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January 07, 2010

Comments

Terry

I don't think that making modules on politics, economics, etc., compulsory is the way to go, but certainly ministerial colleges should entertain the possibility of providing optional modules. Spurgeon's, as you probably know, has modules in science/religion and, at MTh level, law.

But where would you stop? Politics, economics, science: fine. Cultural studies? Literature, popular and classic? Sport? Music (and I don't just mean the singer-songwriters and bands that blogging theologians seem to favour, but general Top 40 stuff)? Soaps? In all seriousness, I wrote an essay on collecting memorabilia a few years back, and I could probably run at least a 0.5 course module on issues of nostalgia, attitudes to material culture and the like.

So where do we draw the line?

ash

I couldn't agree more, Andy. The Church very often ends up functioning such that it essentially picks up the slack of all the public services in this country; there are problems with this (for the Church), but it does show that there is certainly the will to get involved in the practical side of politics, economics etc.

It seems to me that when it comes to practical things - worship, organisation, mission, public service - practise tends to come first, and theory after. We often run headlong into good things with good intentions, but it is essential that theoretical (theological) groundwork gets done too. If we are going to be well-informed enough to do this, then it seems logical that at least introductory modules in politics, economics etc. are included in ministerial training.

In response to Terry, I've long wondered whether a HE degree is the best way of training ministers. The structures inherant to HE are designed to foster academic excellence, rather than to fully equip a person for work in a particular field (with the possible exception of the medical sciences). I wonder if there might be a better way. Or we could make the courses longer.

Simon Jones

The forth-coming election will obviously give an opportunity to a numnber of churches to hold hustings and the like. But it's too late and risks only being a way of rubbing stamping existing opinions rather than helping people to think about how their faith informs how they live in the world.

Terry's right that you could expand the curriculum to an unwieldly extent. But I stand by my suggestion that at college we need to be exposed to thinking about the world from sources other than theologians. This might well have implications for who we employ as theological college lecturers.

Of course, a number of ministers-in-training have had careers prior to starting at college. I was a financial journalist for seven years, so came with an understanding of and interest in the way the economy and especially the finance sector worked. Perhaps their training should include opportunity to reflect on what they have learned from those careers and how to think theologically about it.

And, of course, we are ministering to people who work in the worlds of politics, business, science, medicine and the like and who would benefit from in help reflecting on their working lives from a biblical and theological perspective.

Often we are afraid of making 'political' comments from the pulpit and so we tend just to make a few anodyne observations about lifestyle - be honest, don't swear, don't sleep around - and we never tackle issues that might actually affect the way our people vote and seek to influence the lending or investment policy of the bank they work for or the tendering policy of the construction company they direct. You could expand the examples in any number of ways.

Your list of books, Andy, is a good starting place but they are all by Christians. I think we need to be reading Thomas Friedman, John Gray, Malcolm Gladwell, Benjamin Barber and the like and using the theological tools we've acquired to reflect on the agenda they set.

Terry

If we take Simon's suggestion seriously, it could mean that people training on ministerial courses are required to take a module or two on politics, economics, etc., in a different college. But this would probably mean that the course would have to be extended by a year - or that some formal CPD is implemented to allow for this kind of thing to happen.

In response to Ash: While HE degrees are designed to foster academic excellence, in ministerial colleges, it seems to me that there is a huge emphasis on praxis as well.

Truth Seeker

How about reflecting theologically on this political situation? Labour - new or old, which many baptists consider the right party to support, has in the last decade, engaged in several wars which have resulted in many hundreds of thousands killed and even more wounded, not to mention, devastation to infrastructure and economies and large numbers of homeless and refugees.
BNP policy on the other hand (very wicked and unchristian boo- hiss- dismiss ) is not to engage in any foreign wars but to withdraw British troops immediately.
Which policy do you think Jesus wants us to support? Discuss

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