Practical Theology is no mere one way application of Systematic or Philosophical Theology to the present situation: it’s a serious exploration of the situation itself. In order to do justice to the situation we need to approach it with just as thoughtful a hermeneutic as we would apply to ancient texts.
Osmer describes his hermeneutic of the situation in four tasks which form an interpretive spiral.
- The Descriptive-Empirical Task: Priestly Listening. What is going on in the situation? Before rushing to interpretation we need to research and grasp what is happening.
- The Interpretive Task: Sagely Wisdom. Once the data has been collected we need to interpret it. We use various theories from appropriate fields of knowledge to interpret what we have researched.
- The Normative Task: Prophetic Discernment. It’s not enough to describe what is happening—we need to grasp what should be happening.
- The Pragmatic Task: Servant Leadership. Here is where we apply the normative task. The knowledge which was uncovered through research, interpretation, and discernment is now applied.
Illuminated by gripping case studies, Richard Osmer’s text brings concrete form to the ever-changing field of practical theology.
Osmer, Richard R. Practical Theology: An Introduction. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.