Volume 20, Issue 1, February 2007
This issue of Pacifica carries the final contributions of Maryanne Confoy as Book Review Editor and Anne Elvey as Assistant Editor. Both have been associated with Pacifica for most of its twenty years and both have generously given a great deal to the journal. We are much indebted to them and we wish them every blessing and success for the future.
“Let us not be like those…who want to call God to account.” John Calvin’s Reading of Some Difficult Deaths
The stories of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in the New Testament and of Uzzah and Uriah in the Old Testament are fraught with difficulties: notably, the pastoral implications of divine judgement and/or allowing. A close reading of John Calvin’s comments on these difficult passages shows that he consciously employs reading strategies to resolve the disturbing problems of the text – particularly as he faces the relation-ship and connection of God to the narrated deaths. The following examines his response.
Communion Ecclesiology: Foundations, Critiques, and Affirmations
Theologies portraying the church as a “communion” – with God and between believers – have become common in Roman Catholic thought in the last two decades. The ecclesiology of communion has been partic-ularly influential in shaping Catholic approaches to ecumenism, where “communion” merges neatly with “unity” and “catholicity” to promote a church that is both united and diverse. Despite its popularity, the ecclesiology of communion has also been subject to some significant critiques. The critics warn against the danger of communion models reinforcing authoritarian attitudes, being too idealistic, or, most particularly, lacking a focus on “mission”. In the eyes of the critics, understanding the church as communion leads only to an inward-looking church unconcerned with the needs of history and the implications of the Incarnation. This article reviews the emergence of the ecclesiology of communion, especially its relationship to the teaching of Vatican II, identifies its major emphases, surveys the content of the critiques, and assesses whether the theology of communion contributes to a positive and challenging sense of church.
Exceeding Truth: Jean-Luc Marion’s Saturated Phenomena
Jean-Luc Marion is a contemporary French philosopher, whose theory of saturated phenomena is attracting increasing attention from theologians, because he proposes that the exemplary saturated phenomenon is divine revelation. Marion’s claims about revelation have also provoked philosophical controversy, with authors such as Dominique Janicaud objecting that Marion’s analysis of revelation compromises his avowal that he is engaged in phenomenology rather than theology. This article outlines the philosophical background to these debates, by describing the way Marion’s theory of saturated phenomena reconceives truth. Marion objects to truth being limited to the verifiable truth of the natural sciences, and insists on an excess beyond what we can grasp and understand. It is this excess that opens new possibilities for philosophical thinking about genuinely transcendent revelation. The article begins by describing an event that is one of Marion’s concrete examples of saturated phenomena, before sketching his theory for these phenomena, and setting out three corollaries that follow from this theory and concern the way we should conceive both phenomenality and subjectivity. Finally, it briefly indicates a number of reservations about the implications of some of Marion’s more dramatic and strident claims.
Why Christianity is so Ingenious Or, Why Zizek is (“Only”) Half Right
One of philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s most admirable moves is his insistence on the gift’s debt-erasingness. But it seems his – and not only his – passion for the gift’s gratuity – exemplified by the figure of Christ – obscures what is genuinely ingenious about the gift and the gift of the Christic : that it is dual, duplicitous, double-sided; both gratuitous and circular, both debt-erasing and debt-arousing. To be sure, what is required in an age of an all-calculating capitalism is a remembering and re-affirm-ation of excess. And yet, in an age of unparalleled ecological squandering, what is also required is a re-commitment to reciprocity. Christianity’s Geniestreich therefore appears to lie in its both/and.
Theologically Modified Genetics: Further Theological Reflections on the Practice of the New Genetics
A recent suggestion that public responses to developments in agricultural biotechnology raise deeper theological questions indicates a need and an opportunity for Christians to articulate a theological vision that might constructively shape the nature and priorities of research in modern genetics. In this article I draw on a cultural-hermeneutical under-standing of the practice of science and a Christologically grounded conception of imaging God in the created order to outline ways in which the practice of genetics could be revisioned within Christian communities: at the levels of mythos, world view, social practice and cultural reflection.
Words to God, Word from God: The Psalms in the Prayer and Preaching of the Church
Treasures Old & New: Essays in the Theology of the Pentateuch
Reading The Gospels Today
The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
Studies in Matthew
Problems with Atonement
Fully Human, Fully Divine. An Interactive Christology
Mission in Acts: Ancient Narratives in Contemporary Context
What is Systematic Theology?
Practical Theology: “On Earth as It Is in Heaven”
was until recently Head of Christian Thought at the Baptist Theological College, Perth, Western Australia. His research has focused on Reformation theology. He is the author of Luther and Calvin on Old Testament Narratives: Reformation Thought and Narrative Text (2004) and Calvin’s Preaching on the Prophet Micah: The 1550-51 Sermons in Geneva (2006), both published by Edwin Mellen; and Reformation Marriage: The husband and wife relationship in Luther and Calvin (Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 2005). He has also edited Text and Task: Scripture and Mission (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2005). He is currently working on Luther’s treatment of the royal psalms.
is a priest of the Roman Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle,and teaches Systematic Theology at the Catholic Institute of Sydney and is currently President of the Australian Catholic Theological Association. His most recent book is Risking the Church: The Challenges of Catholic Faith (Oxford University Press, 2004).
lectures in philosophy at Catholic Theological College (Melbourne), where he is also Coordinator of Research and Postgraduate Studies. In 2004 he completed doctoral studies at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) on the implicit hermeneutics of Jean-Luc Marion’s saturated phenomena. A book based on his dissertation will be published in 2007–2008.
is an Honorary Research Associate with Monash University’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Theology. He received his PhD in 2004 for greening postmodern gift theory (Derrida, Marion), has since published a good number of scholarly articles, and his intellectual passion remains the popularising and politicising of good thinking.
works as a Senior Lecturer in Ethics and Technology Policy in the Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy at Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia. His first degree was in chemistry and he has subsequently obtained an MA in Education and a PhD in the social history of science. He has particular interests in public theology and the theology of technology. He was co-editor with Dr Winifred Lamb of God Down Under: Trinitarian Theology in the Antipodes, published by ATF Press in 2003. He is married to Ellen and they have three adult children. He worships with a Uniting Church community in Perth.