Descriptive pastoral theology is a patient task. DPT takes seriously the situatedness of the practitioner but also believes that the situation can always be more thoroughly described. Most of our experiences are processed automatically through various influences. DPT also does not limit the influences that may have potentially influenced the practitioner. These influences are also to be described.
In order to enter into this descriptive process the practitioner must continually learn to slow the process down so that pauses and therefore breaks in our default modes of understanding can be created. There is no appeal or claim to effectiveness or results in this process. DPT believes that there is already more than enough at play and so shifts and breaks and questions will be automatically generative. The task begins when basic questions are asked.
What is happening here? How do I interpret what is going on and why? What am I bringing into my description that should not be here? Etc.
I don’t think there is any great secret or anything new in the particular articulation of these questions (though description should take note of which questions we tend to ask!) It is the attentiveness that counts and the ability to describe carefully and slowly and repetitively. The imagery can be drawn easily from family systems.
When my father said this (1) why did not I say something? When I stop to think about what he said this (2) is what I understand it to mean. Understanding it this (2) way I should have said something because I also believe this (3). Do I often neglect to say something in these sorts of situations? Was there something in my family that we were trained to neglect? Next time I need to slow my interaction with my father down and hear what my father is saying in congruence with as much of myself as possible.
My basic appeal in this approach is grounded in the biblical eschatology of the book of Revelation. This reading is most clearly interpreted in John Howard Yoder’s thesis that all Christian aims and purposes have already been secured around the throne of God. The greatest virtue then is patience and attentiveness. This, though, is not enough as even John (twice!) at the end of Revelation almost falls into idolatry and worships the messenger of the revelation. Therefore the practitioner must take great pains not to close of the description or own the description but continue pausing and questioning so that open hands would remain for the gift of revelation and also the gift of worship.