Category Archives: Research


Spirituality and Cancer: Christian Encounters

I’m looking forward to the book launch next week of “Spirituality and Cancer: Christian Encounters”, edited by my friends and colleagues Caroline Blyth (University of Auckland) and Tim Meadowcroft (Laidlaw College). The book is a collection of papers delivered at a ‘Spirituality, Theology and Cancer’ Laidlaw/University of Auckland symposium held at the University of Auckland in February 2014.

Cancer disturbs most lives at some point. The contributors to this book all seek to find meaning within that experience, as carers, sufferers, medical professionals, pastors, theologians, and scientists. They offer no easy answers, but speak with an honesty that reveals the anguish and hope that arises from the presence of cancer in our world. The result is a rich reflection on the spiritual and theological meaning of cancer.

Book Contents

  • Caroline Blyth: Introduction

Part I: Personal Responses

  • Catriona Gorton: Public Faith and Private Pain: A Quest for Authenticity
  • Alistair McBride: Dancing with Cancer: A Different Metaphor
  • Brian Brandon: A Healer in Need of Healing

Part II: Practical and Public Responses

  • David Nuualiitia: The Practice of Presence in a Hospice Context
  • Hannah Walker: Soul Nursing in Palliative Care: Spiritual Care of the Dying
  • Caroline Blyth: A Pilgrim’s Progress: Learning to Journey with the Dying Patient
  • Briar Peat: The Physician, Cancer, and Spirituality
  • Stephen Garner: Jesus Heals? Faith Claims in the Public Square

Part III:Theological and Theoretical Responses

  • Jeffery Tallon: Physics, Free Will, and Cancer
  • Tim Meadowcroft: Eternity and Dust? Considering Humanity, Cancer, and God
  • T. Mark McConnell: The Disruptive Power of Christian Hope: Suffering, Cancer, and Theological Meaning
  • Sue Patterson: Fruitful Dominion or Hubris? Creation, Vocation, and Cancer
  • Nicola Hoggard Creegan: A Whole New Life: Hope in the Face of Evil
  • Bob Robinson: “Cancer is Not a Disease. It is a Phenomenon”: Finding God in a Cancer-Strewn World


  • Richard Egan: Spirituality and Cancer: “Not a Saccharine Additive”
  • Tim Meadowcroft: Finding Hope and Yearning for Love

For those in the Auckland area, this Spirituality and Cancer volume will have it’s official launch on 13 November. The invitation is below and consider yourselves all warmly welcomed. RSVP to Accent Publications (e-mail included below)


The book will be available at the event and later through the Accent Publications web site:

Transhuman Films

The blog’s been pretty quiet while I’ve been concentrating on other things. One of those other things is a research project looking at post- and transhumanism in popular culture, and particularly in film.

One of those projects has been the development of a couple of blogs to track that. The first of these is underway now and can be found at:

Screenshot 2015-09-11 21.38.44

So far I’ve added two films in the last couple of days, but will be adding to that as write up films I’ve already watched, and get around to watching some more.

All about angels this fortnight

I’m off to the ISMRC Conference: Media, Religion and Culture in a Networked World in less that a week, so my focus will be on angels (and the demonic) in popular culture for the next two weeks. I’ll be presenting a paper titled “Upside-down Angels: The Inverting of Supernatural Good and Evil in Popular Culture” on the Wednesday and really looking forward to catching up with friends and colleagues from around the world.

So, I’ve been catching up on what is coming up in the world of angels and popular culture, and these look interesting. In particular, the new Constantine TV show looks like it will be much closer to the John Constantine of the comic books Hellblazer and Constantine (New 52 version here) rather than the Keanu Reeves US film version. The Dominion series looks average, but it could develop (though I don’t imagine either will make it on to NZ television), and still serves as some interesting research material.

Some angel popular culture trailers for those interested:

New Constantine TV Series

Dominion TV Series

Fallen TV Series

2005 Constantine film

Gabriel film

An Invitation to the Study of Cyborgs

I met with Prof. Toru Takahashi a week or two back, while he was here at the University of Waikato on sabbatical. Good conversations around cyborgs, religion, animé and manga. He’s written mostly in Japanese, but here’s an English version of a short article of his.

Online academia

A couple of interesting posts on online academia. The first looks at how PhD students might use online resources and networks to promote and resource their own research, while the second looks at developments in online theological education.

Mental health and academia

Mental health amongst academics doesn’t really get talked about to much. Constant change within the tertiary sector, continual creeping (and often accelerating) bureaucracy, and an ever increasing audit culture can and do reduce space for collegiality, fulfilling a sense of vocation and developing a kind of work life balance (e.g. spending your annual leave doing the research your job requires but doesn’t allow time for in your regular work schedule). In this environment, mental health issues are hard to manage and even seen as a kind of normality sometimes. These recent articles on the issue from The Guardian pick up on this.

Are Robots Threatening Your Immortal Soul?

A while ago, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, theology and robots was a topic that generated a number of books and publications including the ones below:

“God In the Machine: What Robots Teach Us About Humanity and God” (Anne Foerst)

“God and the Mind Machine: Artificial Intelligence” (John C. Puddefoot)

Now it looks like that discussion is getting a new lease of life: See Apocalypse NAO: Are Robots Threatening Your Immortal Soul? | Popular Science

“When the time comes for including or incorporating humanoid robots into society, the prospect of a knee-jerk kind of reaction from the religious community is fairly likely, unless there’s some dialogue that starts happening, and we start examining the issue more closely,” says Kevin Staley, an associate professor of theology at SES. Staley pushed for the purchase of the bot, and plans to use it for courses at the college, as well as in presentations around the country. The specific reaction Staley is worried about is a more extreme version of the standard, secular creep factor associated with many robots.

“From a religious perspective, it could be more along the lines of seeing human beings as made in God’s image,” says Staley. “And now that we’re relating to a humanoid robot, possibly perceiving it as evil, because of its attempt to mimic something that ought not to be mimicked.”

Thanks to Nanogirl (@medickinson) (Passionate scientist/engineer/kitesurfer & regular @firstlineNZ science TV slot. Run a nano mechanical lab. My TEDx talk: for the link.

Symposium: Doing Theology in Light of the Trinity

Symposium: Doing Theology in light of the TrinityTrinity and Method - Call for papers.jpg

Date: 21-22 August 2014
Location: Laidlaw College, Auckland, New Zealand

The resurgence of Trinitarian theology has been one of the outstanding developments of the recent decades of Christian systematic theology. From Barth and Rahner, to Pannenberg, Moltmann and La Cugna, to the programmatic suggestions of Colin Gunton, John Zizioulas and Stanley Grenz, to the recent essays of Kathryn Tanner, Sarah Coakley and Paul Fiddes, Trinity has been seen to be a creative clue to many aspects of the Christian theological discourse.This symposium will address the interface between understandings of the Trinity and theological method. What are the implications for the way in which the task of theology is to be approached? It is expected that a substantial publication on the themes will proceed from the symposium.

Proposals for papers are invited on related themes in biblical, systematic, and historical theology. Titles and Abstracts of up to 200 words should be forwarded to by 31 March 2014.

More details available from the link below (PDF)

Trinity and Method Symposium and CFP