I want to take a look at Gordon S. Mikoski’s new volume, Baptism and Christian Identity: Teaching in the Triune Name (Eerdmans, 2009). This is another work in practical theology which seeks to breath fresh life in the conversation concerning practices which is either dying or else never truly came to life. This work, on the other hand, has promise. There is no doubt from the get-go that this is a work of practical theology. The author talks about his denominationally oriented point of view, the importance of looking at concrete situations and then engages in a detailed analysis of his church’s practice of baptism. In other words, not only will this volume look at Gregory of Nyssa and Calvin, nor will it simply look at theology and Christian education, though it does both. This volume will look at the theological and practical issues against the backdrop of very real conrete situations and help to ask real questions about how our theology should substantialize.
Mikoski does not choose baptism at random, as if it were simply one of many possible practices to choose from. He states, “I have since become convinced that focusing on and privileging the sacrament of baptism offers a particularly helpful way to see the inherent connections between the doctrine of the Trinity and Christian education” (xiii). This is further emphasized by his conviction, popular in the practices discussion, that the Trinity plays an effective role in the practical theological vision. He suggests three reasons that links be established between trinitarian theology and practical theology: First, he believes that trinitarian theology, channeling LaCugna, is inherently practical, and therefore believes it needs to interface with a discipline focusing on tools to make this happen. Second, he believes that practical theologians need to connect on a deeper level with churches, and by working within the inherent trinitarian grammar found in most churches, they could breath life into the ecclesial practice through the established language. Third, the Trinity can serve as a conceptual apparatus that focuses on persons “marked by diversity in unity and unity in diversity,” rather that focusing on a monadic monarch.
In order to accomplish this in the practical theology register, Mikoski follows “four ‘core intellectual opertaions,’ or moments, of practical theological method.”
The four interrelated components and the defining question associated with each moment are as follows: the descriptive-empirical moment (What is going on?); the interpretive moment (Why is this going on?); the normative moment (What ought to be going on?); and the strategic moment (What can be done to reshape what is going on?)” (xxiv).
Therefore, Mikoski offers an overview of his project: “the development of a trinitarian practical theology of Christian formation proceeds best by way of the dynamic interplay of the sacrament of baptism, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the practice of ecclesial pedagogy in which the sacrament of baptism serves as the orienting center.”
Are there any thoughts about this in terms of method? It was interesting to read through the practices of his church, and try to “get into their shoes” and think about the theology driving their practice. I think that this kind of work could prove fruitful, particularly when talking about practical issues of ecclesiology. That said, what do we think about some of his assertions concerning how this should be done?