Ingredients for the Pastor-Theologian: An Interview with Tony Jones

Breadth increases depth. It may not be possible to master every subject of human knowledge. But, learning what it means to be conversant in a wide array of fields deepens theological reflection for the pastor.

Thinking About God Together

A few years ago Christian Century ran an article (2/19/14), Theologians in place by Lawrence Wood, describing the designation, theological in residence. After John Franke left Biblical Seminary he became a theological in residence. Up to that point I never heard of the title.

Wood quotes Barbara Brown Taylor, “The body makes theologians of us all.”

Moving conversations about god/God from the halls of academia to the church is less about qualification and more about location. For Taylor it seems anyone who inhabits a body eventually comes to talk about god/God out of that experience. The history of humanity seems to bear this out.

No matter your chosen authority for interpretation the tribal deities in the Old Testament reveal a long history of human beings talking about god/God.

Pastor-theologians may find the ingredients Tony Jones talks about helpful in their work of facilitating thinking about God together.

Conversant Not Expert

Everyone with their own Bible becomes an expert in theology. Just ask them. It is even mores when someone claims a literal reading of the Bible. It is not that we cannot read the Bible literally. It is that we cannot read all of the Bible literally. We need to know when and where and why. Too many fear a loss of authority and the question of inspiration when it is suggested we not read poetry literally. Let that last line linger with you for a moment.

If everyone who owns a Bible is an expert in theology, then the pastor may feel the need to be an expert any every field of human knowledge. Not possible.

Gnosticism shows up in more places than in theology. Often the over-initiated look with scorn on the under-initiated. It is as if to say, “If you were just smarter.” Pastors may even make parishioners feel that way. But, when the pastor ventures to talk about quantum mechanics without much more than a college course in the natural sciences from years ago, he or she better tread softly.

We do not need to become experts, we need to become conversant. That generally entails reading and listening. And, it should mean a conversation or two with someone in the field where possible.

Tony Jones suggests how a pastor may become conversant in areas where he or she feels inadequate.

Ingredients for the Pastor-Theologian

The vision of patheological is to provide ingredients for the pastor to keep up with theological thinking. Often the pragmatics of ministry dominate the life of the minister. It often means shallow responses to deep crises. These may come off as flippant, even wrote.

Today on the podcast we talk with Tony Jones who is currently leading a project with Fortress Press, Theology for the People. Tony and I will talk about a number of ingredients. Pay careful attention to one that, for me, stands out.

We need to remember the skill of translation. Reading in the more academic areas of any discipline will demand pastor-theologians to remember not everyone will share the same vocabulary. I am often guilty of this very thing. Thinking about God together will require translation.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

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