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Reading the Church Dogmatics 8: Practical Theology

Hence theology … as practical theology [is] the question of the goal … of the distinctive utterance of the church.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I/1, pp.4–5

What is practical theology? Here, it is defined as that form of theology that asks of Christian practice, ‘Does it lead to Jesus Christ?’ – a question about the goal of the distinctive utterance of the Church (4–5).

Barth says nothing more about the nature of practical theology here, but one further thought strikes me. I said in an earlier post that, for Barth ‘The life of the individual believer … is a form of embodied speech – it is de divinitate … sermo, “discourse on divinity” – a living sermon, if you like. And the life of the church together, similarly, is a form of communication – and not simply in its preaching, but in all its activity’. If we take that seriously, we’ll have to treat questions about the audience of that communication, and about the ways in which this communication might work for that audience – questions, as it were, of rhetoric and of semiotics. Is that what practical theology involves?


This post is part of a series on the opening of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics I/1.