Pattenden, Joel McKerrow, and Libby Byrne.

The class is open to all, and is available for study credits at Undergraduate or Postgraduate levels, or you can participate as an Audit student.

For more information about the class, or to apply, visit here.

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Malcolm Gordon on music, liturgy, and the cadence of God’s story

Irina Lesik - Three Musicians

Irina Lesik, ‘Three Musicians’

Criticising contemporary worship songs has become pretty old hat. It’s such an easy target, with favourite gripes including (but not limited to): the lack of good theology, the ever-increasing prominence of ‘me, myself and I’, and the combination of complex musical arrangements with simplistic melody lines, or complicated melody lines with predictable arrangements, depending which side of the bed we emerge from.

But I think we are wrong. While I agree there are problems with contemporary worship music; I don’t agree that this is the sum total of the problem. There is a problem, but it may not be the music’s fault.

If you went back sixty years to many churches, you had people singing from hymn books, accompanied by an organist, perhaps strengthened by a choir, and in between the singing they were led through the service by a pastor, priest or minister. This person led prayers, said blessings, and ushered the congregation through the story-line that is worship. God welcomes us, we praise and confess, God speaks to us, God feeds us, we respond in prayer and offering, God sends, we go. The hymns belonged in the midst of this well-worn journey. Yes the hymns were richer in doctrine, or perhaps ‘thicker’ is a better word sometimes. And how could they not be when they have five to seven verses and no repetition?! But like then, as now, I don’t think the hymns were doing all the heavy lifting for giving the worship services its depth and meaning. Rather it was this careful curation through the worship journey of God encountering people, people responding, God blessing, people going – which was punctuated with spoken prayer, acts of blessing, celebrating sacraments and passing the peace as well as sung worship. Music was certainly part of that, but it was only part of it.

Recently I went to a seminary to teach some ministry students about worship. I asked them what their standard church services looked like. To be truthful, I asked them for their ‘liturgy’. This was their response:

  • two to three upbeat songs
  • Welcome
  • two more upbeat songs plus prayer
  • Notices. Kids go out
  • two more reflective songs plus prayer
  • Message
  • one more reflective song, ministry time

As you can see, they covered some of the ‘how’ of worship, but they left the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ untouched. They weren’t able to tell me if the opening songs were functioning as a Call to Worship or as songs of adoration and praise. The prayers were not routinely prayers of confession or intercession, just whatever was ‘on the worship leader’s heart’. I don’t actually think it’s their fault, much like I don’t think it’s the fault of a generation of contemporary worship songwriters who have written theologically impoverished songs. Because the music was never meant to carry the liturgy, the liturgy was meant to carry the music. The liturgy is the order of what we do and why we do it, which was the task of the pastor, priest, minister, and it gave meaning to the songs we sang, the responses we made, the prayers we offered, and the gifts we brought. The old hymns didn’t exist in a theological vacuum, but most of our contemporary worship songs are expected to. We betray this when we ask the congregation to stand and sing with the words, ‘let’s worship’ – because music is now the only worshipful activity that remains to us. Perhaps what we are remembering when we recall the hymns, is not just the richness of the pieces of music themselves, but the general coherence of the service as a whole.

Now our worship songs (which are, let’s face it, more theologically lightweight than their forebears) are framed in a significantly vaguer space than before. We might know how many songs we do before the welcome, and then how many more before the notices, but we no longer remember what function those songs are meant to perform. Is it any wonder our songwriters struggle for depth? We have them playing in the paddling pool!

Now I’m not advocating a return to worship how it was ‘back in the good ol’ days’. I’m advocating that pastors, priests and ministers reclaim their role as liturgical theologians. Given the influence of the charismatic movement initially, compounded later by a shift in priorities for pastoral leaders as well as a heightened consumeristic expectations from church folk, pastors have largely abdicated having direct input into the worship service apart from the message, and they have handed that role over to musicians. One might ask, have those musicians begun to receive resourcing and training to enable them to lead the congregation in worship, to give voice to the spirituality of a whole community before God? In my experience, no. This situation may not strike us as odd because we are so used to it, but consider this scenario. How weird would it have been, ‘back in the good ol’ days’ to have let the organist lead the service, pick their favourite songs, and lead all the prayers (off the cuff) from the console? It didn’t make sense then, and I’m not sure it makes sense now.

Pastors are uniquely qualified to give logic and coherence to a worship service. They are pastorally linked in to what is happening in the congregation, they are theologically astute in order to let the great themes of Scripture seep through a whole service, and they are wordsmiths. Just the sort of people to craft prayers which gather up our hopes and our fears, and hold them alongside the promises of God. When the pastor abdicates this role to the guitarist, or leaves the guitarist with too few resources to draw upon, then the worship service starts to feel like a variety concert, rather than a pilgrimage into the heart of God, and then with God into the world.

What am I suggesting? If you’re in a church where the worship service is completely in the hands of the musicians, perhaps it’s a matter of sparking up some conversations with your key leaders, helping them to move beyond their own spirituality and into facilitating a experience of worship that is hospitable for the whole congregation, linking them with the cadence of God’s story. Introduce them to the rhythms of worship, the back and forward nature of God calling and people answering.

When we share the liturgical load across the service, I suspect we won’t find so many things lacking with our songs anymore. The strength of the contemporary worship song is that they are often simple; offering space to allow a truth to sink deep within us, or for us to reflect or wonder. Exactly the kind of liturgical experience that will deepen and enrich a thoughtfully tailored worshipping journey. These songs belong in a rich tapestry of artful worship, not hung out on their own.

When there is a coherence to our worship, and depth and meaning to our prayers, prayers where the word ‘amen’ comes out of us with conviction rather than out of habit, words of welcome and sending that draw people out of their small, fractured worlds, into the wide-open spaces of God, then I think we’ll be in a place to write even better songs as well.

Malcolm Gordon is the Worship, Music and Arts Enabler at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Dunedin. [Reposted from Candour.]

Chris Ellis on short-term mission trips

‘I would have thought those who have shared the bread and cup with, or worked alongside, brothers and sisters from Latin America would be pushing back against the dehumanization of people labeled in high places as “animals” and “invaders.” I would have thought they would be generously supporting groups that are helping to provide for the needs of those in the “caravan.” I would have thought they would be advocating for more judges and translators to be sent to the border to process asylum claims.

Sadly, these things, by and large, have not been happening. That leads me to wonder what this says about the role of STM [short-term mission trips] trips in helping to change lives and produce disciples who care about the plight of those whom they served. And what it says about the state of the Church in America’.

– Chris Ellis, ‘Have all our short-term mission trips to Latin America shaped our response to the migrant “caravan”?’

Art/s and Theology Australia

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Recently, a wee menagerie of art lovers and theologians met to imagine some ways that we might together provoke theological reflection, and to promote research and networking, on the conversations that occur between the arts (broadly conceived) and Christian theology/spirituality.

This led to a commitment to pursue some modest experiments – joint publications, organise some conferences, offer some courses, and develop a new website, Art/s and Theology Australia.

We are now looking for writers, poets, composers, academics, artists, theologians, and other creatives and endangered species who might be willing to share their work and to help build this network and public depository. If you’re interested to be involved, check out the website and get in touch.

You can also subscribe to posts via email, and/or follow the site via Twitter.

church: a wounded and wounding body

Bruceherman - Elegy for St. Catherine (2004)‘If I conclude that my Christian brothers or sisters are deeply and damagingly mistaken in their decisions, I accept for myself the brokenness in the Body that this entails. These are my wounds, just as those who disagree with me are wounded by what they consider to be my failure or even betrayal. So long as we still have a language in common and the “grammar of obedience” in common, we have, I believe, to turn away from the temptation to seek the purity and assurance of a community speaking with only one voice and to embrace the reality of living in a communion that is fallible and divided. The communion’s need for health and mercy is inseparable from my own need for health and mercy. To remain in communion is to remain in solidarity with those who are wounded as well as wounding the Church, in the trust that within the Body of Christ the confronting of wounds is part of opening ourselves to healing’.

– Rowan Williams

Image: Bruce Herman, ‘Elegy for St. Catherine’ (2004).

 

Voluntary Assisted Dying Forum

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On Writing Essays: A Little Resource for (my) Theological Students

I recently created a little video offering some general advice about writing, and about writing essays. It is intended to be a basic resource for students enrolled in my Beginning Theological Studies class. It may be that parts of it are of some help to other students also. You should feel free to use/share it if you think it is suitable for your mob too.

A little note on the freedom of the conscience

The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution.jpgWhen, in 1644, the great Baptist pastor Roger Williams defended the claim that Christ is King alone over conscience ‘was and is the summe of all true preaching of the Gospell or glad newes’ (The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution), he was articulating a basic tenet of what it means to do faith in the Free Church tradition. He was also signalling that as noble as the human conscience is, its freedom is not achieved by its being made into an idol. Rather, the conscience is free – and faith is truly voluntaristic – only insofar as it recognises the final authority of Another.

A few centuries later, another Free Churchman, one P. T. Forsyth, made the same point in his own way:

It is one of the fundamental mistakes we make about our own Protestantism to say that the authority is the conscience, and the Christian conscience in particular. Not so. The authority is nothing in us, but something in history. It is something given us. What is in us only recognises it. And the conscience which now recognises it has long been created by it. The conscience recognises the tone of injunction, but what is enjoined is given by history, and has passed into the historic consciousness. We have the inner intuition of what is really a great historic teleology. But it is not gathered up from all history by an induction, which, as history is far from finished, could never give us anything final or authoritative. It is defined in it at a fixed point by faith in the experienced revelation of final purpose within God’s act of Gospel there. The authority is not the conscience [or the Bible, or the Pope, or Magistrate, or State, or human experience, or culture, or vote, no matter how democratic] but it is offered to it. The conscience of God is not latent in our conscience, but revealed to it in history. It is history centred in Christ, it is not conscience, that is the real court of morals. And it is there accordingly that we find the authority for Christian faith and Christian theology, for faith and theology both. (The Principle of Authority)

On the humanities in an Apollonian age

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Ross Douthat has written a good little piece about the humanities in the NYT in which he riffs on W. H. Auden and Alan Jacobs’ recent book The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in An Age of Crisis. The entire (short) piece is worth reading, but here’s a snippet:

In an Apollonian culture, eager for “Useful Knowledge” and technical mastery and increasingly indifferent to memory and allergic to tradition, the poet and the novelist and the theologian struggle to find an official justification for their arts. And both the turn toward radical politics and the turn toward high theory are attempts by humanists in the academy to supply that justification — to rebrand the humanities as the seat of social justice and a font of political reform, or to assume a pseudoscientific mantle that lets academics claim to be interrogating literature with the rigor and precision of a lab tech doing dissection.

At the moment both efforts look like failed attempts. But is there an alternative? ….

– Ross Douthat, ‘Oh, the Humanities!’. The New York Times, 8 August (2018).

Image: Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘Apollo and Python’ (exhibited 1811). Tate.

Book Launch: A Dialogue Between Haizi’s Poetry and the Gospel of Luke

Whitley College has the pleasure to host the launch of Dr Xiaoli Yang’s recent book A Dialogue Between Haizi’s Poetry and the Gospel of Luke: Chinese Homecoming and the Relationship with Jesus Christ. 

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The book has been well received by a wide range of scholars:

“This is no mere correlationist project wherein Haizi provides the questions and Luke(‘s Jesus) responds. Instead, there is a dizzying multi-directionality through which various chasms – East-West, Yin-Yang, ancient-contemporary, modern-postmodern, rural-urban, terrestrial-cosmic, poetic-philosophical, symbolic-discursive, epistemological-ontological, immanence-transcendence – are bridged, irreversibly through the Dao of Haizi’s suicide and ultimately through the way of Jesus’ cross. Yang herself emerges as poet giving profound expression to the contemporary global (dis)location, as prophet naming and diagnosing its instable homelessness, and as priest mediating the possibility of a fresh gospel homecoming precisely in and through the desolation of late modernity’s interface with the post-Mao Chinese soul. The word Dialogue in the title is too modest; be forewarned of the tremors this book will unleash to those who think philosophy and theology are mostly discursive Western undertakings.” — Amos Yong, Professor of Theology & Mission, Fuller Seminary

” A Dialogue between Haizi’s Poetry and the Gospel of Luke is a welcome contribution to the field of intercultural theology. It skillfully employs together four lenses for hermeneutical reading – the historical, literary, philosophical, and religious — to see freshly Luke and the message of Jesus, now heard along with the poetry of Haizi (1964-1989), a voice still new in the West. Drawing poetry into the work of intercultural learning, Xiaoli Yang also brings new resources from the Chinese context into theological reflection, giving new substance to the ideals and practices of an Asian Christian theology. Comparative theologians too will enjoy learning from Yang’s methods and purposes, broadening our repertoire for the work of interreligious theological learning today.” — Francis X. Clooney, SJ, Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology, Harvard University

“This book offers us an insight into the souls of the contemporary Chinese genuine intellectuals, who have lost their cultural and spiritual home. Through the unique approach combining literary study, intercultural dialogue and comparative theology, Ms. Yang helps us get to such a highland, where we could see clearly the home way of an honest genius poet who committed suicide but never ‘died’, and more importantly, see why millions of Chinese people today are struggling to leave their homeland for new home in foreign land, and for the heavenly home to be with Jesus Christ.” — He Guanghu, Professor of Religious Studies, Renmin University of China

“Historical events claim our attention and can generate a desire to rethink our own philosophical stance. Haizi agonized over social realities of his day through his poetry and ultimately through suicide. This is a fascinating yet tragic personal revelation. The advantage of this tragedy is that it opens up for the reader an opportunity to reflect on one’s own ideas. Dr Xiaoli Yang’s book provides some assistance in this by outlining how one can dialogue with Haizi’s poetry and compare the thinking with another historical figure, Jesus, who also challenged attitudes of the day and finally was killed for his revelations.” —David Claydon, OAM; previous International Director of the Lausanne Movement; author & theological lecturer

Does Australia want its own story?

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‘[F]reedom exists in the space of memory, and only by walking back into the shadows is it possible for us all to finally be free’.

What an insightful, gracious, intelligent, and profoundly-hopeful speech Richard Flanagan gave at this year’s Garma festival.

A must-read for all Aussies.

[Image: Mick Tsikas/EPA, for The Guardian]

David Bentley Hart on ‘America’

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‘America — with its decaying infrastructure, its third-world public transit, its shrinking labor market, its evaporating middle class, its expanding gulf between rich and poor, its heartless health insurance system, its mindless indifference to a dying ecology, its predatory credit agencies, its looming Social Security collapse, its interminable war, its metastasizing national debt and all the social pathologies that gave it a degenerate imbecile and child-abducting sadist as its president — remains the only developed economy in the world that believes it wrong to use civic wealth for civic goods. Its absurdly engorged military budget diverts hundreds of billions of dollars a year from the public weal to those who profit from the military-industrial complex. Its plutocratic policies and libertarian ethos are immune to all appeals of human solidarity. It towers over the world, but promises secure shelter only to the fortunate few’.

– David Bentley Hart, ‘The New York Yankees Are a Moral Abomination’. The New York Times, 14 July 2018.

[Image: Gustave Doré, ‘Pantagruel’s meal’ (1854)]

Jacob Stratman, ‘a poem for my sons when they yell at God’

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Jan Brueghel the Elder, ‘Jonah Leaving the Whale’ (c. 1600)

In candied red, the white-bearded
prophet emerges hands still clasped in prayer,
clean, really clean, maybe too clean, first-day-
of-school clean, baptism clean. It is a childish
painting, perhaps, the punished coming up
for air after a three-day, divine timeout,
his begging and pleading inside this flesh
box, sincere or not, but he’s out, old and fresh
in a world around him, Brueghel is sure
to make clear, swirling blue-black and solid
brown, the earth’s bruising, perhaps a wish
of healing yellow in the distance, a light
faded behind the eye’s focus. The dogfish
eyes big and rolling back mouth open

like the cave like the tomb like the brown creek
carp we refuse to touch hate to catch squishy
and formless but counted nonetheless. But
he will dirty himself again after Nineveh
under the vine cussing at God telling
God His own business, and he will forget
the welcoming red the fresh fruit color
of that cloak—the thin (or thinning) clearing
in the background beyond sea and storm,
even the mouth as exit as release.
He will soon forget to consider how
suspicious it is for a man like him
sitting in death’s darkness for three days
to come out so clean so bright so forgiven.

– Jacob Stratman, ‘a poem for my sons when they yell at God’, 2018. (Source)

Mae La Refugee Camp under flood

In the last 48 hours, Zone C1A in Mae La Refugee Camp on the Thai-Burma border, and which is home to some 40–50,000 refugees, mostly Karen, has been hit with a big flood. As if life in the camp isn’t hard enough as it is …

Thankfully, there has been no loss of life. The damage at this stage has been mostly to school furniture and books.

If you’re the praying kind, then folk in the camp would greatly value your prayers at this time.

And if you’re able to help out financially, then donations marked ‘Mae La Refugee Camp Flood Fund’ can be made via PayPal (contact me for details) or directly to this bank account:

Name: Moe Win Tun Kin
Bank: Commonwealth Bank of Australia
SWIFT code: CTBAAU2S
BSB number: 063 622
Account number: 1024 8600

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