Mark L. Cartledge, Practical Theology: Charismatic and Empirical Perspectives (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2003), 271 + xiv pages.
Theology. Charismatic spirituality. Sociology. Theories of knowledge and truth. Heady topics which Mark Cartledge has successfully integrated into one book, “Practical Theology,” one of the newest volumes in the continuing series “Studies in Pentecostal and Charismatic Issues.” This book is not exactly as easy book to read, but the patient reader will gain an abundance of insight into the relationship between practical theology and charismatic spirituality, which Cartledge presents through an empirical study of a local church in the United Kingdom.
Cartledge begins with a presentation of his methodology—the “how” of his study. He explores how theology relates to the social sciences, specifically to sociology. Since the outworking of our faith occurs primarily in a community setting (i.e., the local church), “theology should be conceived as an empirical discipline in the sense that it would aim to explore, describe and test theological ideas contained within a specific context [i.e., the local church]. The direct object of empirical theology therefore is the faith and practice of people concerned” (p. 14). Empirical theology (or empirical research) is the means; practical theology (or faith-in-practice) is the result.
Transformation has a divine purpose. It enables the person so transformed to serve the work of God through the church for the sake of the world, so the world may be transformed according to the purposes of God.
— Mark Cartledge
How does practical theology relate to charismatic spirituality (and Christian spirituality in general)? Cartledge sees this faith-in-practice as having a number of significant components: the doxological belief that God is actively at work in the church and in the world (thus leading to worship), the devotional belief that God answers prayer (thus leading to prayer), and the missiological belief that God desires others to be brought into a personal relationship with him (thus leading to evangelism). All three of these beliefs are acted upon both individually and communally, and an empirical study of these beliefs as evidenced in a church community setting would “contribute to the life of the ecclesial community to which the person belongs. … Thus the process of practical theology becomes itself a mechanism for transformation within the kingdom of God [as both the researcher and the community reviews the results of the research]. Practical theology viewed in this light is theology in the service of the church for the world” (p. 26).