Australian Catholic University student Peter Rod Laughlin has successfully defended his dissertation, ‘Jesus and the Cross: Necessity, Meaning and Atonement,’ which was prepared under the supervision of Neil Ormerod and Raymond Canning.

‘The proliferation of alternative models of atonement in recent academic literature … raises the question of how to determine faithfulness to the Christian doctrine of redemption. This thesis contends that such determination can be made when the alternative model proposed is able to demonstrate sufficient continuity with the meaning that Jesus of Nazareth constituted for his death. To argue this point requires a five-stage investigation. Firstly the recent rejection … of the so-called “myth” of redemptive suffering insists that it be demonstrated that God can create meaning out of the contingent— and evil—event of the cross without becoming responsible for, or the transcendent cause of, Jesus’ death. … God is freely able to create meaning (ex nihilo) out of the event without validating and justifying the violence of the event itself. In addition, the upholding of a Chalcedonian Christology requires that the meaning which Jesus of Nazareth constituted for his death be understood to have divine significance, and thus should be investigated for what it reveals to a theological understanding of the cross. This leads to the second stage of the investigation which is to defend the theological right to engage in matters of history. Arguing for the value of critical realism, the point is made that a faith perspective does not negate the possibility of objective historical knowledge since … such knowledge does arise out of a spiraling dialogue between the knower and the object known. The third stage then follows, which is to argue how historical investigation into the Jesus of history might be done. Building upon James Dunn’s conception of impact, this study appropriates Bernard Lonergan’s understanding of constitutive meaning in order to highlight how the world of meaning that Jesus constituted for his death might actually function to impact the world of meaning of his followers. It is argued that what takes place is the constitution of a new world of meaning in which authentic existence is redefined. The redefinition challenges the disciples’ existing world of meaning and requires that they make an existential judgment of their own. But if such an impact is to occur then the challenge to the existing world of meaning must also be carried and it is here that historical investigation has its place. Drawing once more on the work of Bernard Lonergan, five carriers of meaning are identified, three of which (incarnate, linguistic and symbolic) are highlighted as the most relevant …’

Doctoral students are invited to advise us of the completion of their work so we can pass along a congratulatory word and notice of their accomplishment. They are also invited to donate a (bound or unbound) copy of their completed doctoral projects to the LRI library.