I hope I am in good company with other bloggers in being a little obsessive and sensitive when it comes to my blog. I just made a major shift from a longstanding blog that I had run for a number of years. There I tried to engage academically with theology. This mode met with greater and lesser success at times. The shift here was to represent an intentional attempt to shift my manner of discourse to become more particular with respect to my vocation as a pastor.
This past week I was reflecting on this recent shift and as I looked at my blog I suddenly had the temptation to change my tag line, descriptive pastoral theology. The reason for this was both internal and external. Externally I felt that it might project too limited a scope on what I am trying to do here causing people to judge this blog by its (sub)title. The second and more significant motivation is my own internal relationship to the thing called pastoral theology. I hated my pastoral theology course in seminary and I have never encountered pastoral theology text that I have appreciated nor have I come across many pastors blogging who have kept my attention. These are supposed to be the practical applications of theology for the church but they always strike me as impoverished theoretically or simply uninteresting practically. For this reason my academic pursuits have always been a little escapist when it comes to the day-to-day realities of pastoring. At least when I was focusing on biblical studies I was gaining invaluable tools for directly related study. Theology always presented itself as the un-winnable dichotomy between irrelevant systematic theology and weak pastoral theology. I have come to terms with this experience as being a symptom of my choice in educational institutions. However it influenced a trajectory that has been hard to alter.
I decided to keep my tag line because I see the value, potential and role of pastoring. Given my congregations I have experienced a greater freedom in my intellectual formation. I am no longer on a track of greater and greater specialization making sure I can account for all secondary literature on a given person or subject. I now read broadly with a sense of imagination in how various themes can engage with each other. The problem remains that this process has still largely confined itself to the pulpit. It is my hope that this space will eventually lead to the exploration of other areas of pastoral work (pastoral care, baptism, Lord’s Supper, ‘mission’, etc.). In this way I hope to engage and also challenge the intellectual trends that have been formative in spaces marginal or outside the church. And of course that those trends would also challenge the practices within the church.
For this reason I also want to maintain the title descriptive pastoral theology. Again, this is no claim to objective understanding of task or concept. This points rather to a practice or discipline which is meant to slow things down and takes for granted that things are already in motion and so shifts in perspective and articulation will already announce and enact shifts of practice and understanding as this is worked in particular.