10.30am – 11.00am: morning tea
11.00am – 12.30pm: Keynote Address by Sarah Coakley
12.30pm – 1.30pm: lunch
1.30pm – 2.30pm: Benjamin Myers
2.30pm – 2.45pm: afternoon tea
2.45pm – 3.45pm: Chris Hackett
3.45pm – 4.00pm: break
4.00pm – 5.00pm: Teresa Brown
Professor Sarah Coakley (Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge): “Rational Sacrifice: Possibility or Impossibility?”
In this keynote address Sarah Coakley considers the massive resistances that have accrued in the modern period, and especially in the post-WWII era, to the idea of sacrifice as rational, productive or redemptive. Exposing the paradoxes at the heart of Rene Girard’s famous critique of the destructive violence of sacrifice, she turns the philosophical and theological tables back on this thesis in order to argue once more for a cosmological vision of productive sacrifice, one now illuminated afresh by evolutionary theory and made the more urgent by the ecological crisis that threatens human flourishing.
Benjamin Myers (United Theological College, NSW):
“Exegetical Mysticism: Scripture and the Spiritual Senses”
Drawing on the work of Gregory of Nyssa, Sarah Coakley has developed a rigorous contemporary account of the patristic doctrine of the ‘spiritual senses’. According to this doctrine, the soul has its own senses corresponding to the five physical senses. In this paper I explore the roots of the spiritual senses tradition in the work of Origen. For Origen, the ‘senses’ refer not to a wordless or non-thematic mystical experience, but to the spiritual practice of scriptural interpretation. Origen uses extravagant sensuous language to describe the process by which the soul is drawn more deeply into the life of God through the reading of scriptural texts. Based on this analysis of Origen, I consider Coakley’s retrieval of the spiritual senses, and raise some questions about the relation in Coakley’s work between spirituality and scripture, mysticism and exegesis.
W. Chris Hackett (School of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University):
“By the Renewing of your Minds: The Theologian’s Task between Contemplation and Concepts”
The passage from theôria to theory that defines philosophical thinking is fraught with difficulties and provides the itinerary and challenge for a ‘way of life’. In religious-philosophical thinking, the difficulty is made all the more acute. How does the theologian—defined in the first place as the one who speaks to God—properly speak about God without constructing an idol out of his concepts? We will explore this question in light of Sarah Coakley’s recent work and with special reference to St Paul.
Teresa Brown (School of Theology, Australian Catholic University):
“Reframing Trinitarian Theology: Coakley’s Essay On the Trinity”
In this paper we will explore the ways in which Sarah Coakley reframes and reorients key insights from the classical tradition of trinitarian theology to present a theology which speaks to the contemporary Christian, particularly from the perspective of feminist concerns. Focusing on the first volume of her théologie totale, entitled, God, Sexuality and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’, we will critically examine her project in light of the pressing contemporary questions she addresses: How to speak of God and name God in a contemporary, feminist context, and how to live in the world in such a way that we image God the Trinity, in whom we ‘live and move and have our being’.