I had a few blissful moments in the Southern Seminary bookstore last weekend while traveling to Pennsylvania. While there, I noted this little volume by John Piper and D.A. Carson. Upon returning to our hotel, I Kindled it and started working through this wonderful volume. The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor consists of two talks (one by Piper, the other by Carson). The talks were originally delivered in 2009 at the request of The Carl F.H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding. (Media for the original event may be accessed here.)
This book is a wonderful addition to the whole discussion of “the Evangelical mind,” the modern manifestation of which began with Mark Noll’s seminal and recently-sequeled The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind twenty years ago and which has continued, most notably, in the works of Os Guinness, Alister McGrath, and, recently, in Piper’s own monograph, Think.
The central contention of both talks is that the radical distinction between “pastor” and “scholar” (roughly analagous in modern parlance as the distinction between “heart” and “head”) is unnecessary, unhelpful, and injurious to effective ministry. Piper and Carson effectively argue that knowledge and feeling ought not be pitted against one another. On the contrary, the rigid, careful study of the truths of God should naturally give rise to the most powerful affections and emotions, for they will instill a sense of intellectual integrity to our hearts and keep the faith from being flooded by mere emotionalism. On the other hand, we should study passionately, not in some kind of supposed vacuum in which we are untouched by the overwhelming grandeur of that which we are studying.
Piper and Carson convincingly argue that the pastor should strive for scholarly acumen and a robust development of the mind, not for social or vocational advancement, but because the verities of the faith demand nothing less than our best efforts. In a Protestant tradition which has, at times, tragically pitted knowledge against feeling, this is welcome indeed.
The authors tell their personal stories to great effect. They follow their own testimonies with practical wisdom concerning how to develope as scholar-pastors or pastor-scholars. I have benefited from and been challenged by this wonderful little book. I supposed pastors may benefit most readily, but I daresay that any believer would appreciate and be edified by the discussion herein.
Highly recommended! If you don’t care to get the book, by all means check out the other media of the event.