Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Theologian and the Evangelist

Many years ago, Haddon Robinson gave an address to the Evangelical Theological Society on "The Theologian and the Evangelist" (JETS, March 1985). In it, Dr. Robinson discusses the "antagonism between theology and evangelism."

He writes: "The separation of theology and evangelism proved a tragic divorce. The evangelist and the theologian are both needed today. Evangelism without sound doctrine decays into ignorant fanaticism. Theology without the goal of making converts degenerates into cold intellectualism. The result of this separation is a faith that is neither intellectually or biblically sound nor spiritually satisfying. The people of God need to appreciate both the theologian and the evangelist."

"The people of God need scholars who can think God's thoughts after Him," adds Robinson, "and evangelists who can proclaim the message clearly ... We need a band of men and women who are theological evangelists and evangelistic theologians." Robinson's point is that both evangelism and theology need to work together: "Throughout history, effective evangelists have studied theology and strong theologians have involved themselves in evangelism."

Theology, philosophy and apologetics are not reserved only for the scholarly and neither should evangelism be only for evangelists. Both are needed. Robinson writes, "Theology clarifies our thought, sets what Christians believe in contrast with false doctrine, and helps us make the message clear to outsiders."

The Christian thinker cannot remain barricaded within an office. Robinson gives the example of Jerome (ca. 340-420), the scholar who translated the Bible into Latin. Robinson shares the story of a dream Jerome had wherein he is confronted by Christ.

As Robinson explains, "Jerome awoke in a cold sweat and fell to his knees to beg forgiveness for being so in love with his manuscripts that he forgot the men and women for whom Christ died. As much as we love books we must love Christ and people more. The evangelist needs the scholar; and the scholar needs the evangelist. Even more, the church needs scholarly evangelists, and evangelistic scholars--men and women who love God not only with heart and soul, but mind as well."

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