Practical theology, is the study of theology in a way which is intended to make it useful or applicable. Its the study of theology so it can be used and is relevant to everyday concerns.
Practical Theology is described as “being dedicated to the practical application of theological insights” and it “generally includes the sub-disciplines of pastoral theology, homiletic’s, and Christian education, among others.”
The word “theology” comes from two Greek words, theos meaning ‘God’ and logos meaning ‘the word about (or the study of) God’ as He is revealed in the Scriptures. Even though our attempts to understand an infinite God will fall short because of our limited understanding (Romans 11:33-36), God has given us the Bible for us to study and understand who He is. Some people try to avoid theology because they believe it is divisive. However, understanding God as He is revealed is uniting and a beneficial thing (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
J I Packer in his book “Knowing God” helps Christians discover the wonder, glory and joy of knowing God. Knowing God brings together two important facets of the Christian faith knowing about God and also knowing God through the context of a close relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. This thought-provoking work seeks to transform and enrich our understanding of God by both explaining who God is and how we can relate to him. The interconnectedness of everything known is illustrated in the graphic below and reflecting on it will help us think through the complexities of our faith.
Some educators see the purpose of practical theology as helping to prepare Lay Preachers to translate the knowledge learned into effective ministry to people. Doing this involves both personal and family life as well as the administration and educational ministries in the church. It is said the goal of practical theology is to develop effective communicators of Scripture, who have a vision for the spiritual growth of believers, while being servant leaders.
Some consider practical theology to simply be a more technical name for the doctrine of the Christian life. Its emphasis is on how all the teaching of Scripture should affect the way we live today in this present world. The emphasis of practical theology is not simply to contemplate or comprehend theological doctrines but to move beyond and applying those doctrines in everyday Christian living so we “contribute to the world’s becoming what God intends it to be.”
The premise behind practical theology is that future Christian leaders need to be equipped not only with theological knowledge but also with the necessary professional skills to minister effectively in the modern world. Practical Theology reveal’s the depth of Doctrine and Belief, enabling us to grasp the significance of complex issues around topics such as Morality, Ethics, Conservation and Social Justice, to name a few. Practical Theology enables us to take Academic Complexities of the faith and break them into bit sizes pieces for common consumption.
Theology, is about putting people in a position where they can speak a word about God. Even the atheist usually has very fixed views about the God who he doesn’t believe in
Theological study does not introduce people to a God different from the one known and worshiped by ordinary believers, any more than astronomy introduces scientists to a set of stars different from those observed by shepherds under the night sky. The difference is that the astronomer brings to his study not only a host of instruments unavailable to the shepherds, but the findings of previous generations of astronomers, procedures honed by constant experimentation and (not least) the resources of a host of ancillary disciplines such as mathematics, physics and chemistry.
While the subject-matter of theology is unique, the study itself employs the same careful methods and stringent standards as apply in other disciplines. These include the study of the scriptures in their original languages, rigorous textual criticism, the scrupulous collation and deployment of evidence, critical awareness of past theological discussion, and constant reflection on the relations between theology and other academic departments (especially philosophy and the natural sciences). Without theology, our relationship with God would be limited. Practically, theology is reading the Bible to discover what God has said about Himself.
Theology teaches us that God is the Creator, Sustainer and Judge of all things; that He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of all things; that He is, as Moses learned (Exodus 3:14), the great “I AM”, the free, purposeful, self-sufficient, almighty, self-existing, self-determining Being and not an impersonal cosmic force. Through theology we learn that God has revealed Himself to humanity through His Son Jesus Christ and that through His blood we have eternal life.
In our own lives, we must understand theology in order to live a life of love and obedience. How can we love God if we don’t know Him? And how can we obey him if we don’t love Him? As we get to know God better through reading His Word, our lives are immeasurably enriched by the comfort and hope that He imparts to those who know, love, obey Him. Inversely, poor theology and a superficial or inaccurate understanding of God will make our lives worse instead of bringing the comfort and hope we long for. Without theology, we have no direction about who God is and what He does, and we waste our lives and lose our souls.
All Christians should be preoccupied with theology the intense, personal study of God so that we may know, love and obey the One with whom we will joyfully spend eternity.
For the Lay Preacher grappling with complex issues and concepts an understanding of Theology is essential. With an awareness of Theology one can probe the complexities of existence and how the things we know or understand come to be. Theology helps us to harmonise the truth about God being the Alpha and Omega. There is a very helpful resource available on line dealing with Apologetics, the branch of Christianity which deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith. Christian Apologetics is something every true believer should be involved in even if it is only a little.
“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,” (1 Peter 3:15).