May Research Colloquium

The next Research Colloquium will be this Friday 6th May starting at 1.30pm in G4. The program of presenters is as follows:

1.30pm – 2.15pm Gerard Moore Faculty Presentation Unity, uniformity and diversity in worship
2.15pm – 3.00pm Damian Palmer Adjunct Presentation ‘Can’t I just be me?’ When the Embrace of Goals is an Act of Exclusion
3.00pm – 3.45pm Matthew Wilcoxen PhD Research Presentation The tensions of divine humility in Augustine’s doctrine of God

Gerard Moore Unity, uniformity and diversity in worship
There is ongoing debate around the parameters of unity and diversity within worship. In particular there is a position amongst Roman Catholic liturgical authorities that the unity of the Church is carried through strict adherence to the official rites, particularly the Roman Missal. This has been held up as a reason for restrictive regimens of translation of texts and the interpretation of rites. However there is also a parallel debate across mainstream protestant churches around the relationship between liturgical identity and the tension within an approach of ‘ordered liberty’.

Behind these current debates are ancient events, controversies and decisions that are called upon as precedents for contemporary positions. This paper seeks to explore a number of early church controversies and missionary initiatives around the unity and diversity in worship, with an appreciation of their legitimate contribution to our contemporary discussions.

Damian Palmer ‘Can’t I just be me?’ When the Embrace of Goals is an Act of Exclusion
One of the objects of the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme is to “enable people with disability to exercise choice and control in the pursuit of their goals and the planning and delivery of their supports.” (NDIS Act 2013, Section 3). This object reflects the commitment to a person-centred approach to disability support, an approach that recognises the right of those living with disability to make choices about their own goals. But what about those whose intellectual impairment is so severe that the notion of goals is rendered meaningless? This paper explores this question from the perspective of a parent of a child living with such severe intellectual impairment, and draws upon insights from the Christian tradition. It argues that, in cases of severe intellectual disability: (1) the embrace of goals can be experienced as an act of exclusion; (2) the support offered by a scheme such as the NDIS should enable the pursuit of ‘interests’ rather than goals; and (3) such support would enable those who share life with those living with disability to pursue their own goals.

Matthew Wilcoxen The tensions of divine humility in Augustine’s doctrine of God
The late Colin Gunton critiques Augustine’s doctrine of God on the grounds that “that all that is said of God’s being is said of God as one”. In a subtler manner, Robert W. Jenson declares that Augustine’s commitment to the oneness (or simplicity) of the divine being introduces a conceptual chasm between God’s being in Godself and what God does in the biblical narrative. The overarching question these 20th century theologians raise is: how can one conceive of a God that can be both utterly transcendent—complete in Godself, and yet genuinely immanent—present to and even within creation? These authors represent a significant strand of theology that has tried to answer this question by sidelining divine oneness and instead reasoning from the Trinitarian relations to a comprehensive account of the world’s existence within the being of God. This contemporary theological discussion forms the background to my paper.

By contrast to this contemporary approach, Augustine did not seek finally to alleviate the poles of this tension. Instead, his entire theological project embraces this creative tension. In what might be taken as a programmatic statement of his doctrine of God he writes: “You were more intimately present to me than my innermost being, and higher than the highest peak of my spirit” (Confessions 3.6.11).

In this paper, I will analyse the way that the tension between God in se (in Godself) and God pro nobis (for us) forms the backbone of Augustine’s theology. I will do so by looking at the way that Augustine handles three important scriptural texts that themselves surface the tension. Exodus 3:14-15 presents Augustine with a tension between God’s immutable self-existence and God’s merciful response to his distressed creatures. The apparently contradictory statements of Christ in the Fourth Gospel, especially John 5:19-30, lead Augustine to a conceptual tension between God the Father and God the Son. Philippians 2:5-11 brings out a tension between the Son as God and the Son as the God-man.

I argue that, while Augustine will not alleviate this tension by giving a comprehensive account that encloses both God and creation, he does provide a way to account for it within his doctrine of God. Looking to Augustine’s Christmas sermons (sermons 184-196), I argue that this recurring tension leads Augustine effectively to make humility an attribute of God’s eternal being.

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