Request an Exam Copy

A Taxonomy of the Term - An Excerpt from The Pastor Theologian

Categories Ministry Book Excerpts

In chapter 6 of their recent release The Pastor Theologian, Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson take the opportunity to explain the three categories they refer to as "Pastor Theologian."


The Pastor Theologian: A Taxonomy

In the previous two chapters, we detailed the negative effects on the church that have come about through the bifurcation of the theologian and the pastor. In sum, this divorce has led to the theological anemia of the church and the ecclesial anemia of theology. What, then, might be the solution to these twin dilemmas?

Our answer, of course, is a recovery of the pastor theologian. The return of theologians to the pastorate addresses the theological anemia that has plagued pastoral ministry since the Enlightenment. This, in turn, provides a vital and now-missing resource for deepening the theological integrity of the people of God and, most importantly, anchoring mature Christian ethics. And likewise, the return of pastors to the theological task helps to inject an ecclesial voice into theological conversations, thus pulling Christian theology back into its native orbit of the church.

But what is a pastor theologian anyway? Of course, every pastor is the primary theologian of his congregation. And so in one sense, every pastor is a pastor theologian. But true as this may be, such broad definitions ultimately render the identity of the pastor theologian meaningless. (If every day is a holiday, no day is a holiday.) While we certainly agree that every pastor must (indeed, inevitably does!) provide theological leadership to his local congregation, the aim of our book is not to insist that every pastor must be a pastor theologian. As stated previously, the pastoral office requires a variety of gifts and skills. In the same way that all pastors are called to preach the gospel, irrespective of whether they are uniquely gifted in evangelism, so too all pastors are called to provide theological leadership to their local congregations, irrespective of whether they are uniquely gifted in theology.

Our vision then, of the pastor theologian, is directed toward a certain subset of the pastoral community. And, indeed, this is generally in keeping with contemporary notions of the pastor theologian. In the common vernacular, the term pastor theologian is primarily used to refer to those within the pastoral community who have unique theological interests and gifting. For many, the term refers to a pastor whose study is filled with reference books. For others, the term refers to a pastor who writes a theological blog or publishes sermons. For others, it refers to a pastor who has a PhD or who has a certain kind of preaching ministry (namely, a theological one). And for many, it simply refers to a really smart pastor.

These current conceptions of the pastor theologian — however legitimate — are insufficient for the sort of ecclesial and theological recovery we have in mind. A fresh vision is needed. Toward this end, we propose here a return to an ancient vision of the pastor theologian — the sort of pastor theologian who not only engages with theology as an end-user, but who also constructs and disseminates theology for the broader church.

To clarify our vision of the pastor theologian, we propose in this chapter a threefold taxonomy of the pastor theologian: the pastor theologian as local theologian, the pastor theologian as popular theologian, and the pastor theologian as ecclesial theologian.
The local theologian is a pastor theologian who constructs theology for the laity of his local congregation.
The popular theologian is a pastor theologian who provides theological leadership to Christian laity beyond his own congregation.
And the ecclesial theologian is a pastor theologian who constructs theology for other Christian theologians and pastors.

As will become apparent, the local theologian and popular theologian are already active in contemporary evangelicalism. The ecclesial theologian, however, is a lost paradigm. Resurrecting this model is the aim of this book and the focus of this chapter. Yet in our effort to resurrect the pastor theologian as ecclesial theologian, we simultaneously wish to affirm the vital necessity of the local- and popular-theologian paradigms; each is a legitimate and important identity of the pastor theologian.

In recounting the local theologian and popular theologian then, we wish to both affirm the vital role they play and set a context for identifying and resurrecting the ecclesial theologian. Understanding the interrelatedness of these three types of pastor theologians will enable the academy, the church, and the emerging generation of pastors and theologians to envision new possibilities for what the pastor theologian can be, as well as enable future pastors and theologians to identify themselves with the paradigm that best fits their gifts and calling. (chp 6)


To continue to interact with the idea of pastor as theologian, order your copy of The Pastor Theologian today.

Which Type of Pastor Theologian Are You: Local, Popular, or Ecclesial?
Which Type of Pastor Theologian Are You: Local, Popular, or Ecclesial? In their new book Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson have identified one of the more important crises of our day: the divor...
Your form could not be submitted. Please check errors and resubmit.

Thank you!
Sign up complete.

Subscribe to the Blog Get expert commentary on biblical languages, fresh explorations in theology, hand-picked book excerpts, author videos, and info on limited-time sales.
By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email communications from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN 37214 USA) providing information about products and services of HCCP and its affiliates. You may unsubscribe from these email communications at any time. If you have any questions, please review our Privacy Policy or email us at This form is protected by reCAPTCHA.