Close this search box.

The Gospel in a Consumer Culture

Jonathan Cornford • ‘Faith-Thinking’ Public Lecture • 14 August 2019

Humanity in the 21st century faces enormous challenges. Australian Christianity in the 21st century is also facing enormous challenges. It will be argued that both of these challenges are linked to a crisis of the dominant mode of living in the West: consumer culture. This lecture will consider the tasks of Christian witness in Australia if it is to take these twin challenges seriously. How might ecological responsibility and economic justice be linked to the health of faith and the content of witness? And what might this actually look like?

Jonathan Cornford is the co-founder of Manna Gum, a ministry in good news economics. He has a doctorate in political-economy and is currently undertaking a doctorate in theology through Whitley College.

This richly illustrated lecture will explore the ways in which the figure of Jesus Christ has appeared in the history of Australian Art. Some of these images will appear familiar and confirm the roles of Jesus as teacher and healer. Some of the images can be found in Churches while others appear in the private studios of artists who have been drawn to the figure of Christ as a source of inspiration. Other images will be surprising as they arise in unexpected place with artists outside the Christian faith who nevertheless bring insights about the search for spirituality in Australia. Some of these images arrive with a sense of shock as they break open expectations about who Jesus is in the complexity of our contemporary culture. This fascinating overview will explore how the image of Jesus has found a home within Australian culture while also turning to challenge its comfortable illusions.

Rev Dr Rod Pattenden is an art historian and theologian interested in the power of images. He considers that looking at art helps us see more clearly the culture we inhabit and what shapes our faith, hopes, and desires in this complex postmodern era. Rod has written and lectured widely on art and spirituality in Australia and for many years was the Chair of the Blake Prize for Religious Art. He is currently minister of the Adamstown Uniting Church where he leads a vibrant arts and community development ministry.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis for his role in the resistance to Hitler, refused to conform either to what nationalism or conventional piety wanted a pastor to be. In the face of massive injustice and evil he insisted that “the church is church only when it exists for others.” We know where that belief led Bonhoeffer. Where might it lead Christian ministry in our world today?

Keith Clements is a British Baptist minister, theologian, writer and ecumenist who has written extensively on the life and thought of Bonhoeffer.