Show Less
Restricted access

From Strength to Strength

Shaping a Black Practical Theology for the 21st Century

Robert London Smith, Jr.

Drawing on his experience as a member of the clergy and the questions and concerns that arose in the course of ministering to congregants, Robert London Smith, Jr. explores exactly what function the black church performs and, importantly, why. In this provocative work, he argues that much black church praxis is less authentic, relevant, and constructive today because it continues to be implicated by certain values and meanings that are themselves rooted in a historical black thematic universe that is fading and being replaced by a new set of values and meanings located within a contemporary black thematic universe. Using a practical theology method, Smith develops a theological framework (context-praxis) to create an approach to understanding and creating an informed praxis for the black church. He then sets forth a bold project that calls for the critical engagement of black church praxis and what he calls the black thematic universe in its historical and contemporary manifestations. The goal is to transform this praxis so that it remains authentic to the Gospel and the religious traditions and history of those who come to interpret and live out its message in the world, while being relevant to the issues and challenges of the present historical context in which the black church lives out its meaning and purpose, and constructive for the building up and equipping of the Body of Christ. Smith’s creation of a black existential and theological hermeneutic is an approach that moves toward the realization of this ambitious goal. This book challenges many traditional views of black church praxis, including pastoral care, worship, and fellowship, and creates a space for a renewed and much-needed dialogue about the acts of the black church within contemporary America. As such, it is an important text for students of practical theology and African American religion as well as those interested in developing a critical understanding of the implications of the intersection of faith and culture.