Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Rise of the Pastor-Theologian

Came across this quotation by Jonathan Edwards scholar Doug Sweeney. Those familiar with Edwards's works will recognize Sweeney as an editor of volume 23 of the Works volumes (it's pretty sensational to have your name alongside that of Jonathan Edwards on the author listing). Sweeney is an impressive scholar, but he is also a man with a love for the local church. Several years ago he said this of Edwards's pastor-theologian model:

"Edwards teaches us that theology can and should be done primarily in the church, for the promotion of Christian wisdom among God’s people. In Edwards’s day, America did not yet have any modern, post-baccalaureate seminaries. Pastors were our nation’s most important theologians, and parishioners understood better how much our lives depend on God’s Word. Today, many pastors have abdicated their responsibilities as theologians. And many theologians do their work in a way that is lost on the people of God. I want to be realistic in making this point. A certain amount of specialization is inevitable in modern, market-driven economies. And the specialization of roles within God’s kingdom often enhances our Christian ministries. But when pastors spend the bulk of their time on organizational concerns, and professors spend most of their time on intramural, academic concerns, no one is left to do the work that Edwards knew is most important: the hard work of opening the Scriptures in ways that deepen the faith, hope, and love of the church." (Trinity Magazine, Spring, 2004)

I hope to talk more about this in coming days. These are powerful words that all seminarians should consider, particularly those who are intellectually gifted. In past years, the pastorate was not a subsidiary calling for those not intelligent enough to be professors. It was the primary theological office. We are seeing a return to this model in the current day, and this only portends good things for the Christian church.

(Don't worry, Steve Weaver, I'm sure you'll do fine--and no, I don't think I'll be at SBTS next fall, though I'm not sure where I'll be. Thanks for asking, brother.)

HT: Iustificare

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Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Very good post. I agree. At one time, the pastor of a congregation was the most educated person in a community and looked upon with great respect as someone who had answers to life's difficulties.

We need a return to the pastor-theologian, the pastor-ethicist, the pastor-scholar.

We also need our seminary graduates to commit to not only maintaining their biblical languages, but also focusing their exegesis on the original language texts and relying less on translations (as good as they are).

I wrote a post last week quoting A. T. Robertson on the use of the Greek NT in ministry: http://tinyurl.com/33gcyz

Robertson's words from almost a century ago are even more relevant today.

12:19 PM  

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