Monday, November 26, 2012

Theological Ministry: An Oxymoron?

Not according to Sarah Coakely 

You have to also learn how not to drop your theological insights in a crisis. Because the theological will actually inform the decisions that you’re making, and it’s part of the tragic disjunction that we tend to think, “Oh, systematic theology -- I did that in seminary. It’s not going to have any implications for whether I refer this person to the hospital [or] how this person’s background of abuse might be healed in some shape or form.” We tend to assume that systematic theology doesn’t help us with those things. And that, I think, is a fundamental mistake.
and Roger Olsen

Anyone who truly comforts the afflicted among God’s people and also afflicts the comfortable in the right way. Notice my qualifiers: “truly” and “in the right way.” They are there for a reason. Not all “comfort” is ministry, nor is all “affliction” ministry. That’s where theology comes in. It is necessary to the tasks of comfort and affliction if these are to be carried out with depth in a truly Christian manner. Without theology these tasks of ministry become therapy or spiritual abuse respectively. Comfort all too easily degenerates into telling people what they want to hear or even enabling them. At its best, without sound theology informing it, the ministry of comfort differs little from secular psychotherapy or social work. While there is nothing wrong with these in their proper contexts, they are not in and of themselves “Christian ministry.” They become that when proper theology is appropriately added to them. Similarly, affliction all too easily escalates into controlling people and abusing them. At its best, without sound theology informing it, the ministry of affliction differs little from character formation or discipline. These also have their place, but they are not in and of themselves “Christian ministry.” They become that when proper theology is appropriately added to them.
Let me know what you think :-)

2 comments:

  1. Yes to both. It worries me that if theology determines action, that may be why so many actions are destructive.

    You have been very quiet. As current carnival host, I happened to notice that you did a carnival 2 years ago. So I dropped by for a visit. G'Day

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    1. Hi Bob, sorry new job has meant blogging has slowed down a lot. Good luck with the carnival!

      Yes, bad theology leads to bad praxis, and sometimes bad practice produces bad theology in justification, but sometimes bad praxis results from good theology that is not allowed to impact praxis by unreflective or unimaginative practioners.

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