Quote of the Day: On getting a PhD

I know I post a lot on here about how it could be good for pastors of churches to think about getting a PhD or for PhD’s who haven’t been able to get into teaching just yet, to work the pastoral ministry.   Well, the following quote, believe it or not, is quite pastoral, and really could even be said of the MDiv, and I think in a lot of cases even the “pastoral ministry itself.”  Consider:

If you can imagine yourself doing anything else besides a PhD, then go do that.

Yup, there it is folks!  The most pastoral advice one can receive regarding academic or vocational work.  It’s true.  As Dr. Treier avers, PhD’s are time consuming labor intensive plain old-fashioned HARD WORK.  As it should be.  If there is something else you can do and find great joy and fulfillment in doing, go do that.  🙂   This is not to say if you are in a program now that you should stop or any such thing.  By all means, pursue thy calling with all thine heart!  It’s just that for those in the consideration – “let those who have ears to hear, hear.”

The rest of what he has to say is quite good too:

The job market suggests that in most fields evangelicals in particular do not need more applicants; we need a few better-prepared ones. The church, meanwhile, quite likely needs more intelligent and intellectually-curious pastoral staff members. Let the one who has ears, hear.

This is good too:

Having said that, I had a seminary professor tell me that I was not well cut out for pastoral ministry in certain respects, whereas “if you don’t go into the academy, you’re wasting your gifts.” If a professor tells you that, then again let the one who has ears, hear [no professor told me that] –although, in the most recent job market, the words are less and less likely to be spoken [indeed].

Perhaps the bottom line is to ask your potential recommenders to be really honest with you before they simply agree to write reference letters. You need to give them the freedom to do this, because–speaking from experience–it is not easy to tell someone with a heart set on a PhD that they’re probably not cut out for it. But you need someone to care for you enough to be as honest and helpful as they can.

This may even go go so far as to suggest that even if you do have the aptitude and gifting, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are to pursue the PhD.   Asks those who you know who have the COURAGE to be brutally honest (and with a loving interest in your personal best interest and personal, mental, emotional, spiritual well-being) with you.  They will let you know.

Nothing wrong with getting the PhD.  Like Marc Cortez says, just do it with your eyes wide open (and I say with your chin up).


QTOD: on PhD’s in the Pulpit

From Mike Birds blog:

country churchIn the latest issue of ExpT there is a very good article by Gerald Hiestand on A Taxonomy of the Pastor-Theologian: Why PhD Students Should Consider the Pastorate as the Context for Their Theological Scholarship. The blurb reads:

The bifurcation of theological scholarship from pastoral ministry has led to a twofold problem in contemporary church/academy relations: the theological anemia of the church, and the ecclesial anemia of theology. This essay explores these twin problems and suggests that the way forward in bridging the gap between academy and church is to reunite the pastoral vocation with the vocation of the theologian. Toward this end, the essay offers a taxonomy of three contemporary models of the pastor-theologian, examining the strengths and limitations of each. Ultimately, the paper calls for a resurrection of an all but extinct, yet historically rooted model of the pastorate—the pastor as ecclesial theologian, and challenges the emerging generations of theologians to consider the pastorate as a viable context for their future theological scholarship.

Now you know why I have been wanting to subscribe to the Expository TImes for a while now.  🙂

Bird goes on to say:

When theology moved out from the church to the academy, the result was that “the theological water level within the pastoral community … fell considerably.” But not only that, the church became theologically anemic and theology itself became ecclesially anemic.  Hiestand argues that we need more capable theologian-types in our churches. “More theologians in our pulpits will deepen the theological integrity of our churches, while at the same time add an ecclesial voice to evangelical theology.”  He maintains that the theological integrity of the gospel in the Christian community will never rise above the level of her pastors and ecclesial theologians are best situated to produce ecclesially sensible, field-tested, theological work that deepens the faith and depth of the church.

I think this is exactly right, and I think it is also sorely needed in Pentecostal churches – all too many Pentecostal churches are in dire need of “contextual pastoral theologians” (as the program at Northern Seminary describes it).  Our movement is still young and developing.  By way and support of the Holy Spirit we need the help of trained theologians to guide Pentecostalism along the way, to prevent “theological anemia” in Pentecostal theology and praxis.

Now, here is what I want to say – this obviously is not for everyone.  This is not saying all pastors need to do this, but there is need for more.  Not all would be able to anyways, nor should they feel obligated to it or be made to feel lessor for a lack of it.  Instead, we need to do better to recognize the giftings of all and the contributions all can bring to the church, the body of Christ.   In many a Pentecostal church, even a basic MA is WAY TOO MUCH education.  But as I see it, it shouldn’t matter.  There can be equality without having to have everyone at the same educational level.  This is where things get weird.   What might be normal in other circles is an oddity in Pentecostal circles.  But I think times are a changin’.  Younger folks see the value of theological education and are going for it.  I think we’ll start to see things mature and develop theologically in Pentecostalism as more young people are getting good theological education in preparation for ministry.

So this is not mean to say all need to do this, or many more should, but I do think there is need for it!


on being a pastor/theologian

someone on the pentecostal theology worldwide facebook page is asking this question:

Is it possible for a pastor, who does not desire to be a professional/vocational theologian, to become a solid pastor/theologian without knowing the biblical languages? I wonder what people who work with the biblical languages regularly think about this?

many of the responses have been in the affirmative though there have been not a few “yes, but…” responses as in “yes, but you’ll always be lacking in your exegetical skills without having learned the bible languages….” etc.  One person did well to point out that even with knowledge of the Bible languages there is still ALOT of WEIRD and BAD theology going around in Pentecostal circles, and that by folks who supposedly have seminary degrees and training in the languages so it is important to note having training in the languages is not a cure all or safety net necessarily.  There is responsible exegesis too, but then one might want to know what that even means anymore.

But I wanted to share a couple responses I thought were pretty good.

One person emphasized the importance of reading:

Reading (and reading and reading) is always the main key of being a good theologian. If one is diligent and discipline enough to read everyday, one can become a better theologian than many seminary graduates.

I think this is the simple truth.  There is a prominent blogger who proves this point.  He is as good as if not better than a lot of seminary grads simply because he reads a lot and asks questions and talks it all out on his blog.

My friend Monte had this to say:

I believe we can, and should certainly strive to be “a solid pastor/theologian,” even if we do not for varied reasons possess a grasp of “biblical languages.” I say this even while I myself had been graced by God to acquire many years ago, two solid years of Greek grammar and syntax, and I can still read and consult my Greek New Testament.

The reason though why I hold this conviction is that over the years I have gone over to the position that most important is a good “theological reading” of the Bible, as a maturing “Catholic Christian,” and more specifically in this context— as a “Catholic Pentecostal.” I did not say “Roman Catholic;” I said “Catholic;” but also in becoming “Catholic,” it may perhaps help to sometimes give our ears and hearts to our Roman Catholic brethren.

So to become a “Catholic Pentecostal” means I inform my reading of the Bible with some broad consensual understandings of the Christian Story— which I simultaneously inform and integrate with a distinctive Pentecostal reading of Scripture; I find Kenneth Archer’s idea of Pentecostal “Central Narrative Convictions” helpful here.

I believe the Holy Spirit sends the Church to the ends of the earth with the Gospel so that in the process of discipling the nations— we raise up “Catholic” people. Even as the Spirit gives each of us a distinctive “tongue” and hence “voice” through the Pentecostal experience of Spirit baptism, the Spirit then enjoins us to share these “tongues,” “voices,” and “gifts” with those we reach and minister to, and we in turn receive “gifts” from them, affirm their “voices,” and worship God as we hear their “tongues.”

So in the process of opening ourselves to the global Church and to the outpouring of God’s Spirit on all flesh, we become Catholic Pentecostals— as the Spirit enriches us with the gifts and tongues and voices of all the world. Then the riches of all the world’s nations flow into God’s new Zion! (Rev 21:24, 26). I am here by the way, drawing on some thoughts gathered from Miroslav Volf’s “Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation.”

Ultimately however, what qualifies us as true “pastor-theologians” is that we have somehow at some point received in our bodies and spirits— a sharing in the sufferings of Jesus. That is why Martin Luther thus said a true “theologian” is one “who comprehends the . . . things of God seen through suffering and the cross.” Then we become true preachers of Christ only and Him crucified because we have received from God a true “theology of the cross” and not a false “theology of glory.”

There, in the crucible of mystic experience with Jesus our Healer, we together with the comfort of the Holy Spirit— forge a theology of moral and redemptive power for the healing of all nations. When this happens, we like Jacob, worship God in no other way than by leaning on our staff— because the Spirit had wounded our thigh; our strength had become touched and transformed by hand of God— which now makes us partakers in the wounds of God, that we may also rejoice as partakers of His glory.

I think his point about doing a “theological reading” of the Bible is a good point.  I happen to think good theology comes out of good practice of Inductive Bible Study and honest responsible handling of the languages, but even so, we must at some point go beyond that.  This can come through the discipline of reading theological works such as Brunner or Barth or even Torrance.  I know Vanhoozer has a work out on a theological reading of the New Testament and so on.   I even think Dave Black is doing some of this with the stuff he is doing lately such as with his book The Jesus Paradigm and so on.  Tim Gombis’s The Drama of Ephesians is another good example of this.  The think I like about Monte’s response is how he has taken and received from others and integrated it into his own theological background, into his Pentcostalism. I think that is something we should all do – learn and receive what we can from others and integrate into our own thinking and theological backgrounds.  It will make us better people.

If you think you’d like to be part of the pentecostal theology worldwide facebook page, let me know and I could add you.  but please know it is closed group.

Feel free to let me know what you think.


Book Review: T.F. Torrance’s Incarnation

It is with much thanks to Adrianna Wright of IVP for her graciousness in allowing me to read (in part) and review T.F. Torrance’s Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (IVP, 2008).

This is a long overdue review (over a year) and for that I sincerely apologize.   I have to say at the out set I have not yet read this book in its entirety so there is just no possible way I can offer a full and complete review – so it will only at best be an inadequate partial review – why have I not read the whole thing? Well, its a big book from a theological standpoint.  It’s not light reading by any means, so though it is only 371 pages including endnotes, appendices, index and so on, there is a lot to read and chew on. It’s going to take me a while to really get through it – so instead of delaying I am writing a partial review.

In this book on Christology, Torrance “addresses both the heart and head through a deeply biblical, unified, Christ-centered and trinitarian theology.”  He “presents a full account of the meaning and significance of the life and person of Jesus Christ, demonstrating that his work of revelation and reconciliation can only be understood in the light of who he is – true God and true man united in one person.”    Torrance contends that the whole life of Jesus Christ from his birth through to his resurrection and ascension, even to his second coming are of saving significance.  (quotes from the inside cover).

One question I want to address is what is the value or purpose of reading such a deeply theological work such as Torrance or even Barth and others for the pastor and preacher? The primary value lies in nature and purpose of church dogmatics.  The editor writes “Christian dogmatics is that discipline which which attempts to express the essential content of Christian faith and doctrine as an aid to the church in her teaching and preaching” (xxii).  In sum, the purpose of reading this particular work on Christology or even a work like Barth’s Dogmatics (even if one does not agree with all the finer points being discussed), is it allows the preacher to proclaim Christ and the Scriptures in a richer and deeper way.

Essentially, it adds theological depth to the sermon or teaching.

You want to be a strong pastor/theologian?  Read Torrance, Barth and the like!  🙂

Both Torrance and Barth (Torrance was for a time, a student of Barth) sought to put forth a dogmatics of Christian Theology for the help of the pastor so he or she could faithfully proclaim the Scriptures in an articulate and unified way that was line with faithful interpretation, historical Christian teaching including the Fathers (“all the saints” xxiii) thus proclaiming Christ and bringing glory to him.

Some of the leading features of Torrance’s theology are as follows:

The heart of Torrance’s theology is the Trinity and deity of Christ…. The truth of the Trinity, ‘more to be adorned than expressed,’ and the deity of Christ belong together (xxx-xxxi).

The deity of Christ is the guarantee of reconciliation.  Because Jesus Christ is God, he not only makes God known, but what he does is the work of God.  The words and acts of Jesus and of the Father are identical.  The deity of Jesus is therefore the guarantee that the reconciliation we see and receive in his the reconciliation of God himself (xxxi).

The full humanity of Christ is of equal importance with his deity.  If Jesus is not God then it is not God that has saved us, but equally, if Jesus is not man then man has not been saved.  The deity and the humanity of Jesus are equally important and neither without the other can bring salvation (xxxii).

The humanity of Jesus is the guarantee of human reconciliation and forgiveness.  In fact, the very act of incarnation is an act of reconciliation because now in the person of Jesus Christ, there is a permanent union of God and man (an act of reconciliation or re-union) (xxxiv).

The hypostatic union of God and man in the one person of Christ needs to be understood dynamically – not statically.  It needs to include the whole life of Jesus from his birth through to his resurrection.  This ‘hypostatic union’ had to be maintained throughout the life of Jesus not just at his birth.  “Throughout it all, the hypostatic union held fast as Jesus clung to the Father in utter and obedient dependence in prayer.  And the hypostatic union emerged victorious and unscathed in the resurrection as the eternal union of God and man in Christ Jesus” (xxxvi).

The hypostatic union is at the heart of the gospel.  “The doctrine of the union of God and man in Christ is the absolute heart of the gospel.  it tells us that the full reality of God in his love has come all the way to suffering and sinful humanity and has united himself with us. It tells us that we have been accepted in the fullness of our humanity and brought as we are into union with him in Christ. It tells us that because Christ is the permanent union of God and man, his person is the indivisible and living center of our salvation for all time”   (xxxvi).

There is much much more to this work than can possibly be reviewed here – so this will have to suffice!  I highly recommend this as a work for pastors to read and consume and integrate into their thinking and theology and preaching/teaching ministry.

The Pastor-Scholar?

There’s been a lot of discussion on Facebook about an online article by Gerald Hiestand over at the First Things website.  Pastor Dan just put up a post and I am simply going to pass along his thoughts and add a few of my own.  Here is it cut an pasted from his blog:


A great article from First Things provokes some thoughts for me. I want to be faithful as a leader, a pastor, and expositor of the Word.

These thoughts are good:

The drain of our wider theologians from the pastorate to the academy has resulted in a two-fold problem. First, the theological water-level of our local parishes has dropped considerably. Inasmuch as the pastoral vocation is no longer seen as a theological vocation, pastors no longer bring a strong theological presence to their local parishes. The net effect (particularly in the evangelical tradition in which I reside) is a truncated understanding of theology and its import among the laity. Theology has largely left the local church.

The second part of this problem is perhaps more even troubling. Not only has theology left the church, but the church has left theology. To be sure, many academic theologians view themselves as self-consciously serving the theological needs of the church. But on the whole, academic discourse has lost its way, becoming preoccupied with questions—especially questions regarding its right to exist—that minimize its ecclesial relevance.

While I deeply appreciate theologians who pursue theological studies, gain a PhD and then teach, my heart is for those who would strengthen their theological studies and then gift that to the church. The earliest centuries found some of the Church’s greatest theologians… and they were all pastors. The dichotomy has hurt the Church and we need to regain our strengths as ministers and churches.


I am in complete agreement with Dan on this one – not every one can or should teach in a college setting but they can teach in a local church setting and they should!

The main disagreement that I have is the voice of the church shouldn’t have to be limited to pastors or practitioners.  The academician can also speak to the church and the church should be willing to listen – but the academician will have to speak in a way that the church can understand and receive (not going off “waxing elephant” (like Dave black likes to say)).  Pastors and Scholars need each other and the church needs them as well – so definitely they should always seek to be in conversation with each other.

The problem is, however, with the current church leadership trends focusing primarily on pragmatics – and a focus on the pastor as leader or influencer – many have lost interest in theology as being too impractical (which is tragic because there are always practical application/implications of theological truths and realities) – or too divisive, uninteresting, etc.

To me this just proves all the more the need for more pastors to pursue PhD work in the midst of their vocations (not all, just more) – but also the need for more pastors to be intentionally involved in such groups as ETS (SBL might be too academic of a setting and many aren’t even Christian let alone interested in speaking to or with the church – so ETS might be the better venue for this kind of conversation) – or for Pentecostal pastors to be part of SPS and so on – as I understand it, many in academia want to engage the church but the church in many ways hasn’t been interested in engaging academia – but being intentionally involved in ETS and such societies sure would help.

new book on preaching the Old Testament

I am thinking about checking out.  It’s Allan R. Bevere‘s The Character of Our Discontent (Energion Publications, 2010).  It’s true, more of us pastors need to engage the whole Bible, the OT too, not just the NT and parts we like.

Here’s a description:

The Character of Our Discontent grew out of the author’s conviction that pastors do not preach enough about the Old Testament. The result is 19 chapters, each of which represents a sermon on an Old Testament character. These sermons are lively, fast paced, and practical yet are rooted in sound scholarship and are examples of the homiletical art.

The Character of Our Discontent is an adventure in preaching and it invites us into the adventure of living in relationship with God, an adventure that has similar characteristics whether we are learning about God’s call to Abraham or how a call to mission in Africa came to a contemporary English teacher nearing retirement.

Christians who would like to learn how the Old Testament can enlighten and guide their Christian walk, and pastors who would like to learn how to preach more effectively from the Old Testament will both find these sermons an invaluable aid. While Dr. Bevere specializes in the New Testament and theology, he believes that pastors (and academics as well) can preach and teach effectively outside their areas of specialty. Indeed, they must, and this teaching can enrich their own learning and the fields of study into which they venture.

and bless the body of Christ too.

HT: Dave Black