Ed Stetzer on DeYoung/Gilbert: Are Pastors Qualified to Speak on Theology of Mission?

The pastor-theologian is a subject of great interest to me, as my introduction to the book The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry (Crossway, 2011) by John Piper and D. A. Carson  shows.  Because of this, my ears perked when, in the recent debate over the mission of the church, missiologist Ed Stetzer suggested that pastors Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert were not adequately prepared to do “careful theological thinking” on the topic du jour.

Here’s what Stetzer in the middle of his lengthy and stimulating Themelios review of What Is the Mission of the Church? (Crossway, 2011) by DeYoung and Gilbert (HT: JT):

Herein may be the book’s greatest challenge. The authors list the books they read to prepare for this response to the widening of the mission. Yet reading a couple dozen books is simply not adequate (or appropriate) to prepare themselves to stand against the careful theological thinking that has contributed to the widening of our understanding of mission and the prevailing view of evangelicals (if Lausanne’s Cape Town statement is a gauge).

At the conclusion, he had this to say in reference to the lack of “background and engagement” on the part of DeYoung and Gilbert:

However, I think it ultimately will not succeed at its task. Instead, it will have some people needlessly looking to parse terms when the mission instead is more about faithfulness. Those who read and share the book may very well be those who most need a stronger missional focus—the theologically minded who think deeply but engage weakly. Yet those who could benefit from the book will not read it because the authors lack the background and engagement to make the case to the missional and missiological community.

Read all of Stetzer’s review.

This review will not attempt to answer the question front and center in this debate; I have not finished the text by DeYoung and Gilbert, but am resonating deeply with it.  My review of Gabe Lyons’s Next Christians finds much sympathy with What Is the Mission of the Church?.  Nor am I taking on Ed Stetzer in this little blog post.  He’s a gifted thinker and leader, and I appreciate much of his scholarly and churchly program.  He is the go-to evangelical theologian on “missional” ministry, a churchman, and a Southern Baptist leader.

I would say, though, that Stetzer’s comments on the inadequate preparation of Kevin and Greg took me aback.  Merely reading books does not make someone an expert, it is true.  But that’s hardly all that these two young pastors–friends of mine–have done.  Kevin has an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  Greg has an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and did PhD work at SBTS before taking up pastoral work.  If an MDiv is not adequate preparation for high-level theological thinking, many of us have wasted our money and hard-earned effort.  Both of these men have proven themselves, furthermore, to be gifted thinkers (In fact, I think both of them won “top graduate” awards or some such thing at their respective seminaries).

If only doctors in missiology can participate in missiological conversations, then we’re in trouble, because the group will be very small indeed.  Kevin and Greg have read widely to prepare themselves for the task before them in their missiology text, and they are most definitely up to said task.  Their extensive reading on the subject, coupled with their own preparation, fits them very well to speak into the subject.  Who is not a practitioner of “mission,” after all, if pastors are not?  Surely missionaries lead the front-lines challenge, but hasn’t the whole discussion on “missions” broadened in the last decade or two to include a wider scope of activity?  Isn’t a crucial part of the “missional” conversation that pastors are at the forefront of “missional” ministry?  Are not pastors like Mark Driscoll, Jeff Vandersteldt, and Tim Chester leading the way in “missional” strategy, whether through books, speaking, or practice?  Or am I missing something?

Pastors who lead their church members to support missions, pray for missions, go on missions trips, give their very lives to the missions cause, live evangelistically, reach out to the local community in myriad ways, and generally “be on mission” everyday seem to eminently possess the “background and engagement” necessary to comment on missions, particularly if these pastors have strong theological and biblical preparation and have acquitted themselves well in the evangelical public square.  Other than a missiologist or missionary, who is more prepared than a local church pastor to speak about the mission of the local church?  I’m baffled as to whom else we might call upon.

Let me push this a little further.  Mark Dever’s endorsement of the book references Kevin and Greg as “pastor-theologians.”  I think that’s exactly right.  I fear that at least part of Stetzer’s critique of the credentials of these men owes to an unhelpful divide between church and academy that has exploded the traditional model of the pastorate.  Pastors, goes the line, do ministry; academics, goes the line, think and write.  Sure, maybe pastors write books on practical spirituality or tithing or overcoming temptation.  But they can’t really step up to the plate and actually do theology.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The historic Reformed model of the pastorate is that of the pastor-theologian.  Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones–these were pastors who wrote theology.  They knew no unhelpful divide between church and academy.  Neither do Kevin and Greg.  Their text is not published by Brill or T&T Clark, of course–it is aimed at pastors and thinkers.  But it is undoubtedly a work of theology.  The authors are undoubtedly pastor-theologians, agree with them or not.

We are in trouble if we assume that pastors–especially well-trained and widely published pastors–are not qualified to participate in theological conversation.  In all of this, by the way, I should not be read as critical of “missional” thinking.  I try to practice a form of it and appreciate it and have many friends and colleagues who feel the same way.

Now, Stetzer has qualified his position in a later post.  He’s backed off the remarks I quoted above and suggested that “an academic book review would be incomplete without asking if the authors were adequately prepared to make their case.”  I’m not sure that’s exactly what Ed was getting at; I think he actually seemed to be saying, pretty clearly, that Kevin and Greg frankly aren’t prepared for this conversation.  He went on to say in his response that “I think more preparation, experience, and conversations would have served them well.”  From my read of the Deyoung and Gilbert book, there’s a great deal of interaction with “missional” thinkers and writers.  The issue here is not really preparation or interaction, as I am able to piece things together, but agreement.  Kevin and Greg have plenty of preparation and outdid themselves in terms of interaction.  They just parse things a bit differently than Stetzer and some self-professed “missional” folks.

By the way, Stetzer references the “Cape Town Statement” of Lausanne 2010 as–unlike What Is the Mission of the Church?– a piece of careful theological thinking.  But if one thinks about the earlier Cape Town Statement of 1974, the foundational theological document of the Lausanne movement, was it not John Stott who essentially drafted it in 1974?  It seems it was.  What was Stott for much of his life?  A pastor.  And what was Stott when he drafted the Statement?  A pastor.

There is some irony, then, in Stetzer’s critique, which otherwise offers much food for thought.

  • Thomas Twitchell

    Why is it that, in this era of such erudition, so called pastor/theologians don’t know what the mission of the church is? Or, why don’t they know what a pastor is? Or the church, or just about anything else that is all that Jesus taught and was to be kept and done?

  • http://twitter.com/IndyChristian IndyChristian

    Good discussion. Let me suggest a potential disclaimer/footnote though re pastors (and theologians) inputs: That while they’re certainly invested and qualified to speak into the topic, they’re often also invested in the traditional American cultural strategy of fractured, silo’d, competing, individual church-groups & groupings… with the potential for self-interest as they isolate on (only) the ‘gathered church’… with a special focus on their ‘preaching’ gift pretty much being the mission. An objective review of American church outcomes (Barna cites 9% of adults hold a biblical worldview) undermines traditional voices in the conversation.

  • Mike Duncan


    I hate that you missed (or are trying to redirect from) Stetzer’s point. A btw Stetzer has already responded to this. (http://www.edstetzer.com/2011/11/a-response-to-a-response.html)

    It is not that pastors should not write on mission–as he clarified. His point is that DeYoung and Gilbert were not well prepared to write a critique of
    Christopher Wright and the view of the Lausanne movement.

    That seems obvious based on:
    1. They misstate Wright’s view.
    2. Just about every person who calls themselves “missional” thinks
    they misrepresent their views (see Gombis, etc.)
    3. Those that share their theological views consistently say they did
    not make their case (Trevin Wax, John Starke)

    So, the point is that DeYoung and Gilbert were not adequately prepared
    after reading a couple of dozen books. Making Stetzer out to be
    against pastors writing on mission is silly and a misrepresentation of
    his view.

    This critique that has been rehearsed in some many places makes an elementary logical fallacy. Those repeating this point stand flawed deduction.

    (a) Stetzer says they are not prepared to “correction the correction.”
    (b) They are pastors.
    (c) Therefore, Stetzer says pastors cannot do missiology.

    You repeat this fallacy with your thin appeal to Stott–who did not just appear on the missiological scene on 1974. I will not sketch it for you. It’s out there. But for starters . . . he was involved in the national and/even international missiological discussion for the over 10 years before this statement.

    So again, this does not work.

    (a) Stott is a pastor.
    (b) Stott contributed to missiology.
    (c) Stetzer does not critique Stott.
    (d) Stetzer’s is critique of D and G is flawed.

    Would you let this type of thinking pass in a theological paper from one of your students?


    • owenstrachan

      Mike, forget the issues here–your snarky tone does not appeal. If you’re going to leave a comment, I would ask that you dial it down a notch.

      I do appreciate substantial engagement, though. So let’s leave off with the name-calling and get to it. Simply put, I stand by all of my comments. You’ve told me that I’ve missed Stetzer’s point. I just went back and read it and find in it exactly the same problem I did when I first read it. He’s dismissing D and G for being inadequately prepared. I don’t think that they’ve failed to understand Wright, Lausanne, etc. I think they see problems in that school. That doesn’t mean that they’re inadequately prepared. They are adequately trained and prepared. Stetzer’s comments led directly to the kind of conclusion I offer in this post.

      The problem with your breakdown of the “fallacy” is that it seems that being a pastor and not a missiologist is indeed endemic to not being prepared. That seems a pretty obvious conclusion from a basic read of Stetzer. By the way, I linked to his response and quoted him–did you read my post carefully?

      If, despite being well-trained for ministry and published authors, D and G are not adequately prepared to speak on the mission of the church, then neither was Stott. He was well-trained and published. If you’re critiquing D and G for their inability to speak into the conversation by virtue of being pastors, I don’t see how you can avoid critiquing Stott–whose work has funded the Lausanne movement!

      So yes, I would find a carefully drawn, highly ironic connection like this appropriate in the papers of my students, especially if they had taken pains to be charitable in the offing (as I did in my post and as you did not in your response).

      • Mike Duncan

        Point made and taken regarding snarky tone.
        Here is the issue. There are two different points being made in this conversation, and people keep conflating the two without warrant.

        The points can be delineated with two questions:

        1) Are D and G prepared to “correct the [missiological] correction” of the past 60 years (a conversation in which Stott’s 1974 contribution was a part)?

        2) Can pastors contribute to the missiological conversations of the day?

        Stetzer’s critique was directed to D and G’s book. A specific book, on a specific topic, for a specific purpose, by specific people. There is nothing in his words that warrants the conclusion that he believes or suggests pastors cannot enter into missiological discussions.

        His point on their preparedness comes up twice.

        First, to critique the book’s engagement with the relevant literature and voices. That is a live conversation.

        Is Ed right? Did he make his point? And, did D and G fairly represent the views of their conversation partners? Did they demonstrate an understanding of the theological framework that supports the views and people they critique, or did they merely quote indiscriminately from people when it fits the point they were trying to make? Did they demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the issue(s)? Did they rightly distinguish the views of those they interact with?

        When Ed read the book, he apparently concludes, “no.” He suggests that their interaction with the issues and the list of books they offered as a statement about their research was not sufficient to prepare them for this conversation. Their quality of thinking, research, and interaction is fair game in a book review. This critique says nothing about whether pastors generally can enter into theological or missiological conversations.

        The second time this comes up is when Ed asks the question whether the book will accomplish its purpose. The purpose of the book is to provide theological building blocks–with the stated assumption–that with the right building blocks, evangelicals can arrive at a consensus on the mission of the church. It’s Ed’s fair opinion that because of their background and preparedness, he does not think their purpose will be accomplished. That is also a fair critique for a book review.

        These conclusions are up for discussion.

        You suggest that Ed’s conclusions are not founded. Rather, the issue is not their preparedness, but that Ed and D and G “parse things our differently.” You make this argument based on your reading of this book. You may be right. But, the folks who call themselves “missional” and have been pushing this conversation say, “D and G did not fairly represent their view, and did engage with their ideas.”

        What is not up for discussion in my view is whether Ed is dismissing D and G because they are pastors or suggesting pastors cannot enter the missiological conversation. Ed, himself, says this is not what he was doing. In the context of the review, that is not what he was saying.

        As for the Stott and D/G parallel, that is a fragile point if not an already broken one. We are talking about specific people, in specific contexts, with specific backgrounds who produced specific contributions. When you consider that and get beyond “this pastor did this, why can’t these pastors,” the point simply does not work.

        The push back that Ed’s review is receiving on this point moves from “his specific critique” to “general application.” That does not follow. Conclusion can be drawn, but they have to be properly supported to warranted this move is not.


  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister


    I’m glad you are jumping into the discussion. I think this will be a generationally-defining issue for conservative evangelicals (namely, how missiology & ecclesiology coalesce). What I’ve come to find is that those with a high missiology and often low in ecclesiology, and those with high ecclesiology are often low in missiology. My hope it that there can be a robust evangelical expression that is both high in missiology as well as ecclesiology. I’m led to believe that is what both Stetzer and DeYoung/Gilbert want to see happen.

    It seems that both sides are feeling they are being misrepresented, which is unfortunate. We do need to pursue clarity as we seek to bring critique or correction in the debate. I wonder if such brothers could email one another prior to a public critique, asking if they represented their positions fairly and accurately?

    I cannot speak for Stetzer, but it appears that his push back from Gilbert/DeYoung’s contribution is that they (a) don’t normally swim in the missiological streams of evangelical thought and (b) dove right in with a splashing critique. I’m not sure that Stetzer is arguing against pastor-theologians as much as he is saying that their competency could be strengthened if their participation was more robust and regular. That can come across as academic elitism, for sure. But I see it as a younger generation of evangelical conservatives, especially from the YRR stream, joining in a pool few of our kind have ventured very far.

    I hope that our generation’s evangelical leaders in the YRR movement will indeed lead in a healthy, aggressive missiological vision and practice, not just be known for our commitment to orthodoxy. In other words, the young, restless, and reformed will also be characterized by being young, mobilized, and missional (YMM). :)

  • Bob


    I am having trouble with the point you are trying to make here.

    You say:

    “i fear that at least part of Stetzer’s critique of the credentials of these men owes to an unhelpful divide between church and academy that has exploded the traditional model of the pastorate.”

    What has Stetzer said that would suggest that he affirms this divide or even unintentionally walked into it? Either way it would be legit to critique him on it but I am sure he is operating from that framework. Being just a little aware of his work over the years on related questions I do not see him buying into this divide.

    Then you say:

    “Now, Stetzer has qualified his position in a later post.  He’s backed off the remarks I quoted above and suggested that “an academic book review would be incomplete without asking if the authors were adequately prepared to make their case.”  I’m not sure that’s exactly what Ed was getting at; I think he actually seemed to be saying, pretty clearly, that Kevin and Greg frankly aren’t prepared for this conversation.  He went on to say in his response that “I think more preparation, experience, and conversations would have served them well.””

    I am confused here, too. You are suggesting some distinction between what Stetzer says and what you preceive is his real point. He wrote an academic book review about Deyoung and Gilbert’s book. Could it not be both-Stetzer defending the propriety of what he argues in his review of What is the Mission of Church? There does appear to be a conflict.

    It is obvious that you are passionate about pastors being theologians. But that is not what this conversation is about. I am wondering if you’ve brought that concern to it and read Stetzer’s critique unfairly–suggesting things that are not there.


  • Scott Slater

    I’m like you and was surprised that this conversation involving Stetzer, DeYoung, and Gilbert even started. Who would have thought that there could be such an uproar about the mission of the church. I realize that there are many nuances to what that mission entails and I haven’t read DeYoung and Gilbert’s book, but from what I gather it seems that they wanted to strip their argument down to the “bare necessities” of the mission of the church. But I’m thankful for your thoughts on this post, especially pointing out the involvement that local pastors should have in missions by leading their people towards mission. It’s personally a reminder to me and what my mission is as a leader in my church. I’m glad I read this post.

    And since you bailed on us during our final a few weeks ago (j/k), I never got to actually congratulate on your Doctorate. Way to go DR Strachan!

  • Nathan Brown

    Bob, you are spot on.

    Timmy, unfortunately, the dialogue around this review and book has been a ad hoc sociological experiment in how evangelicals read/engage with one another. We apparently read people we disagree with with eye to criticize them before we understand them. We engage to defend our views rather than interact fairly with others.

    This post by Owen is just piece of supporting evidence. But, it might be the most convincing piece.

    Mike, by the way, I did not see where you did any name-calling.

  • owenstrachan


    Thanks for the responses. I’m genuinely stimulated by a number of these reflections on this little Internetish kerfaffle.

    I’ve heard from a number of people who have pointed me to Stetzer’s body of work to show me that he doesn’t support the kind of divide I sketched out in my response. From my engagement with ES’s writings, I would generally agree, which is why I was surprised to see these statements pop up in his Themelios review. In other words, this line of thought seemed uncharacteristic to me given my knowledge of Stetzer.

    I stand by my comments, however. I’m not sure I can buy the line that DeYoung and Gilbert haven’t engaged the missiological conversation, though I think I know what some mean by saying that. Furthermore, Kevin and Greg have each written extensively about the church’s mission. Greg has more 9Marks pieces than anyone else on these sort of matters, for example. My take, which I already said, is that D and G do not come down on Stetzer’s side of things. Other pastors, like Tim Chester, Vandersteldt, or others, perhaps fall closer to ES’s position on the mission of the church. That doesn’t mean, however, that D and G aren’t qualified to speak on the church’s mission in my view. They most definitely are. One need not agree with ES to speak up on the church’s mission. That’s a non-starter.

    Some may disagree with me, but everyone who pastors a church or leads a ministry related to the mission of the church has a purchase on this conversation. Some who are qualified academically and are leading voices may have even more of a purchase on this discussion, as D and G do. I don’t need to be an emerging church guy, for example, to speak up on the emerging church; I don’t need to be a modalist to critique modalism.

    I’ve read back through ES’s review and his response and continue to find it curious. It seems uncharacteristic to me. I tried to point out in my post that I find Stetzer a helpful figure and leader, one who I appreciate and have learned from. I don’t agree with his critique of D and G, however.

    It can be a bit lazy, by the way, to claim that one’s position is “misunderstood.” Can’t we all have our positions, disagree about them honestly, and let things fall where they may? I don’t think D and G have misunderstood the other side; I think they just disagree with it. They made, in my view, an attempt to understand the other side, and they interact charitably though clearly in my view. I don’t think the issue here is at base one of “misunderstanding,” but one of disagreement about the church’s mission.

    It’s important to recognize that. Stetzer is qualified for this discussion; D and G are qualified for it; others can speak up as well. We may disagree on the church’s mission. But provided that the necessary qualifications are on the table–and they certainly are for D and G if they are for “missional” pastors and John Stott–then let’s have at it.

    • Dan Smith

      It seems apparent enough that both “misunderstanding” and “disagreement” are in play here.

      As for your basic argument here, MIke is right. You haven’t made your case. You’ve said yourself that Stetzer doesn’t buy into the dichotomy that you point to. The only argument you can give is: “his words are curious to you based your reading his review and the book (which you had not finished) you fear ‘owes to an unhelpful divide between church and academy that has exploded the traditional model of the pastorate.’” That is a thin case.

      Then your reason for why the authors are qualified (which am not weighing into) is equally thin.

      This post (as others have said) just does not work.

      It is clear that you nevertheless plan to stand by your words.

      • owenstrachan

        Dan, thank you for your portentous words. You do not lack for decisiveness.

        The basic issue, as I can see it, between my position and the opposite side is this: ES doesn’t stand for this kind of pastor/theologian divide. That may be true. But his words in the review make him sound as if he does. Now, someone can amass all kinds of evidence in other areas to show me that he doesn’t support this divide. That’s fine. But that doesn’t take away from his paragraphs in the review which suggest that D and G are out of their depth in this conversation.

        So yes, I do stand by my words. But I have tried to stand by them with nuance and charity. Not all commenters have reciprocated. Oh well. I think we’ve played out this discussion, and one can hope that this kind of argument–pulling rank–won’t pop up in future discussions of this kind.

      • Mike Duncan

        You are right this discussion has been about whether S. stands for this kind of pastor/theologian divide that you argued for in your post.

        You have now conceded that it may be in fact true that he does not, and there is sufficient evidence to support this. But, you nevertheless “stand by your words” based on your reading of the S.’s words–words that have context and are being used to make a specific argument. It is that sort thing that keeps us all scratching our heads here, and returning to your blog.

        The point of this conversation has been largely (since my first post) to argue against your thesis that “suggesting D and G are out of their depth” is the same as “affirming a pastor can’t do missiology.” That just seems obvious.

        The irony here is if you don’t allow S. to critique the preparedness of D. and G. (which is apparently the big contention), that creates a divide between the church and the academy/pastor and theologian.

        Here is how. S. was not saying, “stay out of missiology.” He was saying, “be ready for the conversation and make sure you are positioned to accomplish the goal of your book.” He was actually saying pastors be theologians and missiologists. To not allow this critique effectively says, “pastor should not be held to these standards.” I know what is not what you are after. And, to suggest D. and G. are not prepared for one conversation is not saying they are not theologians and unprepared for all theological discussions.

        You don’t have to agree with S.’s assessment, but it is curious how touchy this part of his review has proven to be.

        Calling it “pulling rank” is neither charitable or nuanced. Just for the record, neither is calling someone’s words “portentous.” We don’t know what you mean there. Are you saying they are “full of significance” or “pompous?” :) (Of course, just having a little fun.)

  • Mark Draper

    I agree with you that D and G as pastors are qualified to speak about the mission of the church. Yet I do think they would have been helped by getting some assistance from an economist and and or historian. I appreciated how D and G tried to carefully nuance their positions. I could tell they were at great pains to carefully state their positions. Further, as an evangelical I appreciate their concern that evangelicalism can become like mainline churches where social justice is the gospel. But my concern with this book is not that they are pastors addressing the mission of the church. Rather, my concern is that they let the church off the hook a little too much. I will put my cards on the table. I am Young, Restless and Reformed, but in the area of social justice I think we YRR’s have something to learn from Wallis and Sider. Unfortunately, reformed evangelicals have not always been on the right side of social justice issues, such as slavery, racism and civil rights. In regards to the mission of the church, if the black churches in the 1950s and 1960s would have taken the advice of D and G I do not know if the Civil Rights movement would have happened. If the Tappan brothers, John Newton, William Wilberforce and Albert Barnes would have taken D and G’s advice I do not know what the abolitionist movement would have looked like. At some point the body of regenerated evangelicals do need to take a sense of responsibility and address evils being committed in their society and in some cases in their name. Further I do agree with D and G that injustice only stems from treating people unfairly. I appreciate Keller’s description of doing social justice on three tiers, relief work, helping people develop skills so that they are not continue being mistreated and addressing systemic issue that cause injustice. Historically, evangelicals have been great at relief work and development work but not systemic work. So for instance, I think we middle class evangelicals who live in the suburbs do have something to do with what is going on the inner city. Due to white flight we have helped to contribute to systemic problems. This is where a historian could have demonstrated that the advent of the suburbs and the xburbs have had an impact on people on the west side of Chicago. When whites left the west side they took their money and their capital and left the place depressed. This does not mean that all of the poverty and problems on the west side are due to systemic problems, there are plenty of poor decisions being made by people on the west side that contribute to the problems. Further, when we spend our hard earned money at places that do not pay their employees a living wage, we are contributing to the situation.
    I felt that D and G bought into the notion that capitalism will relieve some of our problems if we just get out of its way. I am not a socialist or a keynesian but i also do not think we can leave capitalism fix our problems.
    So, with that said D and G would have been well served by having some insight from historians and from economists. Even though i did not completely agree with their exegesis of some key passages, I appreciated their work. When they moved into their discussion of capitalism, a fair wage etc, it appeared that they moved away from what the text was saying and moved into promoting trickle down economics.

  • Dan Smith

    In all the “heat” over this interaction, one of the more penetrating points made in the whole discussion seems to have been missed.

    In what appears to be S. in search of D. and G.’s theological framework for their proposal, he suggests that they might overcome some of the weaknesses in their book if they had applied the “wide-angle” and “zoom-in” framework to their understanding of the storyline of Scripture and the church’s mission.

    He makes a stimulating observation that many seem to miss, and D. and G. did not directly respond to the point either in their response. (Granted, it is not as spicy as questioning the “preparedness” of the authors. :) )

    D and G respond in saying something to the effect that they did not “miss” the point S. raised, but they disagree with it. Well that is a valid and helpful response. But, I am not sure S’s point was that they missed something, they should not have and in fact, should affirm. Rather, he point may have been that they, perhaps, missed the significance of one’s theological framework in one’s theology of mission and how one puts together the points of this conversation.

    S. says:

    “That their point is central to the story of the Bible should not be up
    for debate among evangelicals. But how we capture Scripture’s storyline
    and answer what it is about is a live issue. Athanasius, Augustine,
    Calvin, Edwards, Piper, Carson, and countless others have all attempted
    to capture the message of the basic storyline of Scripture and have
    suggested something different than DeYoung and Gilbert. Granted, DeYoung
    and Gilbert do have Luther in their corner. It is not just that they
    offer a perspective that differs from others; rather the issue is
    recognizing that however one answers this question, it shall play a
    significant role on their theology of mission.”

    S seems to be after a similar point when he says:

    “Missiology is not a discipline that is served by distilling theological
    building blocks. It is best served by theological vision of how and why
    God sends his people into the world on mission for his glory and the
    good of people of the earth. A biblical-theological argument for the
    mission of the church requires a framework rooted in the narrative of
    Scripture that can connect creation, kingdom, redemption, and new
    creation to develop a robust vision for the mission of disciples in
    making disciples among all peoples.”

    This seems worth considering.

    • owenstrachan

      I see your point, Dan, but I think I still disagree with ES. He again seems to be insisting that only one kind of theological conception of the church’s mission qualifies as appropriately “missiological.” That theory happens, it seems, to be his. I happen to think along the lines of D and G and to think, furthermore, that they do connect the four themes he lists. However, they do so in a different way than he does.

      There’s nothing inherent in missiology that requires his particular framework. His may be particularly strong; that’s fine. But there can be a plurality of understandings of the church’s mission that all fit, legitimately, into the category of missiology. Some may judge some views stronger than others, but to intimate that D and G are not doing proper work because they are “distilling theological building blocks” seems to me on the face of it to be unfair.

  • Jackson W

    If I read the conversation right, Owen, you have clarified or corrected your initial focus. You are no longer asserting that ES approves of a pastor-theologian divide (per your Nov 29 comment); rather for you the central issue is discussing whether or not “D and G are out of their depth in this conversation.” If that is the case, then the pastor/Stott/academia dialogue is a non-issue since that simply comes down to a mistaken impression about ES’s meaning. If this is right, and you are not accusing him of that dichotomy, it would be generous of you to make that clear in a blog post because, from the title of the post “Are Pastors Qualified to Speak on Theology of Mission?”, one would think you are making that accusation. After all, the very way the question is framed suggests a position that Ed himself does not hold. It would only be kind and fair to ES in the event people see the main title and not the single line from your brief Nov 29 comment.

    On the issues that remain:

    (1) You say that D&G have not misrepresented nor misunderstood the other side but merely they disagree with it. The deciding standard is whether the opposing side would recognize themselves in the description. As someone on “the other side,” I absolutely felt D&G mischaracterized me and those who think similarly. I think D&G argue well against a non-evangelical or “liberal” position. As I read their book, I frequently said to myself, this doesn’t fit anyone I know (among evangelicals). For instance, they contend, “You cannot proclaims the ‘full gospel’ if you leave out the message of the cross” (107). We agree. Who are they arguing against? What evangelical would call something a “full gospel” that did not include the cross?

    Further, D&G says, “It is wrong to say that the gospel is the declaration that the kingdom of God has come. The gospel is the declaration of the kingdom of God together with the means of entering it . . . .[then on the next page] . . . No one is a Christian simply because he or she is living a ‘kingdom life’ . . . If you have not come to the King in repentance and faith . . . then you are not a citizen of God’s kingdom, and you are not a Christian” (110-11) This sequence of ideas is problematic in a few respects. Besides their confusing the response to the gospel and the gospel itself, their corrective comments (i.e. “It is wrong . . . ” statements) suggest that their opponents think otherwise, e.g. that a Christian is someone who merely does good works apart from repentance. Previously, they make the same sort of argument by implying that their opponents advocate proclaim an “anti-gospel––bad news,” as if evangelical “wide-lens” people don’t tell “people how they may become partakers of those blessings” (108). These are totally unfair comments that suggest a counterpoint not held by evangelicals like Christopher Wright.

    (2) This is tied to the issue of preparedness. In some sense, meeting the standard is “in the eye of the beholder.” The feeling of being misrepresented or wanting clearer distinctions and definitions may (or may not) come from D&G’s lack of engaging other thinkers. For instance, in the whole discussion on the whole gospel (Chapter 4), the foundation of the book and the church’s mission, there is very little rigorous exegesis on “gospel”-texts in their context and no interaction with historical materials that writers have long been discussing (like the OT and Roman background behind the word euanggelion). This is critical stuff.

    Therefore, we must consider to whom D&G are writing. If they want to change the thinking of the people the ideas D&G disagree with (presumably, Wright and others), then they would need to engage the topic with greater depth and specificity. It is quite difficult to write for a popular level and at the same time fairly and thoroughly address the multifaceted and sometimes technical arguments posed by the opposing side. I think this is the crux of Stetzer’s concern as expressed in his review–––D&G in one sense are writing for a popular audience, but do not comprehensively interact with the relevant literature of their opponents, whom they try to correct. (At worse, the sparse engagement leads to caricaturing the “other side”).

    In short, “What qualifies as preparedness?” It depends on your audience and your goals. Different goals and readership should certainly affect methodology in research and presentation. I can only give my impression here but it may be that they were not clear themselves on who they were writing to and what they wanted to achieve for that particular audience.

  • owenstrachan

    Jackson, I never asserted that ES approves of a pastor/theologian divide. If you read back through, you’ll see that I believed that people were reading me a certain way, namely, that I believed that ES did approve such a divide.

    Go back to the original post and you’ll see that I’m not saying that ES does approve such a divide. My comments on the original post were intended to say that no such divide should exist, and that we should not structure the conversation such that one could intuit that idea from our remarks. So no, I haven’t “clarified” or “corrected” anything.

    I don’t think I have anything else to add on this matter. I think that, agree with them or not, D and G have engaged the idea at a sufficiently sophisticated level. They wrote a shorter book to reach a wider audience, I’m guessing. Whether or not they sufficiently addressed the other side will remain in the eyes of the beholder, though I don’t think that a failure on their part amounts to a lack of expertise or credentialing, as ES said in his Themelios review.

    So I appreciate the responses and stand by my original critique. They aren’t out of their depth; they write with strong engagement of the other side. They may not convince everyone of their position (which, by the way, is pretty difficult to do with one book), but they are sufficiently prepared for it and are not out of their depth.

    That’s my perspective.

  • Jackson W

    Thank you for clarifying you previous “non-clarification” :) Gotta love theological debates on blogs.

    While I’m glad to know that you do not accuse ES of the pastor-scholar division, I do hope you see how you might be misread (as you see by others’ comments.) After all, the very title connects ES’s name with the question of whether pastors qua pastors can write missiology. If that is not the connection you intended, perhaps leaving ES’s name out of it would have been helpful. After all, according to your reply to me, that was never your point (to accuse Ed of that dichotomy).

    Furthermore, your line of argument seems to shift half way through your blog entry, from preparedness to pastors. Note the paragraphs starting from “Let me push this a little further….” From there you say, “Pastors, goes the line, do ministry; academics, goes the line, think and write. Sure, maybe pastors write books on practical spirituality or tithing or overcoming temptation. But they can’t really step up to the plate and actually do theology”; “Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones–these were pastors who wrote theology. They knew no unhelpful divide between church and academy”; “We are in trouble if we assume that pastors–especially well-trained and widely published pastors–are not qualified to participate in theological conversation.”

    In fact, your closing lines say, “What was Stott for much of his life? A pastor. And what was Stott when he drafted the Statement? A pastor.” How else are people to interpret these lines? This seems squarely not to simply be about whether G&D prepared themselves for THIS book, but rather whether pastors in general can write on such subjects. In the context of the blog, this is read in light of your refutation to ES in the first half, making it reasonable for people to read you (as they have) as falsely accusing ES.

    Therefore, by the end, you had explicitly “pushed a little further” to the question of pastors-as-pastors doing so called “academic” work. This is a subtle shift from preparedness, which is unrelated to one’s title. Even double PhDs could be ill prepared themselves for some topic they decide to write on. Regardless of how smart a person is or the background they have, it’s always possible that a person’s presentation or their pre-research on the immediate question at hand may be insufficient.

    In your own specialty–Edwards–imagine how you would respond if I — a Gordon Conwell grad as well, who specifically took a course on Edwards’ theology, holding a MA in philosophy from another school, and have years of missionary experience– wrote a popular book offering a correction/revised interpretation about Edwards’ time among the Indians, challenging the thoughts of someone like yourself, Stout, Sweeney, and others who had written “big books” on the subject. While in one sense, I am very trained and prepared, yet, no doubt I could easily press my arguments too far on that particular text and be accused of not being prepared to address the key issues with the thoroughness needed.

    In this process, I hope ES’ name does not get drug through the mud by people who (like the rest of us) read your title and seeming shift of emphasis as accusatory. Many of us read your words very carefully yet still read you in that way. That’s why I suggested you make the gracious gesture of making abundantly explicit your meaning for those who may give the blog a cursory read (as a blog, not merely as a comment buried within the comments section).

    I know you would want someone else to clear up similar miscommunications if it were about you. We’re all bounded to eventually miscommunicate over the internet/email. Just this morning, I apologized to a friend for some unclear things I unintentionally implied in an email. Whether pastor or “academic”, what makes something “Christian” scholarship in part is the manner we engage in dialogue–with humility, graciousness, and a love for truth for His sake and the Church’s.

    Thanks Owen for your concern for sharpening the theological-missiological thinking of the church.