August 7, 2020

Theology of Nursing: Why I Prefer the Phrase “Theology of Nursing” Instead of “Nursing Theology”

For years, I’ve believed that the choice of words used in reference to an idea, the particular sound and order of the phrase, can go a long way toward conveying its meaning effectively. Early in my exploration of the relationship between theology and nursing, I asked myself which is preferable, “theology of nursing” or “nursing theology.” I’ve come to a conclusion on this issue, and here it is.

Foremost in my mind is that what I’m dealing with is a variety of theology as it relates to the specific field of endeavor known as nursing. Within both theology and nursing there are various ways to organize knowledge. Sometimes one way of doing so seems to be the direct opposite of another philosophically. Other times, the differences are difficult to discern.

At this point in my exploration of this field of inquiry, I’m much more comfortable with the phrase theology of nursing than with nursing theology. That inclination is based partly on my sense that the content of this field of inquiry should relate the realities of nursing with the ultimate reality of God. In other words, I want to see nursing in the light of my Creator rather than view my Creator through the necessarily limited lens of nursing.

What I’m really looking for is wisdom through the organization of knowledge on the most appropriate ground possible. The ground of theology seems comprehensive to me in a way that nursing never can.

The phrase nursing theology seems to me to represent a modification of theology to suit the particularities of nursing. In a sense, it indicates a theology truncated intentionally to limit its full range of meaning, as if God and thoughts about God are secondary to nursing and thoughts about nursing. There’s almost a branding or styling of theology implied in the phrase nursing theology that is absent in theology of nursing.

In looking for ideas to trace the connections between theology and nursing, I’ve decided to seek analogies, or similarities of form, between them. What I’m really looking for is wisdom through the organization of knowledge on the most appropriate ground possible. The ground of theology seems comprehensive to me in a way that nursing never can.

As I mentioned last week, nursing may be seen as a form of practical anthropology. Models of nursing can be judged by their ability to account for various aspects of the human experience, including religion and spirituality. In a real sense, they can be judged according to their degree of success in accomplishing that. I’ve never heard it asserted seriously that theology should be judged according to its account of nursing.

Having said all that, I have registered the domain names theologyofnursing.com and nursingtheology.com and directed them to Morning Vitals. However you choose to follow along and explore with me, I’ll be glad for the company.

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