Recovering the Pastor as Theologian

Every pastor is called to be a theologian.  The present day pastor has long forgotten this.  In fact, the pastor as theologian comes as a surprise to many pastors today.  What may now come as a surprise to many, in this post, I hope to lead a recovery, thus making it the norm once again.

First, the church of the living God is the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth (1 Tim. 3:15).  But for the church to maintain its status in the world as “the Pillar and Foundation” of her pastors must “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that [they] may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9 ESV).

But what the pastor needs to know is that this task of instructing and rebuking is a theological task.  And he must thus approve himself in the light of a 2 Timothy 2:15 text.

Second, the great theologians in church history were pastors.  For example, Athanasius–who defended the church against the Arian heresy, who was instrumental in the framing of the Nicene Creed, and who bequeathed to us the Athanasian Creed and his marvelous work on the incarnation–was a pastor.  We may also speak of St. Augustine, Martin Luther, Zwingli, John Calvin, the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards and countless others.

In his interaction with an essay by Gerard Hiestand on the very subject of the pastor-theologian, professor Michael F. Bird makes this acute and lamentable observation: “When theology moved out from the church to the academy, the result was that “the theological water level within the pastoral community … fell considerably.” But not only that, the church became theologically anemic and theology itself became ecclesially anemic” (more here).

In closing, what our local churches need are not church growth experts and consultants and fly by night pastors, who are only bent on pimping the church for their personal gain–quick road to fame and fortune.

No, what we need are pastors who will return to their post in full as pastor-theologians, desiring with earnestness and unyielding zeal the sacred marriage of pastor-theologian, and resolving to first prayerfully plump the depths of Scripture, not only in their study, but with their people as well, taking them deep into the depths of Scripture, to behold the God who is there.  And after such a descent, both pastor and people will make that ascent in the highest praise, precisely because they have beheld God.

This entry was posted in Athanasius, Christian Theology, Incarnation, John Calvin, Michael F. Bird, Pastor, Pastoral Ministry, St. Augustine, The Glory of God, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Recovering the Pastor as Theologian

  1. Simon says:

    “A theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian.” – Evagrius of Pontus

    Athanasius is one of my favs. Here are some quotes that the Reformed may have problems with:

    “for as the Lord, putting on the body, became man, so we men are deified by the Word as being taken to Him through His flesh.”

    “For He was made man that we might be made God.”

    “The Self-revealing of the Word is in every dimension – above, in creation; below, in the Incarnation; in the depth, in Hades; in the breadth, throughout the world. All things have been filled with the knowledge of God.”

    “He, the Life of all, our Lord and Saviour, did not arrange the manner of his own death lest He should seem to be afraid of some other kind. No. He accepted and bore upon the cross a death inflicted by others, and those other His special enemies, a death which to them was supremely terrible and by no means to be faced; and He did this in order that, by destroying even this death, He might Himself be believed to be the Life, and the power of death be recognised as finally annulled. A marvellous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonour and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.”

  2. Jon Hughes says:

    Couldn’t agree more!

  3. Scott says:

    I love Eugene Peterson. He is a great inspiration to me.

    TC, I’m actually stepping aside from ‘official’ pastoring for the time to start work towards my PhD in theology here in Belgium. It’s gonna take me 5 years (I have to a do a 1-year Advanced Master’s first), but I believe it will be an enriching experience. I’ll keep reading the likes of Peterson to stir my pastoral heart.

    • TC says:

      Scott, blessings my brother. Can’t go wrong with the likes of Peterson. Do you have an area of focus already?

      • Scott says:

        I’ll either be in the field of Biblical Studies or Systematic Theology. Right now, my main interest is to formulate my dissertation around a healthy doctrine of Scripture within a 21st century framework.

  4. Lon says:

    “…what we need are pastors who will return to their post in full as pastor-theologians, desiring with earnestness and unyielding zeal the sacred marriage of pastor-theologian…”

    Yes! I think I just heard an angel choir sing “Hallelujah!”

  5. 123kylephillips says:


    Dialed right in on this one. As a pastor I am increasingly frustrated with the superficiality that pervades the American church. Certainly it’s a reflection of the folks doing most of the talking and teaching. We really aren’t about the business of marketing Jesus. The true Jesus refuses to be pitched or sold.

  6. TC says:

    “I’ll either be in the field of Biblical Studies or Systematic Theology. Right now, my main interest is to formulate my dissertation around a healthy doctrine of Scripture within a 21st century framework.”

    Scott, I’m reading JI Packer’s “Taking God Seriously,” and he’s concerned about the very same thing. Yes, this will make for an interesting dissertation. Of course with your mentor you’ll narrow down and formulate something of a guild and so on. Looks quite promising.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s