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Practical Theology is the newest discipline within the field of academic theology. It was the concept that theology as a whole can be understood as a scientia practica, i.e. a subject that has a practical application in the real world, that resulted in the formation of this discipline in the 19th century. It thus represents one of the most modern elements within theology. More narrowly conceived, it serves as a practical basis for ecclesiastical and pastoral activity, but in a wider sense it represents a practical guide for living out the Christian faith in the present world.
It is thus not a form of “applied” theology, but in its own way provides a framework for guiding our actions and perceptions, thus complementing the general purpose of theology, which is to enable us to critically reflect on and take responsibility for our Christian lifestyles and beliefs. Practical Theology has to perform these tasks in the face of on-going changes to the ecclesiastical and cultural worlds within our society. Practical Theology, along with the other theological disciplines, focuses on exploring how the Christian religion manifests itself in the present, late modern age. It is particularly concerned with considering the contemporary relevance of Christianity and developing competency in religious practices, especially with regard to ecclesiastical and educational activities.
Practical Theology is divided into several related sub-disciplines, which are reflected by the core research foci of the two chairs: Liturgics/Homiletics and Religious Education. ‘Liturgy’ and ‘education’ are the main topics that serve as central nodes for various aspects of Practical Theology and of related sub-disciplines, such as Pastoral Care, Special Liturgies, Social Welfare, Parish and Church Theory, Pastoral Theology etc.
Practical Theology requires the use of a methodology employing hermeneutical, empirical and aesthetic principles. For this reason, Practical Theology must enter into interdisciplinary dialogue with related disciplines which analyse religious practices from other perspectives (Religious Studies, Sociology, Psychology, Musicology etc.). The purpose of the discipline within the wider field of academic theology is to develop theological identities and religious capacity through the scholarly analysis of experience.