This question is one of many raised by Edward Farley’s Theologia: The Fragmentation and Unity of Theological Education (one I wish I would have read years ago!). Let me give you Farley’s assertion, then the argument that informs it:
[T]heological education has assumed that its unity and subject matter had no relation to the sapiential knowledge which accompanies faith’s concrete existence (piety). The flurry of activity going on these days about ‘formation’ and ‘spirituality’ is no doubt some sort of attempt at the restoration of piety [in theological education] … Because the aim has been to spiritualize the theological school’s life and ethos but not its course of studies, the formation movement perpetuates the inherited separation of piety and intellect. Presupposed here is that spirituality pertains to a realm other than the subject matter and end of studies … Furthermore, formation and spirituality seem to be viewed as to have little to do with faith’s sapiential knowledge (theologia). This may be why it has been so easy to talk about and urge a formation which lacks spirituality’s very essence, namely, discipline. This lack of a cognitive element and the discipline necessary to it may be the reason formation in the present-day sense exports intellect from piety (pp. 160-61).
How does this strike you?
Lying behind Farley’s statement is a rather detailed historical tracking of theological education’s circuitous route from the patristic age to the present. The result: Farley contends that contemporary theological education operates with an overly modern, scientific notion of theology, one that actively separates faith and action, theory and practice, knowledge and spirituality. Against this, theological education (in the academy and the church) should find its unifying centre in what Farley calls theologia, a sapiential (existential, personal) and praxis-oriented understanding of God and the world which predominated before the Enlightenment and the inclusion of “theology” into the German university as a “science” (among other reasons).
Theology is less a “science” in the modern sense, and more “an act of practical knowledge having the primary character of wisdom” (p. 81). This retrieval works to hold together theory/practice, faith/obedience, knowledge/spirituality.When theological study ceased being an end in itself by which those who studied it were transformed by grace, the
“study of theology” became a means toward other ends (in its earliest cases the training of professional ministers) and with it came a theory/practice divide.
The separation of knowledge and spirituality also attended this shift. To make up for the inadequate relationship between them, in the present day some seminaries and Christian universities attempt to infuse the entire education process with an emphasis on spiritual formation rather than change its basic view of theology to incorporate the sapiential wisdom that had long-characterized it before the Enlightenment.
Does this ring true to anyone? If so, where do we go from here?