Tag Archives | practice

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.

Guitar Zero | Gary Marcus

The cover of Marcus' Guitar ZeroMany people have told me, “I wish I followed through with my music lessons when I was a kid.” The prevailing understanding is that it’s much more difficult to learn a musical instrument when your teenage years are fading in the rear-view mirror. Marcus challenges this assumption in Guitar Zero.

When middle-aged Gary Marcus decided that he wanted to play music, he threw himself into the project. His training as a cognitive psychologist allowed him to only to learn, but to reflect intelligently on how he was learning. That’s what makes this book interesting. The chapters in Guitar Zero flow freely between Marcus’ attempt to stretch his fingers onto the proper frets and perceptive analysis on the nature of learning a new task.

Yes, it is easier to learn a new skill when you’re young—but with determination, you can follow in Marcus’ footsteps and take on new challenges regardless of your age.

I might not be picking up an instrument as quickly as an adept child might, but as an adult I still had some advantages. I had a greater capacity to understand the abstractions of music theory and a better sense of music composition as a whole. If practice, determination, and a greater conceptual understanding hadn’t entirely overcome the twin obstacles of age and lack of talent, they had at least made for an even match (192).

—Gary Marcus, Guitar Zero: The Science of Becoming Musical at Any Age (New York, NY: Penguin, 2012).

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