Practical theology, 2

I said yesterday that theology is good partly because it informs and shapes the Christian life. In other words, your theological beliefs should drive or orient your decisions and practices. But is this an accurate depiction of the relationship between beliefs and practices? Do beliefs drive practices? Many thinkers today believe that kind of one-way relationship to be an oversimplification. Instead, they see a two-way exchange between beliefs and practices. Sure beliefs influence practices. If you believe Christ is uniquely present and active in the Eucharist, you will tend to take the Eucharist more often.

What about practices influencing beliefs? You bet. Today I was explaining to a friend that I value liturgical worship in part because it has the power to shape one’s character. If you are attentive during the liturgy over an extended period of time, the familiar words that you hear and pray every week begin to seep into your bones. The prayers of the liturgy, many of which are direct quotes from Scripture, shape your thought life.

So there is a two-way relationship between beliefs and practices. If this is true, then it becomes important what you believe, because it will show up in what you practice; and it is important what you practice, because it will show up in what you believe.

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