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'The Last Western Heretic


November 1, 2007

Documentary on the Ideas of Lloyd Geering
'The Last Western Heretic'

Forty years after his controversial trial for heresy, an extended documentary on the life and ideas of renowned theologian Professor Lloyd Geering will premiere at Parliament tonight (Thursday November 1).

Hosted by the Associate Minister for Culture and Heritage, Hon Judith Tizard, the screening of The Last Western Heretic also heralds the return of TVNZ's NZ Festival documentary series for 2007.

Director Monique Oomen describes The Last Western Heretic as a timely insight into the ideas and philosophies of the New Zealand's most controversial theologian.

"At 89, Lloyd Geering is still deeply involved in the debate of ideas about religion and life, and latterly, the very survival of human beings and the planet to which we belong. In fact, he says his brain is more active than ever before."

Filmed in New Zealand and Israel, The Last Western Heretic explores Professor Geering's world-view through a detailed discussion of nine of his principal ideas. In doing so, he makes simple and comprehensible the powerful theological and cultural ideas underpinning Western Civilisation.

In the documentary, Professor Geering explains his beliefs: God is not a personal being, there is no life after death, the Bible is not infallible, Jesus was not divine but wholly human, the dangers of fundamentalism, and the ethical imperative to care for the planet.

Judith Tizard has applauded the production team behind the film.

"Documentaries play a vital role in portraying who we are as New Zealanders and how we see our place in the world. For this reason it is extremely pleasing to see both this important New Zealand story being re-told, and TVNZ committing to bring this, and other stories to a wider audience," Judith Tizard said.

Top Shelf Productions executive producer, Vincent Burke, says TVNZ's decision to resume the NZ Festival documentary series is good news for quality documentary-making in New Zealand.

"The long-form Festival documentary format allows film makers to tackle interesting but often difficult subjects in a thoughtful, in-depth fashion and the NZ Festival series helps bring these stories to the wider television audience.

The Top Shelf Productions team is proud that The Last Western Heretic is part of this years NZ Festival Series and that the Hon Judith Tizard is hosting this pre-view screening," he said.

The 2007 NZ Festival series will be screened on TVONE later this year.

A critic of many conventional religious beliefs, Professor Geering is a Minister Emeritus of the Presbyterian Church, Emeritus Professor of Victoria University of Wellington, where he established the Department of Religious Studies, former Principal of Knox Theological College in Dunedin, and a recipient of the Order of New Zealand. A prolific writer and lecturer, he is the author of numerous books, including Tomorrow's God (reprint 2000), The World to Come: From Christian Past to Global Future (1999), The Greening of Christianity, and his most recent work, an autobiography, "Wrestling with God".

In 1966, while Professor of Old Testament Studies and Principal of Knox College Theological Hall in Dunedin, Professor Geering published an article on "The Resurrection of Jesus" and, in 1967, another on "The Immortality of the Soul," which together sparked a two-year public, theological controversy culminating in charges by the Presbyterian Church of heresy.

After a dramatic, two-day televised trial, the Assembly judged that no doctrinal error had been proved, dismissed the charges and declared the case closed. However the controversy lingered for some years, and has haunted the church ever since.

An all-day event at St Andrews on the Terrace in Wellington on Saturday, November the 3rd, 40 years to the day since the trial began.


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