Friday, March 9, 2018

To conference or not to conference?

Ian Paul has put together a handy list of upcoming theological conferences. Here. It is rare to see such a list and thus worth noting here. Not least for me personally to access - I have a role in assisting clergy planning study leave and often they are in search of academic events which will contribute to their plans for study.


Hirini Kaa said...

Kia ora Peter. While the list looks interesting, it's also quite telling in that it says that our theology here in Aotearoa/Pacific in 2018 is still dominated by ideas and movements from the global North. That is problematic as we have seen in several issues we face here where positions coming from the North (both liberal and conservative) are seen as normative when actually they often don't fit our context and just entrench positions. The way Tikanga Pakeha were stuck on sexuality at the last General Synod, while Tikanga Maori and Pasefika had resolved it was case in point. The solution: begin by fixing the monocultural mess that is currently St Johns to drive our research and publishing capacity here in this Church of ours. I'm excited by knowing as well what our new Archbishop will bring. Nga mihi, Hirini

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

Hirini Kaa's blog portrays what is wrong with the ACANZP. Does God look different when we see him from the south? The God of today is no different from the God of yesteryear. If God, as revealed in the Constitutional Doctrine of the ACANZP, does not fit our "context here in Aotearoa;then it us who need to change and not the Doctrine.

Anonymous said...

"While the list looks interesting, it's also quite telling in that it says that our theology here in Aotearoa/Pacific in 2018 is still dominated by ideas and movements from the global North."

Peter, an OP from England responding to a request from an English curate with a list of conferences in the UK and the Continent says-- what Ian thinks an English curate can realistically plan to attend in 2018.

I do not, for example, read the list as an indication that American theology is still dominated by ideas and movements from the Old World. Rather, I read it as an indication that most English curates cannot attend meetings of, say, the Los Angeles Theology Conference, the Society of Biblical Literature, or the American Academy of Religion, no matter how wonderful those might be. Fair enough.

That said, it really would be helpful to those of us up yonder to have some similar yearly list of expected publications and conferences from down under, together with any indication that you can give of their wider significance for the universal Church. There is, after all, no reason why those closest to stimulating developments anywhere should be reluctant to use the web to make them better known to us all.


David Wilson said...

I would second Simon Ponsonby's comment on the post:

"That said, it rather begs the question: what is theology and who is it for? These conferences largely appear to have a very narrow bandwidth – aimed at the PHDs and professional academicians with papers being delivered on technical aspects to be written up for articles.

Whilst necessary, I think far more so is a list of conferences which tackle theology for lay-people and non specialists – such as your recently hosted conference. We need more good theology for the troops in the trenches. If there is a dearth of such lower level theology for the likes of me and mine, then that surely is a concern and, if I may say Ian, I think its your destiny to change that 😉"

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you all for challenging comments!

I do not have time currently to gather a list of Down Under conferences (potentially I could as I am on circulation lists etc) but it would be fair to say that many theological conferences hereabouts are similar to northern hemisphere conferences in respect of academic foci.

Yes, there is an ongoing tension in our church and in others over contextual drivers in theological education. I am not going to solve that one today :)

Anonymous said...

"We need more good theology for the troops in the trenches. If there is a dearth of such lower level theology for the likes of me and mine, then that surely is a concern..."

To Whom It May Concern (Especially David Wilson):

This concern has been raised on at least a dozen blogs where I have left comments over the past ten years. The demand for what is asked seems steady enough for something big to be done to meet it.

Unhelpfully, however, these calls are usually cast in terms of what those "in the trenches" do NOT find helpful (usually historical theology and advanced systematics), rather than in terms of what they WOULD find helpful. And readers' replies to my own comments hither and yon have resisted any simple distinction between the academic and the popular or between the useful and the edifying.

Moreover, I am disquieted that so few women have been among those who have either commented on those blogs or expressed interest in more access to good theology. The few women who do make valuable contributions.

Does anyone here care to describe what sort of conferences and publications in theology you would personally find valuable?


Bryden Black said...

Hirini Kaa; it would be good to meet you face to face: I have a serious question of my fellow Christians in our other two Tikanga. What is your theology of creation?
I'm aware of some serious deficits by way of an answer in many a view of European Christians. The work of the likes of TF Torrance, Colin Gunton and/or Lesslie Newbigin reveal this. Yet I also don't see amongst either Maori Christians or those from the Pacific material that might parallel the work of say Jaroslav Pelikan's Christianity and Classical Culture: the metamorphosis of natural theology in the Christian encounter with Hellenism (1993), or Robert Louis Wilken's The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the face of God (2003). Both are powerfully contextual and illustrate what is required when the Gospel of Jesus crosses boundaries in mission. Sadly, what I have seen frankly remains somewhat insipid. I even compiled something of a suggested reading list for a senior Maori PhD candidate a while back: it was ignored.
I'm aware of the journal Pacifica, and have read the occasional edition. It seems to be showing some signs of seedlings taking root. Yet what we urgently require are not seedlings but someone equivalent to a Totara. Surely 200+ years of the Gospel in these parts might have grown some such by now ...?

Glen Young said...

Hi Bryden,
Very nicely put. The Gospel of Christ, preached by the missionaries, led Robert Tahupotiki Haddon out of Parihaka and into the Weselyan Ministry.There he was the senior officiating minister at King Te Rata's tangi and at Koroki's coronation on 8th October 1933.Though he was from Taranaki and she was Waikato; Princess Te Puea Herangi accepted him as one of her elders.

Many of the laments in Harini's blog would seem to be more at home in R.T.Haddon's cousin's [Tahupotiki Ratana's] faith; rather than the Constitutional Doctrine of the ACANZP.

Tekanga Maori and Tekanga Polynesia were brought into the ACANZP; to allow for them to authorize Rites and Ceremonies to suit their cultures[Art. 20];
but now want to re-write the Doctrine of the Church as well.

Peter,March 10 @ 6.03 AM. You nor the ACANZP will solve the ongoing tensions over contextual drivers in Theological education in our Church today, tomorrow or in the future until it is accepted "WHAT THE CHURCH IS". While you maintain the delusion of "UNITY at ALL Costs", in a "Board Church" which accepts diametrically opposed doctrines to the legitimate Constitutional DOCTRINE of the ACANZP; there is no logical answer.

St John's is there to teach the Doctrine as defined in the Constitution 1857 and confirmed in the Church of England Empowering Act 1928 and the Revision of the Constitution 1992. It would be a start if someone found a copy of Bicknell.

Bowman, It would be a good idea if every theologian did a convention at Damascus and traveled there by ROAD.

Jean said...

‘The List’ seems to me to have a broad range of appeal. Some seem rather academic others more relevant to the here and now application of theology, others to unpacking certain theological concepts...

What theology would the trenches like. Hmm that is a hard one. I do think really if one is interested a lot of material can be found in an area of interest or to broaden knowledge without specific courses or conferences, although of course in person opportunities can be very encouraging and insightful. Although I did the first year EFM Old Testament because I had never fully grasped the OT that was quite a meaty effort; and actually a lot in the trenches struggle with the OT or more often avoid it completely so I think this would be useful a kind of overview of say the actual order the books were written in, the literary features, the themes that carry from the OT to the new, and a few helpful clues as to the Hebrew way of writing (e.g. saying the same thing in two lines one after the other using different illustrations). However, honestly, most people I come across would need a bit of encouragement to attend theological conferences; and most are content either with the ‘daily bread’ they receive from weekly worship or their individual reading and with the study offered locally through groups. Occasionally, however, those who have a desire to go a bit deeper aside from their own learning don’t always have a lot of available options if formal study is not a possibility. I recently attended a seminar by Elijah House (who do inner healing) and found it really good and it was especially so because the close locality made it more possible to attend. It was a mixture of biblical teaching, application of learning and practical examples, alongside the opportunity to see what you are learning in practice (however, this is easier for a prayer focus as opposed to one on christian history!)...

Of course personally I would like to learn Greek or Hebrew but then I don’t think I am always what one might classify as mainstream..

Jean said...

Bowman et. al. I suddenly had a brilliant idea that some of you might be able to help me in answering this theological question posed by a 26 year old aquantaince which I have yet to reply to. If you wouldn’t mind I would be grateful for any input.

“I have been wrestling mightily the last 13-14 years with the problem of God's violence in the Old Testament - particularly but not exclusively the Canaanite genocide. That has stalled my faith so badly for so long, and almost choked it out entirely at times.
I was talking to a couple of friends about that last week actually and one of them asked me if I think God can make mistakes, or learns from mistakes and changes/changes because regrets things. That sort of proposal seems totally bizarre to me and I still feel that suggesting God makes mistakes borders on taking away from his God-ness...
But in all honestly, in the interests of just being able to live and grow in faith again, I think my views are going to have to change a little. I don't feel like there is much integrity at all in changing my views just because the alternative is too uncomfortable for me to deal with, BUT the cognitive dissonance within my faith and whole ethic about life is so great that I don't think I can be an effective spiritual leader for my family or serve God without doing so.“

Bryden Black said...

Jean; OT violence has proven tricky for many over t years. I'll not try to deal with that here.
As for OT generally, I'll be naughty and suggest you access my God's Address Part One Sessions 1 & 2. Available at

It's a bible study of key passages. Enjoy!

Jean said...

Thanks Bryden. I think it is because OT violence is tricky that I have delayed responding to my friend, that and this obviously impacts her faith to a high degree - wrestling with it for 13-14 years means she started at about age 12!

I appreciate the link to your book and the OT generally; perhaps some of the answer for her will lie in actually learning more about the OT. And I generally find your book referrals helpful. I am sure your own are no exception : ) ...


Glen Young said...


When viewed from a Neo-Darwinist/Cultural Marxist stance the old Testament is certainly problematic; but it is interesting that the USA Democrats and the Social Justice Warriors don't question the millions whodiedunderStalin,Mao,and Pol Pot.

From a Christian perspective,I have always accepted that the Creating God, from whom and through whom,all that is [including life] come; has a legal and moral right to govern His Creation according to his laws.He made man in His likeness and image for a specific purpose and to live by His Commandments.Genesis 2/17 is quite clear that if man chose to rebel against the clear Commandments of God; we would face His "Wrath and Judgement".His Judgement is always "righteous.

Genesis 3 makes it quite clear who is responsible for ALL the death and carnage in the world; and it is not God. Man who has rebelled against and continues to rebel against the rightful and legal KINGSHIP and GOVERNMENT of God can expect the "wages of sin"-Rom 6/23.

The use of Jos 17/18 and Sam 15/1-35 to justify accusations of God's violence to man is to misinterpret the whole message of both Testaments.

All this rebellion by man in the following of Satin; led to the death of Christ.John 3/15 &16.

Anonymous said...

Jean, which of these dissonances concerns your friend?

(a) The image of God as a warrior when he expected a God of peace?

(b) The deed of genocide when he expected Israel to be founded by wholly moral means.

(c) The value placed on absolute devotion to God when he expected that if life to take precedence to a perhaps arbitrary rule.

(d) The moral dilemma of having to evaluate what seems evil in a Bible he expected to be reliable counsel?


Jean said...

Thanks for your input Glen. I thought about approaching it from the perspective of the outworking of God’s righteous judgement for the behaviour of the say the Canaanites (some of the first testament people groups had pretty shocking practices), in the understanding of this was before Jesus came from the Father to ‘save us from ourselves’ and receive upon himself the punishment for our sins. However, then I encounter Bible verses indicating God delayed the judgement of human sin until Jesus came so those saved by his actions included those who had come before, as well as those who would come after. And of course Jonah wasn’t exactly thrilled that God wanted mercy for those in Nineveh!

For sure many atrocities have been committe by man against man worldwide not just by regimes or individuals from particular geographical, political or socio-economical categories.

Glen Young said...

Hi Jean,

Bowman's questions pose a very good basis for exploring why your friend has an issue with the "nature and character of God" as revealed in the Old Testament.
But we must never forget that the "righteousness" of God, also called for the death of His "Only Begotten Son"; to pay for the SIN of man.This was the COST of the postponement of His Judgement.

Bonhoeffer sums it up well when he speaks of "Costly Grace". It is COSTLY because it cost God the life of His Only Begotten Son. So, to for us, His call:"Come, follow me"; is a call for us to allow the "old man" to die in Him.

Both Jesus and St.Paul are quite clear; SIN extracts a very high price!
Instead of questioning the nature and character of God; we need to look deeply at our nature and character and be over joyed that He has given us a
way,through Christ and the Holy Spirit; by which we can put on those precious ROBES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Jean said...

Hi Bowman

I expect it is closest to:
b) The deed of genocide when he expected Israel to be founded by wholly moral means.
Perhaps the deed of genocide at command of the one to whom is known to her as a loving and merciful God.

Any help much appreciated. I will reply to her tomorrow! It came to me after reading Glen’s post what helped me with my own cognitive dissonance about dealing with those I know and love and the ‘what if they don’t make it to heaven’. I came to a point where I rested in the fact that God is more merciful than I am.


Hi Glen

Costly indeed, God’s riches at Christ’s expense... Ideally yes we would never question the nature and character of God but I think it is quite human as we only see from a human viewpoint (but one day we will see fully!).

Thanks for the input!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
Am working on a post about genocide etc BUT cannot guarantee it will be posted tomorrow morning ...

Anonymous said...

Jean, a few delightful liberals who used to comment on Fulcrum mourned the Amalekites in many an interesting thread. I came away from those discussions with five very basic standard replies. After narrowing the field to the presenting vexation, I draw next from these--

1. OT violence is tied to the Land as the unique place on earth of God's Presence. Whatever one makes of that in its context, that Land has not been that place since the C1 at the very latest, and no land anywhere else has ever been that Land or place at all. All subsequent inferences from those texts into later time proceed by analogy, good or bad or disastrous, that expands on some understanding of the Presence.

2. Readers of the canon since at least St Irenaeus in the C2 have seen the history of Israel as an account of the spiritual education of humanity-in-Israel that necessarily preceded the humanity-in-God of Christ. So patristic and medieval (and even later Puritan) readers understood their souls to be the new place of Presence and applied the narrative of the occupation of Canaan in meditation on the sanctification of their souls. When St Bernard urges his monks to smite their Amalekites, he is not exhorting them to rush to Palestine to hunt some down and kill them.

3. When last I looked into it, the archaeological evidence from Palestine did not at all support the hypothesis that what we know as genocide actually happened there. Kindly note that this poses no problem for the traditional reading of the OT, but is awkward-- perhaps only that-- for some more recent hermeneutics of suspicion.

"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary TO SALVATION: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary TO SALVATION." Article VI.

4. My dear liberal friends are constitutively sceptical of scenarios in which some suffer for the good of a mere group, just as my dear conservative friends tend to see that sacrifice of the few to the many as the way of the cosmos. OT accounts of violence pose a different koan to each temperament; maybe that is its the eternal significance. Liberals do not get it until they accept St Irenaeus's premise-- with which they may be quite happy; conservatives do not get it until they accept that there has been nothing like the Land since the C1-- which then helps them to see why they feel so chronically embattled.

5. All of the above points to a wider point: persons and peoples of faith should understand the scriptures through the lens of the creeds (*theologically* we even say sometimes, which it is odd to have to do), even if they also bring some valuable critical scholarship to their reading.


Jonathan said...

Here in Mosgiel, the epicentre of the South Island, there is at least one good conference a year - hosted by East Taieri Presbyterian, and has been running for the last 20 or more years...
I usually manage to get to some or most of it each year and what I appreciate most is its down-to-earthness (as well as meeting folk from around the country).