Tag Archives | Eerdmans

Divine Solidarity | Serene Jones

Serene JonesBecause God, in the Incarnation, takes on our full humanity, we can be certain that on the Cross God took in Christ’s suffering and death, profoundly and completely. This means that in the midst of our suffering, God similarly (by adoption) takes on the full weight of our human plight and bears our traumas fully, in solidarity with us.

— Jones, “Practical Theology in Two Modes,” in Bass and Dykstra, eds., For Life Abundant, 204.

Practicing Theology | Miroslav Volf and Dorothy C. Bass, eds.

The cover of Volf and Bass' Practicing TheologyWhat does theology have to do with the so-called real life? Are theologians doing anything other than splitting hairs? Volf and Bass, along with all the contributors to this volume argue that theology is intimately connected with life. This connection is discerned through the concept of practice.

In general use, a practice is a dense cluster of ideas and activities that are related to a specific goal and shared by a social group over time. . . . Christian practices are patterns of cooperative human activity in and through which life together takes shape over time in response to and in the light of God known in Jesus Christ. (3)

By engaging in theological reflection on Christian practice, the contributors to this volume—all academic theologians—demonstrate how important theology is for living faithfully in a changing world.

The various essays in this volume reflect on a diverse range of practice including healing, hospitality, theological education, and worship. Tammy Williams is particularly insightful in her essay, “Is There a Doctor in the House? Reflections on the Practice of Healing in African American Churches.” By examining the practice of African American churches, she uncovers three models of healing: care, cure, and holism.

Volf closes the book by arguing that while “Christian beliefs normatively shape Christian practices, and engaging in practices can lead to acceptance and deeper understanding of these beliefs,” beliefs take logical priority.

Since we identify who God is through beliefs—primarily through the canonical witness to divine self-revelation—adequate beliefs about God cannot be ultimately grounded in a way of life; a way of life must be grounded in adequate beliefs about God. (260)

Practicing Theology functions on two levels. On the ground level, each article has something insightful to say about Christian practice. On a higher level, the book shows that theology is not a withdrawal from the world but a way to engage the life and practices of the Christian community more deeply.


Volf, Miroslav and Dorothy C. Bass, eds. Practicing Theology: Beliefs and PRactices in Christian Life. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

Practical Theology | Richard R. Osmer

The cover of Osmer's Practical TheologyPractical 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The Normative Task: Prophetic Discernment. It’s not enough to describe what is happening—we need to grasp what should be happening.
  4. 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.

For Life Abundant | Dorothy C. Bass & Craig Dykstra

The cover of Bass and Dykstra's For Life AbundantThrough thoughtful engagement with and within situations of personal, ecclesial, and societal existence, practical theology seeks to clarify the contours of a way of life that reflects God’s active presence and responds to human beings’ fundamental needs. It also seeks to guide and strengthen persons and communities to embody this way of life. (13)

Practical theology is not easy to define, as the above quotation may suggest. Consider the verbs in that brief statement alone: practical theology engages, clarifies, responds, guides, and strengthens!

In For Life Abundant, Bass and Dykstra pull together a collection of essays from academic practical theologians. The topics vary widely across four main categories: the overall goal of practical theology, the way that practical theology can improve theological instruction, the discipline of practical theology in the university, and the way in which practical theology intersects the life of the church.

The essays in this volume taken as a whole demonstrate both the breadth of the practical theological field as well as the rigor and depth of each aspect. For Life Abundant is an engaging overview of practical theology in its various forms.


Bass, Dorothy C. and Craig Dykstra, eds. For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

Christian Salvation | Amos Yong

Amos YongChristian salvation includes both the transformation of human beings into the image of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit and the transformation of all creation into the new heavens and new earth by the triune God.

—Amos Yong in Mark J. Cartledge, The Mediation of the Spirit: Interventions in Practical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), 152.

The Great Seducer | Helmut Thielicke

Helmut ThielickeThe great seducer always uses the same devices: he seems to take God at his word, and yet he twists the meaning of this word almost before it has left God’s mouth. For we can only take God at his word by placing ourselves under and not above this word.

—Helmut Thielicke, Between God and Satan Translated by C. C. Barber (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1958), 55.

The Shadow of the Almighty | Ben Witherington III & Laura M. Ice

The cover of Witherington & Ice's The Shadow of the AlmightyThe Trinity—one God in three persons—is a challenge to understand. To make matters worse, scripture contains no explicit theology of the Trinity. It does, however, speak often of God as Father, Son, and Spirit. This type of biblical language is what Witherington III and Ice study in The Shadow of the Almighty.

The authors argue that “Father” language for God is not prevalent in the Old Testament. God desired to be a Father to Israel, but Israel was unfaithful. It is only when Jesus became incarnate that God was spoken of as Father. He is the unique father of Jesus (who called him my Father). The church, having received adoption into the family of God, now calls God our Father.

The Shadow of the Almighty is a helpful survey of Father, Son, and Spirit language in scripture. The authors help to make a complex topic more accessible.

—Ben Witherington III and Laura M. Ice, The Shadow of the Almighty: Father, Son, and Spirit in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002).

The Mediation of the Spirit | Mark J. Cartledge

The cover of Cartledge's The Mediation of the SpiritMark J. Cartledge straddles two worlds. On the one hand, he is a Pentecostal/Charismatic (P/C) scholar, a member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. On the other hand, he is a member of the Academy of Practical Theology. In his entry in Eerdman’s Pentecostal Manifestos series, Cartledge brings his worlds into dialogue by offering a P/C perspective on practical theology.

Cartledge’s argument centres on the concept of mediation. After identifying a desperate lack of substantive scriptural engagement in the field of practical theology, he takes a close look at the Spirit-reception texts in Acts, uncovering five different forms of mediation (109):

  1. “Christ mediates the Holy Spirit to the church.”
  2. “The Holy Spirit mediates Christ and the Father to the church.”
  3. “Creation mediates the Holy Spirit to the church.”
  4. “The church mediates the Holy Spirit internally (via individuals, groups, worship, and practices).”
  5. “The church mediates the Holy Spirit externally (via individuals, groups, public worship, and practices).”

Cartledge then applies this understanding of mediation in two different ways. On a practical level, he reviews a congregational study by Mary McClintock Fulkerson, identifying ways the study could be improved through a deeper understanding of mediation. On an academic level, he uses his understanding of mediation to challenge the weak soteriology which exists in the field of practical theology.

The Mediation of the Spirit functions on two levels. Cartledge first provides a valuable addition to P/C studies and practical theology through his scriptural understanding of mediation. On a more theoretical level, he uncovers some systemic oversight in the field of Practical Theology and marks the trail for P/C scholars to continue to contribute to the field of practical theology.

—Mark J. Cartledge, The Mediation of the Spirit: Interventions in Practical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015).

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