Thursday, May 25, 2006

"Theology is a pastoral vocation"

“…Theology is a pastoral vocation, a ministry to the church, and not to the church of the future or to the church of all times and places, but to the church as the theologian finds her. Biblical interpretation should thus have a practical and pastoral thrust, and, if the proper approach to interpretation is typological, then I must show that typology is practical…typology not only can be made practical, but rightly done…is the only possible basis for prac­tical use of the Old Testament.

“…the exemplarists raised an objection that is often brought against typological interpretation: However exhilarating it may be to discover Christ in every nook and cranny of Scripture, typological commen­tary and preaching fails to address the concrete practical lives of the congregation and the specific challenges they face. “Jesus in the wil­derness reverses the sin of Adam in the garden—lovely, but the baby has chicken pox and I’ve got to get the twins to the baseball game and help organize the reception for the new assistant youth pastor’s wife’s mother and finish dinner by six .... It is certainly wonderful to know that Jesus is a new Solomon, building up His temple, but I have to close out a big contract on Tuesday, and the boss is breathing down my neck....I’m glad to know Jesus is a greater David who can fight giants, but I got a D on my final and don’t know how to tell my par­ents.” Pastorally, it is not a sufficient answer to say, ”Give it to Jesus; cast your cares on him.” True as that counsel is, Christians demand and deserve specific direction in specific circumstances.

“Do we abandon typology to provide this kind of specific counsel? Or should we try our” typology plus”—that is, we read typologically for aesthetic purposes, but when things get ethical, we abandon it and look for proof texts? These questions, and the objection that typol­ogy is impractical, arise from a misconception of what typology is and does, a misconception that has, admittedly, been fed by the malprac­tice of some practitioners of typological interpretation. Perhaps more fundamentally, it arises from a misconception about how we make ethical decisions. The question “What has typology to do with the practical details of the Christian life?” is similar to the question ”What have story and metaphor to do with ethics?” And the answer in both cases is, “Much every way.” -- Peter Leithart, A Son to Me, pp. 18,19

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