Wednesday, April 06, 2005

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.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Benway said...

Let me ask you a question. Why would you fill your childrens heads with such rubbish.

7:48 PM  
Blogger StorminNormin said...

Is Christ normative for normative theology? If not, then who is Christ? What is the Christology of normative theology? What is the Christology of practical theology?

What's that you say, it depends on the context? Is it relative to where one stands? Is it relative to the context? Is Christ relative to the context? I thought Christ is normative? Or is he constitutive? Or is he relative? Who the hell is Christ for this theology?

-norm

ps: What gives with Dr. Benway and his comment, eh? Not a very constructive guy. He just likes to knock others down in order to build himself up. It's true, I went to elementary school with him and he did it there too.

Dr. Benway, what is your problem? Can't you see theoblogy seeks to make Christ fit into any mold it wants too?

11:35 PM  
Blogger D.R. said...

Isn't practical theology the servant of systematic theology? It seems the case when we look at the letters of Paul. He constantly made practical exhortations on the basis of His understanding of God or of the atonement, or a hundred other issues that related directly to the truth of God. So shouldn't practical theology in some way be subserviant to systematics? And thus, we should be greatly worried about getting truth right in order to put our praxis in line. What I am seeing in some of these posts is that there is so much of an emphasis on the practical side that you are willing to give in the systematic side. That is some of my problem with Emergent. If indeed practical theology is of utmost importance to your ministry, wouldn't you be equally or even more passionate about your systematic theology and careful to make sure you and others get it right? Shouldn't a practical theologian be worried that Emergent is focusing so much on the practical that it could indeed leave the basis for it's actions behind and begin to engage in unBiblical practices based on unBiblical theology?

You see, that is my position as someone who is on the outside of Emergent. I see it as an ecumenical group who has thrown theology to the side to agree on practicality. That is a great worry to me, a fellow practical theologian.

D.R.

9:47 PM  

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