The past twenty years has witnessed a significant increase in academic research in the field of Practical Theology. The growth of this literature is a significant indicator of the emerging intellectual search to find foundational understandings that will support the advancement of the mission of the church in the world. Of course, this is not a new interest. The church has always deliberately reflected on its mission and its practices. However, the widely-felt need for expanding the nucleus of academic literature to support the theoretical interests of practical theology represent a new development in the field. This course is a call for constructive imagination and humility in approaching the great questions that emerge from what Edward Farley calls, “the ecclesial existence and the constitutive activities” of the church in the world. The course seeks to draw widely from various thinkers who have helped to shape the current (often contested) direction of Practical Theology. Participants in this course will be invited to embrace the intriguing challenge of developing informed and carefully researched contributions of their own, regardless of the complexity of such a task.
“…my contention is that at the heart of every good theology lies not simply a plausible intellectual vision but more importantly a compelling account of a way of life, and that theology is therefore best done from within the pursuit of this way of life.” – Miroslav Volf, “Theology for a Way of Life” in Practicing Theology, Miroslav Volf and Dorothy C. Bass, eds., (2002), 247.
“The basic task that orients practical theology is to promote faithful discipleship. . . We speak of the purpose that sets the basic task of practical theology as supporting and sustaining lived discipleship. Rooted in Christian tradition, practical theology focuses on called people who manifest a particular faith through concrete ways of life.” Kathleen A. Cahalan and James R. Nieman, “Mapping the Field of Practical Theology” in For Life Abundant, 2008, 67.
“Practical theology is critical, theological reflection on the practices of the Church as they interact with the practices of the world, with a view to ensuring and enabling faithful participation in God’s redemptive practices in, to and for the world.” – John Swinton and Harriet Mowat, Practical Theology and Qualitative Research, 2016, 7.
- To identify and engage with key theorists in the field of practical theology.
- To interpret current literature that supports academic research in the field of practical theology.
- To develop a working understanding of practice-led research.
- To discern the personal trajectory of one’s own life and ongoing contribution to research concerning the mission of the church in the world.
- To deepen one’s concern for the intellectual life of the church.
- To evaluate some of the foundational literature in the field of practical theology in order to develop working assumptions regarding practice-led research in this field of study.
- To locate oneself in the field of practical theology and to determine possible paths for on-going research.
- To join and participate in a relevant academic society related to one’s chosen area of focus in practical theology.