Back from Greenbelt and unpacking, slowly, some of the input. A highlight was listening to Stanley Hauerwas. I thought it unlikely that I should ever get to see or hear him speak so it was more than a little treat for me.
There were loads of things and I may post more. Some personal things that struck me though....
I have enjoyed for some time his statement that theology should be seen as craft and, just as you would spend hours in training for any craft, so you should in theology. His desire for apprenticeships and learning from masters is good. He made the point that most of those in seminary these days are those that have failed first in previous walks of life. This made me smile as I recalled a conversation with the principle of my Baptist college as he described my cohort of students as 'dis-functional'. I think he was right too, we were.
I am still bewildered as to what on earth training or formation for Baptist ministry meant. My placement church hired me 'cause I was cheap and there was no other guidance for what my role meant whilst I was there outside a once a year meeting between my tutor and the church and chance to ask questions in 'Baptist Time'. We had personal tutors that changed every year. We met with them from time to time depending on their work load and efficacy. That was our lot at the time.
My friend who was in Catholic seminary seemed to experience a much deeper exploration of himself and what it was for him personally to be formed. I was very interested in that. I needed to do four years training. At first this had seemed a considered length of time. It was put to me that I needed four years. What was interesting is that there was no real sense of what should fill those four years.
My apprenticeship has since taken place through my working in a team in my first church. It doesn't really seem like formation though. More good luck and a huge blessing from God.
Connected with this, Hauerwas commented that theology matters. As an illustration that most of us don't believe this, he points out that if a medical student says she doesn't want to study anatomy anymore because she is more interested in psychology then she will be told tough luck. She needs to buckle down.
This doesn't happen in theological education though, or in seminary. He suggested that this is the case because whilst people think that an improperly trained physician might do serious damage to their health, we do not really think that badly trained/formed ministers can do any real harm. In short it doesn't really matter.
When I was 20 I came across the theology of John Howard Yoder. His work on letting go of outcome and embracing discipleship has formed my entire life. It's the reason I don't care if a drug addict never comes to Christ even if I put in a thousand hours with her and have half my worldly goods stolen. That's not the point. It is the walking the way of Christ that is the important thing. Sod the outcome. The theology in that one book has molded completely the way I try to live. Hauerwas is right. Theology matters. It has the power to inform and completely transform the way we live and our very salvation.
It's important that we engage and that we can trust those who engage deeply in its pursuit and bring back news from their discovery and their reading. I think that our salvation depends on such an approach.
It just wont do to take it all lightly.