Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Recommending 'Christopraxis' by Andrew Root

Yesterday, I finished reading Andrew Root's Christopraxis: A Practical Theology of the Cross. I should admit that I have a bias toward Root's work. His book Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry was salvific for me when I was a youth pastor in San Diego, starting to feel burnt out because I didn't think I was influencing my kids enough. His approach, grounded in the doctrine of the Incarnation and the theology of "place sharing" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer), gave me new life in my ministry and gave me a whole new, more theologically genuine, way of engaging young people and navigating programmed youth ministry. Andy's work (particularly in The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry with Kenda Dean) also taught me how to think theologically about ministry, freeing me in another way, from the burnout that can set in when you don't know how to theologically reflect on your work and when you're so concerned with your processes and objectives that you forget the very reason for and identity of ministry. Needless to say, from my perspective, Andy Root is one of the most important thinkers in the field of youth ministry.

But with Christopraxis Root widens his circle, boldly stepping out into the broader conversation of academic practical theology. His work has always had huge implications for practical theology--with few exceptions, contributing from the specific location of youth ministry. But now, with the same intensity and brilliance he brought to youth ministry, Root lays out a new path, a new way forward, for practical theology in general.

Andrew Root doesn't just offer a new way forward for practical theology, in fact, he offers it as a distinct way of thinking theologically--full stop--establishing himself as one of the great young theologians in the country.

Attending to the concrete and lived experience of divine and human encounter--in the face of the impossibility which surrounds human action--Root exegetes the text of human experience through the lens of God's being as becoming, through the lens of ministry itself. As such, Root gives us a theological method (indeed a theology of the cross) that is practical, interdisciplinary, but utterly and fundamentally theological--grounded in normativity. Through the (perhaps counterintuitive) lens of justification, Root shifts the ground on which practical theology stands, orienting human action toward reception of the ministering presence of the living Jesus within the impossibility and death of the human condition. Root puts the 'theology' back in practical theology and turns 'practice' back toward participation in the person of God through the ministry of God.

Christopraxis may be the most important work in the field of practical theology in the last several years. It is no doubt the most important theological contribution from Andrew Root so far.

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