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Why I am a Theological Engineer!

I have a little cross stitch picture made for me many years ago by my mother that says

ENGINEERS: Practical ends are achieved by the application of scientific principles.


I like this (obviously!) but I think it says something important about the relationship of engineers and scientists - they actually need each other.  Doing science for its own sake is probably very interesting but can become very esoteric and otherworldy.  At the same time, engineers can be so earthly and practical that they are unable to innovate and experiment.  The two disicplines actually need to engage each other if there is to be a net gain.

Likewise theology.  There is an apparent split between 'real' theology and 'practical theology' with the systematicans/dogamtists like snooty physicists asserting their superiority over the prccticals/engineers (not that I have chips on my shoulder, not me!).  The reality is that they need each other.  It is I am sure, if you can understand it, fascinating to ponder abstract philosophies of God or the nuances of Greek grammar, and these do add to the overall body of understanding of faith but it can become so far removed from real life that the person in the pew fears it.  Local theologies can become so experiential that they lose sight of the important abstract concepts of faith and/or the need for reflection or engagement.  Enter the Theological Engineer!  The person who can relate the theory and practice, practice and theory in a reflective, critical way so that "practical means are achieved by the application of theological principles.'

Today I found a working definition of Practical Theology that I quite like :

'... critical, theological reflection on the practices of the Church as they interact with the practices of the world with a view to ensuring faithful participation in the continuing mission of the triune God.'

(from Practical Theology and Qualitative Research, John Swinton and Harriet Mowat, London, SCM, 2006, page 25)


I like its relational Trinity view, I like its missional focus, I like its balance of theory and practice.  It feels in tune with an (or, at least, this) engineer's eye view of their role as a theologian!

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