Just as we need "theologian-pastors" (by which I'm referring to theologically astute pastors), so also are we in great need of "pastor-theologians" (by which I'm referring to academic scholars who bring pastoral concerns to bear on their work). There is a gigantic need for exegetes, historians, theologians, systematicians, and philosophers who see their work as done, generally speaking, in service of the church. . . .
These scholars do not study, publish, and teach to pursue their own eccentric interests and doctrines, but to assist Christians in the task of understanding the Bible and its teachings as they apply to life and ministry. For this class of thinkers, church members are not a burden, but an audience; questions of all theological stripes are tackled not simply to satisfy one's curiosity, but to teach believers; and writing is composed not to wow fellow academics, but to instruct local church pastors and their members. This is not to say that there is no place for theological, historical, exegetical, and philosophical works of advanced depth and narrow focus; there is, and I would never seek to belittle such projects or demean them as invaluable. These endeavors may well have value, perhaps great value, and we should encourage our scholars to undertake them. At the same time, it is my personal conviction that we should encourage our gifted scholars and teachers to reach us with their teaching--and not only this, but to aim at us. How blessed we would be if theologians styled themselves as pastor-theologians, and aimed to instruct the local church not incidentally, but primarily.
We need theologian-pastors (shepherds). This is our greatest need. But we also need pastor-theologians (scholars). We must be careful not to think that only one group is important. We do not need merely a continuing recovery of a vital, doctrinally focused pastorate. No, we need the continuing recovery of men like Carson and Sweeney and Ware and Mohler and Hamilton and Packer and Akin and Wells who engage in the sacred task of Christian scholarship in order to bless, help, rescue and vitalize the local churches that populate our world. Here's hoping that the future will bring, as I think it will, an army of doctrinally savvy, theologically precise, culturally engaged pastors who will lead local churches with great energy and faithfulness. And here's hoping that marching alongside them will be a great cavalry of scholars, who will help those pastors to steer Christians away from error, to love truth and live life doxologically, and to emerge victorious in the great struggle for true life that engulfs us all.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Owen Strachan writes on the need for both theologian-pastors and pastor-theologians. Here's an excerpt: