Being a church historian and having taught it at a seminary, I would agree with Williams' assessment. Ministry is about more than technique -- there is theory that underlies it, and this theory is known as theology, and theology is rooted in history and in scripture. Thus, to be properly formed for pastoral ministry, one should be well versed in the critical study of scripture, the history of Christianity, and theology.
The point is that Christian doctrine is important, because, in Ellen Charry’s phrase, it is “artegenic” (literally “conducive to virtue”), because (cf. Romans 12:2) the “development of character will not happen without knowledge.”
(Ellen Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine [New York: OUP, 1997], p.19.)
Which also means that church history is important. “It is a point worth pondering,” writes Rowan Williams. “To engage the Church’s past is to see something of the Church’s future. If we relate to the past as something that settles everything for us, something whose meaning is utterly and finally plain, it is to treat the texts of the past as closing off history, putting an end to our self-awareness as historical persons involved in unpredictable growth. If we discuss the past as unintelligible, if we read its texts as closed off from us by their alien setting, we refuse to see how we have ourselves been formed in history; we pretend that history has not yet begun…. T. S. Eliot, faced with the glib modern claim that ‘we know so much more than our ancestors’, riposted, ‘Yes; and they are what we know.”
(Rowan Williams, Why Study the Past? [London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2005], p.94.)
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