Integrated Theology: A Key to Training Thinking Practitioners -- By: Kevin G. Smith

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 12:1 (Sep 2011)
Article: Integrated Theology: A Key to Training Thinking Practitioners
Author: Kevin G. Smith

Integrated Theology: A Key to Training Thinking Practitioners

Kevin G. Smith1


The thesis of this article is that the dominant models of theology in universities and seminaries are too fragmented to serve the purpose of training thinking practitioners for the church. The separation and isolation of the theological sub-disciplines is better suited to the needs and goals of a research university than to the objectives of a seminary or to the needs of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The article presents the call of four leading works on practical theology for more holistic approaches to the theological task, approaches that seek to bring the various theological sub-disciplines into constructive dialogue with one another. The article contends that developing integrated models of theological reflection and research is essential if we are to train students for pastoral ministry, where they need to be well-rounded theological thinkers rather than research specialists in a narrow sub-discipline. The article concludes with a call for evangelical theologians to take the lead in developing more integrated models of theological research—after all they are the people whose mission is to train pastors as thinking practitioners.


For those of us involved in theological education, there is a great need to return to an integrated vision of theology. The current fragmented structure of theology in many seminaries and universities has its roots in the modern2 research university (Osmer 2008). It works well enough if the goal of theology is to research the minutiae of the Bible, but it is hopelessly inadequate for training leaders for service in the church (2 Tim 3:16-17). If the objective of a theological institution is to write scholarly articles, then it makes sense to separate, for example, the Old Testament department from say the missions department. However, if the goal is to equip church leaders who can lead the people of God to live faithfully amidst the complexities of contemporary life, then our study of the Old Testament dare not be separated from our study of New Testament, systematic theology, church history, practical theology, and so forth.

I have become convinced of three interrelated realities. First, the purpose of seminary training is to produce thinking practitioners3 and practical thinkers, church leaders who can think theologically in the complexities of contemporary life. Second, the way many theological faculties and curricula ...

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