By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine, by Ellen Charry (Oxford University Press, 264 pp.; $45, hardcover). Reviewed by Douglas A. Sweeney, assistant professor of church history and the history of Christian thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
We seminary teachers complain a lot. We bemoan the theological ignorance of even our healthiest congregations, the widespread co-optation of Christian minds by secular learning, the way pop psychology informs more sermons than does the Bible, the frequency with which church meetings are conducted like those in corporate boardrooms. In short, we worry about the ways in which many secular modes of "discourse" have usurped the roles of Scripture and Christian doctrine in helping us come to terms with reality. And we hope and pray that it is not too late to shape the way Christians think by building bridges between the seminaries and the churches. That is our job: to relate theological scholarship to the practical work of ministry.
As Ellen Charry of Princeton Seminary explains in By the Renewing of Your Minds, however, such concerns of theologians are misguided. The very effort to bridge the gap between our theory and our practice suggests that something has gone quite wrong in the way we approach theological study. As Charry argues, the best theologians (or at least her favorite theologians) throughout the history of the church have always viewed theology itself as a fundamentally practical field of study. It is only since theology has been professionalized within the walls of the academy that it has become so esoteric, unapproachable, and often impractical.
More important, in the early years of the development of Christian thought, theologians ...1
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