The 32nd Atlantic Theological Conference

I am in the middle of a conference right now.  Between two sessions, in fact, one in the morning and one in the evening.  As the conference happens to be in Charlottetown, I am spending the between times with my family rather than the other conference attendees — indeed, my sister did me the honour of coming to listen to my talk, a response to a paper on the topic of the Bible and New Atheism.  (I fear she found the session rather formidably dull.)

This conference is particularly interesting to me because it is from within the faith I belong to.  This means that people feel free to speak of their own reading of the Bible, their own beliefs, without that veil of assumed objectivity one uses in conversation outside such a group.  When I discuss Dante with my class I speak of his religious views and his literary techniques, about the work’s history and reception — but only up to a certain point.  I don’t say, Dante taught me half my faith.  I don’t say, whatever else one can say about his stated purpose (in the Letter to Can Grande, his patron, on what Paradiso is about) that the Comedy is intended to help bring souls to a knowledge and love of God — back into the church — it worked, at least in my case.  I can’t speak for seven hundred years’ worth of other readers.  But it worked for me.

Last night in my talk I could say that, and did.  I stated why I felt that Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and Charles Williams, Robert Farrar Capon and Madeleine L’Engle are so important to me, and why I think they are important to many people’s journeys in and out of faith, because they are both novelists and Christians, because they write sometimes under the veil of distance, sometimes with it removed.

It was delightful to me to be able to state that and not feel that I was flouting the rules.  I enjoyed the conversations we had afterwards and this morning, that people were able to share how their love of science and their love of God came together driving over the Confederation Bridge, rejoicing in the marvel that is the knowledge of physical laws.  I’m looking forward to the talk this evening on science and the New Atheism (the New Atheism is the topic of the conference, what it is and how we as thoughtful Christians mostly of the Anglican tradition ought to respond to it), and the one tomorrow morning on Nietzsche.

It’s a bit frightening to talk about the things I actually think, but . . . oh, how much richer life is when you do.  This blog has been helping me a bit with that, with being courageous outside the veil of academic reticence, with articulating my positions.  What I said last night was inchoate, only a beginning, because I have only just begun to figure out how my intuitions and scattered thoughts come together.  I need to think more, do more, read more, experience more, write more, talk more.  A good lesson to be learned; and not what I was really expecting to learn from this conference at all.

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4 thoughts on “The 32nd Atlantic Theological Conference

  1. This sounds so wonderful, Victoria! I had a slightly similar experience talking about Marian poetry to a group at church; I really relished the opportunity to drop that pose of objectivity that goes with the usual academic approach. As you point out, it isn’t just a matter of being among like-minded people (though that is always nice); it’s about being able to address the things that really matter, and to confront why and how they matter.

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  2. Sounds lovely! I find it difficult on both ends because while I’m usually feeling an obligation to establish some distance between religious faith and my words in the classroom, I also tend to feel an obligation to establish some distance between my professionally cultivated passions and my words in a church setting.

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  3. Sounds lovely! I find it difficult on both ends because while I’m usually feeling an obligation to establish some distance between religious faith and my words in the classroom, I also tend to feel an obligation to establish some distance between my professionally cultivated passions and my words in a church setting.

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