Rolfing Unshelved

Books, news, and events from TIU's Rolfing Library


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Working on a Theology or Biblical Studies Paper? Be Sure to Use Journals!

To their detriment, many students writing academic papers fail to consult scholarly journals.  Journals are valuable to research for a number of reasons.  (1) Journals generally contain very focused, specialized studies on a particular topic or issue, and at times may delve more deeply into a specific issue than a book covering the same subject area. (2) Through articles and book reviews, journals provide a window into current research in a particular field.  It is important to remember that good academic writing is not solely conversant with older sources of information (though older sources can still prove helpful), but demonstrates awareness of recent developments and avenues of inquiry. (3) They preserve the history of thought, or a record of trends, in a given discipline.  By searching a particular topic in a database (such as ATLA or JSTOR), and paying attention to titles and publication dates, one can often trace historically the conversation about a particular topic.  Many times, journals will publish articles with titles such as “Recent Trends in the Study of Old Testament Wisdom Literature,” or “Recent Research in New Testament Textual Criticism.”

Rolfing Library has a sizeable collection of theological journals.  Some of the more commonly used journals for biblical studies and theology include: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Bulletin for Biblical Research, Journal of Biblical Literature, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, International Journal of Systematic Theology, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Pro Ecclesia, Revue Biblique, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and Tyndale Bulletin.  Additionally, Trinity Journal is published every fall and spring by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Accessing information in journals can be done in various ways.  One of the most productive ways is to use a database such as ATLA, which is a database of published works pertaining to the theological disciplines, though other databases will occasionally prove useful.  Searching ATLA for articles on a particular subject (click here for a helpful tutorial on using ATLA) will often present a list of entries, including the name, volume, year and page numbers of the journal in which they are published.  Many times (but not always!), these entries will have full text pdf files attached that you can download to your computer for free.  In cases where there is no full text file, you will need to search for the journal title (not the article title) in TrinCat to see if a hard copy is available in the library.  Rolfing Library’s journals are located, in alphabetical order, on the shelves on either side of the stairwell, directly behind the main desk.  Articles in journals that we do not own may be acquired through ILLiad, depending on availability.

Unfortunately, journals cannot be checked out of the library.  However, you may make photocopies of articles in the library.  Photocopies are $0.07 per page for TIU students.  You may also use one of our book scanners to make an electronic copy free of charge.

If you have questions about theological journals, using ATLA or locating articles, don’t hesitate to ask for help at the Reference Desk.

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A Review of The Pastor as Public Theologian

Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2015. 221 pages. $19.99.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan have set forth their vision for pastoral ministry in The Pastor as Public Theologian.  Vanhoozer and Strachan are no strangers to the Trinity community: Vanhoozer is Research Professor of Systematic Theology at TEDS, and Strachan, Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, received his PhD from TEDS in 2011.  The book also features contributions, inserted between the four main chapters, from several evangelical pastors, endorsing  the importance of theological engagement in ministry.  The book’s purpose is to encourage pastors to embrace the role of “public theologian,” that is, the role of guiding their congregations (people)  to “understand the world in which they live and, what is more important, how to follow Christ in everyday, as well as extraordinary, situations” (23).

The book’s first chapter, authored by Strachan, examines the role of the pastor through a biblical-theological lens.  He contends that the fundamental functions of pastoral ministry have their roots in the Old Testament.  Prophets spoke God’s truth, priests drew the people near to God and the king mediated God’s wisdom to the people; all of these activities, according to Strachan, are paradigmatic for pastoral ministry, as described in the New Testament.

Strachan’s second chapter sets forth the historical-theological roots of pastoral ministry, describing how the pastorate was viewed from the patristic period, all the way through the rise of neo-evangelicalism.  Noting some exceptions in the medieval period and in 19th and 20th century American revivalism, Strachan shows that the importance of a sharp mind and robust theological understanding to the pastorate has, in general,  tremendous support in Christian tradition.

Chapter 3, from the pen of Vanhoozer, lays out a vision for the theological work of the pastor.  “Pastors are called not to practice academic theology but to minister theological understanding, helping people to interpret the Scriptures, their cultures, and their own lives in relation to God’s great work of redemption summed up in Christ” (112).  Drawing on syntactical metaphors, Vanhoozer notes that there are both indicative and imperative “moods” to the pastor’s theological work: teaching people the Gospel (what God has accomplished through Christ: the indicative) and urging them to walk in accordance with it (the imperative).

In Chapter 4, Vanhoozer turns his attention to pastoral practices, showing how the pastor participates in “God’s mission” (139).  Though he appeals to various NT texts (see esp. Eph 2:18-22),  perhaps his most intriguing contribution is where he turns to the OT, describing  Ezra as a “quintessential public theologian,” who, through teaching  Scripture, works for “the restoration of a holy people” (147).   Vanhoozer concludes the chapter by showing how all pastoral functions  are oriented around the reality of “what is in Christ” (152).  The pastor’s roles of evangelist, liturgist and apologist involve teaching and  responding to this reality, to which the Church was founded to bear witness.

The book’s conclusion is a list of fifty-five theses from Vanhoozer, demonstrating the need for pastor-theologians.  The theses are thus intended to reinforce the books’ main points.

I enjoyed several features of the book, not the least of which is the very holistic angle from which it approaches pastoral ministry.  In an age where many evangelicals have a bifurcated understanding of the Christian life, Vanhoozer and Strachan propose a sort of pastoral ministry that guides people to view their identity “in Christ” as having bearing on their whole lives.  Moreover, the book challenges the “real ministry is all cut and paste” mindset that devalues the life of the mind, and theological competence, in ministry, and that has characterized the way many view the pastorate today.  The book reminds us that the ultimate reality for the Church is what is “in Christ”; thus, there is nothing more “real” that a pastor can do than shepherding a congregation toward a right understanding of God and their place in his redemptive mission.

I do wish the book had given some focused exegetical attention to 1 Tim 3:1-13, which specifically lays out the virtues and role of the pastor. Doing so certainly would have enhanced the book’s already cogent argument, as this is a foundational NT text for understanding what God himself requires of a pastor.  1 Tim 3:2 strongly alludes to the necessity of being able to teach for pastoral ministry, perhaps even more straightforwardly than does Eph 4:11, which is discussed in the book.  Moreover, the virtues required of a pastor, set forth in 1 Timothy 3, may be the greatest demonstration that one has truly grasped Christian orthodoxy, and that this person is capable of leading others to grasp the same.

Nonetheless, this book conveys powerfully a vision for pastoral ministry that must be heard by the Christian community. Drawing from the resources of Scripture and Christian tradition, Vanhoozer and Strachan help their readers rediscover what makes shepherding God’s people “a noble work” (1 Tim 3:1; HCSB).  While I feel its message should be digested by clergy and laity alike, I especially recommend the book to pastors, other church leaders and all aspiring ministers.