Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Pastor as Theologian

I heard someone tell the story of a young boy and his father walking leisurely through an old cemetery. The boy got a little ahead of his father and stopped to read a headstone. Upon doing so, his little jaw dropped and his eyes grew large. "Daddy, Daddy!" he called, "There are two men buried in this grave!" When he caught up to his son and read the gravestone himself, the father saw the reason for the youngster's confusion. The inscription began: "Here lies pastor and theologian...."

Unfortunately, there are many (including some pastors) who think that pastor and theologian are mutually exclusive callings. Here's Part One of a series Al Mohler has begun on the pastor as theologian. In it he appropriately laments a trend by which I'm greatly troubled as well - the relegating of theological rigor to the realms of academia:

These developments have caused great harm to the church, separating ministries from theology, preaching from doctrine, and Christian care from conviction. In far too many cases, the pastor's ministry has been evacuated of serious doctrinal content and many pastors seem to have little connection to any sense of theological vocation.

All this must be reversed, if the church is to remain true to God's Word and the Gospel. Unless the pastor functions as a theologian, theology is left in the hands of those who, in many cases, have little or no connection or commitment to the local church.

Dr. Mohler's commentary brought a pet peeve to mind. I've cringed on numerous occasions when I've heard preachers introduce a doctrinal or theological explanation apologetically (and I don't mean in the sense of defending the faith). It's as though they're ashamed of or embarrassed by their responsibility to help people understand and apply what God has revealed. Such apologies serve only to perpetuate the faulty notion that theological understanding is a necessary evil to be tolerated rather than soul-nourishing truth to be sought and savored.

The Lord knows there are many things for which those of us who are pastors should apologize to our people but being theologically driven is not one of them.

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2 comments:

Kerry Doyal said...

good word, Keith.

John Rush said...

As a pastor, I'm am rediscovering the importance of expostional preaching AND the need to understand the issues of doctrine, philosophy, and the history of thought. Not every pastor can have a Ph.D. type brain (I know I don't), but we should always be learning and stretching to reach the upper shelf to put things on the lower shelf--where everyone can get it.

Good Post.

JRush