A Pastoral Theologian or Theologically-minded Pastor?

When a colleague changed jobs from campus pastor to theology professor he explained that he was more of a pastoral theologian than a theologically-minded pastor.  He indicated that there is a continuum between ones focus on theology and the role of pastoring.  

I think he’s right.  

I’ve met people who played with theological ideas all day long but didn’t have the ability (or interest) to pastor and care for people.  I’ve also met people who wanted to focus all of the time and energy caring for the flock and hated wasting their time on studying theology.  I realize that most people fall (as they should) somewhere in between the two extremes but that they tend to lean more toward one side than the other.

I don’t know where I fall.  

When I preach, it sounds more like teaching.  When I teach, it breaks my heart that I’m not preaching.  Today I taught on revelation, the idea that God is showing himself and his truth to people both generally (through creation, common grace and conscience) and specifically (in definite ways to definite people at definite times (like in the Bible or through speech).  I presented the information in a logical orderly fashion.  

I defined.  I labeled.  I categorized. I communicated.

And, when I was done, I felt like I had profaned something holy.  To speak in propositional truths about the God of the universe choosing to reveal himself to mankind seemed to fall woefully short of what the topic deserved.  I was taking something that should be awe-insipiring and making it something the brain could easily handle.  I felt like I was taking something weighty and beautiful and, by making it tangible, I was making it cheap.

If I had taken the time to craft a message or an experience that would help them feel, experience, and know the wonder that is the wholly-other God seeking us out, I wouldn’t have had enough time to cover the material. And covering the material is legitimate and genuinely important.  

And so I am feeling the tension between academic theology and pastoral care.  My ministry, right now, is in the classroom.  There are objectives that I’m being paid to help the students complete.  My job is to reach their head  and I want to be careful not to neglect their hearts in the process.  Theology calls for all of us.  It must be both academic and pastoral.  I don’t yet know how to balance that in my classroom with my students for the three hours a week I engage with them. 



Which Translation Do You Use?

In class last week we began to explore different English Translations.  What makes them unique?  What makes them good? Bad? When and why should we use different translations?    Despite my plan to have my students ask these questions, I hadn’t really thought about which translation(s) I’d be using in class until a student asked me a question about which translation her group should use on a group project that they whole class would eventually be interacting with.

The practical side of me wants to use whatever translation the majority of my audience is using.  So, whether I’m teaching, preaching, or leading, that probably means I’ll be using the NIV.  This is hard for me.  But I’ve been conditioned to believe the NIV is less accurate and academically inferior.

The academic (or maybe just academically insecure) part of me wants to follow in the footsteps of my seminary professors and use the ESV a more modern, academically respectable translation.

Let’s be honest, for the majority of the passages we’ll be looking at in a systematic theology/church history overview course, it’s not going to make that much of a difference which translation we use.  We just won’t have time to dive too deeply into the meanings of a lot of individual words and their nuances. But, I’m sure I’ll find a few passages where it will matter.

The practical side is going to win out on this one and it’s going to mean more work for me.  As I prepare to share biblical texts in class I’m going to need to compare several translations to see if there are any significant differences in the translations and then I’m going to need to find out why.  I plan to use the translation the majority of my students are using, but I’m going to work to augment the text (when or if necessary) with insights from other translations and the original languages. I would probably do that anyway, but I’ll feel the need to do so a little more strongly because I’m starting with a less academically respected translation.

So, NIV, your popularity amongst the people combined with my desire to remove unnecessary hurdles in the doing of theology for lay people in the church means you win this debate this semester.

Which translation of the Bible do you use?  Why?

I’m a Professor!

I just completed my first week of teaching traditional undergraduate classes.    These are classes where I wrote the syllabus; I created (or borrowed) the assignments.  Much of my students’ learning will depend on how well I organize the course and communicate the material; it’s a lot of responsibility. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of stress and it has been SO MUCH fun!

Just over a month ago I was sitting in my supervisor’s office quitting my job as a grader because I felt like there was a little too much going on in my life and needed to focus on things that mattered more to me.  I walked out the office with an offer to teach.  We had a little family meeting and reorganized some things in all of our lives to carve out room for me to add teaching to my plate.  I’m grateful for my husband’s support and I’m excited that my 2 year old is going to get to hang out with other little kids in the morning at a local daycare.  

Right now I’m so focused on the material and presentations that I’m just starting to become aware that the 43 students I have are real people with real lives outside of the 3 hours I see them each week.  As I’m getting more comfortable with my presence in the classroom and how I do the teaching thing, I’m going to have a growing opportunity to get to know them as people with hopes, fears, dreams, jobs, ministries and relationships.  I’m excited to get to invest in their theological development as well as their lives.

Let the adventure begin!