Final Examination of Laurie A. Mellinger
For the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 12:00 p.m., Caldwell Room 125
Rev. Raymond Studzinski, O.S.B., Ph.D.
Teaching Theology as a Christian Spiritual Practice: The Example of Stanley J. Grenz
This dissertation explores the recent work on spiritual practices in the academic discipline of Christian spirituality, gathering together the strengths of various conceptions of practice from the literature and developing a rigorous definition of a Christian spiritual practice: Christian spiritual practices are things God enables Christian people to do together over time to address fundamental human needs in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, activities that together form a way of life that pleases God and through which God teaches and transforms persons into the image of the Son.
Practices may be Christian or may not be, depending upon whether practitioners ground their practices in the Christian tradition, reflect critically upon them in light of that tradition, and recognize God’s agency within them. Thus, teaching theology may or may not be performed as a Christian spiritual practice. This study examines the practices of reading, writing, and teaching—all broadly defined—as the three necessary and sufficient practices of theological education, and determines that each of them may be done in an engaged or a disengaged fashion, an “academic” or a “spiritual” orientation (or some mixture of the two). Engaged theological educators tend to exhibit the dispositions of humble hospitality, reflective and attentive contemplation, and prayerful conversation in their reading, writing, and teaching.
After carefully correlating the aspects of the definition of Christian spiritual practices with the composite practice of teaching theology, the thesis contends that teaching theology can meet the definition of a Christian spiritual practice. The work of Stanley J. Grenz (1950 – 2005), a prominent evangelical theologian, establishes that he employed reading, writing, and teaching while exhibiting the dispositions enumerated above, marking him as an engaged theological educator. His pursuit of theological education as a Christian spiritual practice can serve as a model for others to emulate, possibly contributing to a reunion of spirituality and theological pedagogy in the lives of individual teachers, their students and colleagues, and the corporate people of God.