Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Where Have All the Pastoral Theologians Gone?

Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Edwards—men whose enduring legacies have shaped the landscape of contemporary theological thought. Their reflection was deep, their intellect profound, their passion remarkable, and their influence vast. And these great thinkers not only impacted the intellectuals of their day, but were followed and admired by the laity as well. What was it about these men that established them as such significant theologians? What made them so effective in sparking revival, bolstering faith, and reforming the Church?

Though diverse in their theologies, all of these men shared a common and significant mark of distinction—they were churchmen. They were bishops and preachers, pastors and founders of denominations, shepherd of souls. Though not all of them were formally pastors in the sense we understand today, their social, theological, and intellectual life was inseparably woven into the fabric of parish ministry. They were practitioners as much as theologians. Living among the people for whom they wrote and thought, the press and weight of parish life drove the questions that their theology sought to answer. And they were loved by their people because they resided among them, and because the questions that panged the heart of their parishners, panged also their own. They were churchmen first, and theologians second, and the latter gave birth to the former.

The legacy of these great men teaches us the value of wedding together the role of pastor with that of theologian, yet a resounding absence of such a union abounds in the church today. Our most significant theologians reside almost exclusively in the academy. There is a need for a renaissance of pastoral theologians, who endeavor to rethink theology from the pastor's study and not solely the professor's lectern. May God begin working now to raise up a future generation of pastoral theologians whose hearts and minds are tuned to the glory of Christ and needs of the church.


the forester said...

Amen, amen, amen!

A parallel: in education, school administrators often seem out of touch with the day-to-day issues facing real teachers. Yet they were teachers once, too. So where's the disconnect? They non longer teach. Many, many teachers believe the administrators should be required to teach at least one class -- no matter how small or elite -- to keep them connected to the reality of the school community.

If that would be a good idea for a school administrator, how much more for a theologian! Unfixing from the world of real, fallen, hurting people only draws a person to become so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good.

the forester said...

You've been very kind, Gerald, to link to my blog from yours. FYI, I've changed the name and URL of my blog. Actually, I now have two:



Also, there's always my original website:

the forester:

Gerald said...

Where do you find the time?! I can barely keep up with one blog.

Anonymous said...

If you ever want to speak to someone who shares your interest and passion, you should contact Pastor Ted Olson at Arlington Heights EFC. In his farewell sermon series before he left the pastorate there to teach Homiletics and Applied Theology at Trinity, he spoke of his passion for being a Churchman. And regarding admistrators teaching, I imagine Greg Waybright would be an excellent teacher, having heard him preach. Did he teach in your time at Trinity?

Gerald said...

Thanks for the pointer toward Ted Olsen. I and a friend are in the process of developing a non-profit ministry toward this end and will look him up as I get my ducks in a row. And I have not had any real exposure to Waybright, though as a former pastor and now divinity school president, he might be a good resource as well.