Following up on the what I’d begun to say about the place of “practical theology” in Orthodox theological education.

It seems inevitable that we have to accept the way that a modern university chooses to divide the disciplines it embraces. We don’t have a choice about that. The alternative would be to establish a separate theological school. That’s not in the cards here, at least as far as I can see.

But what we do have a choice about is how we define what “practical theology” is. I must admit that the division into practical and systematic approaches to theology has always made me uncomfortable, even before I became Orthodox. It’s not just that that way of seeing things appears to elevate systematic theology above the “mere practitioners.” It’s also that it gives the false impression that theology has nothing to do with how the faith is practiced, lived out, made flesh and bone.

Better not to do theology than have that happen.

So what do we do instead? We must fight the “practical-systematic” division at every step of the process of theological education. Can we rely on the tried-and-true reply so often made by Orthodox, that theologia in Orthodox traditions really has to do with the contemplative vision of God? I don’t think so, though that argument is important.

I suggest a different approach. As the mystery of the Incarnation lies at the heart of Orthodox Christianity, I think that a more fruitful approach today would be integral, embodied, contemplative, centered on the person in her and his unity and wholeness.

Advertisements