As long as we have having fun with quizzes, here’s one that tells you which theologian you are most like. Like all of these quizzes, the questions can be a little annoying at times. But have fun with it and post your results in the comments.
In the initial post for this blog, I argued that both scientia and sapientia are necessary. I would imagine that many would acknowledge the importance of the latter, but what about the former? Really, how important is it that we engage in the more theoretical aspects of theological research? In a recent book on theological education, Daniel Aleshire made the following observation:
“As I listen to some church leaders and read some analysis of the needs of the church, the intellectual work of research or learning more than strategies for ministry seems to be in disrepute. It is perceived as a luxury that can no longer be afforded or a useless way to engage the practical difficulties that churches face.” (Earthen Vessels: Hopeful Reflections on the Work and Future of Theological Schools [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008], p. 171).
What do you think? Is there any legitimacy to the argument that scientia is, at best, a luxury that the church should only pursue when it has time to spare from its more pressing ministerial obligations; or, at worst, a distraction and a detriment to those more fundamental concerns? Given the declining vitality of the church in the western world and the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people around the world, should we not be investing our time, energy, and material resources in more strategically significant ways? In other words, does scientia have a sufficiently important role to play in the life of the church today to warrant the time that we spend on it?
American Theological Inquiry is an online journal focusing on theology, culture, and church history (they accept exegetical papers as well) that started earlier this year and has been well received so far. They recently sent out an email inviting interested persons to submit papers and/or book reviews for publication in the journal. This might be a great opportunity for you to publish an article or review in what looks like a pretty good journal (it’s too soon to say for sure). If you are interested, check it out at www.atijournal.org.
Philosophers and theologians of many stripes have long distinguished between various forms of knowing. In his Nichomachean Ethics (1139b18-1141b27), Aristotle identified at least five different kinds of knowing: episteme (‘scientific knowledge’, inductive knowledge of particular things and their causes), techne (‘technical knowledge’, knowing how to do things), phronesis (‘practical wisdom’, knowing what is conducive to producing the good), nous (intelligence, direct intuition of first principles), and sophia (‘wisdom’, scientific and intuitive knowledge of the highest goods). Aristotle was thus keen to point out that there is an important difference, for example between a theoretical knowledge that “light flesh floods are digestible and wholesome” (epiteme) and the practical knowledge of which foods are “light flesh foods” and thus lead to good health (phronesis). So, he argued that these five are distinct ways of knowing, but he also emphasized that they are interdependent. His view of the relationship between theoretical and practical knowledge, then, could be anachronistically presented in Kantian guise: episteme without phronesis is empty, phronesis without episteme is blind. Consequently, for Aristotle, while we can make helpful distinctions between different ways of knowing, we make a fundamental mistake when we think they can be separated into autonomous ways of being.
Many contemporary thinkers echo Aristotle’s concern for distinguishing without separating various forms of knowing. For example, liberation theologians have emphasized another of Aristotle’s epistemological distinctions: that between theoria (theoretical knowledge), poesis (action that produces things), and praxis (action that is an end-in-itself) (Politics 1.4, 1254). Although this is often expressed in a way that suggest a disjunction between theory and action, Aristotle intended it as a way of bringing the two together in a vital synthesis. A number of other theologians have focused on the distinction between orthodoxy (right thinking), orthopraxy (right doing), and orthopathy (right feeling). Again, this can be done is such a way as to emphasize one over the others, but a better approach is to recognize that all three are necessary and are mutually interdependent (i.e., right doxa, worship, necessarily entails right feeling and right doing, and vice versa). All of these distinctions find expression in Charles Wesley’s call to “reunite the pair so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety.” Or, as P. T. Forsyth said, “Doctrine and life are really two sides of one Christianity; and they are equally indispensable, because Christianity is living truth.”
It is this interconnection between right thinking and wise living that I have chosen to emphasize as the title for this blog (we can always change it later if we want). The particular language that I cited, scientia et sapientia, goes back (at least) to the writings of Augustine who utilized it to distinguish between knowing about some object (scientia) and the love for that object that necessarily follows, along with the corresponding lifestyle (sapientia) (see esp. De Trinitate books 12-14). For Augustine, then, the distinction ultimately points to the inseparable relation between knowing about God and loving God, both of which necessarily produce a doxological lifestyle (i.e. a life lived in worship before God).
As I was thinking about our Th.M. program, I could think of no better way to express a conviction that I think we all share. The time that we spend in biblical and theological research is both enjoyable (normally) and necessary for our own personal development. But, it must not ever be separated from the ministry of the church, from our lives lived together in doxological community. Theory lives to serve practice. Theology is the bondservant of the church.