Friday, 5 October 2007

Australia's ageing theologians

The other day we were discussing theology in Australia. And now a very interesting article in Eureka Street discusses the problem of the age of Catholic theology teachers in Australia: “over 12% are over seventy, and 42.5% are over 60 years old. Less than 20% are under fifty and 2% under forty. Close to 37% indicated their intention to retire in the next five years or less…. It is near impossible to see how this shortfall can be made up, particularly from the pool of Australia theologians. Younger theologians are not available to fill the gaps.”

7 Comments:

kim fabricius said...

Alarming, but hardly surprising: as goes the church in the West, so goes the academy: after Eliot, more and more Christians are wearing the bottoms of their trousers rolled. And as the overwhelming majority of younger Christians (at least in the UK) are conservative evangelical or charismatic, the theological future looks, to say the least, to be unbalanced. After Eliot again (different poem), just the thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

michael jensen said...

'balance' is a very English virtue... !

Philip McCosker said...

There are young Catholic theologians who would like to work in Australia, but the main difficulty, at least in my experience, is the lack of jobs.

Mark said...

I have nearly finished an NT PhD in Australia (not theology, but near enough :-) ) Although not Catholic I would happily teach at a Catholic institution, or in fact, be open to a very wide range of places. But, as Philip says, there is a lack of jobs. And, if trends are anything to go by, there is likely to be even less over time.
Since I have a family to support, doing the occasional paid per hour work that seems to increasingly be all that is available is not an option for me, so I can't do that while I wait around for someone to die off and hope I get a chance at their job.
Instead, it is back to computer programming for me (not that there's anything wrong with that)...
I know of quite a number of people who would dearly love a full-time job teaching theology (or NT, or OT) in Australia. But frankly, unless you can survive without a full-time job, or are willing to go overseas, I wouldn't recommend pursing a PhD in Australia with the hope of getting a job at the end.

erin said...

Can't speak directly to Australia though I imagine it may be similar to the US.

As a professor explained recently:
-move your family to go to school where the "best" degree can be had.
-Incur 6 figure debt
-Move your family again to wherever it takes to get that first job, because, of course, your spouse can change employment easily or at least submit to your higher calling.
-Enjoy your fat entry-level highschool teacher's salary, and start paying the loan down.

It simply isn't very appealing. The work itself is, but the costs are too high, both relationally and financially.

The free books are tempting, though...!

What Mark said is the stock advice almost every professor in seminaries give, here.

John said...

The Catholic Tradition always relied on its renunciate orders of nuns and monks to keep the Tradition alive - not the theologians.

The renunciates were supposed to be living demonstrations of the Way, and as such a living inspiration for the masses.

They were also supposed to benefit the world at large by their collective prayer.

For one reason or another most of that no longer exists.

The Protestant Tradition had no such mechanism---just essentially worldly, isolated individuals reading the Bible.

It is very, very difficult to be "holy" when one lives in the world or outside of the context of a living Sacred community.

The Hindu Traditions have always relied on the appearance of REALIZED saints, yogis, mystics and sage to keep their Tradition alive---not the scholars and talking pandits, which are their equivalent of theologians.

Again, in recent times for one reason or another there has been a dearth of such Realizers. A fact which dismays those Hindus who understand the function of such beings.

Such Realizers provided the Spiritual Energy to keep the Religious and Spiritual culture alive.

So to with with the Tibetan Buddhists. That is why they value their re-incarnate Llamas and Tulkus who are often given the honorific title Rinpoche---meaning precious one.

Mike Paget said...

John, without wanting to take us off on a tangent, I'm not clear what you meant by 'it is very, very difficult to be holy when one lives in the world.' You seem to be suggesting that withdrawal from 'the world' - hermetic communities etc. - is the solution. If so, I think that I'd have to argue that this is a far cry from the perspective offered by biblical Christianity.

The everyday working Christian is no further from holiness than the pastor or monastic. Holiness is found in giving glory to God in the simplest of earthly activities - As Blaise Pascal said, : ‘Do little things as if they are great, because of the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ which dwells within them.’

Or one of my favourite quotes, from George McLeod, founder of the Iona community:
‘I simply argue that the cross be raised again in the centre of the marketplace as well as upon the steeple of the church, I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage heap at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew, and in Latin, and in greek, at the kind of place where cynics talk smut and the thieves curse and soldiers gamble because that is where he died, and that is what he is about, and that is where church members ought to be, and that is what church members ought to be about.’

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