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Christopher Watkin, September 2013
Cambridge Paper writer and philosopher Chris Watkin discusses two artists, Damien Hirst and Liviu Mocan, and the contrasting way each of them explores the themes of life and death through their work.
Hirst is one of the best known contemporary British artists, and controversial too; he is notorious for exhibiting dead animals in tanks of formaldehyde, and is in the record books for the highest revenue for a collection by a single artist sold at auction (£111 million in 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis).
Mocan, by contrast, is a Romanian Christian sculptor who explores the theme of death and resurrection in much of his work. Mocan's best known sculpture is 'Invitation/Decalogue', a circle of 10 giant pillars, resembling fingers from inside the circle which narrow to great blades on the outside. This was exhibited in Geneva in 2009 for the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth.
This paper explores the two sculptures first through what they assert through their form, size and audacity, before examining how death and life are actually absent from each, even though they appear to express these very themes.
Chris Watkin goes on to discuss the asymmetric nature of life and death in the sculptures in question, and how Mocan's work affirms that the two are not equal and opposite forces. Rather it's through resurrection that life is proved to be more than a match for death.
Finally, Watkin writes how there is a subtle performance of death going on in Hirst's decaying shark, and a similar performance of life surrounding Mocan's Illseed - 'a crescendo of hope'.
The Jubilee Centre is currently organising an exhibition by Liviu Mocan, entitled Vertical Libraries, at St Andrews Street Baptist Church in Cambridge, until mid-October.
Keywords: Worldviews & Culture
Dr Gai Ferdon, April 2013
"..Why should twenty-first century Christians take the time and effort to learn about how seventeenth-century Protestants thought about politics?..."
from the foreword by John Coffey, Professor of Early Modern History and Cambridge Papers writer. He continues:
"... I can think of three reasons. First, it is a means of resourcement. In the contemporary climate, Christians are strongly tempted to follow secular ideologies and neglect the resources of their tradition. .....And while reflecting on the political thought of previous generations of Christians can be taxing, there is no better way to enlarge our reference group and learn from the wisdom (and folly) of past generations. ..... Ferdon's paper does just that, convening an animated and rather fractious seminar in which we hear some powerful and utterly distinctive voices: Sir Robert Filmer, John Milton, James Harrington, John Lilburne.
A second reason to look to the past is that there are certain perennial issues and tendencies in Christian political thought. We still find ourselves divided over questions of political power - Who holds it? Where does it originate? To whom are the powerful accountable? How can they be removed from power? ..... Understanding the past helps us to make sense of our present.
Finally, this study gets us to wrestle with the problem of biblical hermeneutics. We see how different factions in the English Revolution turned to different parts of Scripture as they sought to answer fundamental issues about power. ..... This study shows that there are no easy answers when it comes to reading the Bible politically, and it ought to make us more self-critical in our own hermeneutics. Yet we also find evidence of deep and serious engagement with the Bible, and see how the reflecting on the Old and New Testaments was once an integral part of European political thinking. Reading the Bible with the dead can be a valuable exercise. It highlights strands of Scripture that we may have neglected, and suggests levels of meaning that we may never have encountered. Past thinkers cannot do our thinking for us. But by reading them, we will learn to think more carefully and more deeply about politics. In the light of current controversies over religion in the public square, this could hardly be more necessary."
James Williams, March 2013
"I have heard several people say, for example, that the work of the Jubilee Centre is 'utopian'."
In this enjoyably well-written paper, James Williams questions why people might use such a word and to what end. He looks at historical and recent views of 'perfect societies' and considers both the writers' motivations and their solutions. Some considered that the answer was to create separate societies by withdrawing (such as the Anabaptists or the more recent Branch Davidians) or by seeking their vision in the New World. Others wished to reform existing but corrupt polities. Was Milton right, he asks, when he criticised such efforts as a distraction from real world social reform?
This paper compares broad political ideas where right criticises left for being utopian and vice versa. James Williams, as he highlights Karl Popper's critique of Marxism, enjoys the irony that Marxism itself was prompted in response to what Marx and Engels described as 'utopian socialism'.
So, is the work of Jubilee Centre 'utopian'? James Williams reviews the practical outcomes of much of Jubilee Centre's work (and that of its associated charities) and also what he calls the more theoretical publication output and observes:
"The reliance of the Jubilee Centre on modern applications of Old Testament Law is central to its whole endeavour...... [T]heir approach to the Law sees it as a paradigm, not a blueprint. This rules out the ('utopian'?) extreme position of theonomists, or Reconstructionists, who wish to implement the Law as statute today. By looking at institutional norms and relationships within Israelite society the Jubilee Centre also avoids the ('utopian'?) sole reliance on 'Kingdom Ethics' (beloved of the Christian Left) as a guide to the activity of unbelievers and secular governments."
"for [Jubilee Centre's] mandate rests on their belief that the Bible does speak to the ordering of societies and that Christians should heed that and work to improve the flawed structures around them and to ameliorate the effects of sin."
Sally Bertlin (Editor), February 2013
'The Family and Sexual Ethics: Christian Foundations and Public Values' was an international conference held in Hong Kong in May 2011, organised by the Hong Kong Baptist University and the Jubilee Centre.
In recent years there has been a growing international interest and concern about the pressures of the environment and the consequences of this for the long-term survival of the planet. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the breakdown of the family and its consequences for the ecology of the planet. Family breakdown is being driven partly by divorce and partly by today's sexual ethics, which then impact on rates of family formation and disintegration.
On the strength of Jubilee Centre's sexual ethics work over recent years, we mobilised a team of scholars, including Jonathan Burnside, Jeremy Ive, Dale Kuehne, Jennifer Roback Morse and Michael Schluter, who presented papers together with a group of Chinese academics.
This report is a collection of ten short papers from the conference, each under two pages long to ensure as wide a readership as possible.
Guy Brandon, January 2013
This draft report summarises our research to date on education in the Bible. Starting from first principles, it aims to shed light on how education is approached in the Bible, including the vital question of its ultimate purpose.
Surveying the different attitudes and approaches through biblical history, with particular emphasis on the Wisdom literature, it concludes by making some tentative suggestions for application in our own education system.
Guy Brandon, December 2011
Immigration is a live and perennial issue, and often prompts polarised and unhelpful responses from politicians, the media and the public. Our default viewpoint is frequently one of suspicion, a simplistic reaction that assumes immigrants all come for the same reason and have identical motives. The Old Testament's approach to immigration was far more nuanced, and a biblical view of nationhood and immigration helps to bring a degree of balance and proportion to the debate.
Keywords: Government & Foreign Affairs
John Hayward & Guy Brandon, June 2011
Cohabitation serves a range of purposes and masks a wide variety of commitment levels: it cannot be considered solely as an alternative to marriage, as is its popular perception. Building on the Jubilee Centre's 2010 report into cohabitation trends, and based on even more recent data from the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study, this year-by-year analysis reveals a clearer picture of how trends have changed over time – and continue to change – and a better understanding of the present situation. This allows for a broader range of conclusions and a better understanding of how cohabitation itself is viewed by couples today, compared to attitudes in previous decades.
Keywords: Sex & Families
Guy Brandon, February 2011
Research by the Jubilee Centre reveals how the Big Society is ultimately intended to be the solution to the social problems of what Conservatives were describing before the 2010 general election as 'Broken Britain', but this has not been well publicised. In reality it is highly unlikely that any Big Society ambitions can succeed without the help of faith groups. Motivated by a love of neighbour, Christians will want to take any new opportunities that arise to play a greater role in their communities, including starting social enterprises and bringing biblical principles and social transformation agendas to business. The church must also be prepared, however, to defend its own autonomy and help promote religious freedoms.
Keywords: Government & Foreign Affairs
Dr Guy Brandon & Dr John Hayward, March 2010
This report responds to the Conservative Party's draft education policy. It begins by summarising the most important points of the policy and offers an overview of some of the major Christian principles of education. It then looks at the policy implications and how parents and other interested parties might help found and shape the new schools created by this initiative. The intention is to identify key opportunities and how such groups might engage with these, and the policy issues that it is hoped the Conservatives will address.
John Hayward & Guy Brandon, February 2010
The nature of cohabitation in the UK presents a rapidly changing landscape. This report provides an up-to-date analysis of cohabitation statistics, using the most recent British Household Panel Survey data. It shows that cohabitation is a less stable form of relationship today than it was 15 years ago and is generally short-lived. This is particularly pronounced for those couples with children. Contrary to popular opinion, cohabitation does not serve as a ‘trial marriage’ but instead significantly increases the odds of divorce.
Discuss the report on our blog, at Common Law Marriage.
(N.B. Report updated 4 March 2010)