Book Review – The Pastor as Public Theologian by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan

The Pastor as Public Theologian Book Cover The Pastor as Public Theologian
Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Owen Strachan,
Baker Academic
August 18, 2015
Publisher's Description
Many pastors today see themselves primarily as counselors, leaders, and motivators. Yet this often comes at the expense of the fundamental reality of the pastorate as a theological office. The most important role is to be a theologian mediating God to the people. The church needs pastors who can contextualize the Word of God to help their congregations think theologically about all aspects of their lives, such as work, end-of-life decisions, political involvement, and entertainment.
Drawing on the depiction of pastors in the Bible, key figures from church history, and Christian theology, this brief and accessible book offers a clarion call for pastors to serve as public theologians in their congregations and communities. The church needs pastors to read the world in light of Scripture and to direct their congregations in ways of wisdom, shalom, and human flourishing. The Pastor as Public Theologian calls for a paradigm shift in the very idea of what a pastor is and does, setting forth a positive alternative picture.
In addition to pastors, this book will be invaluable to seminary students training to be pastors and to their professors. It includes pastoral reflections on the theological task from twelve working pastors

Book Review

If the phrase pastor as public theologian makes you giggle a little you're not alone. The modern day pastor is preacher to be sure . . and a counselor as well as a CEO. . . but a theologian??!! That is the claim of Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan. At least, that is what they believe a pastor should be. And to be honest, I kind of agree with them. That is if you define these terms as Vanhoozer and Strachan have in The Pastor as Public Theologian.

To put this term into its proper context, Vanhoozer and Strachan define a pastor as one who builds up people in Christ. They define theologian as someone who seeks, speaks, and shows "understanding of what God was doing in Christ for the sake of the world". This pastor-theologian is public because he is "involved with people in and for community". This definition of a pastor as public theologian sets the stage for the rest of the book and for what the authors are calling for pastors to become.
The book starts out with a sizeable introduction (31 pages!) followed by some prefatory remarks by Josh Moody on seven ways in which pastors can do the work of a theologian. Part one includes a couple remarkable chapters by Strachan about the theology and history of the pastorate. In part two, Vanhoozer brilliantly outlines both the purpose and practices of the pastor theologian.

What I found especially helpful were the brief essays following each chapter in which real life pastors share their perspective one what was just discussed. This is where a lot of the practical and "brass tacks" dialogue takes place and it is what ties the main arguments to the every day work of a pastor.

Overall I really appreciated this book. Pastors who are discouraged over the lack of theological vision in the pastorate will find encouragement in this book and those who are trying to decide between an academic or pastoral career will be happy to learn that the two are not mutually exclusive- but a part of God's design.  What I appreciate most is that the authors are not encouraging theology for the sake of intellectual pursuit, but for the edification of the body- a pursuit to which every pastor will be able to relate.

If you wish to purchase The Pastor as Public Theologian you may do so through Baker Publishing or from Amazon by following this link.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Baker Academic in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About the Authors (From Baker Publishing)

Wheaton College Bible Department Professors- Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer September 3, 2009 © Michael Hudson, All Rights Reserved
Wheaton College Bible Department Professors- Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer
September 3, 2009
© Michael Hudson, All Rights Reserved

Kevin J. Vanhoozer (PhD, University of Cambridge), one of the leading evangelical theologians in the world, is research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He previously taught at Wheaton College and the University of Edinburgh. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Everyday Theology, The Drama of Doctrine, Is There a Meaning in This Text?, and the award-winning Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible.

strachanOwen Strachan (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a Fellow with the Center for Pastor Theologians. He is the coauthor of The Essential Edwards Collection and the author of Risky Gospel.

4 thoughts on “Book Review – The Pastor as Public Theologian by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan

  1. Wes Allstott

    This looks like it could be a very helpful text. Thanks for the review.

  2. Zach Truitt

    I am a pastor and I always hear this from other pastors. The thing is, nothing stops us from being theologians except for fear. Fear that the numbers will start to fall.Numbers = attendance & money. The thing is, some of the best pastor theologians don’t come across as such because they have an uncanny ability to make sense of difficult theological issues by communicating in plain English. The best pastor theologians aren’t the John MacArthurs of the world but the John Pipers. Those who teach deep theology without anyone knowing all the better. This is what we need more of. Not more pastors showing off their vocabulary and knowledge of dead languages. Be a scholar. Certainly. But talk like a normal person.

  3. Zach, I agree with you. The important thing is for pastors to communicate what God has done in Christ to the people. How this is done depends in large part on the demographic in your congregation. We must communicate these treasured truths, but do so in their language.

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