Paul Ballard, ‘Theological Reflection and Providence’, Practical Theology 1 (2009), pp. 285–289
In this short paper, Paul Ballard argues that practical theology or theological reflection needs to be theologically embedded, lest it become ‘an uncritical borrowing from another external source that is the latest fad.’ (p. 286). Genuine theological reflection draws from Scripture and tradition as those who practise it seek God’s presence in contemporary situations, both positive and negative. Ballard links the task of theological reflection to the doctrine of providence, which itself attempts to discern God in everyday life and to construct an account of that unique presence – even though God is often difficult to locate, as Ballard’s concluding observations on the nature of faith and trust in God make clear.
Most of Ballard’s paper asks (rhetorical) questions of the sort usually prompted by the doctrine of providence. He is not concerned to describe the doctrine of providence in any detail but ‘to raise the fundamental problem about the theological complexity behind theological reflection.’ (p. 287). In my view, however, there is scope for Ballard more adequately to describe the connection he posits between theological reflection and the doctrine of providence. Given Ballard’s concern to demonstrate that theological reflection requires embedment in Scripture and tradition, I am not convinced that he has done anything more than use the doctrine of providence as a case study for a wider claim about the value of practical theology.
About Providence, Divine Action and the Church
In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.