To Understand God Truly by David Kelsey
David Kelsey is Luther A. Weigle Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity
School in New Haven, Connecticut. His article is based on his convocation address
in 1996 inaugurating a new academic year in which YDS, under the leadership
of its new dean, Richard Wood, set out to develop new curriculum and programs
recommended by a review committee, which was chaired by Kelsey. To Know God Truly: What's Theological About a Theological School?
2. Crossroads Hamlets
Where may we locate these crossroads hamlets? At what crossroads do North American theological schools develop? The piously conventional answer has been, "At the crossing of Athens Highway and Jerusalem Road." Perhaps in a dismal February after the fall, a frustrated and disillusioned contemporary answer is likely to be, "At the intersection of Snare and Delusion." A more helpful and, at any rate, historically more accurate answer would provide a multiple choice: Theological schools grow up at the intersection of the Berlin Turnpike and (pick one or more) Trent Road, Augsburg Road, Geneva Road, Canterbury Road, Northampton Road or Azusa Street. That is to say, the factors that shape the concrete ethos of each particular theological school derive from its relation to the history and traditions of higher education as symbolized by the University of Berlin, on the one side, and on the other side, from its relation to some tradition of organized Christianity, as symbolized by Ecumenical Councils (Orthodox) or by place names emblematic of various reforms (Trent, Augsburg, Geneva, Canterbury) or emblematic of various revivals (Northampton, Massachusetts; Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, California). More exactly, theological schools differ from one another precisely because the ways in which they relate to the turnpike to Berlin vary, and because the ways in which they relate to the road to Azusa (or Northampton, Canterbury, Geneva, Augsburg, or Trent) vary, and because the ways in which they interrelate these two sets of relations themselves vary. If one's expectations and hopes regarding a theological school are going to be concretely appropriate to the school in its concrete reality, then it is important to attend to the way that school weaves these factors together. To that end it will be useful to sort them out and map some of the quite different ways in which they may be combined.
There is nothing odd about "theology" associating with "school." A school we might say is a particular community of persons whose central purpose is to understand some subject truly. The community includes some persons whose understanding of the subject matter is acknowledged to be somehow more advanced or deeper than the understanding of other members of the community; they are recognized to be skillful at helping the others develop and deepen their understanding. It is customary to describe the interaction between these two groups by saying that the former teach and the latter learn. However, teaching and learning are effectively accomplished only when both are done as subordinate moments in one common quest for truer understanding. Furthermore, since that quest always involves a struggle against various kinds of impediments, it requires appropriate methods and disciplines that serve as strategies in the struggle. It is not so much teaching and learning that make a school but the disciplined common, communal struggle to understand more truly.
What distinguishes a theological school is that the subject it seeks to understand truly is tbeos, God. However, God cannot be studied directly, as though God were immediately given like the page of a text. Nor can God be studied by controlled indirection the way, for example, subatomic particles, which also are not immediately given, can be studied indirectly under the conditions of controlled manipulation in the laboratory. Therefore it is more accurate to say that what distinguishes a theological school is that it is a community that studies those matters which are believed to lead to true understanding of God. Thus, for example, schools as communities of study of scripture have always been central to the life of both Judaism and Christianity precisely, because scripture was believed to be a body of "sacred" texts whose study, would lead to truer understanding of God. A synagogue is by definition a place to study the Torah; "school" was an early image for the church, the "school of Christ."
However, while there is nothing odd about "theology" associating with "school," the association immediately pluralized "school." Far from naming the essence that makes theological schools basically all the same thing despite apparent differences, "theology" indicates one range of factors that accounts for the irreducible differences among theological schools. "Theology" does not name the unifying factor; it names one pluralizing factor. This can be seen in relation to three of the characteristic features of a school: the subject matter that focuses its common endeavor; the "understanding" it seeks through study of that subject matter; and the kind of community the school is.
Diverse subject matters
Theological schools are academic hamlets located at crossroads, one of which is the road from (select at least one): Nicaea, Trent, Augsburg, Geneva, Canterbury, Northampton, Azusa Street Mission, and so forth. Each of those place names is the emblem of a different way of construing the subject matter on which a theological school focuses. Indeed, they are so different that it is difficult to find a relatively neutral generic term for this subject matter. To refer to the subject matter as "the word of God" easily appears to favor either the Lutheran "Augsburg" or the Calvinist "Geneva" road; and any effort to clarify that easily leads to complaint that the Augsburg Road is being privileged over the Geneva Road, or vice versa. To refer to it as the Christian "tradition" will raise the objection that that implicitly favors the Counter-Reformation Roman Catholic 'Trent" Road. To refer to it as "Christian experience" sounds too easily like a privileging of the revivalist "Northampton" Road or the charismatic "Azusa" Road. And any effort to clarify "experience" is likely to arouse complaints that one of those two is being favored. If, in an irenic move, one suggests it is "scripture, tradition, and experience," one will be charged with covert preference for the Anglican "Canterbury" Road! Hence, for convenience sake, I am going to borrow a phrase from G. K. Chesterton and refer to the subject matter on which theological schools focus as "the Christian thing"' I will use the phrase "nominalistically," simply as a place-holder for all communities of practice and belief who call themselves "Christian."
The point is: the Christian thing is construed in a number of different ways. To be sure, they overlap at many points in many unsystematic and unsystematizable ways. Nonetheless, they are irreducibly different. The Christian thing may be construed as a piece of good news about something that has actually already happened to human history or, indeed, to the entire cosmos, and all the implications of that news for our attitudes and values and orientation in life: "God has already decisively overcome evil and is actively at work liberating the whole creation from its bondage; live accordingly." Or the Christian thing may be construed not as a report about what is already actual, but as the offer of a possibility: "Here is the possibility of forgiveness of your sin and release from your burden of guilt; or, the possibility of coming into truly authentic human life and leaving behind a deformed, inauthentic life; all you have to do is appropriate it for yourself in joy and trust." Or, the Christian thing may be construed as an entire ethos, a total way of life complete with the necessary institutional framework, traditional structures of relationships among persons, values, norms, and so forth. Or the Christian thing may be construed as a total interpretation of reality or of the whole of experience, something like a body of theory that gives, at least in principle, a single unified explanation of everything.
There is no one "core" or "basic" or "essential" material theme or doctrine, nor any one pattern of them, that is the Christian thing. The generally accepted conclusion of historical studies is that there never has been. There is not even a past, perhaps originating, "essential" or "core" construal of the Christian thing from which Christians have departed in different ways and to which they might return.
The important consequence is this. Since the "subject matter" on which theological schools focus (in the belief that its study will lead to truer understanding of God) is itself construed in irreducibly different ways, then that which makes all the schools nonetheless of the same kind (namely, theological schools) cannot be that they all finally study the same subject matter.
This is a radical simplification of the actual situation, of course. It wrongly suggests that each theological school exhibits allegiance to some one way of construing what Christianity is all about. In fact, theological schools vary in the way they relate to the construal of the Christian thing to which they are tied by history. Many quite intentionally and explicitly adhere to one construal. Others, equally intentional, are internally pluralistic on this score. They distance
themselves from any one construal by including within their communities persons with allegiances to a variety of construals of the Christian thing or persons proposing original syntheses of older construals. They may all study what they do study to the same end: understanding of God. But that is a different matter. Insofar as the concrete particularity of each school is shaped by its central subject of study, theological schools differ from one another precisely because they are theological and, among Christians, that involves different construals of the immediate subject matter of theology.
The diversity of ways in which the Christian thing is construed makes the world of theological schools irreducibly pluralistic for a second reason. Different construals bring with them significantly different notions of what it would be to "understand" God truly. Note: What is at issue here is not the conflict among different concepts of God. Rather, it is a matter of different concepts of understanding God.
What is it to understand God? The dominant answer, from the second century through at least the sixteenth century, on all sides -- Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant "scholastic" -- would have been, "To understand God is to have a kind of wisdom or sapientia." However, left at that, "wisdom" obscures important differences. This wisdom concerning God embraces contemplation, discursive reasoning, the affections, and the actions that comprise a Christian's life. But the ways in which these four are interrelated vary enormously. Each way of interrelating contemplation, discursive reasoning, affections, and action amounts to a different way of leading the Christian life. They might be called different types of "spirituality" or "piety." However, in current usage both spirituality and piety tend to connote mainly inward states, and that is an inadequate characterization of some of these ways of understanding God. We shall simply refer to them as different types of Christian life.
They are not to be confused with the different ways in which the Christian thing has been construed, which I discussed in the previous section. The construals of the Christian thing are different ways of construing the immediate subject matter on which we focus in theological schools as the way to come to a better understanding of God. By contrast, what we are attending to now are different pictures of just what it is to understand God by way of focus on that subject matter. Obviously, the two intersect in a bewildering variety of ways. A particular theological school is helped to be made the concretely distinctive school it is through the way in which it combines (a) a tendency to construe the subject matter in one way rather than another with (b) a particular picture of what it is to understand God. That is why it is important to distinguish the two factors and discuss each separately.
Christian thinkers in the third and fourth centuries made contemplation central. They reasoned that Christianity has to do with the fulfillment of human life, and that our fulfillment comes in contemplation. In making this judgment they were shaped, as all Christians are, by the intellectual tradition centered on the question, "What is the best life for a human being? What life brings full realization and happiness?" The common assumption was that there were only two truly human ways to life: the life of political action and the life of contemplation. The dominant assumption in classical Athens had been that the citizen's life of political action was to be preferred because in it one fulfilled what is highest in human nature, the capacity for free and rational action. It was action in the public realm aiming at the common good. Involvement in the political life of the city of Athens was enormously expensive and time-consuming. It presupposed one was rich enough to be free of having to labor for a living. Political action itself largely involved rhetoric, trying to persuade others to adopt one policy rather than another. Such speech exercised and exhibited logos, which does not so much name one's rational capacities as it refers to the rationality inherent in effective rhetoric. Plato's project, successful in the long run, was to reverse these assumptions. He sought to persuade Athenians that the way of contemplation was higher than the way of political action. Contemplation was a way of understanding. The contrast to contemplation, or theoria, from which the English word "theory" is derived, was not (as it is in current English) action or praxis (cf. "practice"). Rather, the contrast term was some other way of understanding, having to do with guiding human action ("practical" understanding) and with making things ("productive" understanding).
Thus we get two definitive characteristics of contemplation. First, what distinguishes contemplation from these other ways of understanding and makes it the highest form of life is the nature of its subject matter. Contemplation is the way to understand that which does not and inherently cannot change. Practical understanding, by contrast, is the way to understand wise political action, and that is notoriously changeable. In Plato's view that which cannot change is inherently the most rational and the "real" reality. Its contemplation involves the fullest realization and hence the happiness of creatures of a rational nature such as human beings. The second definitive mark of the way of contemplation is that it is inimical to the way of action. The way of contemplation involves all of one's energy and attention and a disengagement from the distractions of the everyday world, including political action.
A philosophical development contemporaneous with third-century Christians introduced a third definitive mark of contemplation. Until then contemplation was discussed as a way of understanding unchanging things that combined discursive reasoning, or coming to understanding by a process of thinking things through, and immediate intuition, coming to understanding by a kind of intellectual direct "seeing" of how things unchangingly are. In the third century the philosopher Plotinus, and the Neoplatonic philosophical tradition that followed him, sharply distinguished between these two and identified contemplation solely with an immediate intuition of unchanging reality.
To third-century Christian thinkers it was obvious that the Christian life centers on that understanding of God which brings to full realization our humanity and happiness. They identified this with the biblical "blessedness." It was equally obvious to them that such understanding is identical with the way of contemplation. God is the most real and utterly unchanging reality. The heart of Christian life is contemplative understanding of God.
However, this judgment created a serious problem. As Christians, these third-century thinkers also held that the best way to contemplate God is through meditation on sacred scripture. Now, if there is anything obvious about the biblical texts it is the high premium they place on action -- precisely that with which contemplation was said to be inherently incompatible. Understanding God in and through some sorts of action had to be combined with understanding contemplatively. This was worked out first by redefining "action" and then by subordinating it to contemplation.
Scripture was interpreted as commanding either ascetical acts or acts of charity. In the third century stress fell on defining action as ascetical practice, as "acts" ultimately directed at oneself to purify one of all engagements with the everyday world that distract from pure contemplation.
By the fifth century Augustine was acknowledging that "action" includes acts positively done in love for the neighbor's well-being, that is, acts of charity in addition to acts done negatively to purify oneself. Together they are a walk of life defined by Christian perfection. That is, they are acts defined by the degree to which they are formed and guided only (i.e., perfectly) by God-given love for neighbor and for God. Augustine seems increasingly to have restricted these acts either to activities serving the neighbor's more basic needs or to those connected with religious service. They may be performed by anyone in any position in society. It does not matter whether one is by God's providential decree placed in the role of politician, engaged in public action for the common good, or in the role of a lover of wisdom (philosopher), engaged as a private person in contemplation of eternal truths, or in some combination of the two: "A man can still lead a life of faith in any of these three lives and reach the eternal rewards. What counts is whether he lovingly holds to truth and does what charity demands."
No longer is the "action" in which our humanity is realized primarily political action, as it was in classical Athens, action in the public realm for the public good. Rather, acts of charity are acts outside the public realm, that is, private action, aimed at the well-being of private persons, oneself, and one's neighbors. Such action constitutes the practice of a Christian life through which one can come to understand God.
This way to understanding God in and through action can be combined with the way of contemplation by being subordinated to it. As early as the mid-third century Origen of Alexandria had urged that the actions enjoined by scripture constitute a "practice" that begins a spiritual journey and comprises the Christian life of most people in time; it flowers into pure contemplation in the afterlife as the ultimate and certain reward of faithful practice. This pattern of thought became normative in Western as well as Eastern Christianity. Actions of charity and asceticism, including the discipline of meditating on scripture, lead to a certain understanding of God in this life, but Augustine stresses, doing these actions does not itself constitute the full actualization of human life. Acts of love for the neighbor and of ascetical self-discipline are therefore a burden. Nonetheless, Augustine held, because they are burdens laid on us by God they must be accepted willingly in love for God. Doing them requires the "right use of worldly things," which involves discursive reasoning or scientia. Thus discursive thought is indirectly involved in understanding God through action infused by love. However, this entire way to understanding God, including scientia, is prior to, inferior to, preparatory to, and so subordinated to the way of understanding by contemplation, or sapientia.  The Christian life, in short, is construed as mainly a life spent actively preparing by disciplined loving for a future fulfillment of our humanity in a perfect contemplation of the unchanging God.
This picture of what it is to understand God has tended to have a high correlation with distinctive cultural situations. As Robert Schreiter has pointed out,  it is characteristic of contemplative understanding of God, or sapientia, that it has a strong interest in integrating all aspects of the world into a single meaningful whole. It goes with a sensibility that sees the world as an elaborate code of analogies, in which everything at the material level of reality refers to a higher level of spiritual realities, which in turn refer still higher to God. Hence it is characteristic of this picture that the dominant metaphor for coming to understand God is a "path" or "journey" up through the levels of meaning in the cosmos until one grasps God. Such a picture of how to understand God tends to predominate in cultures that see human life as a cycle replicating the cycles that make the world a unified whole. These cultures tend to be ones that, on the one hand, will sacrifice other things to maintain a unified view of the world, and that, on the other hand, maintain important rites of passage by which human life is tied in with the recurring cycles that make the world one. Such cultures tend to value conformity to the underlying patterns of the universe far more than they value personal growth as one's own personal achievement. Cultural situations in which contemplative understanding of God thrives tend to be highly homogeneous and intolerant of pluralism.
This picture of Christian life shapes the nature of a theological school in distinctive ways. When it dominates, the understanding of God that is the aim of theological schooling is basically an understanding by way of contemplation as one is empowered for that by loving one's neighbor and God. It tends to be correlated with construals of the Christian thing as either good news about a divine act that has transformed the fallen cosmos that it is again genuinely a harmonious whole, or as an ethos that embraces all of human life, or as a total interpretation of reality. In the first two cases the subject matter on which one focuses contemplatively tends to be treated intellectualistically as the mind's guide to the contemplation of the structure that makes reality a harmonious whole. In the last case the subject matter is treated more practically as a guide to how to order life so that contemplation is possible. In any case, theological schooling centers on disciplines of spirituality. This notion of what it is to understand God has been definitive in Eastern Orthodoxy and enormously influential in Western European theological schooling. Under various terminological guises it continues to shape deeply many North American theological schools historically rooted in Roman Catholic and certain Anglican movements.
A second notion of what it is to understand God gives much greater place to understanding by way of discursive reason. In the thirteenth century, it grew out of the earlier view centering on contemplation under the impact of newly recovered writings of Aristotle. Thomas Aquinas, for example, preserves a number of themes central to the earlier view. He continues to hold that human fulfillment is fully realized only in sapientia or contemplation of that which is most unchanging, God. He also affirms the traditional conviction that the best way to contemplate God is through meditation on scripture and the practice of its injunctions. Moreover, he maintains the traditional subordination of understanding through acts of charity to understanding by immediate intuition in contemplation.
Indeed, he radicalizes it. He holds that immediate intuition or vision of God comes only in the hereafter. Sapientia is reserved for the eschaton. Nevertheless, there is a way of truly understanding God in this life. His study of Aristotle helped Aquinas recover the role of
discursive reasoning in theoria as it was understood before Plotinus. This is the way of understanding one has when, in a relatively disengaged fashion, one observes (in Latin, speculari) what is going on and thinks through what are the patterns or principles that explain what is happening. It is understanding by way of scientia, or speculative theoria, rather than by way of sapientia, or immediately intuitive theoria. Where Plotinus had limited contemplation to the latter, Aristotle had seemed to combine the two in contemplative understanding. Aquinas follows Aristotle's lead. For him, understanding by way of contemplation is rich enough to embrace scientia as well as sapientia, discursive reasoning as well as intellectual intuition.
Indeed, for Aquinas there are two kinds of scientia or speculative understandings of God. They differ in what they "observe" and in what they led to. Discursive reasoning can lead to understanding of God either by meditation on the everyday world or by meditation on scripture. Either will lead to some kind of understanding of God because each in its own way is given by God. To attend to both of them in their God-relatedness is, as Augustine had taught, one important way in which to love God with one's mind. From Aristotle's writings Aquinas acquired a set of concepts and some theoretical principles that he could use as tools to reason discursively from what can be grasped in the books of scripture and in the book of the world to an understanding of God.
They result in two rather different kinds of scientia. Observing (speculari) what goes on in the world and reasoning discursively from that lead to what Thomas calls scientia divina, "divine knowledge." It is not so much understanding of God as it is understanding of God-related matters. It leads, more particularly, to understanding how all things are related to One Unknown (who, on other grounds, one understands is God). Meditatively observing in faith what goes on in scripture and reasoning discursively from that leads, by contrast, to what Thomas calls scientia dei, "knowledge of God." It is not so much understanding of what and how God is, as it is understanding true things to say about God, such as, "God is merciful." They are true to say because they derive from God's revelation communicated in scripture. But because they are said of a transcendent God, we have no grasp of how they apply in God's case, that is, of the "mode" of their application in God's case.
This picture of what it is to understand God tends to have a cultural location that is characteristically different from the one that correlates with understanding by way of sapientia or wisdom. Where understanding by way of sapientia tries to grasp the unity of the world, understanding by way of discursive reasoning or scientia tries to construct a system of propositions to explain the world. Furthermore, it is characterized by a drive to show that its understanding is sure, demonstrably preferable to competing explanations. That lays a high stress on specialized skill at analysis and sophistication about the methods and strategies for "demonstrating" something. As Schreiter has pointed out in his reflections on the sociology of theology,  such a picture of what it is to understand God tends to predominate in cultural situations marked by high specialization and differentiation, like urban societies and their economies, and marked by a plurality of competing worldviews. They are more complex and pluralistic societies than those that tend to correlate with understanding God contemplatively.
On this picture, the understanding of God that is the aim of theological schooling is basically understanding by way of discursive reasoning. It is done in faith and done as a way of loving God. It is a way of Christian life to which acts of neighbor love are integral but subordinate. Both the acts of love and the discursive reasoning are a preparation for future fulfillment of our humanity in contemplative vision of God. But in this life, understanding of God is by way of discursive reason.
This has had important consequences for theological schools. Because such understanding focuses on truths established by discursive reasoning, it tends to correlate with a construal of the Christian thing as a total interpretation of reality. Theological schooling consequently focuses on cultivating capacities for reasoning, capacities for formulating and testing the propositions by which those truths are expressed. This notion of what it is to know God has been enormously influential in both late Western medieval and modern theological schooling. It continues to shape many North American theological schools historically rooted in certain Roman Catholic communities, especially those in which neo-Thomist theology, and philosophy were dominant, and schools rooted in the Reformed tradition,  especially those rooted in British and Dutch scholastic Calvinism of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
A third picture of what it is to understand God stresses understanding that comes by way of the affections. It too grew out of the earlier view centering on contemplation as sapientia. That earlier view had also held that contemplative understanding of God comes by way of love for God. But as articulated by Augustine, for example, that love was quite specifically a love of the mind, in obedience to the biblical injunction: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Contemporaries of Aquinas who stood in the Franciscan tradition developed this thought a step further. They urged that loving was distinct from reasoning and went beyond it. The Franciscan Bonaventure, Aquinas's great theological debate partner, held that sapiential contemplation "starts with knowledge and reaches its completion in love,"  and may do so in this life.
What is distinctive about this tradition is that it associates love with will rather than with reason. According to Nikolaus Lobkowicz, Bonaventure is following Thomas Gallus's contention that "instead of applying the intellectus theoreticus" (i.e., our capacities for discursive and "speculative" reasoning, on which Thomas Aquinas focused), we "ought to reach God by the summus affectionis apex, the 'tip of the will': 'It is by this communion (unitio) that we have to know things divine, not in terms of the sobriety of our intellect.'" 
The picture that God is understood by way of the affections is shared by a number of later Christian movements that otherwise differ strongly from Bonaventure's Franciscan tradition and, indeed, in varying degrees differ from one another. They all agree that God is not to be understood chiefly either by way of contemplation (sapientia) or by way of discursive reasoning (scientia). They differ in how they understand the affections that replace sapientia and scientia. They have all deeply influenced theological schools in North America.
Beginning in the late seventeenth century, the pietist movement tends to distinguish the affections from both reason and will and associates them instead with feeling states. Love for God is more focused, perhaps, in one's "heart" than in one's "mind" or "strength." In the eighteenth century the picture that one understands God through love as a feeling state deeply shaped the early Methodist movement through John Wesley's experience of a heart "strangely warmed." As his work on the Religious Affections shows, it was also central to Jonathan Edwards's understanding of the great revival that began in his parish in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Different versions of basically the same picture continue through the nineteenth century in both theologically liberal and theologically conservative circles. No longer are the relevant affections associated with love, however. Among liberals, "affections" tends to mean "religious experience." For some that designates a distinctive type of experience, perhaps the experience of the numinous, that combination of intense fascination and terror one experiences in encounter with the uncanny or the holy. For others the relevant affection or feeling state is more like a dimension of all human consciousness, and hence a dimension of every particular experience, than it is some one class of experiences among others. Perhaps, as it was for Friedrich Schleiermacher, human consciousness may be understood to have several levels. At very least, one is at once conscious and (most of the time) self-conscious. Underlying it all is a level of consciousness of which one is not often aware, of a "feeling of absolute dependence" on some reality that is not itself in any way dependent on us. Such understanding of God as we may have comes from attending to that feeling.
Conservative American theological circles were more deeply shaped throughout the nineteenth century by continuing waves of religious revivals on the American frontier. There, understanding God was often identified with a "personal knowledge" of God that came, not so much through any particular affection such as love, but rather through the very intensity of one's emotions, intensity so great that in the surge of emotion distinctions between love, fear, guilt and joy blurred entirely. 
In one distinctive version of this, "affections" mean quite specifically the ecstatic experience of possession by the Holy Spirit as evidenced for example, by speaking in tongues. From a revival meeting in 1906 in the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, in which such a second Pentecost occurred, this particular stream has had powerful and broad impact on many Christian traditions in North America through the charismatic movement. 
This picture that God is understood by way of the affections tends to have much the same cultural location as does the view that God is understood by way of discursive reasoning or scientia: It is a culture marked by the high differentiation and specialization of social roles characteristic of urban societies and their economics, considerable pluralism of subcultures and worldviews, social fragmentation, personal anonymity, and rootlessness. Such a cultural setting tends to generate a deep hunger for certainty about one's worldview in its competition with other worldviews, about one's identity in the face of social rootlessness and anonymity, and about one's unsubstitutable significance as a person in the face of specialization that reduces one's personhood to a single socially useful role. Where understanding God by way of discursive reasoning addresses these problems by trying to explain the world and to establish the sure validity of its worldview, understanding God by way of the affections grounds certainty in the sureness of immediate experience and grounds a sense of personal significance in the intensity of the intimate face-to-face communities in which those experiences occur and flourish.
All of these variations on the picture that God is understood by way of the affections, it may well be said, are a far cry from anything Bonaventure had in mind when he stressed that understanding comes through a love which goes beyond reason. Their important differences from Bonaventure and from each other arise from differences about what is central to human nature. They are differences regarding precisely what it is about us that makes it possible for us to understand God. But for all their differences, they share in taking feeling states or experience or emotions to be at the heart of Christian life.
This picture of the Christian life tends to correlate with a construal of the Christian thing as an offer, as news about a possibility of new and fulfilled or blessed life that one may appropriate for oneself -- and the appropriation is by way of the affections. Where this picture predominates, theological schooling is organized around the goal of preparing leadership for Christian communities that is knowledgeable about the conditions under which such experiences occur, may be nurtured, and will flourish. When such schools are located in a cultural context marked by the "triumph of the therapeutic," there is a strong tendency, to construe those conditions in psychological and sociological categories and to equate the requisite knowledgeabilitv with counseling skills and related psychoanalytical and social-psychological theory. Evidence of that tendency is widespread in Protestant theological schools, both conservative and liberal, that have roots in religious communities shaped by one or another of these movements of revival. Given the history of Protestant Christianity in North America, most schools do have such roots. Nor is this tendency entirely lacking in Roman Catholic theological schools.
A fourth picture of what it is to understand God roots understanding in action. It first surfaces in the generation after Bonaventure in the thought of Duns Scotus as yet another development of the Franciscan version of the Augustinian heritage. Scotus shared the Augustinian ,conviction that ultimate human fulfillment lies in love for God, and he shared with Bonaventure the traditional Franciscan view that love for God is more an act of will than of reason. But he "replaced the innocuous notions of affection and 'affective knowledge' by the notion of 'practice'" or praxis, which he had thoroughly reconceived. (Scotus seems to have been the first medieval thinker explicitly to ask the question, "What exactly is praxis?" Indeed he seems to have been the first Latin author to use the expression praxis in a philosophical or theological context.)  Broadly speaking, Scotus takes praxis to be any action that is conscious and deliberate, is something other than a purely "mental act," and is capable of being either right or wrong. Human life is defined, not simply by intellectual acts, but by praxis, by a complex mix of those acts that are different from purely intellectual acts and, while analogous to many activities of animals, are generically different from them.
Scotus has very nearly revived Aristotle's notion of praxis, with the glaring difference that because Scotus does not define praxis by reference to the public realm or the common good it lacks any political connotations. But then Scotus disagrees with Aristotle. In Scotus's
view, Aristotle had rightly held that understanding of human behavior in politics and ethics has to be practical and not contemplative understanding because behavior is so changeable. However, Aristotle wrongly held that the unchanging God can be understood only contemplatively. Against this, Scotus insisted that God is the "doable knowable" (cognoscibile operabile). That is, God may be understood by way of any action which is true praxis. 
With this notion of praxis Scotus effectively subverts the other three pictures of what it is to understand God. He removes action from its subordinate role and makes it central. Recall that from the third century onward the actions enjoined by scripture had posed a problem to Christian thinkers because action was perceived to be inconsistent with contemplation. Of human action, that is, of politics and of ethics, as of all changeable things, one might acquire practical understanding and acquire it precisely by way of engaging in the action, but the unchanging God one can hope to understand only by way of contemplation undistracted by action. Hence action is given only a subordinate role in our coming to understand God. Action might be ascetical, playing the role of purifying us of distracting entanglements. Or action might be works of neighbor love, done in joy because God commanded them, but burdens because they do distract from contemplation. Or action might be the actions involved in worship by which we express our inadequate love for God and pray for the grace of an adequate love for God. Taken together, these actions make up the way of Christian perfection and are in the service of and subordinate to contemplation, in which alone is understanding of God to be found. Scotus's idea of action reverses this. Action's role in understanding God is not limited to our purification. It is not limited to acts of worship. It is not to be understood as a burden distracting us from the effort to understand God. Rather, since praxis comprises our entire life as human life, it can be so shaped that it is itself the way to an understanding of God which may then flower into that love for God in which we are one with God.
For third-century Christians sapientia, contemplative understanding, might here and now yield human fulfillment in vision's union with God. For Thomas Aquinas scientia, understanding by discursive reasoning, might help prepare us for a future intellectual vision of God. For Bonaventure understanding of God might start in reason's contemplating (sapientia) but then must go on beyond reason to the completion of understanding in wills affectionate union with God. But for Scotus, because understanding God culminates in precisely will's love of God, it must begin here and now neither solely in reason's sapientia nor solely in its scientia, but in will's deliberate and conscious action, that is, in praxis.
As Nikolaus Lobkowicz points out, "One only has to forget for a second that for Scotus the ultimate secret of will, and thus of practice, is love, in order to be reminded of statements such as: the only knowledge able to reach God is practical, not theoretical (Kant); the only source of meaning in the whole universe is praxis (Marx)." Of course Scotus says nothing of the sort. Nonetheless, his picture of what it is to understand God "anticipates, and in a sense paves the way for, the notion ... that it is an atheoretical practice [i.e., practice without theoria] in which God is encountered or missed."
There have been a number of variations on this picture of what it is to understand God, largely in late nineteenth-and twentieth-century Protestantism. Some of these versions take "action" in a highly individual and private way: To understand God is to understand God's will for me in this particular situation; understanding God's will consists of the rigorous effort to clarify what my unconditional moral duties oblige me to do. Or, in a less moralistic and more psychological mode: To understand God is to act in such ways in this given situation involving another person that I may discern how God's grace is at work in the trans-actions between us to correct what is amiss and, where life is broken, empower for new life. Alternatively, "action" may be taken in a more public and political way: One comes to understand God as one engages in action with others in the public realm struggling to redress some social or economic injustice by taking realistically prudent political action. Morally such situations are inescapably ambiguous, but in their midst one may -- though one's companions in the struggle may not -- discern the grace of God at work judging the evil resisted and forgiving the evil committed (cf. Reinhold Niebuhr). In this version, the praxis in which one comes to understand God is public in the classical Athenian sense, but the atheoretical understanding itself is entirely private.
Currently the most influential version, of course, is associated with movements shaped by liberation theologies: We come to understand God as we are a part of a community that is united by a common history of oppression and struggles for liberation by radically changing the arrangements of economic and social power that have made the oppression systemic in our society. In that action we encounter the God who is already at work in world history ahead of us and on behalf of the oppressed to establish God's kingdom of justice and peace. In this version, praxis is understood quite differently than it is in the others. Both praxis and an atheoretical understanding of God are communal, intersubjective, and hence, in that sense, public. There is a place for theoria in this practice. Out of praxis that aims at transforming oppressive social power arrangements arise fresh theoretical understandings of the structure and dynamics of oppressive relationships within society. These new theories may then guide further transformative praxis. Theory is a dialectical moment within practice.
This theoria is not so much theoretical understanding of God as a theoretical understanding of society and ourselves in it. However, it can be shaped by the atheoretical understanding of God we already have. To understand God as the One who liberates oppressed people into a realization of their true social humanity, for example, can put us in a position to recognize the falsity of the social relationships our society imposes on us.
The picture that God is understood in action tends to be correlated with cultural situations marked by deep social change or by newly widespread consciousness in parts of a society of the need for deep social changes. They need not be cultures marked by high degrees of differentiation and specialization of social roles. Nor need they be highly pluralistic societies. They need not be highly urbanized societies. But they do need to be marked by sharp contrasts between small elites who control massive economic, social, and political power, and large groups whose consciousness of their relative powerlessness is sharply rising. In such societies, this picture of what it is to understand God tends to be best sustained in relatively small Christian communities that can retain a degree of communal identity in the midst of these social changes without moving to the margins of social turmoil and withdrawing from active participation in the reformist or revolutionary movements that cause the changes.
Where variations on this picture of what it is to understand God prevail they deeply shape theological schools. The schools differ in the degree to which the action in and through which God may be understood is thought of as Christian communal action and, if it is, in how far it is precisely political action. They share, however, the view that Christian life and therewith Christian ministry are above all an active life. Accordingly, the common life of a theological school that educates those who lead and nurture communities of Christians in that life must in high moral seriousness focus above all on the nature and demands of that activity and on analysis of the society in which it must be lived.
It is precisely because theological schools are theological that they are irreducibly plural. The pluralism is a consequence of the irreducibly plural ways in which the idea of "understanding God" is itself theologically understood, combined with the irreducibly diverse ways in which the subject matter (the Christian thing), whose study is believed to bring us to a better understanding of God, is construed. Together these two points bring with them important pointers regarding how to go about better understanding any particular theological school. In the interest of following the recommendation that any such effort ought to be kept as concrete as possible, it would be important and fruitful to ask whether there is some one dominant assumption within the school as a community about (a) how the Christian thing is best construed and (b) how one best goes about "understanding" God. Since a society's ethos is rarely entirely coherent, it is likely to be even more fruitful to ask whether there is tension among two or more sets of assumptions on these matters widely held within the school as a community.
Rarely are these assumptions stated self-consciously and explicitly; even more rarely are they stated in official school publications. Rather they are assumptions almost wholly implicit as the structures, patterns of behavior, and common talk of such communities. One can hope to find symptoms of them in several ways. One is to explore how intensely the school identifies with Geneva Road or Azusa Street, Augsburg or Trent Road, and so forth. The historic traditions within Christianity emblematized by these place names characteristically bring with them commitments to specific answers to our two questions. The more intensely a school identifies with such a tradition, the more deeply the tradition's commitments on these matters will shape the school's ethos. This is a rare case in which the school's assumptions may be explicitly in a reliable way, in its official documents. Increasingly, however, a great many schools, especially Protestant ones, are not very intensely identified with any one Christian tradition.
A second place to look for symptoms of a theological school's implicit ethos-shaping theological commitments is the structure of the curriculum it requires of its students and the relative richness of the courses it offers them. For example, a curriculum that seems to privilege courses having to do with religious experience, worship, spirituality, counseling, and the like over, say, systematic and philosophical theology may reveal a commitment to the assumption that God is understood effectively rather than discursively; while a curriculum relatively more rich in offerings in ethics, sociology of religion, liberation theology, and the like than in offerings in historical theology, patristics, liturgics, and mystical traditions may reveal a commitment to the view that God is better understood in action than in contemplation.
Yet another place to look for assumptions that shape a given theological school's distinctive ethos is its organization of activities not strictly academic, such as worship or social action. To what extent is such activity organized by the faculty as a matter of school policy and to what extent by students at their own initiative? To what extent does it engage faculty energy and to what extent student energy? Major differences between faculty and student responsibility for the very occurrence of such activities may suggest tensions between different sets of implicit commitments regarding what is central to the Christian thing and how best to go about understanding God. One has, in short, to be an amateur anthropologist studying the school's ethos as participant observer to discern those deep theological assumptions that help make a given theological school the distinctive social reality that it is.
A third theological factor that pluralizes theological schools is their understanding of the kind of community they are or ought to strive to be. Earlier I characterized a school as "a particular community of persons whose central purpose is to understand some subject truly." A theological school in particular is a community whose central purpose is to come to understand God more truly. The fact that what the community seeks to understand is God presumably has implications regarding the sort of community it is. The central issue here can be focused by asking the question as concretely as possible: How does a given theological school understand the relationship between itself as a community and a Christian congregation as a community? Granted that a theological school surely has some kind of relationship to the Christian church, just what is that relationship?
Not all theological schools have explicit, formal answers to this question. Nevertheless, some answer is always implicit in the way the school conducts its common life and the reasons conventionally given for doing some things in the way in which they are done. The answer is theological in the sense that, if challenged, theological reasons would be given in support of it. At least three broad types of answer to this question can be found among American theological schools. What is important for our purposes is that a school's answer to this question shapes its peculiar ethos.
The first type simply identifies a Christian theological school with a Christian congregation. The school community's common life is ordered to its being a congregation. Of itself that does not constitute the community as a theological school. Something more is needed for it to be a school; we shall take that up in the next chapter. However, on this view it is more determinative of the community's particularity and identity that it is a Christian congregation than that it is a school. To be school requires first that precisely this community be church. This shapes the school's ethos in deep and distinctive ways. On the Trent or Canterbury road it means that eucharistically centered worship is the basis of the school's community. It means that focus on everyone's spiritual formation is central and not peripheral to the community's common life. Furthermore it means that the spiritual health of members of the community is somehow the responsibility of the entire community. On this view, the fact that the school community is a worshiping community is not just terribly important; it is the foundation of its being a community at all.
When a theological school understands itself in this way it tends to develop an ethos in which high value is placed on its being a resident community set apart from the "world" so that there will be maximum time, energy, and attention focused on that which defines it as a community. Such schools tend to be placed physically in rural or small town settings. At its most extreme this ethos tends to foster a certain antintellectualism, seeing academic work itself as a possible distraction from the spiritual shaping that is the basis of the community.
This view and its ethos are evident in North American schools in Catholic traditions. There, theological schools are simply assumed to be religious communities living under orders. Such schools see themselves as modern embodiments of medieval Cathedral schools or monastic schools which were, unambiguously, ecclesiastically ordered communities. This picture may be exhibited quite unambiguously, of course, in many North American Roman Catholic theological schools operated by religious orders or by a diocese, even when the schools' communities in fact include persons not literally "in orders." This is reflected in the conventional structure of Roman Catholic theological education in which theologates are a subset of seminaries. "Seminary" covers schools at the high school and college levels as well as theologates. What makes them "seminaries" is that their common life is that of a community of worship aiming at the spiritual formation of its members as priests. "Theologates," academically the most advanced, the institutions that provide professional education for ministry, what this book calls "theological schools," are first of all "seminaries." This view becomes more ambiguous when increasingly large numbers of men and women students are admitted who are not "in orders" and require a different sort of spiritual formation.
Basically the same view underlies the ethos of many Episcopal theological schools, although with a good bit of ambiguity generated, perhaps, by the way differences in church polity and theology of ordination alter the clarity of the idea of being "in orders." Nor is this view of the relation between theological school and congregation and the ethos that goes with it limited to Catholic traditions. In 1754 Thomas Clap, self-consciously a Calvinist theologian, the rector of Yale College, then still self-consciously a school in the Reformed tradition, forbade Yale students to worship anywhere except at the college church on the grounds that the school itself, ordered to educate ministers, was a religious society "of a superior nature."
A second and more complicated view of the relation of theological school to church, however, was more characteristic of New England Congregationalism and mid-Atlantic Presbyterianism. There "school" was an amplification of the study of a congregation's senior minister. Future clergy were apprentices schooled by the minister as he conducted his weekly ministerial rounds. The student or students and the minister did not constitute a church; they were related to a church in the way in which clergy and congregation are understood to be related to one another in the Reformed tradition. Looked at one way, clergy (and student clergy) and laity are all together one congregation. But with regard to the preaching of the Word they are differentiated, and the relation between them is hierarchical. Nonetheless, clergy and their students do not themselves comprise a Christian congregation. This view, and the ethos it tends to create, persists in this tradition long after theological education has passed from the studies of ministers to theological seminaries.
A particularly clear illustration of this is provided by the founders of Union Theological Seminary, New York, in their preamble to the school's constitution. The constitution was drafted in 1836, just before the school opened. After noting the need for well-trained ministers, and that in New York and Brooklyn there were promising persons who could not go away from home to get such training, and professing their allegiance to the Presbyterian church, they announced their intent
"that its students, living and acting under pastoral influence, and performing the important duties of church members, in the several churches to which they belong, or with which they worship, . . . shall have the opportunity of adding to solid learning and true piety, enlightened experience."
The theological school provides "solid learning/" It is a community constituted by the pursuit of learning. The students bring "true piety." Worship is an important part of the common life of the school. But it is not foundational to its being a community as, precisely, a theological school. Nonetheless, the school community is essentially related to church communities. The churches nurture the "true piety" of students who live under their "pastoral influence."
The school is not a Christian congregation, but it is related to a number of Christian communities by virtue of the fact that its students, (and faculty) are active members of them. And this is what will provide "enlightened experience." As Robert Handy points out in his comment on this preamble, Union's founders made a "distinctive contribution" to theological schools of this type when they included this theme in their vision for their school. "Enlightened experience" was to come through performing the duties of church membership while "acting under pastoral influence." In effect, its founders institutionalized "supervised field work" in the very structure of the school. "It was later widely copied, for their aim was to draw on the rich educational and religious resources of what by then was America's largest metropolitan area for preparing ministers.
This way of understanding the relationship between theological school and church tends to create an ethos that has probably been the most influential one in Protestant theological schools in America. Union did not originate it. It had been pioneered by the founding of Andover in 1808, and by the time Union opened in 1836 more than twenty-five seminaries had been established. The prevailing ethos of schools with this heritage is profoundly shaped by the conviction that they are constituted as communities by academic purposes and not, as church communities are, by doxological purposes. Common worship tends to be highly valued and it is characteristic of schools with this ethos to include in the weekly schedule stated times for worship by the entire community. However, it is uncharacteristic for such a school to institutionalize in its common life a structure for nurturing and monitoring its students' "piety" (which would be the closest structural equivalent to "spirituality" in the first ethos I sketched). Furthermore, if situations arise in which academic interests compete with concerns for students"'piety" for added time or financial resources, the response characteristically shaped by this ethos would be to assign to the "churches" responsibility for "piety" and to assign priority within the school to the academic interests.
To be sure, it too is an ethos that places a high value on avoiding distractions. Until the early decades of the twentieth century, schools of this sort were strictly resident communities of unmarried male students. Schools tended to be located physically in rural settings or small towns. When they were in larger cities, they tended to be located in the suburbs. However, it was more important to avoid distractions from academic work than distractions from spiritual formation. As the founding document of Union shows, such a school would quite deliberately be set in the midst of a major metropolitan center on the grounds that this environment was necessary to, rather than a distraction from, its proper academic purposes.
Theological schools with this sort of ethos have tended to be especially comfortable associating with or being an organic part of other types of academic communities such as undergraduate colleges, graduate centers, and universities. This is a theological school ethos that values intellectual seriousness and disciplined rigor as the way in which to love God with one's mind. In the larger context of the Christian life it gives an especially highly valued place to the life of the mind. In its extreme form this ethos can tend to alienate the common life and familiar language of a theological school from the ordinary language and patterns of common life of the churches, giving rise to complaints that theological schooling is "irrelevant" to the "real life" of actual congregations.
A third pattern has had considerable influence in American Protestantism. Under the conditions of the frontier, where the population was widely scattered and revivalist movements became the dominant form of Christian religious experience, especially where the Methodist movement was influential, persons were appointed to circuit riding ministries before their "theological education" was completed. They might be thought of as a cadre of preachers. But since they tended to live a fairly isolated life of frequent travel they could not as a group be considered a community living together under orders. Nor could they he considered a part of a larger group of worshipers settled in one place. Their education took place by private reading and was monitored by examinations set by denominational officials. As theological schools emerged, they were considered adjunctive to the actual practice of ministry. The activity of theological education often had the character of "extension" education. Theological students were certainly part of the church construed as a movement or a denomination. But they were not part of a settled local congregation by whose leadership they were schooled. And the theological school itself most certainly was not a congregation. Rather, the theological school was seen as basically a service agency to a denomination.
The ethos of theological schools sharing this view of their relationship to "church" is markedly different from the other two we have identified. The school is constituted a community, not by being a resident worshiping congregation nor by a common academic undertaking, but by the fact that it consists of a cadre of persons called by the larger church to a mission in the world. Little value is placed on the school's being a resident community; much of the time its members must be away in mission, probably part-time, in the place to which the larger church, that is, the denomination, has appointed them. Many of them are married and have families who live, not at or near the theological school, but in the place where they are sent to minister. Shared worship when all are together as a school is valued. Indeed, given the roots of this tradition in pietist and revivalist movements, it is characteristic in this ethos to invest high energy not only in communal worship but also in Bible study and prayer in intimate small-group settings in which students' individual piety may be nurtured and formed. However, none of this constitutes the school as a community.
Rather, what constitutes the school community is its basic focus on equipping its students with professional ministerial skills and competencies. The students are already responsible for founding, maintaining, and expanding the programs and organizations of local congregations. Preparing them to fulfill these institutional responsibilities more effectively is the common activity that constitutes the theological school as a community. In extreme forms, this ethos tends to value training in what is demonstratively effective and successful in practice over academic learning, to value what sustains clerical careerism over what cultivates the capacity for critical reflection.
I have sketched three ideal types of community that a theological school might be or be committed to becoming. It might be a community under orders sharing a common religious discipline. It might be a community of quasi-clergy related to Christian congregations in the way in which clergy are supposed to be related to the congregations they lead, yet distinct because it is constituted by academic interests of special interest to clergy rather than constituted as a church. It might be the community of a cadre of persons sent individually in mission but concurrently sharing a program of training for that mission. There may well be other types of community to which some theological schools belong. If a theological school were a community of only one of these types it would probably be a relatively harmonious and calm community. In reality, most theological schools are strained communities because they implicitly mix two or more of these types in a single institution.
This suggests an additional set of questions to ask oneself about any particular theological school one is trying to understand. What type of community do the people who comprise it assume it ought to be? It is not sufficient to consult the school's bulletin or catalog for its official self-description in this regard. That may or may not accurately describe how the community's common life is actually lived out. Rather, one needs to attend to such matters as the systems of rewards that shape the community's common life.
Different systems may function in different aspects of that life. Official school policy, for example, might put pressure on students and faculty to invest significant amounts of time and energy in a common life of worship as though the school were a Christian congregation; while faculty put pressure on themselves and students to invest energy and time in scholarly study and writing; and students, concurrently, are under financial pressure that can be met only by taking positions with local congregations so time-consuming that their academic work is conducted on the pattern of extension education. Or the pattern among contrasting types of community that constitute the school might be very different. The point is that some such pattern characterizes every school and the tensions within it profoundly shape the distinctive ethos of that school.
If one is to have a realistic grasp of the school, one needs to be clear about this feature of its ethos also. This is especially important if, as we imagined in chapter 1, one harbors hopes of changing the school. Some kinds of change may be plausible if they involve a strengthening of a commitment to be a certain type of community which is already dominant in a school, but other kinds of change may be much less plausible precisely because they would involve a change in the type of community a school already is or a change in the current equilibrium among contrasting types of community.
In a dismal February
Here we have three broad types of things to look for if, in a dismal February well after the fall, we want to get a firmer grip on the concrete reality of some particular theological school in which, perhaps, we have invested deeply felt expectations. If we may think of a school as a
community of persons whose central purpose is to understand some subject truly, then a theological school is such a community that seeks to understand God. That is what makes it "theological," and that is also what helps make one school irreducibly different from another and in some ways peculiarly resistant to change. Precisely because it is a theological school, it will be helpful to ask three different sorts of questions about it, and then to ask how the answers to the three are themselves interrelated in the structures that pattern the school's common life: What construal or construals of the Christian thing are assumed in the way the subjects of study are addressed? What picture of what it is to understand God dominates the school's common life? How does the school seem to understand itself as a community in relation to churches?
What matters, of course, is how a school answers these questions in practice, not necessarily in its official public rhetoric about itself. The answer can be complex in regard to each of these questions. As we have noted, since God cannot be understood directly we must focus on other matters whose study we believe will lead to better understanding of God. But from the very beginning of Christianity there have been a number of different ways of construing this subject matter. All theological schools stand in some historical tradition in this regard. Some, because of mergers of schools, stand in more than one tradition. In some theological schools a traditional construal is simply assumed; in others one or more traditions of construal of the Christian thing are very self-consciously celebrated ("This is a school in the Reformed tradition, with the following consequences ... !"). Still others self-consciously seek to be open to all construals of the Christian thing and attempt to distance the school as school from any one of them ("We are a truly ecumenical school!"). Sometimes one can see that one kind of construal is assumed in one area of the curriculum, say biblical studies, and quite another in some other area, say pastoral theology.
These differences will interconnect in complex ways with different assumptions about what it is to understand God: contemplatively, discursively effectively, or actively. Here too schools inescapably stand in some historical tradition or traditions and differ from one another in the attitudes they adopt toward those traditions. Moreover, here too different assumptions about this matter may be made in different sections of the curriculum. This can be further complicated by the fact that different assumptions about what is involved in understanding God may be made in regard, say, to the school's common worship life than are made in its curriculum.
Finally, the answers made to these two types of questions will interconnect in complex ways with answers made to the question of how the school as community is related to church communities: Is the school itself an ordered Christian congregation; is it an expanded version of the academic aspect of the work of ministerial leadership in a settled congregation; is it an agency for the extension education of practicing clergy? Once again, every school stands in one or more historical traditions with regard to this question. And schools differ in the attitude they adopt to their own histories. Moreover, as we have noted, one answer to this question may be assumed by a school historically, another adopted by its faculty, and still another be mandated by financial constraints on students. Especially as one harbors hopes for significant changes in a theological school, it is important to understand a particular school in its concrete particularity. These are major theological factors that help make it the concretely particular school it is, and analyzing it in the light of these three questions will help give a realistic understanding of it.
 In 1906 the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, under the leadership of William J. Seymour, became, Sydney Ahlstrom's phrase, "the radiating center of Pentecostalism" in the United States, from which Pentecostalism has grown into a worldwide movement. A brief account of the history of Pentecostalism may be found in Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1972), pp. 816-822.
 For an elaboration of the notion of diverse construals of "the Christian thing," see David H. Kelsey, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), ch. 8.
 See, e.g., Robert L. Wilken, The Myth of Christian Beginnings (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., Anchor Books, 1972). 1
[4. For a sketch of the history of the idea of "wisdom" as our understanding of God, see Farley, Theologia, pp. 33-39; p. 46, nn. 6 and 12.
 For the following paragraph, see Nikolaus Lobkowicz, Theory and Practice: History of a Concept from Aristotle to Marx (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1967), chs. 1-6.
 Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, II, 10; VI, 9.
 See Lobkowicz, p. 67.
 Ibid., p. 64
 See Origen, On the Gospel of John, I, 16.
 See Augustine, City of God, xix, 19;xv, 106
 Robert J. Schreiter, Constructing Local Theologies (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1985), pp. 85-87.
 Cf .Victor Preller, Divine Science and the Science of God (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), ch. 1; Ralph McInerny, St. Thomas Aquinas (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982), pp. 140-170.
 See Schreiter, Constructing Local Theologies, pp. 87-91.
 For similarities on this topic between Thomas Aquinas and the Reformed tradition, see Arvin Vos, Aquinas, Calvin and Contemporary Protestant Thought (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), chs. 1 and 5; Farley, Theologia, p. 46, n. 12.
 Lobkowicz, p. 74; see pp. 71-74 for the historical context.
 Ibid., pp. 73-74.
 See Ahlstrom, chs. 19,20,26, and 27, for a historical survey of successive waves of revival movements in American religious history.
 See ibid., pp. 819-820; 1059-1060.
 For the classic discussion of the "triumph of the therapeutic" as a movement in American culture, see Philip Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic (New York: Harper & Row, Harper Torchbooks, 1966).
 Lobkowicz, p. 74.
 See ibid., p. 71.
 See ibid., P. 74.
 See above, p. 3 1.
 For an account of a major study of Roman Catholic seminaries in regard to the above issues, see Katarina Schuth, O.S. F., "American Seminaries as Research Finds Them," in U.S. Catholic Seminaries and Their Future (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1988), pp. 29-59.
 Clark Gilpin, "The Seminary Ideal in American Protestant Ministerial Education, 1700-1808," Theological Education (Spring 1984), p. 95.
 See Mary Latimer Gambrell, Ministerial Training in Eighteenth-Century New England (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937), esp. chs. 6 and 7.
 Quoted in Robert Handy, A History of Union Theological Seminary in New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), p. 8.
 Ibid., p. 9.
 See Douglas R. Chandler, Pilgrimage of Faith: A Centennial History of Wesley Theological Seminary, 1882-1982 (Cabin John, Md.: Seven Locks Press, 1984), esp. chs. 1 and 2, for an illustration of how one theological school developed in this fashion.
This is a book addressed to those who have felt the pinch of a misfit between their expectations of theological education and the realities of a theological school. Theologically speaking, what ought to be the purposes and nature of theological education? What theological commitments ought to be decisive criteria for assessing and reshaping the ethos and polity of a theological school? The readers he has in mind include: perhaps a student starting her second year of study, or an academic who has just joined a theological school faculty and has never herself been previously involved in theological education, or a person newly appointed to the board of trustees of a theological school.
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