Wednesday, 15 April 2015

On Surviving Academic Conferences: Part Deux

Fret ye not, gentle reader: I am learning to survive at this year’s SST! Indeed, I guzzled down last night’s pint of Diet Pepsi with not just one person, but two. This introversion thing; it’s so yesterday. Well, it’s so Monday, as today is now Wednesday.

So let me recall Tuesday, which was a good day for papers. I especially appreciated Julia Capps’s presentation entitled ‘Christian wife-beaters: are churches too inclusive?’, which looked at the imbalances between perceptions of female victims of domestic violence (‘It’s my fault; I shouldn’t have done/said that’) and male perpetrators of the same (‘Well, I’m not as bad as him’), and at how churches tend not to hold men to account for their aggression and violence. Also of interest were Julie Gittoes’s paper ‘Holy grace in an untidy Church’, and Jo Pestell’s exploration of power, ecclesiology, Christology, and essentially divine action in her contribution ‘Is the use of power in or by the Church an activity of God?’

But for me the highlight of the day was Alexander Jensen’s ‘What kind of presence?’ Jensen commented that there was an early modern (or late medieval; my notes are near unintelligible, and it’s late) re-conception of divine presence as something that can occupy space, which then found fuller expression in Descartes’s notion of the res extensa. Such an idea helped to bring about Newtonian physics, Jensen observed, but at the cost of losing a more subtle account of God’s presence. For Jensen, it needs to be recognised that God is present in Christ in special way; that God is present by dwelling at the heart of everything out of love (thus divine presence is a matter of indwelling and not of physical extension); and that God is recognised primarily by and through God’s activity in the Church. Jensen’s point here is that although God is everywhere present, this presence becomes redemptive when Christ is made explicit by the Spirit as the Church encounters Christ in Word and sacrament.

Jensen’s paper was very good, and I found him to be a very engaging speaker. (I’m gushing now, aren’t I?) Naturally, I’m sympathetic to a lot of the things he said, and I detect a number of similarities between what he proposed and my own intentions to develop the doctrine of providence in terms of divine presence. I don’t know if Jensen intends to publish his paper, but I for one would welcome seeing it in print.

All in all, Tuesday was a good day, despite some minor confidence wobbles at times. And I did manage to give out some business cards, too, for Wright Editorial. Send me your theses!


  1. The trouble with the Church's response to domestic violence is the same as it is towards all forms of abuse. It buries its head in the sand with a wishy-washy declaration of forgiveness and hopes it will all go away. Abusive behaviour, gossip, coercion and manipulation happen within most churches, to a greater or lesser degree. These things are often ignored in order to 'keep the peace'. I wonder what Jesus would have made of it. Church is not really church if it does not extend the hand of forgiveness to anyone and everyone, but that is not the same as turning a blind eye to evil. Coercion and manipulation are just as evil as physical violence and it's about time the Body of Christ woke up to the fact.

    Changing the subject entirely: how do you get into proofreading? Can you make a living at it? I've always thought my innate understanding of spelling and grammar to be a completely useless talent.

    1. P.S. Why the Brussels sprouts?

    2. I hear what you're saying about domestic violence, Sandy. Hopefully churches will have the courage to stand up more explicitly against it. In the Q&A session following Julia's paper, one man - a minister - said that he felt he had to withhold communion from one husband who was apparently unrepentant about hitting his wife. But I can't say I hear of many ministers who'd be prepared to take such action.

      On proofreading: the best thing to do in the first instance is to take a recognised course, such as this one:

      As you probably know, proofreading is far more than just spotting spullin und grammer misteaks, its abowt doing fings wi spac ing and picture layouts - and I found the course told me about things I'd never even considered were problems! I don't know whether proofreading is something you can make a living from, though - some people do, clearly; but as my own business has only been up and running for two months, I can't say that's my experience. Yet.

      As for the sprouts - no reason. I just thought they'd look nice.

    3. Thanks for the link. As for the domestic violence thing - I'm lost for words. Where else do wolves hide best but among the sheep? Trouble is there are too many sheep with wool for brains.