Tuesday, April 12, 2011

finding your theological rut

1. How do you do theology?
2. How does your church do theology?

These are the questions by which we concluded our (post-graduate Master/Doctor of Ministry) Program Seminar yesterday. The post-graduate Master/Doctor of Ministry can only be taken by folk in ministry and by folk doing it part=time. In other words, folk a few years into ministry.  And I have this hunch that after a few years in ministry, a few years beyond formal training, it’s easy to settle into a rut.

Recent events in Australia and in the world – floods, fires, earthquakes, nuclear fear – make important the genre of lament. So that was focus of the class. We explored lament – in contemporary culture like U2 and Sound relief concerts, at nuclear disarmament protest marches and in the Biblical tradition.

Then at the very end we introduced the work of John O’Malley, Four Cultures of the West. He traces the history of Western thought and identifies four ways by which we can engage

  • the prophetic culture that proclaims the need for radical change in the structures of society (represented by, for example, Jeremiah, Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • the philosophical culture that seeks to understand those structures (Aristotle, Aquinas, the modern university)
  • the poetic culture that addresses fundamental human issues and works for the common good of society (Cicero, Erasmus, and Eleanor Roosevelt);
  • and the performance culture that celebrates the mystery of the human condition (Phidias, Michelangelo, Balanchine).

We invited people to look in the mirror. To think about the latest tragedy they had encountered in ministry and to identity the main way they had responded. Did they engage in prophetic action, or want to think through the issues, or seek poetry or metaphor by which to name the suffering, or the liturgy they might have written? To group together with like-minded people.

And then to consider if that is a repeated pattern. Are we simply going to where we feel most comfortable? Where does the community we serve tend to go? Are they in a comfortable pattern? What might it look like for us to engage in a way of doing theology that is more unfamiliar to us, or to our community?

Because it’s easy to get in a rut. And part of our growth as leaders come as we push ourselves into different spaces and places.

Posted by steve at 02:36 PM


  1. OK. I showed myself to be a good ‘rut-occupier’. But with those present I find myself being given a swift kick to get out of the rut! Ouch, Program Seminars can be a dangerously good place!

    Comment by Bruce Grindlay — April 13, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  2. Bruce, thanks. We’re all rut occupiers 🙂 and I found myself pretty challenged by the whole thing also


    Comment by steve — April 13, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

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