I am very excited to be in a Practical Theology program. The idea behind this is exhilarating to me and I look forward to the future part of the course work that focuses on the Practical part of Theology!
[I have heard so many times, by everyone from District Superintendents to the grocery-bag packers at the supermarket, that Practical Theology is an oxymoron: there is nothing practical about Theology. This is exactly why I am hoping to be part of the change. ]
I was reflecting this week about what has been getting the lion’s share of my attention over the last several months. Four major categories emerged.
Biblical Studies: I am fascinated both with the depth of investigation that scholars put into the text,including work behind the text, and how little of that seems to play a role in the life of the average congregation. There is gap. It is wide. I am afraid that it is widening into a gulf.
Church History: I have come to love and embrace church history. I think that it is more than illuminating about where we have arrived and what we have arrived with. It turns out that my former hatred of church history was a naive reaction against dogmatic uses of church history to dominate people of other opinions. I had unfortunately given in to ‘bumper sticker’ understandings and cliches that are nothing more than boiled down (maybe water downed) bullet-points and slogans used for winning arguments.
Philosophy: It turns out that philosophy has and continues to play as important a role in the Christian faith as the Bible does. It is the lens through which each generation reads the Bible and decides how to behave. It goes far beyond John 1, Acts 17, and Romans 5! It is barely acknowledged in the Creeds and Councils that led up to Chalcedon’s proclamations. I might go as far as to say that the Bible is merely a paint job on the car of the church – a car that is designed, manufactured,and powered by philosophy.
Inter-religious Dialogue: In a pluralistic world where we are inter-related and hyper-connected as never before, inter-religious dialogue is somewhere between vital and essential. The old boundaries of the Middle Ages and the definitions constructed under Colonialism will not suffice in the world that is becoming. Things have changed. Things need to change more.
I was a little frustrated the other day and was wondering when I get down to the actual subject that is the title of my program. So I went to the library and got a well known book on Practical Theology. It turns out that these four themes that I have spending all of my time on are important fields and disciplines that a Practical Theologian needs to have in her or his tool belt! When one come to the task of describing and constructing a theology for congregational or community practices, you want everyone of these approaches and perspectives!
I am not spending my time any different than I was before – but now I am enjoying it so much more. I have embraced Biblical scholarship, Church History, Philosophy and Inter-religious dialogue – I am getting ready to do some practical theology!!