Back in 2001, Dr. Tom Ascol wrote an article for The Founders Journal titled, The Pastor As Theologian. I recently came across it via a random google search and was blessed to read it. The editorial addresses an issue that has been on my mind for some time; the pastor as a learned theologian. Ascol begins the editorial with a humorous but concerning experience:
The story is told of two seminary professors who were walking in a cemetery when one said to the other, “Look, two men are buried in this grave.” His colleague asked, “How do you know?”
“Because the tombstone says, ‘Here lies a pastor and a theologian.’”
Unfortunately, that is an all-too-common conception. In both the academy and the church the opinion largely prevails that one can either be a theologian or a pastor, but surely, one cannot be both.
I confronted this mentality twenty years ago during an interview with the head of the PhD program at a well-known, conservative theological seminary. When asked what my ministerial goals were, I responded, “To be a pastor.” The interviewer replied, “Then I don’t know why you would want to pursue PhD studies in theology, since this degree is really designed for scholarly, theological research. You would never use it in the pastorate. In fact, I only know of one man who is a pastor that uses his PhD very much in his church, and that’s Jim Boice [the late pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA]. And if you asked him, I think he would tell you that you really don’t need a PhD if all you want to do is pastor.”
The man meant no slight to the office of pastor, I am sure, but his comments betray an attitude which has wreaked havoc on biblical Christianity in recent generations. The idea that depth of learning and theological concern should be relegated to the classroom while the “practical” aspects of Christianity should be reserved for the church is deadly. It was perverse when liberals espoused it in the first half of the twentieth century and it is no less diabolical when advocated–even if subtly–by conservatives.
Read the article in its entirety here.