Before there were libraries, before there was parchment, before there were alphabets or written words or other man made symbols, there were believers. Before there were cathedrals, before there were kirks, before there were altars built of wood or stone, there were believers.
The metaphor for Practical Theology that rings true for me is that of a desert pathway. There are places like cities and oases along the pathway that reveal parts of the truth of God. Libraries and universities filled with philosophy and doctrine are but cities along the path. Temples of beauty and of worship manned by clergy trained to lead and to serve, are like oases along the path. But linking centers of formal learning and houses of worship is the pathway, the everyday living of faith. The journeys of a great cloud of witnesses have trodden into the earth the pathways that can lead us through a desert of what can be a confusing, chaotic world.
As followers of the way, disciples of Jesus who are known as Christians, our theology is informed by traditions of academia and clergy, but the spirit that infuses the faithful is manifest in daily living that reflects a love of God and neighbors. Love is an active verb. It does not sit lifeless as words on a page or rituals of worship. Understanding scripture and participating in worship should undergird the living of faith. We need them routinely to be reminded of who we are and whose we are. But no amount of Bible study or church attendance brings us closer to the Almighty without the practice of loving one another.
The Good News: Nothing can separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus. Nothing, not Satan, not doctrine, not church leaders, not culture run amok, not our own sinful past, can diminish the love of God for us and all creation.
The short definition of theology is the study of the nature of God. Usually, study is interpreted to mean a structured, academic process. A broader meaning of study includes learning in many modalities formal and informal. When the subject studied is God, we need to rely on more than just “rational” thinking. We need to use all of our senses and all of our experience as we attempt to grasp “The Great I Am”.
Practical theology to me is the daily living out of faith that links together worship and scholarship making evident that in God’s kingdom, God’s people are recognized by actively practicing love.