The Pastor as Public Theologian

My first encounter with Kevin Vanhoozer came when I read his article “Theology and Apologetics” in the New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics. I found myself deeply stirred by his statement that “we need a biblically informed shape of community life fully to see, and to taste, the wisdom of God in a consistent and compelling manner.” He closes his article by calling Christians to committed discipleship as the most effective apologetic: “In the final analysis, the best apologetic is the whole people of God speaking and acting as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, arguing, living, and dying as wise witnesses to the way, the truth and the life.”

This positive memory of Dr. Vanhoozer’s article made me excited to see his new book, coauthored with Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision.

In his introduction, Vanhoozer presents an overview of the book’s argument. I quote this overview below, interspersed with explanatory comments from his conclusion.

Our task in this book is to argue, first, that pastors must be theologians;

Pastors are theologians whose vocation is to seek, speak, and show understanding of what God is doing in Christ for the sake of the world, and to lead others to do the same.

second, that every theologian is in some sense a public theologian;

Pastors are public theologians because they work for, with, and on people—the gathered assembly of the faithful—and lead them to live to God, bearing witness as a public spire in the public square.

and third, that a public theologian is a very particular kind of generalist.

[A “generalist” is] one who specializes in viewing all of life from the perspective of what God was doing, is doing, and will do in Jesus Christ, . . . one who understands all things in light of what is in Christ, keeps company with Christ, acts out the eschatological reality of being raised with Christ, and helps others to do the same.





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