Monday, April 11, 2005

Blog Silence

Life being what it is, I will be ceasing to blog, or to read blogs, until further notice. My comprehensive exams are all-consuming through next September (see this), and Tanner needs my help learning to ride a bike without training wheels. See what I'm saying?

I really like blogging -- I find it an excellent medium for quick, provocative statements about issues theological and otherwise. And it doesn't require footnotes. But it's easier than re-reading about 100 books in the coming months in order to prepare for exams. So the only way for me to end the desire to blog rather than study is to stop for a while.

Not only my family and my studies, but Emergent is demanding more of my time lately. As Doug has said, it's time for us to "get busy" -- we've got to take this thing the next step, and that's going to take some hard work. Family, studies, Emergent, police chaplaincy, writing -- that's a busy enough life for me. Something's got to go, and for now it's Theoblogy.

I will continue to post occasionally on the Emergent-U.S. blog.

I'll be back...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Trinity

So, as I put my 4 and 3 year-olds to bed tonight, they were yet again asking me about how God the Mommy/Daddy (as I refer to the first person), Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all God. So I was thrust by my preschoolers into explaing the Trinity. I tried the old water as liquid, ice, and vapor, but I couldn't go through with it because of the inherent modalism in that analogy.

Then I looked up. I saw the ceiling fan in their room. Three blades, one fan. We turned it on, and the three blades fan.

I thought that was pretty good, off the top of my head.

What Is Practical Theology? Part IV

After an all-to-lengthy excursion into interdisciplinary method, it’s time to get back into the four core tasks of practical theology. Having been through the descriptive and empirical moments, the third moment of PT is the normative moment.

It is now, after gathering data and using the best of several disciplines to interpret that data, that the practical theologian makes normative claims for the life of the church. Often, practical theology is in conversation with the other volumes of the “theological encyclopedia” at this time, consorting with the likes of biblical studies, systematic theology, and church history.

But remember that the practical theologian is grounded in real-life, empirical data from church, society, and/or individual. In other words, the practical theologian does not think, “I’d like to spend my career studying the doctrine of sanctification” or “I’d like to write my dissertation on the Nestorian controversy” or “The world needs another book on the aorist tense.” (OK, simmer down. This is not meant to disparage those who do perform those important tasks. Without them, we’d never have to pay $75 for a book again!) The practical theologian, instead, is confronted with a problem. It might be a theological response to young women who cut themselves, or how to preach funeral sermons in the African American tradition, or how the emerging church is negotiating its relationship with culture (hey, there’s a great idea for a dissertation!).

So let it not be said that the practical theologian is not in the business of normative theology – she is, indeed, and it is normative theology that responds to crises in the life of church and world.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A Top Ten List

This Tuesday will mark the last time ever that I will sit in a class as a student (maybe that's why they call the Ph.D. a "terminal degree"). I've read an enormous amount over the past two years, so I thought I'd look back and try to rank which books have been most influential on my thinking. Since I couldn't narrow it to ten, here's my shot at the top eleven:

11. Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church by Kenda Creasy Dean

10. Simulacra and Simulation by Jean O. Baudrillard

9. Making Social Science Matter: How Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again by Bent Flyvbjerg

8. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel Huntington

7. The Logic of Practice by Pierre Bourdieu

6. The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God by Jürgen Moltmann

5. Democracy and Tradition by Jeffrey Stout

4. The Resources of Rationality: A Response to the Postmodern Challenge by Calvin O. Schrag

3. Being and Time by Martin Heidegger

2. The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology by Jürgen Moltmann

And the most influential book I've read in the past two years...

1. Truth and Method by Hans-Georg Gadamer

What Is Practical Theology? An Interdisciplinary Intermezzo, Part III

OK, this is the final part of what was meant to be a brief tangent. But Jimmy brings up an important caveat in his comment below. My not-so-hypothetical situation of a troubled teen in the school counselor's office was sanitized of the real-life complications of power. Being a trained social worker, and a special ed. teacher, Jimmy knows the power dynamics at work in a situation like this. It should come as no surprise that the pediatrician will come out on top in this hierarchy; not only does she have the most schooling, but physicians -- and the scientific reasoning they employ -- are highly regarded in our society. In contrast, social workers, psychologists, and youth pastors are often seen as dealing in data that is "soft," over against the "hard" scientific data of a physician.

However, the postmodern, hermeneutic turn has done a great service, for it has leveled the playing field. Even the "hardest" scientific data is rife with agendas and money from pharmaceutical companies. In other words, no one is capable of delivering a straight, objective account of what's going on with this boy.

There's been lots of good work done by postmodern theoreticians about power dynamics. The most famous theorist of power is Michel Foucault; I think that Pierre Bourdieu also deserves serious consideration. Both attempt to deal honestly with power dynamics at play whenever human beings are attempting to negotiate a situation, and both are downright pessimistic about the possibilities of getting through power to the other side. Of course, they're both lacking the Christian hope that God might have a hand in this negotiation...