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  • Writer's pictureMark Sparks

Why is it called Practicing Theology?

When I think about Practicing Theology, I think about it in three different senses of the word "practice". These three senses drawn together and applied to the theological process can give a meaningful picture of what I am hoping to embody in this ministry. Without a doubt, this following explanation could have more technical and accurate statements surrounding the lexical and historical meaning of the word "practice," however, my hope in presenting the information below is to give you a clear window into a fuller account of my thinking on this matter.

Practice as "procedure"

When I think about Practicing Theology as "procedure", I think about the task of doing theology. Much of my consideration with theology relates to the need for us to put into practice methods and approaches that are well grounded and consistent. Much of Practicing Theology will be the "doing" of theology, rather than presenting the conclusions of theology. My hope is that in providing a procedural lens, we can demonstrate what it means to approach theology thoughtfully, not seeking to only prove ourselves or our prior conclusions but working through important topics and questions step by step. This will include examining biblical and theological evidence, considering the historical dimension, and even recognizing philosophical concepts and questions that feature in a theological question. In addition to the "doing" of theology, I think of the need to take a step back and consider the "how" of "doing" theology. This is another area that I believe could be given some greater attention as many conclusions flow more naturally out of the "how" then we often realize.

Practice as "preparation"

When I think about Practicing Theology as "preparation", I think of two things. First, I think of the need for us to practice theology because of our deficiencies, lack of knowledge, lack of spiritual maturity, and desire to have our ears tickled. Too often theology is done without the desire to improve or to grow but with a desire to be confirmed and remain in the comfort of a previous certainty. This leads us to dogmatically defending beliefs that we are yet to understand why we believe them or why others might come to separate conclusions. Second, I think of the need for us to practice theology because of the rigor that is embedded in doing theology well. We must grow from the rudimentary proof-texting of only parts of biblical passages into understanding and engaging the deep exegetical, historical, and philosophical conversations that often undergird different theological propositions. However, this requires practice, it is not something that we do naturally it is a skill that must be built through regular practice and the goal of maturity in mind. With Practicing Theology, it is my hope to practice doing theology well and inviting others along in the process to be mutually edifying.

Practice as "application"

When I think about Practicing Theology as "application", I think about the need for us to be transformed by the deep truths of theology. Theology is not merely an intellectual endeavor but instead an opportunity for us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and a deepening of our understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ. These beliefs that we proclaim have practical consequence for our life and my hope is that with Practicing Theology is that there can be a bend towards those practical implications. For example, a proper understanding of the sovereignty of God will have an impact on how we view our circumstances. If we don't view as God as being actively present and working in all of our circumstances, it would be easy to become bitter and even resentful towards God rather than recognizing God's intention with various trials.

While these above descriptions will not exhaust the purpose and approach of Practicing Theology, my hope is that these three senses of "practice" can come together to provide a substantive picture of what I am hoping to achieve. I believe that considerations of these three senses in Practicing Theology will help to provide improvement in the current theological landscape, especially in the current ecumenical dialogue which is ripe for theological malpractice. I pray that through these meaningful theological conversations that the body can press onward to greater and more genuine unity in the body of Christ and that through that the world will know that the Father has Sent the Son and that He loves the body just as He has loved the Son.

God bless!

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