1st Edition

Ordinary Theology Looking, Listening and Learning in Theology

By Jeff Astley Copyright 2002

    'Ordinary theology' is Jeff Astley's phrase for the theology and theologising of Christians who have received little or no theological education of a scholarly, academic or systematic kind. Astley argues that an in-depth study of ordinary theology, which should involve both empirical research and theological reflection, can help recover theology as a fundamental dimension of every Christian's vocation. Ordinary Theology analyses the problems and possibilities of research and reflection in this area. This book explores the philosophical, theological and educational dimensions of the concept of ordinary theology, its significance for the work of the theologian as well as for those engaged in the ministry of the church, and the criticisms that it faces. 'Ordinary theology' Astley writes, 'is the church's front line. Statistically speaking, it is the theology of God's church.'

    Contents: Preface; The learning context of theology: The centrality of practical theology; Learning as the key term; The means of Christian learning; Implications for theology; Learning religion: The centrality of the learner; Changing one's religion; The modes of religious learning; Personal religious learning; Spiritual, faithful and salvific learning; Portraying ordinary theology: Taking ordinary theology seriously; Ordinariness analysed; Theology and the ordinary; Defining theology; Theologia and habitus; Defining ordinary theology; Characterising ordinary theology; From the ordinary to the academic; Folk, common and implicit religion; Studying ordinary theology: Empirical research; Conceptual reflection; Empirical theological research; Description and prescription; Description and interpretation; Phenomenological and hermeneutical research; Wittgensteinian methodology; Debating ordinary theology: Censuring ordinary theology; Justifying the study of ordinary theology pragmatically; Justifying the study of ordinary theology theologically; Afterword; Indexes.


    Jeff Astley

    'A rich and evocative study, which has much to contribute to the fields of practical theology and congregational studies. Astley's 'Ordinary Theology' is a work brimming with prescient clarity and sharp perception...an excellent book which I shall recommend to my colleagues and students.' Martyn Percy, Director, Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester 'This is a book that appeals to academic theologians to come down to meet the concerns of everyday church members or vague believers and to listen to what they have to say. . . . We have not merely been given the distillation of wide reading and long thinking but something much more from the heart. . . . I warmly recommend it.' Journal of Beliefs and Values '... the thrust of the argument is that theology needs to attend much more rigorously and seriously to the theology of 'ordinary people' - ie people without much formal theological education... for those interested in issues of learning, theological method, religious research, and the faith of 'ordinary people' it will prove a valuable resource. A very worthwhile study indeed.' Regent's Review 'His appreciation of learning theory is impressive and he masterfully applies [it] to religion to show that our acquisition of religious belief is a personal thing'. Jeff Astley argues his case fully and convincingly ... This is an important book with an important message for everyone involved in parish work and especially those concerned in training priests and parish workers.' Rural Theology 'Astley sets forward such a simple concept; it's one of those things that seems so obvious once you've heard it that you wonder that you never thought of it before.' UKCBD Reviews (on line) 'This is an important book with an important message for everyone involved in parish work and especially those concerned in training priests and parish workers. It may seem blindingly obvious to say that it is important that ministers, preachers and educators recognise the significance for their congregations of the learning context of their theology, but in reality, as Jeff Astley says, there is little evidence to suggest that the point is fully recognised and appreciated. If Jeff Astley's book Ordinary Theology leads us to greater understanding of the issue, then he does us a valuable service.' Keith Littler, University of Wales, Bangor '... this is a book that asks significant questions about an important and under investigated area of popular belief. I hope it will stimulate others to take the baton from Astley in order to refine and develop what ought to be a significant aspect of the study of contemporary Christianity.' Crucible 'The subject-matter of this book could not be more important.' Modern Believing 'This is a work that deserves to be widely read, by philosophers of religion and academic theologians, as well as by practical theologians, pastors, educators, ministers, ordinands and others in training for ministry, and research students. Quite apart from the value of engaging with the main thesis, there are many gems to gather along the way: succinct summaries of empirical research, educational thinking, philosophical and theological debates, provocative questions thrown out and any avenues to follow up at leisure. And the quality of the writing is a pleasure to read; woven into the philosophical precision and clarity there is humour, even a passion of sorts, certainly strong conviction and a nice commitment to the dignity, even the beauty, of the ordinary.' Journal of Adult Theological Education '... stands out as an extraordinary introduction to ordinary theology, analyzed and expounded in a multidisciplinary perspective and in an engaging manner. As part of the series Explorations in Practical, Pastoral and Empirical Theology, this book will certainly be of much use to those involved in the field of practical, pastoral and empirical theology. As a reflection on the theologizing of ordinary Christians, written in a very lucid and accessible language, the book makes interesting reading for ordinary Christians.' Journal of Empirical Theology 'It is a thought-provoking book... This is a scholarly work, and the erudition of the author appears on every page... a fascinating book which will be of interest to all who are concerned with what 'ordinary' people have as their 'theology' and who wish to understand it better.' Implicit Religion