A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Joshua K. Smith
This work addresses the disparity between the academy and the church. How does the local pastor incorporate a high view of Scripture and theology into the weekly rhythms of the congregates? Each chapter begins by outlining a primary theme in public theology and ends with vital pastoral perspectives for how to implement said themes.
While Vanhoozer and Strachan are the primary authors, a wide-variety of evangelical voices are incorporated into the “pastoral perspectives” which conclude every chapter. One fundamental truth throughout this work is the truism that pastoral ministry is as much, if not more, intellectually rigorous as academic studies in higher education. The pastorate is a divine calling to robust theology and contextualization of complex themes into the vernacular of the people.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Pastors, Theologians, and Other Figure
1. Of Prophets, Priests, and Kings: A Brief Biblical Theology of the Pastorate
2. Of Scholars and Saints: A Brief History of the Pastorate
3. In the Evangelical Mood: The Purpose of the Pastor-Theologian
4. Artisans in the House of God: The Practices of the Pastor-Theologian
Conclusion: Fifty-Five Summary Theses on the Pastor as Public Theologian
Introduction: Pastors, Theologians, and Other Public Figures
In this introductory chapter, Vanhoozer outlines the problems of public conceptions of the pastorate, academic secularization, and the removal of theology from the pastorate. Cultural and academic pressures force theology to be removed from the public sphere, where once she was held as the queen of the sciences. Internally, the church is pressured to minimize the importance of the theological office instead of pragmatism and secular models. The way to resolve this matter is for the pastor and theologian to see their office and efforts as the same—the glorification of God through both the academy and church.
One should note that images or metaphors are hard to overcome (cf. Wittgenstein’s picture theory). Once the church has categorized the function and meaning of the pastorate, it is quite challenging to get outside a culturally accepted representation. There is four traditional models of the pastorate: (1) “master” of knowledge, (2) “revivalist” (3) “manager” and (4) “builder.” While theories of what the pastor should be or do divergent across denominations and popular literature, how they are defined determine what they ought to do. How should one explain the role of the pastor and what is their purpose?
The pastoral office is primarily a theological office. The heralding of truth is no tertiary concern for the pastor. The nature of this office is concerned with the public sphere; advancing biblical norms and exposing heretical propositions within the norms of culture. Public theology is a deterrent to the temptation to privatize faith; God’s truth is a public matter, “for there is only one gospel.” The pastor-theologian must work diligently to examine the concerns of culture (environment, justice, commerce, etc.) and find where they converge with biblical norms. Within the body of the church, the pastor-theologian must address the perennial questions—helping each member see how “big truths relate to real people.”
In the conclusion of this chapter, two “pastoral perspectives” are given; one by Gerald Hiestand, “Six Practical Steps toward Being a Pastor-Theologian” and the other by Josh Moody, “Seven Ways to Theologize As A Pastor.” Hiestand briefly notes that: (1) use vision in how you hire, (2) network with other pastor-theologians, (3) use your study time well, (4) make sure your church leadership understands, (5) theology is primarily for your church, and (6) make sure you label your work area “study” not “office.” Additionally, Moody mentions the importance of prioritizing developing in one’s study of the Word and being able to translate big ideas relevantly.
I. Of Prophets, Priests, and Kings: A Brief Biblical Theology of the Pastorate
This chapter gives a biblical overview of the role and purpose of the pastor throughout the old and new covenants. To grasp the trifold office of the pastorate in the new covenant, one must consider the purpose of its meaning in the old covenant.
First, it was a priestly office: the guardian of holiness. The Law was a means of setting Israel apart from their surrounding culture. The priest existed as instruments of sanctification: the human mediator for the people of Israel to remain in the holiness of God. Second, it was the office of a prophet. The prophet revealed the “mind of God” and the presence of God. In a culture of orality, this was their only means of hearing from God. Third, the office was that of a king. They were to lead God’s people with a humble and gentle spirit—seeking the wisdom of God continually.
In the new covenant context, these purposes are reimagined in the person of Christ. In the model of Jesus, the pastor is to display a life of self-sacrifice and how this is fleshed out in the church. As king, the pastor is to model what it means to suffer and to serve in their leadership, for this is the pattern outlined by Christ. As a prophet, the pastor must posit the truths of the gospel in their preaching ministry.
In the “pastoral perspectives section, Melvin Tinker, “The Pastor as Public Theologian,” and Todd Wilson, “Human Origins: A Test Case for Pastor-Theologians,” and Jim Samra, “A Practical Theology of Technology,” close out this chapter. Tinker discusses the role of public theology in the pastor’s ministry. It should consider worldview and how to communicate rich theology to an array of audiences.
Additionally, it should be saturated with themes of Christology and Doxology—engaging the mind with logic and cohesion as found in Scripture. Wilson discusses an example of dealing with a contemporary issue of creationism and evolution and how this led to the development of an official document adopted by the church and the benefits of such. Samra gives a practical example of how his church dealt with the current issue of technology—giving an overarching biblical view how generations have dealt with this issue.
2. Of Scholars and Saints: A Brief History of the Pastorate
The second chapter examines the historical roots of the pastor-theologian office. Starting with Irenaeus (bishop of Lyons), Chrysostom, and Augustine, one can see the development of robust doctrine and church polity. Early in the development of the pastoral office, it was considered a place for the development of theological purity and clarity.
In the medieval period, theology grew into a more academic endeavor, especially for those like Abelard, Ockham, and Scotus. In the wake of the monastic movement, leaders like Gregory I, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Francis of Assisi foster and cultivate in many a heart for “practical ministry.” In the Reformation, the pastorate shifted back. . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision