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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

CILLIERS, Johan. "Fides quaerens societatem": Practical Theology in search of social embodiment. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2009, vol.49, n.4, pp.624-638. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article gives a brief overview of some of the characteristic tensions of the theological discipline of Practical Theology, flowing from the basic tension already suggested in the name: practice and theology, or practice and theory. It proposes that Practical Theology will by nature always be in a process of reconstruction; will remain provisional and experimental; and exists within the creative tensions of empirical research and theological conceptualisation, confession and society, core identity and interdisciplinary approaches, induction and deduction, contextualisation and tradition, the Scriptures and communication, calling (vocatio) and denomination, spirituality and academic accountability, university and denominational partners, and so forth. The article summarises eight paradigms within which Practical Theology could be understood: • Fides quaerens intellectum (faith in search of understanding): Here the intention is to understand, interpret and proclaim the revelation of God in a logical and cognitive manner, especially within an ecclesiological context. The emphasis is on teaching. • Fides quaerens verbum (faith in search of words): This entails a narrative and non-directive approach, complemented by fitting modes of communication and discourse. The emphasis is on the act of expression. • Fides quaerens actum (faith in search of acts): The emphasis is on stronger integration of theory and practice, liberation, transformation, and ways of effecting Practical Theology. The focus is on the development of skills. • Fides quaerens spem (faith in search of hope): Here the emphasis is on the understanding and experience of meaning, as well as the means to foster and facilitate such understanding through the liturgy, pastoral care and preaching. The significance of eschatology plays an important role in this regard. • Fides quaerens imaginem (faith in search of images; symbolic expression): Although not meant to oppose the abovementioned emphases, it brings a new dimension into play, namely what has been called aesthetic reason or aesthetic hermeneutics. The emphasis falls on the art of imagination and creative expression. • Fides quaerens visum (faith in search of concrete visualisation): This is linked to the notion of aesthetics. The intention is to aid people to discern traces of God's presence by means of visual and virtual realities. In this regard, the role of modern technology (internet, mass media, and so forth) is considered. • Fides quaerens corporalitatem (faith in search of embodiment): This is a holistic approach, with emphasis on the embodiment of humans, among others also as the "address" of revelation. Our bodies are central to what we perceive and experience, also in terms of our relationship with God. It is the prime locus of God's presence with us. This understanding of embodiment is of specific importance in Practical Theology, as it entails the notions of contextualisation, immediacy, encountering, embracement, communality, radicalisation and concreteness. • Fides quaerens societatem (faith in search of social embodiment): This is a bridge-crossing approach, taking Practical Theology beyond its exclusively ecclesiological boundaries, striving to interact with a variety of communities (including faith communities) in order to serve and enrich these communities, but also to be served and enriched by them in a collaborative and reciprocal way. The article suggests that Practical Theology hinges on a hermeneutics of significance, which should not be seen as a new form of clerical or ecclesiological power or control, but rather as a collaborative and reciprocal way of serving and enriching life as it is expressed and experienced in society. Whilst Practical Theology has traditionally operated within a clerical and ecclesiological paradigm, this article proposes that the space within which Practical Theology comes to fruition, should be society in the broadest sense of the word. It is within this space that the contributions of the abovementioned eight paradigms are made operational through Practical Theology of significance, in other words Practical Theology that signifies but also generates meaning. Significance forms the centre of the wheel of Practical Theology, which turns within the realms of society.

Keywords : Practical Theology; theory; praxis; practice; paradigms; hermeneutics; significance; society; fields of tension; ecclesiology; eschatology.

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