Bridging the Divide: The Pastor-Theologian in Church History

Abstract: The primary location for the theological task has historically been the pastorate. The founding of universities at the turn of the millennium results in professional theologians divesting themselves of their ecclesial settings and finding a new home detached from the church. While the trajectory began long ago, the ramifications of such a trajectory change are being felt in the present day. The church of today is theologically averse and pragmatically driven, resulting in a biblically and theologically deprived church. The pastor-theologian must be recovered in order to infuse the church with rich, biblical theology once again.

Keywords: church history, pastor, theologian, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm


When thinking of the pastoral office, the first thought that comes to mind for many might be that of a business manager, a counsellor, a communicator, an administrator, or an amalgam of all four; rarely will one think of a theologian. The past two centuries of Christian history has seen an unprecedented bifurcation between professional theologians and those within the pastorate; this is a bifurcation which ought not stand. From the early days of the church, the primary purveyors of the theological task were pastors. In recent years, there has been a trend towards resurrecting this vision of a unified pastor-theologian, seeking to recover that which was assumed early on but has since been long forgotten.1 What follows is a survey through church history to understand the central role that pastor-theologians have played from within the church. By recovering an understanding of the role pastor-theologians have played in Christian history, one will be given an idea of what a resurgence of this vision could mean for the present-day church.


1 A few notable attempts to articulate and resurrect such a vision are The Center for Pastor-Theologians founded by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson, who also authored The Pastor-Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015). Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan recently wrote a similarly titled book, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015). These aforementioned titles, paired with a study of church history, have strongly shaped this author in his understanding of the necessity of pastor-theologians. Their work has helped to shape the structure of this article, especially the appendix in Hiestand and Wilson, The Pastor-Theologian, which includes a table of significant figures in church history noting whether such figures were “clerical,” “nonclerical,” or “monastic” in focus.

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