Volume 7 - Issue 1


By Robert Norris

This is the last editorial that I shall have the privilege of writing. I have received and accepted a ‘call’ to be the Executive Pastor of Programme at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, and as a consequence will have to leave behind the task of being the editor of the journal.

It has been my privilege over the last years to watch the journal continue in its task of being a resource to those engaged in the study of theology at all levels, and I am especially pleased that this issue of the journal contains articles reflecting our commitment to maintain an interest in all theologically related disciplines.

Whether that involves the review of significant thinkers in the theological field and assessment of their contributions, or whether it is the theological exposition of problematic areas, all add to the total commitment to see the whole task of thinking theologically in the midst of the confusion that characterizes so much of what passes for theology in our society.

Part of the training of the theologian is that he should pass through that time of solitude and darkness in the preparation of being a prophet to his times. So often pastors, theologians and students are accused of simply being ‘academics’ with the implication that they are shut away in ivory towers apart from the real problems that confront the church and the world. Yet to be a theologian or a student of the Word of God, and to dare to offer an interpretation of that word for the present day is to be involved in the hurts of the world and in the needs of society. Yet it also demands the development of a time apart with God, where the reality of what we learn is moulded in the shape of the God whom we know. There is no place for the isolated thinker whose own spiritual development is retarded because of either his failure to connect with the reality of the world or else his failure to connect with the deepest concerns of God by a daily encounter with the ‘Living Word’.

There can be fewer tasks more pressing that demand instant attention than the need to reorientate our priorities.

The basic division of our time and priorities must come from the establishing of time for God first of all in our lives. The commitment to meet with God in prayer and study. It has always been difficult for me to accept the idea that I can study the scripture devotionally from one Bible and critically from another. This sort of academic schizophrenia can only lead to disaster both spiritually and academically. The need to relate what we study with our understanding of the truth is both a spiritual and academic discipline which we shirk at our peril.

Secondly, we must establish a priority of God’s people. It was a priority of the Master and must be built in to our own lives, when we make time for the fellowship and nurture and encouragement of the church of God. If our message does not help that to develop and grow, if our theology does not add insight and life to that community then we have created an arid orthodoxy, or even worse an arid unorthodoxy! What we do must relate to the whole body in a positive and helpful way, honouring God and edifying His church. Thirdly, our theology must relate to the world that God has made and placed us in. It must face the questions that those without faith ask, it must be relevant to the world as well as faithful to the Word. If it does not accomplish this, then it loses that evangelistic and apologetic element that establishes its credentials within the world.

To invert the order of priorities to lose the central thrust of our task, to let our theology be governed simply by the agenda of the world, is to lose our honesty and integrity before God, yet to forget that order is to make our theology irrelevant.

Themelios has struggled and achieved in measure this priority and will continue to seek always to maximize its usefulness to the whole church of God, honouring Him in His revelation of Jesus Christ through His word.


Mr Howard Bigg would like to acknowledge the use of some valuable material in an article by Dr C. M. Tuckett (then unpublished) on the Mark-Q overlaps in his Themelios article on ‘The Q Debate Since 1955’ which appeared in the January issue (pp. 22–23).

Robert Norris

Robert Norris holds a BA degree from Kings College in London and dual doctorates in history and dogmatics from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He serves as pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland and has taught at Washington DC’s Reformed Theological Seminary, and in seminaries in Ukraine, Malta, Japan, and Sudan. He and his wife, Caren, have five children.