I came across this definition of the vocation of a theologian today on Steven R. Holmes‘ (St. Andrews) blog, and found it both challenging and resounding with truth.
I think a good theologian prays well, first. No theologian who doesn’t has even begun to understand the discipline. And then s/he serves the Church, and his or her particular part of it (down to a local congregation) in humility and faithfulness. Theology belongs to the Church; any theologian divorced from the Church is a bad theologian, however brilliant or knowledgeable. A good theologian has a grasp of gospel values, and would swap everything s/he has written to see one sinner repent, or one broken life healed. A good theologian writes and speaks only to help the Church be more faithful to the gospel, bringing whatever knowledge of the tradition, whatever insight into contemporary modes of thought, and whatever native cleverness s/he may possess, all into service of this one end. A good theologian is marked by humility and cheerfulness, knowing how far short of the mystery of God and God’s works his/her best efforts fall, and knowing that in the good grace of God something of lasting worth may still come from them. A good theologian, finally, does know something, and has some capacity of thought, and so can make a contribution through his/her God-given vocation.
I am not a very good theologian.
Though many would argue that the author is an excellent theologian, his final words reflect not just the vocation, but the posture of a theologian. This is not false humility, but (I think) a recognition that we are in fact unable to do this well unless we do so under the Lordship of Christ, and in the power of his Spirit.
I am thankful for his reminder, both of my calling and of my responsibilities.