ISCAST Victoria Symposium: Exploring Theological Approaches to Wicked Problems

ISCAST Vic Symposium: 7 September 2019

It's not as Simple as That: Exploring Theological Approaches
to Wicked Problems


Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.”   Laurence J. Peter

"Wicked problems are the only ones worth tackling!" Anon


ISCAST Victoria is hosting a symposium to explore how Christians can get involved in dealing with the incredibly complex problems we are facing in society today. Refugee resettlement, climate change, the global loss of biodiversity, Aboriginal health, family violence, and economic development are examples of some of these and for which there are no simple, straightforward solutions.

Such problems typically feature incomplete data or scientific knowledge, significantly differing perspectives and priorities from those affected, and are (or are becoming) urgent so we cannot ignore them in the hope that they might go away. These are sometimes called “wicked” not because they are inherently evil but because they are so difficult to deal with.

These problems are also “whole-of-society” and not just problems for Christians to face and resolve in isolation. This poses challenges to us as Christians:

  • To what extent should we get involved in resolving them? "Isn’t that why we elect our government—to make these decisions? Shouldn’t Christians rely on God to sort them out?"
  • What value is there in doing the little we can do if we are not contributing to solving the problem? "Often tinkering at the edges might only make things worse."
  • How should our Christian insights be offered to a society that is increasingly suspicious of anything branded as “Christian” and which itself is struggling with the issues in its own way?
  • Is there an overarching theological understanding we can adopt to offer us guidance in getting involved (particularly in our professional capacities); an understanding that will help us both to keep our perspective (and maintain our hope in Christ) in the face of the apparent futility, while at the same time being persuaded of the urgency of the problems concerned and that inaction is not an option?

The symposium will be held at East Camberwell Baptist Church, on the corner of Hunter and Highfield Roads, Camberwell, on 7 September 2019. It will start at 9:00am and we will aim to finish at 4:00pm. Lunch and morning tea will be provided.

If you feel you have something to share on the day, particularly related to the dot points above, please let us know according to the Submission Guidelines below.

Note that the audience on the day will be fellow ISCASTians and friends of ISCAST who may not be familiar with your subject material. Please do not to assume too much technical knowledge in your presentation. Also, we are looking to explore how Christians can and should be involved in such issues and how we can support each other in so doing. We are not looking for proposals to resolve particular issues nor for arguments as to which issues should take priority.

Download the FAQ here 

A Call for Presentations

ISCAST invites those with professional standing in public policy, in the science and technology fields, and those who have taken the opportunity to reflect theologically on these matters to present papers of 20 minutes duration (exclusive of discussion). These will explore the items in the dot points listed above. Specifically, we are looking for:

  • Examples of wicked problems that ISCASTians are facing on a day-to-day basis in their studies, research or professions.
  • A rationale for Christians to get involved in such issues, particularly in areas where there may be slight or ambiguous Scriptural direction regarding such involvement and where traditionally Christians have not been involved.
  • Examples or ideas as to how Christians can contribute to a secular debate on such a subject and especially where our faith in Jesus Christ is seen to be irrelevant to such an issue.
  • An introduction to an overarching theological perspective on Christian involvement in a secular society struggling with complex problems that also are of concern to Christians.

This symposium will assume that participants will conduct their presentations and contribute to the discussions in the spirit of ISCAST’s Core Values, recognising that different people will come up with divergent answers and that at times we will disagree.

Submission Guidelines

  • Proposals should be received by Friday, 26 July 2019 via email using the contact details below.
  • Proposals should be about 200–250 words long and must include:
    • your full name, title, work or institutional affiliation (if relevant), email address, telephone/mobile phone number, and mailing address;
    • title, aim, and an indication of the line of argument taken (an abstract is preferred);
    • any additional information that may help reviewers weigh your submission.
  • Presenters are expected to register for the symposium and pay the registration fee.
  • Please indicate if you will require audiovisual or other equipment for your presentation.
  • Selected presenters will be invited to submit their papers for publication on the ISCAST website and, possibly, for a fuller presentation at another ISCAST forum.

Proposals will be peer-reviewed, and we will notify you whether it has been accepted by Friday, 16 August, 2019.

For updates about the symposium as they become available, bookmark this page:

Contact Information:

ISCAST Vic, c/- 3/6 Atherton Road, Oakleigh, VIC 3166
Ph: 9254 1045
Fax: 8610 1936


Download the Call for Papers and Submission Guidelines here.

Download the FAQ here