Guy Willis on an important conference at Pusey House
It seems that the ‘death of God’ is truly dead. The 2018 Pusey House Theological Conference, Totus Christus: Knowing and Loving the Son of Man, which ran from 9 July to the 11 of July this year, confirmed this. Those writers of the last century who tried to go beyond what they saw as the strictures of orthodoxy about the person and work of Jesus Christ have rightly become something of an irrelevance. What this conference showed is that, united by a shared belief in the incarnate Word, theologians from a variety of confessional backgrounds and disciplines can fruitfully engage upon this central tenet of the faith without diluting it.
The variety of speakers was paralleled by the wide range of participants, who came from all kinds of places and professions. Parish clergy from around the world (I think the furthest travelled was from Texas) mixed with theological students of all levels, together with professional academics, Religious and lay faithful. All were brought together in a conference the purpose of which was to ‘examine some of the many registers of the mystery of Christ, both historically and thematically.’
In pursuit of this goal, a stimulating set of papers were delivered, with lively discussion and questions. They will be available in due course on the Pusey House website and, as with the first of these conferences, the proceedings will be published as a book which we will review in this magazine. A guiding principle of the event is that, as the final speaker Bishop Rowan Williams reminded us, complex theological concepts like the person of Jesus Christ are not best understood when they are ‘de-mythologized’. In fact, they are most deeply apprehended when they are encountered in liturgical and scriptural context, and the celebration of the daily offices and mass gave us the opportunity to put this into practice.
Father George Westhaver, the Principal of Pusey House, is to be congratulated on bringing this sold-out event to fruition. Thanks go too to the Greater Chapter, the team of stewards and the staff of St Cross College for what was a very well organised and smoothly run conference. All this meant that we had only to drink in the learning that was shared and ponder the truth of the Incarnation (there was fellowship to be had, too, over tea and coffee and at the two dinners). It was most appropriate that this should all take place in an institution whose founder, in the words of the Collect prayed there each day in his memory, ‘did … contend by his life and learning earnestly for the truth of the Incarnation of thy Son.’
The 2020 Pusey House Theological Conference on the Holy Spirit is planned for July that year, running from Monday 6 to Wednesday 8.