Theology and Ministry

May 22, 2007

To go look at the bodies of my grandparents have always been some of the deepest moments of closure in the process of saying good bey. Last night we went were at my
grandmothers body, she is being ashed (is that the word used in English?) today. I want to give some thoughts on that, but I’d rather let some time pass, since it is a very emotional and personal experience.

So, I would rather give some thoughts on something else, not entirely loose from what happened, and most probably while writing I’ll get back to my current situation.

What is the role of theology in the church today? Someone said to me that she don’t want to become a theologian, she want to become a minister. What exactly she meant,
I’m still trying to figure out, but it caused me to give some time to think about this. Maybe we could say that theologians are those lecturing at university, and ministers are those in churches? Which would mean that many would be ministers, until some university or
seminary decide to give you a job, and suddenly your not a minister anymore. And what would theological students then be? Cause they certainly isn’t ministers?

If not the above mentioned divide, and I definitely don’t go with that, than what else? I’m not sure. But the statement definitely assume that there is a distinction to be
made between ministers and theologians.

Let me try and assume what could be understood by such a statement:

  1. Ministers are those sitting with the people, helping them. Theologians are those sitting with each other, talking about some hypothetical problem no one experience.
    Certainly some would agree with this description. But, than social workers is ministers as well? And some philosophers theologians?

  2. Maybe some would just soften this first distinction, saying that theologians are those sitting by themselves trying to formulate ways of speaking and thinking about God and a live viewed in relationship with God, and ministers are those helping people to live this. Although this might not be the way many would formulate it, I think that for some the distinction is that theologians ask questions and ministers should give answers.

I think I would formulate theology as: the quest of struggling with the questions about God and life in relationship with God. This would include questions such as how to make sense of suffering? How do I live in the face of poverty? How do I live in the age of global warming? What am I to do with the life I was given? And all this being asked from the perspective how I see God, and how do I view these questions while keeping God and my, as well as the world’s, relationship with God in mind.

I’m not comfortable with ministry which is seen apart from theology. Although, if you consider the great work done by social workers, to use an example, as ministry, them I’m
comfortable with it, but what is the unique role of those specializing in the field of theology then?

OK, so what is ways in which the relation between ministry and theology can be seen?

How do you see this relation?

Why do you think do some experience this tension between these two words?

Your thoughts will be welcomed!


5 Responses to “Theology and Ministry”

  1. Tiaan Says:

    The word you are looking for is “cremetion” – a person is therefore “cremated” (not “ashed” – that is if you find yourself underneath a smoker’s cigarette! 🙂 ).
    I have also wondered about this distinction people make between ministers and theologians. Could it be that theologians do the theory and the ministers the practice? Then social workers and everybody else in a “ministry” is doing the practice of what a (or some) theologian(s) taught them to do…which gives theologians all the power to decide what people should do (okay, I went a bit too far! But you get what I’m saying!).
    By the way, I didn’t know this stuff about your grandma. You should have told me.

  2. cobus Says:

    I think we make too much of the destinction between theory and practice. All practice have some form of theory behind it, if you are not aware of it, it might just be that you have never thought about what you are doing.
    Definitely theologians cannot be the theorists for every form of social science.
    What I am wondering is, if a minister don’t consider him/herself a theologian, aren’t they grappling with the questions people ask about God and their relation to them? Or maybe those thinking that we can seperate being a theologian and being in ministry believe that they already have all the answer, and thus theologians are just complicating stuff which they have already figured out, and can just provide answers for?
    Seen from a Narrative perspective, maybe we just need to find a way to justify the years we have spent in university?
    OK, so this is just some more random thoughts on the subject, anyone else have some thoughts?

  3. Wynand Says:

    Hi Cobus

    Teology and ministry can’t be seen apart. I think one of the problems why people wants to seperate the 2, is because teology can hurt. It challenges your core believes. Maybe people outside teology is so negative because they just hear the negative stories.
    if you pick just 1 of the 2 it creates problems. these 2 must go together.

  4. Samuel Says:

    I agree; Theology and ministry reinforces the gospel.

    For instance the theology in the Old Testament predicts the coming of the serpent crusher (the victorious King of the new Kingdom) and gives clear prophesies to all the signs and events which validates the true gospel. From proven historical literature we know that these predicted events did take place in the New Testament and this forms one part of the foundation of Christianity.

    Another requirement of true religion is ministry. This was also introduced by Jesus who through His ministry showed the promised kingdom by casting out demons, healing the sick and raising the dead. This is the God’s Kingdom partly explained via theology and put into practise through ministry.

    On a different subject ; I’ve noticed that someone called Tiaan left a comment. My wife is pregnant with a baby boy and we want to call him Tiaan. I was just wondering if anybody knows whether the name Tiaan has a specific meaning?

  5. Tiaan Says:

    Hey Samuel
    I will issue some stuff on the meaning of my name on my own blog soon. Check out for more details!

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