Augustines For The 21st Century

The church needs more pastors who write and preach top-notch theology

“Today,” Hiestand and Wilson write, “we find ourselves in a context where to be a theologian is, almost by definition, to be a professor in the academy. And to be a pastor is, almost by definition, to be anything but a theologian.” Most pastors act as “passive conveyors of insights from theologians to laity. A little quote from Augustine here, a brief allusion to Bonhoeffer there. That’s all.”

 

Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson like to tell the story of a girl and her father strolling through a church graveyard. The daughter reads the headstone inscriptions out loud to her father. She comes upon one that lists “Pastor Theologian.” She pauses, then announces, “Papa, they have two people buried here!”

Hiestand and Wilson are pastors at Calvary Memorial Church outside Chicago and cofounders of the Center for Pastor Theologians. They have made it their mission to repair the modern breach between local church leaders and advanced theological study. In The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Zondervan), they identify a need for pastors who write and preach top-notch theology for the entire body of Christ. They envision at least some pastors becoming 21st-century Augustines, Luthers, and Calvins.

“Today,” Hiestand and Wilson write, “we find ourselves in a context where to be a theologian is, almost by definition, to be a professor in the academy. And to be a pastor is, almost by definition, to be anything but a theologian.” Most pastors act as “passive conveyors of insights from theologians to laity. A little quote from Augustine here, a brief allusion to Bonhoeffer there. That’s all.”

It hasn’t always been this way. Hiestand and Wilson note that many early church fathers—Ambrose, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Athanasius, and so on—were both churchmen and leading theological lights. The pastor theologian, in short, has “a robust and storied place in the history of God’s people.”

So where has the pastor theologian gone? The authors point to several historical factors.

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