Book Review: Pastor as Scholar & Scholar as Pastor (John Piper & D.A. Carson)

In receiving this book, I was excited to dive right into it, and I can confidently say that it has left me with even greater eagerness and holy anticipation upon finishing it than I had when I began.

This book compiles a collection of talks/conversations from a one night event held at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on April 23rd, 2009 and was further adapted into more formal written chapters.

This book provides us with an explanation of this ‘spectrum’ of sorts that we have created, and seeks to clarify and unify concepts of each end. With the Pastor-Scholar and Scholar-Pastor in mind, this book proceeds.

John Piper, holding the title in this book as “Pastor-Scholar” works diligently to paint us a picture as to how he arrived where he is, and the significance of the heart behind pastoring, and the significance of Christ-exalting joy in both ministry and scholarship; also constantly referring back to one phrase which encapsulates his entire ministry and life’s focus/work — God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
His heart for truth and joy in God rings powerfully throughout his portion of this text, and it sits boldly with me his passionate pursuit for Christ to be magnified in his life.

The next section, broken down by D.A. Carson, holds the spot of “Scholar-Pastor” and seeks to provide a perspective to the reader of what it looks like from a scholarly perspective to properly lead others, and maintain a clarity with your pursuit and advancement of the Kingdom–also noting the significance of community and keeping the “main thing the main thing” (that is, the Gospel). This section, coupled with the previous section, truly lit a constant fire under me in motivation and urgency to know the Gospel (and the God of that Gospel) well, and to pursue His ways and His story with intense fervor in the time I have here on earth.

Though this book illustrates the spectrum between head and heart (both sections mentioned above), I feel that it is important to note that this sort of division of emphasis can be dangerous. All throughout each section I felt that each level was aligned, and each man desired the same thing, but simply held different stages to proclaim them. The glory of God is to be made known in everything we do; these men not only realize this truth, but embrace it, and seek to equip those in various fields of study to understand and go forth with that understanding.

All this leads up to the inescapable truth of being modeled after Jesus with an understanding of our particular giftings and favor in our lives. We are to model ourselves after the perfect Pastor-scholar in Jesus Christ and all things discussed in this book point back to the example that is set by Him who not only bridges the gap, but continues bridging the gap for us even today.
This book is an extremely helpful tool to clarify, motivate, and give context for these various positions, and as D.A. Carson mentions, it is indescribably significant that we “keep the main thing the main thing.” Let me leave you with this quote:

“… as a Christian leader,whether pastor-scholar or scholar-pastor, the servant of the Lord comes back again and again to the old, old story that is the very heart of the faith. It is the Gospel that apostle Paul says is of ‘first importance’ (1 Cor. 15:3). It is the Gospel that is ‘the power of God for salvation’ (Rom. 1:16). It is the Gospel that not only saves the lost but is ‘at work in you believers’ (1 Thess. 2:13), the Gospel that is ‘bearing fruit and growing’ (Col. 1:6), not only worldwide but in us and in our church communities. So it is the Gospel that Paul leaves with the spiritual leaders of Ephesus in his farewell address to them in Acts 20: ‘I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (v.32). It is the Gospel that builds up and makes us holy” [p.111].

May we go, growing in the understanding of our roles in advancing His kingdom, equipping His saints, magnifying His name, and professing His worth in all that we do, for the rest of our lives, with the central understanding of keeping the main thing the main thing.


A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by Crossway Publishing. I was not required to post a positive review and the views expressed in this review are my own.

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