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The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor

April 12, 2011

Justin Taylor gives this quote on exposing yourself on the Internet from John Piper in his and D. A. Carson’s book, The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor:

The Internet world we live in today is awash in narcissism and vanity, with some people taking their clothes off literally, because exposure gives them a rush, and others doing it spiritually—because the addicting power of talking about yourself, where anyone in the world can read it, is overpowering.

Taylor also gives this quote from D. A. Carson on how academicians should avoid being only a quartermaster:

Now, any army needs quartermasters. They are the ones who provide the supplies to the frontlines. By all means, give appropriate honor to those who devote themselves to equipping and supplying—with books, training, courses, modeling, answering questions—those who will be on the frontlines.

Yet it is possible to write learned tomes on apologetics without actually defending the gospel in the current world; it is possible to write commentaries without constantly remembering that God makes himself present, he discloses himself afresh, to his people, through the Word.

If you are an academic, you need to put yourself into places where, as it were, you take your place with the frontline troops from time to time. This means engaging the outside world at a personal level, at an intellectual and cultural level; it means working and serving in the local church; it means engaging in evangelism. Avoid becoming a mere quartermaster.

I suppose I was at least somewhat shielded from initial temptations along these lines because I had been a pastor and was still preaching and teaching. My research area had to do with some elements of theology in John’s Gospel against assorted Jewish backgrounds. My Doktorvater was a brilliant man who on many fronts had become convinced of what was essentially a naturalist approach to most biblical texts.

After I had been in Cambridge for several months and the initial glory of this spectacular university had faded at least a little, one Tuesday afternoon I was in my mentor’s office for a supervision on the background to the notion of “new birth” in John 3. It was all very interesting, and impossibly uncontrolled, as I was finding my way around Jewish mystical texts, gnostic texts, Philonic thought, and so forth. But deep inside I was sort of grinning. For the previous weekend, I had preached in a chapel in the market town of March, and one of the village constables, a man known to be a bit of a brute, had got converted, rather dramatically. He was born again. I could not at that point read John 3 without thinking of that man.

My point is that by continuing in forms of pastoral ministry, even while engaging in technical scholarship, you will not only avoid some pitfalls, but you will avoid becoming a mere quartermaster.

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