Learned Behavior

By Buchanan, John M. | The Christian Century, February 24, 2004 | Go to article overview

Learned Behavior


Buchanan, John M., The Christian Century


SEVERAL YEARS AGO I was part of a discussion of theological education which tackled two sets of questions: First, what skills does one need in order to be an effective clergyperson? What does one need to know? Second, how does one learn the skills and procure the knowledge? Where is it learned and procured? Who teaches?

The participants in that study concluded that a classic theological education--the essence of which has not changed much for centuries--is necessary. In other words, people need to shady the Bible, theology and church history, and the more rigorous the study the better. But the skills necessary for effective ministry are learned elsewhere.

We talked at length about the dilemma Tom Long underscores in this issue (see p. 80): while courses in what we have learned to call church "praxis" are part of the solution, scholars in those fields have trouble getting themselves and their courses taken seriously in the academy. Edward Farley has observed: "The very, structure of theological studies alienates the whole enterprise from praxis.

Hence proposals on behalf of praxis made to that structure are quickly and easily absorbed and trivialized. …

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