Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pastor-Theologians?

Over at First Things, someone argues that pastors should be at the forefront of doing theology, guarding orthodoxy and applying Scripture across the broad range of human experience.  This makes sense if the focus of Christian activity, this side of eternity, is the church.  I trained as a high school teacher before entering the ministry and generally this idea of leaving theology to the ministers has a parallel with teaching theory and teachers.  Those in the academy sometimes produced powerful and useful resources, but at other times their trendy theories had little bearing on the reality of the classroom and the ordinary student experience.  The article says rightly:
"Historically, the church’s most influential theologians were churchmen—pastors, priests, and bishops. Clerics such as Athanasius, Augustine (indeed, nearly all the church Fathers), Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Edwards, and Wesley functioned as the wider theologians of their day—shaping not only the theological vision of their own parishes, but that of the wider church. In their day, the pastoral community represented the most influential, most insightful, and most articulate body of theologians." 

2 comments:

Andrew Bowles said...

Interestingly the early theologians were not just local pastors, they were mostly bishops, so they had a particular responsibility for the teaching and protection of true doctrine. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli also had an 'episcopal' type of ministry. The issue seems to be what happens when theological study is the preserve of the university, which it probably only has been since the 12th century.

Luke Isham said...

Hey, great to hear from you Andrew!

Yes, we need more theologian-bishops. I guess with the rise of Industrialization and the associated economies of scale, theology became 'professionalized'. There are some advantages, resources are more widely available but as that First Things article alludes to it removes theology from the local congregations/dioceses.