The Pastor-Theologian as A Hedegehog


The Greek poet Archilochus wrote, “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” As a pastor-theologian, it is tempting to feel the pull of the fox, especially as the role and place of pastor-theologians in society continue to be marginalized into non-existence. I must become an expert in psychology, social concerns, event planning, end of life crisis management, social media, etc. in order to be a significant force of influence in their life.

As tempting as this is, theologian Kevin Vanhoozer recommends the example of the hedgehog as the animal worth imitating. In knowing one big thing, the pastor-theologian becomes a generalist who “specializes in viewing all of life as relating to God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Vanhoozer, The Pastor as Public Theologian, 25).

The vocation of a pastor-theologian is to help his congregation see all of life through and in the “one big thing” Jesus Christ and his gospel. And not only see him but also be enlightened and enlivened by Christ. Vanhoozer again: “The pastor-theologian’ communicates this knowledge [of Christ] not to swell people’s heads but to transform their hearts. Ultimately what pastor-theologians want their people to know is ‘the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’ (Eph. 3:19)” (Vanhoozer, 26).

As a pastor-theologian, then, my job is to preach, teach, live, and learn as one who is always focused on Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life of my congregation. The Hedgehog pastor must delve into the depths of life, the depths of culture, in order to display and proclaim how all our experiences relate to God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I really like this image of a pastor-theologian, but it is challenging. I struggle with helping people see how Christ relates to every aspect of their lives; but more than that, I struggle with making it a topic of conversation and discussion. How do I help people see that Jesus is the center of reality, life, meaning, and purpose? Perhaps it must start with me? I want people to see Christ “Playing in ten thousand places,” but,  it must begin with me seeing him at play in my own heart, mind, and life. I must become a hedgehog if I am to be a good pastor-theologian.


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