Representation: Introduction

April 27, 2017

Representation: Introduction

William L. Peirson

Greetings from New College where I have recently been appointed as Master of the college and Director of CASE following the departure of Professor Trevor Cairney. Over the past few months, I have enjoyed very much familiarising myself with the achievements of CASE under Trevor’s leadership. My present feelings are somewhat akin to those of Elisha after the departure of Elijah (2 Kgs 2:9ff).

I was previously a Director of a UNSW research unit, and immensely enjoy developing new perspectives on, and solutions to, longstanding problems.  I am relishing this new opportunity and I look forward to working with everyone associated with CASE. Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss the future of this great work.

I didn't say that! It wasn't me!

Few things evoke feelings of indignation more swiftly than a sense that we have been misrepresented.

Representation (and therefore misrepresentation) is the theme of this present edition of Case Quarterly.

God takes the issue of representation very, very seriously: from one point of view, the entire Old Testament could be viewed as a struggle for appropriate representation of God Himself.

The nations create images of what they imagine to be the powers determining destiny. Israel has a direct relationship with the Unseen Sovereign but His strict command is that He not be trivialised by some inadequate human portrayal. The Israelites have an ongoing struggle to maintain their relationship with a King and God they cannot see. They continue to be wooed or challenged into serving lifeless objects that they can see rather than the unseen author of life (Ps 115).

What is the appropriate way to represent God? The astonishing, but only possible, answer that emerges from the opening words of the New Testament is for the Lord Himself to appear, coming as a particular man born into human history named Emmanuel (God with us) and Jesus (God rescues). (Mt 1:23ff)

At first glance, the answer seems blasphemous and preposterous. For the last two thousand years, people have struggled with this fact, many denying the possibility and the recorded witness of those who met Him.

The book of Hebrews is our first recorded defensive manifesto of Jesus as the appropriate image and therefore representation of God (Heb 1:1-4). The first ten chapters of the book show him standing head and shoulders above any other representative—either imagined or designated.

Jesus's haunting but simple question continues to echo through time and space: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (Mark 8:29)

In this issue, Bruce Pass reflects on the representation and participation of Christians in the civic sphere. Viewing the concept through Jesus’s death and resurrection, he identifies principles to guide us through the when, where and how of civic participation.

By revealing her unfulfilled novelist ambitions, Natasha Moore joyfully exhorts us to embrace the importance and concrete realities of the Bible's story as the means of representing and conveying its key ideas.

Andrew Errington takes a slightly different approach to representation in the political realm. He examines the thinking of some Western political philosophers of the last three centuries in the context of the Bible writers’ presentation of Jesus as a representative of the Church. He concludes by exposing the gravity of political representation for those to whom it is entrusted.

Our regular ‘Case in Point’ columns include insights into a whole range of topics, from the impact of the ancient Praetorian guard on Christian history, to Trump's nationalistic fervour; from the ethics of whether Christians should constitute a special interest lobby group, to that of choosing the sex of your baby. This edition is completed by reviews of two recent releases: Michael Shermer's Skeptic and Rebecca Huntley's Still Lucky.

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