Thursday, April 20, 2017

Blainey and Carroll as guest lecturers in Culture, Beliefs and Theology

Culture, Beliefs and Theology: Semester 2, two-part Intensive
18-20 August and 6-7 October  
Centre for Theology and Ministry, Parkville

UPDATE June 30th 2017

Processions, Upper Hunter Valley (Reg Mombassa)
Reproduced with artist's permission.
Included in this upcoming unit, Culture, Beliefs and Theology, will be input from Christina Rowntree, Artfull Faith Co-ordinator at the Centre for Theology and Ministry.  Christina will be introducing us to some ways art reflects and opens up wider discussions about faith, spirituality and religion. One artwork she will introduce is Reg Mombassa’s 2015 work, Processions, Upper Hunter Valley, which was a finalist in the 2016 Blake Prize. Mombassa’s comments on the Blake Prize are a helpful beginning point for reflection at this point of cultural reflection. He writes:  “The Blake Prize is important because its subject matter is religion and spirituality. Religion has been a central part of human life from prehistoric times. The religion of the western world is Christianity, and whether you believe in it or not, it is still a large part of our cultural heritage. The established churches have bullied and tormented millions of innocent people, caused wars, suppressed and excluded women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities, demonised sexual pleasure …. They have also inspired and commissioned great works of art, undertaken charitable works and provided a sense of comfort, community and stability for many people…. All aspects of religious belief and spirituality provide a deep and varied well of subject matter for artistic interpretation, reflection and commentary.”  Christina’s session at Culture, Beliefs and Theology will provide an opportunity to engage that ‘artistic interpretation, reflection and commentary’.  


My sabbatical has now passed the half way mark. This means that as well as being very conscious of what is yet to be done, I'm  also looking ahead to my teaching in Semester 2. I'll be teaching in 3 units. I'll devote a blog to each over the next few days. This one: Culture Belief and Theology. This is the second iteration of this unit; it was first offered in 2015 when I taught it in tandem with my colleague Katharine Massam. (Check out the video links below with recommendations from the 2015 students.)

The unit is oriented to tapping into the ways God, salvation, Jesus, faith etc are being talked about in our culture but independently of the church and outside conventional theological disciplines and institutions. At the same time, it is not an engagement with generic 'religious' or 'spiritual' trends in society. Rather, it engages  with the ways people (be they friends, allies or foes of the faith) are talking specifically about Christianity. Nor is is classical apologetics; it is aimed, instead, at learning how to begin forming a theological imagination in ways sparked by the wisdom and challenges contained in these other voices.

I'm especially pleased that this year two leading Australian intellectuals will be participating as guest lecturers. Geoffrey Blainey will be giving a lecture on his A Short History of Christianity, a book written for the historically-interested person  who has no personal investment in the faith. John Carroll, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at La Trobe university, is an agnostic who has written extensively on the significance of Jesus for contemporary Western culture. He will be lecturing about this theme, especially as he developed it in his The Existential Jesus.

Participants in this class will therefore have the opportunity to engage these two leading thinkers about their take on Christianity and be helped to engage their insights with the tools of Christian theology.

We'll also engage (albeit not in person) comedians, writers, artists, social commentators, politicians and journalists as they write, draw and joke about Christianity. Catherine Deveny, Tony Abbott and Elizabeth Farelly all get a look in.  And in another new development this year, we'll also explore Mona Siddiqui's Christians, Muslims and Jesus - an important Islamic account of the significance of Jesus. If you're interested in the theological issues at stake in the interface between Christianity and the wider culture, then this unit warrants checking out.

And be sure to watch two students from the 2015 class speak about their experience of the unit and what they learnt from it. One is a UCA chaplain at Macquarie University in New South Wales, the other a teacher in a Catholic School in rural Victoria.

For enrollment details contact Pilgrim's Registrar at


Sam Hey said...

Culture, Belief and Theology sounds like a particularly interesting topic. I am sure the students will gain a great deal from this. Kind Regards, Sam Hey.

Geoff Thompson said...

Thanks Sam. I'm looking forward to it. Geoff

Danny Slater said...

Geoff - This unit looks terrific. I am currently reading Geoffrey Blainey's 'History' (as part of Katharine Massam's unit on Church History); and I would love to meet both Geoffrey and John Carroll in person. OK - so I am on to my last unit in the Grad Dip Theology; I have already enrolled in another unit; and I am currently investigating whether I could get over to Melbourne to attend your unit in person - Work commitments being the only constraint.
Either way - All the best with the unit. I love seeing innovation in education. No wonder, with people such as yourself, Katharine, and Sean Winter at the helm, Pilgrim is ranking so highly on the student satisfaction scales.
Danny Slater

Geoff Thompson said...

Thanks Danny. I hope it works out for you to come. Geoff

Anonymous said...

Later...I just realised it is my daughter's 21st birthday, being hosted at our house.
So I guess that means 'next time...'
Good luck with the course.

Danny Slater