A Lutheran Pastor named Herbert Lindemann spoke at a banquet at a meeting of the Institute on the Church and Society almost exactly 50 years ago. The topic was “The Pastor as Scholar”. It was obviously a topic then and seems to be a topic again. His opening sentence is illuminating. “That some pastors are scholars is true enough. But it is also true that most of them don’t continue as pastors very long; presently they become members of a college or seminary faculty”. Lindeman described the parochial ministry as an “activist function” and says that pastors generally are “not men of great learning”. Remember that we are talking about a half century ago and for the Missouri Synod at least I believe that statement is no longer functional. Our pastors today are highly educated, but the question remains, are they, or should they be scholars?
As someone once famously said about the word “is”, it depends upon your definition of scholar. If you are talking about the fellow who spends all his time in the office studying the amphictyony (be a scholar and look it up) or declining Greek verbs, maybe not. If you mean someone who can converse about a variety of topics and who can see how the culture corrodes and attacks the church and can see patterns in history that can help illuminate the preaching of Law and Gospel then absolutely.
Here are the definitions of scholar – a person who has studied a subject for a long time and knows a lot about it : an intelligent and well-educated person who knows a particular subject very well, or, a student.
As for the first a Pastor needs to be steeped in God’s story. Someone said that the Scriptures are God’s love song for a fallen humanity and show how God wants to bring that humanity into His story so that they can be saved. He needs to understand how that story is constantly high jacked and how some try to get humanity so involved in their story that they cannot see God. The justification of the sinner for Christ’s sake is the central article of the Christian faith but it is not the central fascination of the world, and our own sin and the power of the devil seek to keep it away from us. Here is a quote from Lindemann –
Here, then, is modern man wandering around in a wasteland. If there is one word that
characterizes him, it is the word “lost”; and if there is a story that epitomizes
his need, it is the story of the prodigal son. Modern man has traveled far from
home, and so far the expeditions sent out from the father’s house have not been very
successful in inducing him to return. He has not yet spent everything, and he is
still having a good time doing it. In the meantime the father waits, and his people
with him. (Incidentally, we must take care not to become insufferable prigs, like
the boy in the story who never left home! ) So the age in which we live is in many
ways thoroughly depressing. If you don’t think so, look at an impressionist
painting, listen to some 12-tone-scale music, watch one of those homosexual plays,
or read one of the innumerable novels about moral decay. Even more significant than
the reflection of modern life in the arts is modern life itself. If I had known what
a furious, unremitting warfare we have on our hands against the malicious powers of
evil, I doubt that I should have had the courage to go into the ministry. The
struggle has become more severe every passing year, the opposition more subtle and
more deadly, the casualties on the Christian side more numerous, not perhaps in
terms of widespread defection from the church, but definitely in respect to the
poisons of secularism infecting the souls of us alL Once more, I do not wish to
sound like a typical preacher shouting at the top of his voice that the world is
going to hell, but at the same time I mean to say that there is not the slightest
justification for complacency among us. We need not be scholars to be students of
our age; but we can ill afford to neglect being students of its literature (which
sometimes preaches sermons better than any we are able to devise) and students of
the life of man in our time, with everything that affects it.