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Archive for the 'Public Lectures and Events' Category

The Return of the Gods to Western Culture

3rd October 2006

passionate_intellect_sm.jpgLast week Taylor University College hosted Dr. Jens Zimmermann from Trinity Western University as our speaker for our annual Faith & Culture Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “Incarnational Humanism and the Christian University.” Most of the lectures touched on some aspect of what it means to be a student at a Christian university — many of his thoughts on this subject may be found in his just-published book (with Norman Klassen), The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education (Baker Academic, 2006; Buy from | Buy from I would highly recommend this book for students and professors — and not only those at Christian liberal arts universities.

The Thursday night public lecture was on the topic of religion and culture after secularism. In his lecture, entitled “Return of the gods? Faith and Intellectual Culture after Secularism,” Dr. Zimmermann tried to map out some of the concerns about culture currently shared by Christian and non-Christian thinkers and was a parade example of how Christians should think about culture.

In a nutshell, his lecture explored the demise of secularism and the resurgence of spirituality in Western culture. This resurgence is not uniform, nor is it in many cases associated with institutional religion. Rather, it is diverse and frequently appears under the label “spiritualityâ€? in a — sometimes deliberate — attempt to distinguish them from traditional, institutionalized religions. The question that Dr. Zimmerman raised is “What are we to make of this cultural development? More specifically he tackled the basic question of what the supposed exhaustion of secularism and the seemingly related return of religion into the public sphere, even into the very ivory towers of academia, actually means. In the first part of his presentation he described several causes for the demise of secularism and the resurgence of religion. He then tried to formulate a response from a religious, i.e., a broadly Christian perspective; this response is more a reflection on what is at stake in this current cultural development than it is a solution to the tensions we currently experience.

If this summary has piqued your interest, you may download and listen to the lecture for free. Just check out the Taylor Public Lecture Series on Religion & Culture web page here.

Posted in Popular Culture, Public Lectures and Events, Teaching & Learning | 1 Comment »

Special Lecture Series by Dr. David M. Gunn

13th September 2006

davidgunn.jpgDr. David M. Gunn will be visiting Edmonton for the next couple weeks through a grant from the University of Alberta’s EFF Distinguished Visitor Fund. The Program in Religious Studies at the University of Alberta is hosting a series of lectures with Dr. Gunn. In addition, the Religion & Theology Department at Taylor University College is fortunante enough to be hosting one of the lectures on our campus.

Professor David M. Gunn (Ph.D., Newcastle-Upon-Tyne) is the A. A. Bradford Chair in Religion at Texas Christian University. The author or co-author of six monographs and close to four dozen substantive articles, as well as the editor or co-editor of six volumes of collected essays and translated works, and the general editor of 77 more, Dr. Gunn has been described as a prolific and diverse scholar. Originally a classicist, Dr. Gunn became interested in the narratives of the Hebrew Bible. Significant results of that interest include the births of the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament and the JSOT Supplement Series, known today as the Library for Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies. This astounding legacy helped make possible the methodological transformation of the discipline of biblical studies that occurred in the 1980s as scholars moved from a modernist historical-critical paradigm toward theories of reception history. Dr. Gunn currently serves as an editor for the Blackwell Bible Commentary Series, in which he wrote the volume on Judges (2005).

The theme of the free lectures is “Used and Re-Used: Episodes from the History of the Bible’s Reception.” The lectures are as follows (I have bolded the lecture at Taylor):

  • “‘Lawless Riot and Intestine Division’: The Bible and Civil War in England and North Americaâ€? (Monday 18 September, 4:00 pm at the University of Alberta, CAB 249 – reception to follow lecture).
  • “Bible, Violence, and Colonialism: A Tale from the Frontierâ€? (Wednesday 20 September, 3 pm at University of Alberta, CAB 239).
  • “Covering David: Michelangelo’s David from the Piazza della Signoria to My Refrigerator Doorâ€? (Thursday 21 September, 7:30 pm at the Art Gallery of Alberta, 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square).
  • “The Stuff of Biblical Story: Reading the Things of Judges through the Centuries” (Friday 22 September, 2:00 pm at Taylor University College, Classroom S2 Seminary building).
  • “Biblical Women and Subjectivity: From Peter Abelard to Harriet Beecher Stoweâ€? (Tuesday 26 September, 3:30 pm at the University of Alberta, CAB 243).
  • “Bathsheba Bathing: An Illustrated History of a Biblical Womanâ€? (Thursday 28 September, 3:30 pm at the University of Alberta, CAB 265).

The lecture that Dr. Gunn will be delivering at Taylor University College will be drawing on the reception history of the book of Judges to illustrate responses through the centuries, by clerics, commentators, educators, artists, and archaeologists, to the material world of the Bible, particularly to problems raised by material objects and their use. He promises a mixture of the serious and whimsical, with some visual illustrations to temper the talking. One of the illustrations he sent me for a poster I was working on was from a comic based on the Jael-Sisera episode in Judges 4. I thought it was a hoot, so here it is:


This looks to be a great lecture series. If you are in the Edmonton area, I encourage you to attend.

Posted in News, Public Lectures and Events | 2 Comments »

2006 Taylor Public Lectures on Religion & Culture

2nd September 2006

2006_lecture_poster.jpgOne of my responsibilities as Chair of the Religion & Theology Department at Taylor is to organize our annual fall lecture series. This lecture series touches on on some facet of the intersection of religion and culture. This fall we have an exciting line-up of speakers and topics.

Dr. Jens Zimmerman, Associate Professor of English and Canada Research Chair in Religion, Culture, and Interpretation at Trinity Western University will be presenting on the “return of the gods� to contemporary culture and what that means for Christians. After emigrating to Canada from Germany in 1989, Dr. Zimmermann obtained his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of British Columbia. He has been a professor at Trinity Western University since 1998. His most recent publications are Recovering Theological Hermeneutics: An Incarnational-Trinitarian Approach to Interpretation (Baker Academic, 2004) and The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education (Baker Academic, 2006).

In addition, we have lectures by two Taylor professors. Dr. Natasha Duquette will be lecturing on the novels of Jane Austen as well as their film adaptations, while Dr. Jerry Shepherd will be addressing the controversial topic of violence and the Christianity — especially in light of the biblical portrayal of God as a violent deity. The series will be brought to close with another guest lecturer: Dr. Stephen W. Martin, Assistant Professor of Theology at the King’s University College in Edmonton, will be presenting on theology in the popular culture phenomenon of Joss Whedon’s television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Each lecture will include time for discussion and interaction. Consistent with the aims of our institution, we will explore these topics from a distinctively Christian perspective. In support of this event, we would greatly appreciate if you could promote these lectures.

The four lectures for this fall are:

zimmermanjens.jpgLecture 1: “Return of the gods? Faith and Intellectual Culture after Secularism� by Dr. Jens Zimmerman, Associate Professor of English and Canada Research Chair in Religion, Culture, and Interpretation, Trinity Western University, B.C. (Thursday, September 28, 7:30-9:00 pm).

Cultural critic Terry Eagleton claims there is a crisis in Western culture. Global pressures are forcing the West to think deeply about its past and future at a time when our cultural habits have deprived us of the ability to do so. Christian and secular thinkers alike are now prepared to denounce cultural relativism in search of a common humanity. Intellectuals are now proclaiming the end of atheism, indeed even of the secular university and are discussing the return of religion to the academy. This lecture describes and attempts a theological assessment of this “return of the gods” to a formerly secular intellectual culture. What does it mean for our culture and its institutions when the Pope, atheist statesmen, and academics are jointly calling for a return to values and religion?

natashaduquette.jpgLecture 2: “Sense and Sensuality: Jane Austen on the Spiritual Pleasures and Dangers of Visuality� by Dr. Natasha Duquette, Assistant Professor of English, Taylor University College, Edmonton (Thursday, October 19, 7:30-9:00 pm)

This lecture will consider the treatment of visual dynamics both in Jane Austen’s novels and in the film adaptations of those novels, with a focus on Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park. Representing her heroines as landscape connoisseurs, Austen satirizes the wildly dangerous sublime, sympathizes with the rudely cultivated picturesque, and finally conceives of her own spiritually contemplative sublime. After considering this progression through Austen’s texts, we will critically examine our own complicity in the pleasures and dangers of landscape aesthetics as we view Austen’s spectator characters on film.

jerryshepherd.jpgLecture 3: “Christians: Servants of a Violent God?� by Dr. Jerry Shepherd, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Taylor Seminary, Edmonton (Thursday, November 2, 7:30-9:00 pm)

With the increase in terrorism and war in the Middle East, it is more important than ever for Christians to think through their approach to war and violence. This lecture will look at different perspectives on Christian engagement with culture in discussions on war and violence, in light of the biblical portrayal of God as a violent deity.

stevemartin.jpgLecture 4: “‘What’s the Plural of Apocalypse’? Disclosing the End(s) of the World in the TV Series’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel� by Dr. Stephen W. Martin, Assistant Professor of Theology, The King’s University College, Edmonton (Thursday, November 16, 7:30-9:00 pm)

N.T. Wright has identified apocalyptic “as a way of investing space-time reality with its full, that is, its theological, significance.� Rather than denying the world, this reading suggests that apocalyptic affirms the world by saying “no� to the finality of evil. This lecture will investigate how two television programs, each created by “rabid atheist� Joss Whedon, see the meaning of the world in terms of impending apocalypse, and how the stories they tell in its light serve to invest the world with theological significance.

All lectures are FREE and will be held in Stencel Hall, in the Taylor Seminary Building, 11525-23 Avenue (access from the West parking lot off 23 Avenue).

I will be posting MP3s of the lectures on the Lecture website (which will be here eventually). I may even video record the lectures and post them on YouTube. For past lectures (including free downloadable MP3s), please go to the Public Lecture Archive page.

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