The 2013 ANZATS [Australian and New Zealand association of Theological Schools] conference is upon us this weekend, taking place at Laidlaw College, Auckland. Staff affiliated with the School of Theology at the University of Auckland plan to dazzle the audience with an impressive array of  presentations. Here are their abstracts.

Dr Stephen Garner, Lecturer in Practical Theology

Public theology through popular culture

Public theology is sometimes described as the offering of something distinctive, and that is gospel, to the world for the welfare of human society. A biblical understanding of compassion and its practice is one such offering, where mercy and justice work together to
provide paths for reconciliation and restoration of relationships, and towards the curbing of violence. One of the challenges that public theology faces is articulating that gospel understanding of compassion and other theological insights in a language that is accessible, credible, and intelligible to post-Christian societies. In this context this is further complicated by the way in which theological ideas and biblical narratives have been ‘terminated’ and replaced by alternative cultural memories or biblical ‘afterlives’ of those concepts or texts.
Popular storytelling is a pervasive feature of contemporary media society, from reality television to period dramas and major sporting events, with varying levels of depth and profundity. If popular culture is the raw material through which people communicate their values and enthusiasms, and maintain relationships, it might then provide a ‘language’ through which to more effectively articulate public theology in sectors of contemporary society. Using particular examples from popular culture related to compassion, this paper examines using popular culture as a vehicle for doing public theology in a post-Christian society.

Emily Colgan, PhD Candidate

 ‘You have polluted the Land’: An Ecological Reading of Jer 3:1-5

This paper will use an ecological hermeneutic to examine the relationship between human behaviour, divine judgment, and environmental pollution in Jer 3:1-5. Drawing upon the insights that arise out of this textual analysis, I will briefly explore what it might mean to be an interdependent ecological community in a world grappling with the increasingly tangible effects of environmental degradation.

Mark Hangartner, Subject Librarian (European Languages and Theology), University of Auckland

Theology students as a community of researchers

This session looks at libraries, information literacy and theology. Theology students develop skills as information seekers is a variety of ways.  In this paper I will explore both the perceptions of students of how they find information by working alone or in teams, and their actual practice.  I put this in the context of the ANZATS goal of learner centered transformative learning.

Arthur Wulf, PhD Candidate

“LET US DESCEND AND DISURBANISE THE PEOPLE”: Reading the Babel Narrative (Genesis 11:1-9) in light of the Apia urban problem.

The impact of urbanization is beginning to surface in urban areas around the Pacific today and the Apia (Samoa) urban area is no exception. The government’s attempts to develop Apia into a political, social, cultural, economic and religious center encouraged migrations from the rural area of Samoa into Apia and its peripheries. Unfortunately, this inward migration and expansion brings problems; around the Apia urban area there are signs of interrelated problems such as environmental pollutions (noise, air, water, and soil), social problems (over crowdedness, poverty, crimes, alcohol and drug abuses), increase pressures on its public services and infrastructures (schools, hospitals, police, housing, sewage, and roads) and so forth. As an inhabitant of the Apia urban area with a first-hand experience of the emerging problems I will use this backdrop to read the Babel Narrative (Genesis 11:1-9). The aim is to create a dialogue between the biblical world and contemporary Samoa with the hope that engaging with the text and the biblical world can inform contemporary issues in Samoa.

Terry Pouono, PhD Candidate

‘Teu le Va’: Extracting an understanding of relationships from a Samoan worldview. Is it ethical?

The development in recent years of Pacific indigenous epistemological thought and research methodologies are an attempt by Pacific people to explore and expand indigenous worldviews and forms of knowledge, as an alternative to western epistemological paradigms.

As an indigenous intercultural hermeneutical model, the Samoan concept ‘Teu le va’ has been used by contemporary Pacific scholars as a means of negotiating and mediating the relationship between Pacific and non-Pacific cultures and forms of knowledge.

This paper serves two purposes. First it investigates ‘Teu le Va’ as advanced by contemporary Pacific scholars. My contention is that it ignores to an extent, the theological interpretations that are central to understanding its exposition. Secondly, I will address the implications of Teu le Va’ within the gerontocratic framework of Samoan community. My vindication is that despite the ethical constituents of ‘Teu le Va’ in preserving balance and harmony in relations, it adversely promotes increasing social, economic and political imbalance between the ‘haves and the have nots’ in contemporary Samoan community. 

Dr Caroline Blyth, Lecturer in Hebrew Bible and Hebrew

‘Whatever you needed…she had it’: Deconstructing the femme fatale in Judges 16 and Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely

According to biblical scholar Dan Clanton, ‘Few female characters in all of biblical literature are deemed more scandalous than Delilah’. Certainly, in traditional interpretations of Judges 16, not to mention cultural representations of the story in film, art, and literature, the character of Delilah is more often than not represented as a femme fatale – a dangerous woman whose treacherous charms and lethal sexuality can bring even the strongest man quite literally to his knees. In this paper, I seek to explore this characterization of Delilah, by deconstructing the cultural phenomenon of the femme fatale. As a focus of my enquiry, I use Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled thriller Farewell My Lovely, a story which has a number of resonances with the biblical Samson and Delilah narrative. By considering these two texts together, I hope to shed some light on the complexities of the femme fatale persona and thus ask anew if the biblical Delilah does indeed deserve such an epithet. I also hope to add something to the current discussion regarding the usefulness of popular cultural texts, such as literature and film, for interpreting those biblical traditions to which they may allude.

Carlos Olivares, PhD Candidate

Snakes and vipers in Matt 23: Narrative and Intertextual Analysis

In Matthew 23 Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees “brood of vipers” (Matt 23:33). My intention in this paper is to examine this phrase using narrative and intertextual tools. In my analysis, I will explore in what way the phrase “brood of vipers” operates in Matthew’s Gospel and in other Hellenistic texts. This analysis will enable me to determine the function and semantic purpose of this designation in the narrative world of Matthew’s story, letting the reader see the force of the Matthean Jesus’ words against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt 23.

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