An analysis of theological anemia. A continuation of a review of The Pastor Theologian, Chapter one, The Theological Anemia of the Church, the Ecclesial Anemia of Theology. An analysis of theological anemia.

Hiestand and Wilson begin their chapter on theological anemia by reflecting on the nature of our fallen world and our place in it. This reflection sets up what is at the core of the book’s message. Our worldview first defines our thoughts, then our actions. When we lack a consistent worldview, our actions suffer, and we succumb to relativism. When our theology is strong, our actions reflect this strength by more accurately portraying biblical mandates.

Source of Theological Anemia

            Theological anemia is a lack of depth in our study and understanding of the unity of the Bible, along with identifying our conscious and unconscious mistaken beliefs.[1] These false beliefs can lead to wandering or lack of proper focus in the context of desires and behavior. In our modern society, since the rise of postmodernism, Hiestand and Wilson suggest that our current secular metanarratives have undermined belief in the uniqueness and sufficiency of the Christian gospel.[2] As the authors suggest, the result is symptomatic of the ethical anemia that results from a lack of theological depth in leading the community.

The Response to Theological Anemia

            The response to remedy the situation has been for pastors to broker academic theology to their congregations; however, they should actually DO theology. Pastors should be the theologians to strengthen and provide theological leadership.[3] When the pastor takes on theologian’s responsibility, they no longer need to translate and find an application to their congregations from academic resources. As Vanhoozer and Strachan offer, pastors are spared the “often difficult to translate or apply these technical treatments of specialized topics to the everyday needs of one’s congregation.”[4] Pastors will also do well to gain the authority as theologians once again to enhance and align sound ethical principles and practices.

Examples and Solutions

            An example of theological anemia in my local church is the simplification of the application of Scripture. Pastors may review a bible study verse in the immediate context but lack context in the book and the overall message of the Bible. I believe it would serve the congregation to hear additional information about the passage, even the Greek or Hebrew context where appropriate. As mentioned previously, this task could be further improved by a pastoral theological review of the week’s verses from their study.

Most congregations have multiple pastors assigned different primary roles; perhaps one role could be the theologian offering their interpretation and reviewing it with fellow pastors. Another place I can see the role of a pastor-theologian is a source for small groups. I’ve been in a group for several years and know our group and others occasionally need guidance. We tend to look up these issues ourselves rather than defer to a local pastor. There are educated local resources utilized, but the authority of a pastor’s view would be beneficial. Such pastoral assistance would go well toward “the theological integrity of the church,” as suggested by Hiestand and Wilson.[5]


              [1] Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson, The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2015), Chapter 4.

              [2] Ibid.

              [3] Ibid.

              [4] Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2015), 6.

              [5] (Hiestand and Wilson 2015)

See also: The Pastor Theologian and Spiritual Warfare