“The Pastor Theologian” Details Why the Church Needs More Augustine-Like Pastors Who Write and Preach Top-Notch Theology

The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision
The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision

Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson like to tell the story of a girl and her father strolling through a church graveyard. The daughter reads the headstone inscriptions out loud to her father. She comes upon one that lists “Pastor Theologian.” She pauses, then announces, “Papa, they have two people buried here!”

Hiestand and Wilson are pastors at Calvary Memorial Church outside Chicago and cofounders of the Center for Pastor Theologians. They have made it their mission to repair the modern breach between local church leaders and advanced theological study. In The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Zondervan), they identify a need for pastors who write and preach top-notch theology for the entire body of Christ. They envision at least some pastors becoming 21st-century Augustines, Luthers, and Calvins.

“Today,” Hiestand and Wilson write, “we find ourselves in a context where to be a theologian is, almost by definition, to be a professor in the academy. And to be a pastor is, almost by definition, to be anything but a theologian.” Most pastors act as “passive conveyors of insights from theologians to laity. A little quote from Augustine here, a brief allusion to Bonhoeffer there. That’s all.”

It hasn’t always been this way. Hiestand and Wilson note that many early church fathers—Ambrose, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Athanasius, and so on—were both churchmen and leading theological lights. The pastor theologian, in short, has “a robust and storied place in the history of God’s people.”

So where has the pastor theologian gone? The authors point to several historical factors. The Enlightenment weakened the church’s intellectual stature, pushing many theologians to the universities. The American Revolution and Second Great Awakening created a democratic culture that disapproved of preachers talking “over the heads” of the people. In the modern academy, with its emphasis on narrow specialties, theologians often study subjects too obscure to interest lay believers. It all adds up to a situation where churches can be suspicious of heady theology in the pulpit, while professional theologians can be suspicious of projects driven primarily by a heart for the church.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Douglas Webster


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