There is no better place for doing theology than in the life of the local church. It is in the local church that the rubber hits the road and one’s attempts at careful theological reflection need to be applied to the life of God’s work in the world. Where there can be no mere hypothesizing, but praxis is called for if one desires to be a faithful minister and disciple.
Andy, over at Hopeful Realism, has just posted a couple of articles on the pastor-theologian in the mega-church and in the small church. His introduction to the topic offers several strengths to each context.
Certainly the complexities of pastoral ministry, whether in a mega-church or small church, can seem enough of a challenge without attempting to be a so-called “pastor-theologian”. However, the responsibilities of caring for Christ’s church should demand that we take up the charge to study to show ourselves approved unto God in every way. This is not a day for leaving the work of careful theological reflection to those who do not serve in the context of the pastorate.
We NEED more pastors committing to applying themselves to intensive study of the Scriptures (original languages, hermeneutics, homiletics, etc.) and theology (historical, contemporary, systematic, biblical, etc). Our churches NEED ministers who will vigorously study and apply what is studied to writing, preaching, counseling, and pastoral care. And will do this all in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is a HUGE task, but it is one that is essential to the overall health of the community of believers (locally and globally). We need more women and men committed to the task. We need more Augustines, Teresas, Calvins, Wesleys, and Alice Reynolds and J. Roswell Flowers. Will you give yourself wholly to the work set before you?
Originally posted by myself at bluechippastor.org on April 25, 2013.
I was asked some time ago now if I considered myself a “theologian” or a “Bible scholar”. This was in a context (seminary) where there seemed to be a fair divide among students of each focus and I know it is that way in other institutions than just the one I found myself in. At any rate, my response at the time was “theologian” which shocked the individual inquiring because they knew my experience with the Biblical languages and texts, my grasp of ANE history and culture, etc. Apparently this individual had already considered me a “Bible scholar”.
After the initial shocked look (one I expected when I replied the way I did knowing the questioner), I was asked why that was my answer. I said, because I believed “theologian” belonged to the Church specifically while “Bible scholar” did not necessarily. Perhaps that is an unfair distinction. Both could belong either to the Church or not, but from my perspective at the time I felt it more imperative to confess with the Church concerning Scripture. I was not willing to think of studying the Scripture apart from the confession of faith as a member of Christ’s body.
And then last year I was asked in my interview where I now teach “What do you intend to be as a result of finishing your doctoral work?” For some reason at that moment I no longer felt so clearly a “theologian” much less a “Bible scholar” (or anything else for that matter…other than “finished with the dissertation” 🙂 ). However, that conversation lingered with me for my five hour drive home. And I still return to it. I had affirmed in myself that my aim was to be a “Biblical theologian” thinking that the best combination of both worlds: word and confession.
Then I encountered the following statement by Graeme Goldsworthy:
“The Biblical theologian that does not strive to be also a dogmatician will be less effective as a biblical theologian, and vice versa.” (Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000], p.57)
Categorization is always problematic because while it highlights some elements it likely de-emphasizes others which may be equally essential. This points, once again, to the necessary interplay of the meditation and proclamation of Scripture as a canonical whole (a far more Christian practice than simply a study of individual texts) and the confession of the Church (which reminds one of the place within Christ’s body and redemptive history). So perhaps now I might consider myself “Biblical-theologian-dogmatician”. So what are you and why?