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Peter Sellick

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Peter Sellick

Date of birth 18th August 1945 Adelaide.

Secondary education: Pulteny Grammar School.

Tertiary education: University of Adelaide, University of Western Australia, BSc, PhD.Melbourne College of Divinity: Bachelor of Divinity.

Scientific career: Medical Research Council, University of Sussex 1974-1980, NH&MRC University of Western Australia. Garnett Pass Senior Research officer 2004-2009.

Ecclesiatical career: Minister of the Word, Uniting Church in Australia, Forrestfield Parish 1987-1995, Claremont Parish 1995-1997.Hospital chaplain Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital 1999-2002.

Member, Church of the Resurrection, Swanbourne, WA.

Newton and the Trinity

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Our common notion that only natural science is scientific must be challenged. Karl Barth tells us that theology is a science, not one whose proposals may be tested empirically in the laboratory but a science nevertheless that seeks via reason and deduction the truth about a particular object (or in the case of theology “subject”).  While natural science investigates the material world around us, theological science investigates the reality of God as born witness to in the scriptures. I know that this statement will produce howls of derision from many who believe that the empirical method of natural science is the only reliable way we may come to truth.  However, this would leave us with a very restricted understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.  Devotees of such a scheme would have profound difficulties relating to another person in anything but a superficial and utilitarian fashion. Intimacy with another would be impossible because how could we trust thoughts and feelings evoked by that other that could not be empirically tested?

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O trip to Manley on the ferry revealed at the wharf a slogan, no doubt engineered by the local council. described our location as “Seven miles from Sydney and a thousands miles from care”. There followed a string of jokes from my companion about what this could mean. Sir, how would you like your steak?” I don’t care.  Can I sleep with your wife?” I don’t care.   This was obviously not the sort of care that the town councilors were referring to.  I was reminded of some long forgotten Anglican liturgy that I heard as a sour school boy that remonstrated with us that we should “shake off dull care and joyful rise”. My sourness joined the joyful with the care to be shaken off.   The phrase “care worn” has almost disappeared from language along with the idea that care is dull and is the enemy of the soul.

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The award of Australia day honors came with a cascade of personal philosophizing the upshot of which was that we should help others.  This is a motherhood statement if ever I have seen one. This being the case, I cannot attack the advise directly, for who could be against helping others? I can only ponder how naive this sounds from someone who has just been congratulated for being a greater than average Australian. Would that all of the worlds problems be solved by this simple bon mot. We might as well say “let’s all be nice to each other” and wait to see world peace break out all over the place. This is yet another example of simple mindedness that has appeared on the scene after the penetrating view of humanity preserved in the Judeo/Christian tradition has been erased.  Well, original sin is such a negative concept, better to believe that if we all behaved properly then all of our problems will be solved.  We have forgotten the agonized words of St Paul:

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In a conversation with an acquaintance with a medical background I happened to mention that I had been asked to do a series of lectures in theology. As the conversation proceeded I began to realize that there was no way he could understand what such an undertaking involved and indeed no way that I could tell him. Any conversation about a subject must presume some prior knowledge about that subject or, at its minimalist, the recognition that such a subject existed. After some joking about animal sacrifice and my blathering something about the science of God I realized that we did not even share the understanding that such a subject could even exist.

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