Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A Brief Historical Overview of Practical Theology (PhD Edit)

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A Brief Historical Overview of Practical Theology

The first post of mine of 2013. And boy is Blogger struggling with it...

Please have a view at my previous post entitled 'Time Almanac 2013 Non-Exhaustive Review'. Over on my other blog 'Satire And Theology, the present post and last article of the year, Christmas 2012: New Year's Eve and New Year's Ending, please see link has a few thousand page views and this may interest. Thank you.

This thesis is not aiming to provide a brief history of practical theology, but rather a brief historical overview.[1] An actual history of practical theology is not required for a work primarily concerned with theodicy with practical theology.[2] As previously mentioned, according to Stephen Pattison and James Woodward, the term practical theology came to existence within late eighteenth century German academia.[3] The purpose of practical theology was to apply theological principles to church activities such as church worship, preaching, teaching, and government.[4] The German academics, which included Friedrich Schleiermacher, C.I. Nitzch and Philip Marheineke began the connection between Christian theology and the social sciences.[5] Schleiermacher is likely the first to work with such concepts.[6] What developed from these understandings[7] was the notion that theoretical theology that deals with possibilities between life and action,[8] needs to be differentiated from practical theology that deals with realities between life and action.[9] Don S. Browning (1996) concludes that despite some intellectual differences between early thinkers,[10] within practical theology they share the view that practical thought is the centre from which human thinking and theoretical understandings come.[11] Theoretical thought consists of abstractions from practical thinking.[12]

This is in contrast to much Protestant tradition where practical theology is thought to come from philosophical theoretical theology.[13] I would cautiously deduce that practical theology at times comes by taking philosophical theology and applying it practically, but that discussion is not central to this thesis.[14] Michael G. Lawler presents material from Gerben Heitink (1999)[15] where Heitink writes that historically practical theology in both Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions, is the empirically orientated theological theory,[16] which connects theory to praxis for society.[17] This understanding led to broad, ecumenical considerations of praxis within the religious European academic circles, in particular in the Netherlands and Germany.[18] A twentieth century model for practical pastoral theology developed which emphasized the importance of preaching God’s word in order that through meditation healing could be provided to congregations.[19] F. LeRon Shults (2004) deduces that the increased importance of relational theology within the practical theology movement may require a critical evaluation of some traditional Christian doctrines.[20] The hope for Shults being that this evaluation will lead to a more effective praxis within the twenty-first century church,[21] rather than there being too much dependence on what he views as static doctrine.[22] Paul Ballard and John Pritchard explain practical theology began to expand academically in United Kingdom Universities in the 1970’s with Manchester, Birmingham, and Wales.[23] Several courses in regard to practical and pastoral care were offered at major Universities,[24] and the field continues to expand in the twenty-first century.[25]

It is also mentioned that simultaneously with the growth of practical theology in the academic world,[26] pastoral care and counseling also grew in importance within the United Kingdom.[27] In the twenty-first century practical theology is contextualizing doctrines and concepts concerning God and raising issues of theological truth and how these relate to living out a life of Christian faith.[28] Paul Ballard (2000)(2007) notes that practical theology in the United Kingdom is developing in regard to theoretical literature[29] and is moving towards the centre of contemporary theology.[30] Not only are church related issues being dealt with,[31] but also social concerns such as poverty, employment, and community.[32] John Patton (2000)(2007) places much emphasis on pastoral care within practical theology in his article ‘Modern Pastoral Theology in the United States.’[33] He explains that pastoral care in regard to race, culture, gender, and power issues is most important in the American church presently.[34] Feminist issues that were previously ignored by male caregivers are now being given serious consideration.[35] The overall need for change in society and the need for greater care of those suffering within the American political process is also an aspect of American practical and pastoral care.[36]

[1] The differencing being that practical and empirical theology is a main focus only in the context of evaluating theoretical philosophical data.
[2] As seen in Chapter One to Four.
[3] Woodward and Pattison (2000)(2007: 2).
[4] Woodward and Pattison (2000)(2007: 2).
[5] Anderson (2001: 24).
[6] Anderson (2001: 24). This is not surprising as in The Christian Faith, Schleiermacher often focuses on subjective and personal aspects of theology in regard to persons.
[7] Anderson (2001: 24).
[8] Anderson (2001: 24).
[9] Anderson (2001: 24).
[10] Browning (1996: 8).
[11] Browning (1996: 8).
[12] Browning (1996: 8).
[13] Browning (1996: 8).
[14] This model order may be in play at times: Biblical exegesis, Biblical theology, systematic/philosophical theology, practical theology. There are other disciplines that can considered influences on this model such as philosophy of religion in conjunction with systematic and philosophical theology.
[15] Heitink in Lawler (1999: 1-2).
[16] Heitink in Lawler (1999: 1-2).
[17] Heitink in Lawler (1999: 1-2).
[18] Heitink in Lawler (1999: 1-2).
[19] Anderson (2001: 25).
[20] Shults in Wright and Kuentzel (2004: 346).
[21] Shults in Wright and Kuentzel (2004: 346).
[22] Shults in Wright and Kuentzel (2004: 346).
[23] Ballard and Pritchard (2001: 2).
[24] Ballard and Pritchard (2001: 2).
[25] Ballard and Pritchard (2001: 2).
[26] Ballard and Pritchard (2001: 2).
[27] Ballard and Pritchard (2001: 2).
[28] Ballard and Pritchard (2001: 2-3).
[29] Ballard in Woodward and Pattison (2000)(2007: 67).
[30] Ballard in Woodward and Pattison (2000)(2007: 67).
[31] Ballard in Woodward and Pattison (2000)(2007: 67).
[32] Ballard in Woodward and Pattison (2000)(2007: 67).
[33] Patton in Woodward and Pattison (2000)(2007: 49-57).
[34] Patton in Woodward and Pattison (2000)(2007: 57).
[35] Patton in Woodward and Pattison (2000)(2007: 57).
[36] Patton in Woodward and Pattison (2000)(2007: 57).

ANDERSON, RAY S. (2001) The Shape of Practical Theology, Downers Grove, Illinois, InterVarsity Press.

BALLARD, PAUL (2000)(2007) ‘Pastoral and Practical Theology in Britain’, in James Woodward and Stephen Pattison (eds.), The Blackwell Reader in Pastoral and Practical Theology, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing.

BALLARD, PAUL AND JOHN PRITCHARD (2001) Practical Theology in Action, London, SPCK. 

BROWNING, DON S. (1996) A Fundamental Practical Theology, Minneapolis, Fortress Press. 

BROWNING, DON S. (1985)(2005) ‘Practical Theology and Political Theology’, in Theology Today, Volume 42, Number 1, Article 2, Princeton, Princeton Theological Seminary.

HEITINK, GERBEN (1993) Practical Theology, Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

HEITINK, GERBEN (1999) Practical Theology: History, Theory, Action Domains, Translated by Reinder Bruinsma, in Michael G. Lawler, Journal of Religion and Society, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans.

PATTON, JOHN (2000)(2007) ‘Modern Pastoral Theology in the United States’, in James Woodward and Stephen Pattison (eds.), The Blackwell Reader in Pastoral and Practical Theology, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing.

SHULTS F. LERON (2002) ‘The Philosophical Turn to Relationality and the Responsibility of Practical Theology’, in Dana R. Wright and John D. Kuentzel, Redemptive Transformation in Practical Theology, Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

WOODWARD, JAMES AND STEPHEN PATTISON (2000)(2007)(eds.), The Blackwell Reader in Pastoral and Practical Theology, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing.

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Jeff said...

That's a pretty deep article, as far as understanding all the term definitions, which can be confusing and hard to follow.

I would say, simplistically, that any theology or philosophy that doesn't work itself out in actual physical action is just useless pondering.

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Dr. Russell Norman Murray said...

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I would say, simplistically, that any theology or philosophy that doesn't work itself out in actual physical action is just useless pondering.'

Reasonable.

In the PhD thesis, the practical and empirical theology was not as technical as the philosophical theology and philosophy of religion, but not by much. And admittedly, I am not an expert on practical and empirical theology although I worked with it for two major theses.

As far work is concerned, I think tough times call for different approaches I guess...

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