April 02, 2008

Two Posts that Answer Each Other

Over at Reclaiming The Mind Ministries' blog, Parchment and Pen, a reader has sent an email with a problem. Essentially, his pastor, who is an intelligent man, thinks that theologians are out of touch and irrelevant to ministry.

He equally shows disdain for Theologians and gets quite angry at terms like Calvinism, Arminianism, Vicarious Substitutionary Atonement, or anything other theology term. His feeling is that theologians are out of touch, have no ability to relate the concepts to people, and theologians in general treat the laity as simpletons.

Now, that's a problem. A big one, because theology is important for pastors to understand and be able to relate to their congregations.

But earlier today, I read a post that solves the problem -- even though it was written before the Pen and Parchment post! JT at Between Two Worlds mentions a post by Owen Strachan talking about theologian-pastors and pastor-theologians.

Just as we need "theologian-pastors" (by which I'm referring to theologically astute pastors), so also are we in great need of "pastor-theologians" (by which I'm referring to academic scholars who bring pastoral concerns to bear on their work). There is a gigantic need for exegetes, historians, theologians, systematicians, and philosophers who see their work as done, generally speaking, in service of the church. . . .

These scholars do not study, publish, and teach to pursue their own eccentric interests and doctrines, but to assist Christians in the task of understanding the Bible and its teachings as they apply to life and ministry.

This hits home for me. I love the academic aspects of seminary. I love the study, the writing, etc. But it's important to put this stuff into practice. Otherwise, it's a waste of time and effort.

I've always used the analogy of the sponge. There comes a point where the sponge becomes saturated -- can't hold any more liquid. Unless you wring the sponge out, it's worthless. Likewise, when we learn things, that knowledge is worthless unless we use it to help others grow closer to God. Academic research has it's role; it's not an end unto itself, but a means to an end. That end is to glorify God and edify His church.

Sounds like the pastor mentioned above ran into some theologians who forgot that, or never believed it to begin with. And that's the problem. The solution is a recovery of the role of theology in ministry, and a recovery of the role of the theologian in the Church.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 04:56 PM | Comments (117) | Add Comment
Post contains 425 words, total size 3 kb.

1 C. S. Lewis suggested that ordination should require a test where you're given a section of a theological text you would have encountered in your studies, and you have to translate it into ordinary, everyday words. Failure on this test would result in not being ordained. This has 2 effects: 1. You have to learn theology not just for your own interest, but for the good of your flock; and 2. You'll find that you'll have to learn the theology much better, as doing the translation requires that you learn to separate theological concepts from the particular vocabulary you learned them in.

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