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Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life Paperback – October 26, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Edition Unstated edition (October 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802849318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802849311
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this collection of essays, 13 contemporary Christian theologians examine the Christian Church as a community whose faith, fellowship, and worship are experienced and actuated in an array of practices. Practices in the Christian Church are "things Christian people do together over time to address fundamental human needs in response to and in the light of God's active presence for the life of the world." Editors Volf (theology, Yale Divinity Sch.; Exclusion and Embrace) and Bass (Valparaiso Univ.; Receiving the Day) contribute the first and last of the essays, which serve as bookend pieces, while the remaining essays are arranged in two clusters. The first group addresses how and why theological reflection on practices is crucial to ministry; the second offers programmatic proposals for the discipline of theology and the education of academicians and pastors. Volf's concluding essay suggests that theology itself is a practice, helping Christians to understand, reformulate, and integrate beliefs in an ever-changing world. Recommended not only for seminary and university libraries but for libraries with an active religious studies circulation. David I. Fulton, Our Lady of Victories Church, Baptistown, NJ
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Miroslav Volf is Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School. His books include Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation; The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World; and Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities.

Dorothy C. Bass is director of the Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People of Faith, a project of the Lilly Endowment located at Valparaiso University.

More About the Author

Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. He has published and edited nine books and over 60 scholarly articles, including his book Exclusion and Embrace, which won the 2002 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a book that I was almost guaranteed to love, and it did not disappoint. Among the authors are some of my favourite practical theologians from my seminary days (Miroslav Volf and Dorothy Bass, Craig Dykstra, Serene Jones, Kathryn Tanner, and L. Gregory Jones) as well as some voices who were new to me, but have are very welcome additions to my ongoing theological education. I am a firm believer that education should never stop; just because I have finished seminary does mean that I should finish reading, exploring, and learning new things - in fact, I feel exactly the opposite; because I no longer have the guidance of professors and fellow classmates, it becomes all the more imperative that I find the resources with which to continue. This book is one of those resources.

Dorothy Bass is the editor of the very first book I read in seminary: 'Practicing Our Faith'. That book is a collection of essays about specific Christian practices, and it is on my regular 're-read' list (this was not too difficult to accomplished, as I helped teach in the class that uses that book at my seminary, so almost each year I would end up reading the book again with the new class). This book has a similar feel to that book, but approaches things in a more theologically reflective manner. While the former book approached practices from a standpoint of how they could be incorporated into a Christian lifestyle, they did not delve deeply into the underlying beliefs or processes by which one comes to understanding and identify practices as being authentic, appropriate and worthy of incorporation.

This book does that task well. It looks theological methods and process from a variety of levels, and from a variety of voices.
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Admittedly, I'm not a big fan of books that consist of collections of essays by numerous authors, as it often feels rather choppy and inconsistent. And this book, edited by Miroslav Volf and Dorothy Bass, certainly fell within that general description. If you like the collected essay format, then you may appreciate the book more than I did. More specifically, I found a few of the essays to be rather inaccessible, almost indecipherable.

Though I wasn't wildly enthusiastic about the entire book, I appreciate the goal of helping folks to make connections between theology and practice, as it's a rather unfortunate (if very common) notion that theology is some sort of ivory-tower, abstraction with little application to real life. The authors are committed to the idea that theology and practice form and shape each other and offer some helpful reflections to validate that thesis.

And, to be sure, some of the essays were well-written and helpful in offering specific examples and thoughtful reflections about the intersection of theology and practice. Serene Jones, Tammy Williams, Christine Pohl, and Gilbert Bond offered particularly insightful thoughts. Though I wasn't enthusiastic enough about the book to widely recommend it, I suspect that I might refer back to a few of these essays at some point down the road. But I'll still keep looking for a more thoroughly consistent and engaging book to describe the crucial interplay between theology and practice.
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Format: Paperback
What has theology to do with real life? Volf says that theology is to 'serve a way of life.' In fact, theology is integral to practice, not outside of it. Bass helpfully summarizes the 4 main convictions of all 13 theologians as follows:

1) "practices resist the separation of thinking and acting";
2) "practices are social, belonging to groups of people across generations";
3) "practices are rooted in the past but are also constantly adapting to changing circumstances";
4) "practices articulate wisdom that is in the keeping of practitioners who do not think of themselves as theologians."

For me, I feel that the difference between theologically trained persons and those who are not, lies in the ability to articulate. In other words, the fourth point made by Bass is most relevant. While many teachings sounds like common sense, the ability to communicate and make such knowledge tangible is not an easy task. Such an articulation has to be done in a manner that is readily understood by both teacher and student. It is no surprise that all 13 theologians agree that theology can be practiced. The biggest value this book provides, is not to paint Christian Education and theology as one that is one-to-one facts-receiving (by seminary students) and information-giving (to congregation), but many to many cross sharing and community shaping. In other words, Christian Education must be by the people and for the people.

The gems in this book are many. One of the best articles I found is the need to learn from 'religious struggles' rather than 'religious triumphs' in an essay written by Amy Plantinga Pauw.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Elna Hoffman on October 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I needed this book for a college class, otherwise this would be the last book I would ever read. I honestly am not interested in other people's rambling thoughts on their religion, but this one is easy to read.
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