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Chapter 7 Reconceiving Practice in Theological Inquiry and Education Craig Dykstra Editor's Introduction At first glance, it might seem a bit odd to include in an ethics textbook an essay about theological education. After all, what ethical issue is at stake? But since ethical reflection is far broader than the scope of moral quandaries, attention to practices that constitute the Christian tradition is entirely fitting. As "people of the book," we must think deeply and clearly about theological education, because it is one such tradition-constitutive practice. In this light, the following article by Craig Dykstra is instructive because it clarifies Maclntyre's analysis of practices and uses this analysis as the basis for constructive suggestions of ways that theological education might be bettered. Theological education, argues Dykstra, is burdened with an ill-fitting load. The­ ology is commonly depicted as a form of technology; the lone theologian is a technician who through technical expertise (preaching the sermon, teaching the class, writing the article) causally effects change i n the generic recipients of these activities. Excellence in theology in this view involves, at least in part, mastery of the techniques that are uncovered by the social sciences and by which the theologian finesses some desired outcome from his or her audience. But, ob­ jects Dykstra, human relations are not necessarily mechanical, nor is knowledge necessarily technical. How well one does theology, and how clearly one sees theological truths, is a function of one's personal character and involvement in the subject matter. Therefore, t hi s way o f construing theology remains "harmfully individualistic, technological, ahistorical, and abstract." Dykstra prescribes an appropriation of Maclntyre's notion of practice in order to give us fresh tracks to run upon. The salient features of this alternative contrast strikingly with the received account. First, the theologian-as-practitioner does not aim primarily at unilateral dissemination of information. Rather, when theological education is understood in terms of a Maclntyrean practice, what comes into view is a complex interplay of human activity that depends upon intentional par­ ticipation of parishioners as well as pastors, students as well as professors, and the engagement of all with voices from their common history. This way of putting 1 6 1 1 62 Craig Dykstra things illustrates the narrative weave of the Christian community in which indi­ vidual life stories intersect in such practices as worship, witness, and theological education. Second, only by a participation of the sort that involves one's whole self can the moral and cognitive faculties of each community member be adequately sen­ sitized to recognize what is good about theology. The goods of a practice cannot be seen from the outside (that is, from the side of triflers and other nonplayers). The goods of a practice can be seen only from the inside, from the side of the practitioner. Therefore, far from being an abstract enterprise, theology is a very practical exercise whose good is nothing less than a way of life. As this good has been championed by each generation of Christians and handed down from one generation to the next, conversation with our theological forebears is essential to our understanding of what human life is all about. Another way of making this same point is to say that the Christian tradition is a narratively extended quest for a singular te/os. Third, not only does this model overcome the individualistic, abstract, and ahistorical tendencies of the standard view, because theological education aims at cultivating a practiced way of living, but Dykstra's model abandons the tech­ nological criterion (namely, "effecting change") for the practical skill of living faithfully to our tradition. As traditions are constituted, at least in part, by their practices, living faithful to the tradition is identical to participating in the prac­ tices. If Dykstra is correct in identifying theological education as one such distinctive practice of the Christian tradition, then he is consistent to conclude that theology, thus construed, cannot be given up without sacrificing our very identity: "Communities do not just engage in practices; in a sense, they are practices." Dykstra's application is not without practical difficulties. For example, the fact that we live in a pluralistic context implies that the integrity of Christian practices may be threatened by the sheer number of diverse nontheological (which is to say, secular) practices (for example, vocation and politics) which are also part of our contemporary lives. Nevertheless, Dykstra remains faithful to the Macln­ tyrean view by reminding us...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780268087067
Related ISBN
9780268043605
MARC Record
OCLC
966823021
Pages
288
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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