Piper and Carson, Pastor as Scholar, Scholar as Pastor


John Piper and D. A. Carson, The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life in Ministry. Crossway, 2011.

Referenced in: Pastoral Theology Summary

Piper, a practitioner-scholar, and Carson, a scholar-practitioner, team to encourage those in both callings to embrace the balance of mind and heart, scholarship and practice. They express their main point, that “a person can be a pastor and a scholar, not merely one or the other.” (13) They advocate ministers pursuing as high a degree of academic preparation as possible, and staying connected to the world of scholarship throught their lifetime of practice. Similarly, they call for scholars to be deeply connected to the real life of churches, and warn against both theologically anemic preaching as well as “guild-driven” scholarship that is detached from the needs of the church.

Those who are familiar with Piper will see his philosophy of ministry that is deeply influenced by Jonathan Edwards’ dual emphasis on sound teaching and deep affections:

So for thirty years I have tried, with much imperfection and manifold failures, to live up to my own message, to penetrate the heart and awaken the kind of affections for God that would accord with his glory, and create lives that would make him look great. This has been based on the conviction that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. (48)

Right thinking about God exists to serve right feelings for God. Logic exists for the sake of love. Reasoning exists for the sake of rejoicing. Doctrine exists for the sake of delight. Reflection about God exists for the sake of affection for God. The head is meant to serve the heart. (50)

Among Carson’s comments is his emphasis on loving God with our whole beings:

So to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength includes a high emphasis on what and how we think; the other two words - soul and strength - bespeak intensity, total engagement. Transparently, this means that using our minds in a lazy, slapdash, or arrogant ways is not only pathetic, but it verges on the blasphemous….Whether you are tackling the exegesis of Psalm 110 or examining the tail feathers of a pleated woodpecker, you are to offer the work to God and see such intellectual endeavor, such scholarship, as part and parcel of worship. (75)

This is supported by a deep love for the church.

Love the church. Love the church because Jesus loves it. Let your students know you love the church; make sure that the fellow members of your church are deeply aware that you love the church, that you love them. This will work out in many different ways, but such love for the church must find outlets in your prayer life, your priorities, your willingness to participate (with the elders? in a small group? in teaching a class? in taking your turn on a preaching rotation? in helping with the cleaning? in drafting a new constitution?). Loving the church is not only important to balance out the rugged individualism that is often part and parcel of having grownup in America and that is sometimes in danger of neglecting both communal life and strong personal relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ, but also to stamp our students. If we are training a preponderance of pastors and others who will serve in the local church, it is essential that the faculty members truly love the church that Christ loved and for which he gavehimself. Many students will learn to love what their professors truly love. So love the church. (16-17)

Carson also emphasizes the need to fight against the bifurcation between academic Bible study and devotional Bible study. He says:

My response, forcefully put, is to resist this disjunction, to eschew it, to do everything in your power to destroy it. Scripture remains Scripture, it is still the Word of God before which (as Isaiah reminds us) we are to tremble - the very words we are to revere, treasure, digest, meditate on, and hide in our hearts (minds?), whether we are reading the Bible at 5:30am at the start of the day, or preparing an assignment for an exegesis class at 10:00pm. If we try to keep apart these alleged two ways of reading, then we will be irritated and troubled when our ‘devotions’ are interrupted by a sudden stray reflection about a textual variant or the precise force of a Greek genitive; alternatively, we may be taken off guard when we are supposed to be preparing a paper or a sermon and suddenly find ourselves distracted by a glimpse of God’s greatness that is supposed to be reserved for our ‘devotions.’ So when you read ‘devotionally,’ keep your mind engaged; when you read ‘critically’ (i.e. with more diligent and focused study, deploying a panoply of ‘tools’) never, ever, forget whose Word this is. The aim is never to become a master of the Word, but to be mastered by it. (91)

This is an excellent book, a balanced perspective for both scholars and practitioners.

**For a summary, click here for the Kindle Version, go to right column, and download the free sample. If you don’t have a free Kindle Reader on your computer, there’s a link for that too.

From the Publisher

What will our scholarship and pastoral ministry be if we are heads without hearts or hearts without heads? Recognizing the need for pastors and scholars to embody both theological depth and practical focus, John Piper and D. A. Carson have boldly advanced what it means to be a pastor-theologian and a theologian-pastor.

Weaving testimony and teaching, Piper and Carson challenge those in academia and in the pastorate to think carefully and holistically about their calling. Piper centers on the importance of careful thinking in his role as pastor, while Carson focuses on the importance of a pastoral heart in his career as scholar.

With insight and balance, Piper and Carson give critical guidance to help us span interdisciplinary gaps to the glory of God and the good of his church. These chapters are revised and expanded versions of the messages originally given following the 2009 Gospel Coalition conference.

Editorial Reviews

“Few books are so needed as this. Recapturing the vision of the pastor as scholar and the scholar as pastor is crucial for the health of the church. Who would not want to read John Piper and D. A. Carson as they reflect on this calling? This is one of the most encouraging and helpful books I have seen in a long time. If you are a pastor, read it. If you have a pastor, put it in his hands.” - R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“How we need pastors and professors who love God with their minds and their emotions. Two of the preeminent evangelicals of our day reflect here on what it means to love Christ with all our heart. I was encouraged, convicted, and challenged by this book. It is a treasure well worth rereading.” — Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“I’m deeply encouraged by the growing number of pastoral scholars and scholarly pastors. Probably no living Christians have done more to bring about this trend than D. A. Carson and John Piper. In this book, they will inspire you with stories from their journeys and challenge you with seasoned advice. Most of all, they will lead you to thank God that he gives you the privilege of leading and teaching his church.” — Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition; author, Young, Restless, and Reformed

About the Authors

JOHN PIPER (DTh, University of Munich) is pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the author of numerous books, including Desiring God and Don’t Waste Your Life.

D. A. CARSON (PhD, Cambridge University) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. A former pastor and itinerant minister, Carson has authored or edited more than fifty books

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