The Pastor-Theologian?

Much has been written recently on the Pastor as Theologian or the Pastor as Theologian.[1] Derek Rishmawy has compiled a helpful list and summary of the main articles written thus far with, I believe, a fair assessment of each. I would also add Michael Kruger’s “Should You be a Pastor or Professor? Thinking Through the Options” as well as Andy Naselli’s “3 Reasons for a Pastor-Theologian to Get a PhD.”

The issue of the Pastor-Theologian is of specific interest to me, as the title of my blog indicates, because this is something I aim to fulfill in my ministry right now. This is why I read Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson’s work The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision with great encouragement because I finally found this wrinkled vision in my mind ironed out just a bit smoother. As Rishmawy indicates, Hiestand and Wilson argue for the position of ecclesial theologian — that being the pastor as one who not only interacts with the life of his church but as well as participating and (perhaps) leading conversations in the academy. I agree with Rishmawy, in this case the pastor-theologian is a scholar.

This is a difficult task, as both Hiestand and Wilson mention. They highlight the example from N.T. Wright, the prolific New Testament scholar who resigned his post as Bishop of Durham in 2010 to return to the academy and take a post at the University of St. Andrews after having served since 1994 in some aspect of church ministry. Particularly interesting is his statement when he announced his move to St. Andrews,

This has been the hardest decision of my life. It has been an indescribable privilege to be Bishop of the ancient Diocese of Durham, to work with a superb team of colleagues, to take part in the work of God’s kingdom here in the north-east, and to represent the region and its churches in the House of Lords and in General Synod. I have loved the people, the place, the heritage and the work. But my continuing vocation to be a writer, teacher, and broadcaster, for the benefit (I hope) of the wider world and church, has been increasingly difficult to combine with the complex demands and duties of a diocesan bishop. I am very sad about this, but the choice has become increasingly clear.[2]

The church today, as noted by Jeff Wilson, has today many pastor-theologians who preach and write regularly for the edification of the saints and conversation within the academy. I do believe this should be a pastor’s goal, although it is certainly not every pastor’s will fulfill this in his life. Of particular interest to me, as I noted before, is working out this pastor-theologian aspect within my own life.

I hope to iron this out a bit more in the forthcoming posts because I do believe this is an important topic that needs to be discussed.


[1] I prefer this over Pastor-Scholar for nuance reasons. Although I read “Pastor-Scholar? Not Likely…” by Mark Jones with slight frustration at first, I began to see exactly what he meant by this and I agreed with his conclusion.

[2] Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson, The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 22. This is also available at Justin Taylor, “N.T. Wright Leaving Durham, Appointed to Char at St. Andrews,” The Gospel Coalition (April 27, 2010), http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2010/04/27/n-t-wright-leaving-durham-appointed-to-chair-at-st-andrews/.

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