These days when we say the word ‘theologian,’ we generally tend to think of an academic specialist who knows a lot about the Bible, philosophy, and speculative theology.
It’s what I often think of, at least.
However, Evagrius the Solitary (ca. 346-399) has a slightly different idea:
If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian. (On Prayer, 61)
Εἰ θεολόγος εἶ, προσεύξῃ ἀληθῶς, καὶ εἰ άληθῶς προσεύξῃ, θεολόγος εἶ.
It’s a refreshing idea.
The real theologian is not the person who can speak eloquently about the deep things of God. Rather, the real theologian is the person who embodies that understanding of God in prayer and holiness.
That is, a theologian is not the person who has a theoretical knowledge about God, but rather the one who has a practical and experiential knowledge of God.
I wonder what would happen to the church if we shared Evagrius’ conviction.
What would the church look like if all our leaders were this kind of praying theologian? if all our scholars were this kind of saint? if all our pastors had this kind of relationship with God?
I’ve come to believe, you cannot give what you do not have.
You cannot teach me how to become what you are not already.
So, as a pastor, how can I teach people how to pray if I don’t already pray? How can I teach people how to be holy if I am not already holy, or at least well on the way?
Perhaps Evagrius’ assertion explains a great deal of the state of the church today. What do you think?