The Dichotomy of Practical Theology

*Please note – this is a rant . You may get offended. If so, don’t worry about it. I get offended too, sometimes. And also, I am by no means slating some subjects that I write about in this post. I by no means claim to have extensive knowledge or present much knowledge within this post either. You’ve been warned.*

Quite often, I’ve found, in the Christian community, groups and individuals seek to make dichotomy between what theology needs to be ‘done’ and what merely needs to be observed. And it’s infuriating me. Why you ask? Because there’s no such thing as practical theology.

At university, I did a module as part of my theology degree entitled, Practical Christian Theology. Yet from the very first lecture, our lecturer explained that the module title was rather silly because for the Christian, all theology is practical. Yet the sad situation is that many Christians have become spectators of their faith rather than doers, and so it seemed appropriate for Christians to learn how to practically apply theology to their every day lives.

I found this absolutely shocking. And in worst cases, horrific.

 

I mean, let’s take prayer for example. I’ve known countless churches who run some sort of outreach event and require volunteers or money. It’s a really good event that could do wonders for people, and hey, may even bring them to know Jesus for themselves.

So, if you were heading up the event, what would you do? Yeah, that’s right – ask for volunteers and money.

You proceed to ask for volunteers and money.

You know what comes next don’t you?

Yeah – you ask for volunteers and money. And no one wants to do either. You know there are people with spare cash around. You know perfectly well that the person you’ve asked to help has a free hour once a week. Yet they tell you they’ll pray about it.

Pray about it.

Sounds Godly doesn’t it?

The fact of the matter is that yeah, prayer is powerful, it’s amazing, it’s what’s really going to power the outreach event. But only if it’s done in sincerity and faith and a whole bunch of other stuff.

The reality is sometimes that people don’t seem to realise that they are the answers to their own prayers!

And that, I guess is part of practical Christian theology using the “I’ll pray about/for it” model.

You have *practical event* here and *theology of prayer* there. The two have to link up somewhere, and “God providentially doing something without the aid of human will” is not a get out of jail free card.

So, are you learning or studying theology? Then get on and use it. I don’t want to sit around forever with my B.A Hons in Theology and do naff all with it! God’s given me the knowledge for a practical purpose!

So, Holy Spirit I do pray that you give me a kick up the backside when it’s needed so that I don’t push all the responsibility on to you when actually you’ve placed me here, in my context, for a purpose, having already instructed me theologically through the people you have ordained to be teachers, lecturers, pastors, vicars and suchlike in the hope that I will be obedient and act as an instrument in order that your kingdom is built on earth as it is in heaven today. Amen.

Good day.

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • Spot on that all Christian theology is practical (and likewise all Christian practice is theological and to be reflected upon).

    However. However. I have used the “I’ll pray about it” card before to get out of a situation when I feel like I’m being spiritually manipulated into doing something I don’t want to do / don’t really have the time to do.

    I’m slightly ashamed as it’s a weak line to put and it sounds hollow (so ashamed of my lack of creativity), but equally I have been annoyed at being on the receiving end of someone else’s decision that Christian theology is practical (of course it is) and therefore their project/event/course/thing is what I need to be getting involved with – and if I’m not, then I’m not really putting my education to good use.

    Now, that’s not what you’re up to, but I know from my own experience of being on both ends of organising projects (organising and ‘being organised’), its a narrow line between encouraging people to take part and being like a rampaging elephant.

    Just a counter rant. In true Hegelian fashion, maybe we will find a midpoint 🙂

    • David – good to have guys like you on here! And you’re completely right. There’s always two sides to every ‘story’ (?!). There’s always a balance. And people can be bullied into volunteering and/or giving.

      Maybe the best solution is for us all to just be honest with eachother!
      Thanks for commenting, mate. Really good to hear from you!