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!