Fostering Theological Community

Theology is best done in community—three spheres of community, in particular.

The community of the local church. A strong impetus for the founding of the Center For Pastor Theologians over ten years ago was the conviction that theology should be done in the church and for the church. For many centuries in the church’s history, the union between theological reflection and local church ministry was normative. However, the rise of the modern university, combined with the post-Enlightenment fracturing of theological and biblical scholarship into narrower and narrower specializations, have led to the unintended consequence of divorcing theology from the worshiping community. Pastor are no longer considered theologians in the fullest sense of that term; the task of theological leadership has been outsourced to the academy. This bifurcation has resulted in the theological anemia of the church and the ecclesial anemia of theology.

This is not to say that the rise of the theological academy has itself been a bad thing––quite the contrary. The many faithful men and women who serve the church from academic posts are doing good work that honors the Lord. Additionally, there are many specializations in biblical and theological scholarship that are only made possible through the focused time and research of a full time academic. But the academy is not situated to service all the theological needs of the church. The pastoral community represents the primary theological leadership of the church––whether we realize this or not. The mission of the CPT is to raise up and resource a new generation of pastor theologians, capable of providing theological leadership for the church in light of the challenges and opportunities of the late modern world. The church is well-served when theologian-practitioners (i.e. pastor theologians) lead the way; when theological reflection takes place within the walls, and among the people, theology is intended to serve. The CPT seeks to encourage theological reflection within the community of the local church.

The community of the historical tradition. New challenges and opportunities have emerged in recent years––the rise of modern science, the cultural sexual revolution, rapid urbanization, the emergence of modern technologies, etc. Revising and adjusting the historical tradition on any given theological topic should only be done with great care, and in conversation with the historical tradition of the church, as espoused by the pastor theologians and doctors of old. Irenaeus, Augustine, Athanasius, Calvin, Edwards, Wesley—pastor theologians all—have much to say to the issues of our age. The CPT seeks to encourage theological reflection within the Great Tradition of the church.

The community of co-laborers in the gospel. One of the great challenges of the pastor theologian is the way in which pastoral ministry tends to isolate men and women from the wider theological community. Many pastors go months at a time without having their theology challenged and sharpened by theological peers and mentors. For this reason, the CPT seeks to create connections between pastors and ministry leaders to help foster relationships and theological community across denominational boundaries and spatial limitations.

Our Vision For This Blog

All three spheres of community are an essential part of good, healthy, robust theological scholarship. The CPT hopes to have some small hand both in modeling and creating opportunities for aspiring, established, and seasoned theologians to interact in theological community. In our ever increasingly cyber-connected world, we want to acknowledge and embrace the fact that many of these community connections are made through online media. This is why we are relaunching our blog with a renewed commitment to serving students, pastors, and scholars by sharing content written by our central staff, our community of over 60 pastoral fellows, and other guest writers.

This is also why we have completely redesigned our website. We want to create and foster communities of theological reflection not only online, but also in and between churches around the US and the world. We look forward to serving you, and pray for the Lord’s blessing as we continue to seek the theological renewal of his bride.

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Dr. Gerald Hiestand is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Center For Pastor Theologians. Gerald also serves as the Senior Associate Pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Chicagoland. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology, and completed his PhD in Classics from the University of Reading.

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Zachary Wagner is the Managing Director of the Center For Pastor Theologians. He has completed a B.A. in Theology from Moody Bible Institute and an M.A. in Biblical Exegesis from Wheaton College. He is studying for a second M.A. in Systematic Theology, also from Wheaton.