In his post “Should You be a Pastor or a Professor? Thinking through the Options,” Michael Kruger lays out six options in a chiasm:
1. The Pastor
2. The Pastor-Scholar
3. The Pastor-Scholar who is active in scholarly world
4. The Scholar-Pastor who is active in the church
5. The Scholar-Pastor
6. The Scholar
Kruger’s taxonomy (and the way he explains it) is insightful and helpful.
One qualification is that the word “scholar” may not best for options 2–5. It depends on how you define the term. (I attempt to define scholarship in §1.1 of this essay.)
My sweet spot is option 4 or 5. I love how Kruger puts it: “We need good pastors more than ever. And thus we need good seminary professors to train them.”
Theology professor John Frame feels a tension here:
John M. Frame. “The Academic Captivity of Theology.” Pages 59–76 in John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings: Volume Two. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015. 51-page PDF sample.
Perhaps I don’t feel the same tension that Frame feels because I didn’t attend a school like Yale Graduate School for PhD work like he did. Frame explains,
- I am an academic and a theologian. But I have not always found it easy to resolve the tension between the two. … [T]heology at its best, the theology that I try to practice, is deeply at odds with the academic disciplines in important ways. (p. 59)
- Although I had entered an academic calling, my real passion was elsewhere, in the practical ministry of the church. (p. 61)
- The emphasis of the academic community today is often on research rather than teaching, an emphasis that can lead to the dismissal of good teachers and the retention of poor ones. But it is teaching rather than research that is most crucial in the preparation of students for ministry. (p. 71)
- The rush to become academically respectable has never borne good fruit in the church. (p. 75)
- On academic respectability vs. academic responsibility, see in §2.3 of this essay.
- Tom Ascol, “The Pastor As Theologian,” The Founders Journal 43 (2001): 5–13.
- Two thoughtful books on pastor-theologians just released:
- Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson, The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015).
- Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015).
- These two short essays offer some friendly pushback:
- Mark Jones, “Pastor-Scholar? Not Likely ….”
- Andrew Wilson, “Why Being a Pastor-Scholar Is Nearly Impossible: Three Tensions of Combining Pastoral and Academic Work.”
Update: See Tom Schreiner, “Pastor or Scholar? Pursue Your Strongest Desire,” The Gospel Coalition, November 3, 2015.