Is a PhD Helpful in Ministry?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by 12strings, Sep 14, 2012.

  1. 12strings

    12strings
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    For those whose career is not headed toward being a Theology Professor, is getting a PhD in Theology helpful in preparing one for "regular" church Pastoral ministry?

    A few examples of where this is coming from:

    I have heard that a Seminary professor considered it sinful for a man preparing for ministry to not pursue the highest level of education of which he was capable and financially able to attain...(he was refering to a doctorate).

    At my own Seminary (SBTS), it was generally assumed and even stated that a MDiv (90 hrs) should be the "standard" Ministry degree, and that those who "settled for a M.Arts (50-60 hrs) were selling themselves short, or not living up to expectations.

    P.S. I'm not anti-education, and Had I been single with no kids on the way, probalby would have continued to get the MDiv...


    But is a Focused PhD in a narrow field really helpful for one who is either preparing for, or already engaged in, Pastoral Ministry?
     
  2. plain_n_simple

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    "Is a PhD Helpful in Ministry?"

    Denying yourself and becoming like Him is much more useful in ministry. Think what He thinks, say what He says, do what He does.
     
  3. Jim1999

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    Any degree of learning can be helpful in ministry. Just remember the average education of your members.

    When I started out we went to Bible College, got the basic training and headed out into the field. Further education came later, if possible. Degrees were for those intending to teach in seminary.

    Back in 1949, three seminary professors were actually full time pastors, had no degrees and were teaching students leading to a B.Th. We respected them fully, and learned how to learn. That was more important than the information exchanged.

    Sometimes wish I was back in the early days. People seemed to be better listeners, even those with no education.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  4. Bronconagurski

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    I think it is very necessary if possible. A lot of instutions, such as L.U., now have PHD's that focus on theology and apologetics. To me, this is invaluable, no matter who is in the congregation. I have heard preachers ridicule theology and doctrine from the pulpit, and to me, that is not right.

    I like what Chafer said in his preface in Systematic Theology:

    "Systematic Theology, the greatest of the sciences, has fallen upon evil days. Between the rejection and ridicule of it by the so-called progressives and the neglect and abridgment of it by the orthodox, it, as a potent influence, is approaching the point of extinction. It is a significant fact that of the upwards of two score accredited and notable works on Systematic Theology which have been produced in this and other countries, an exceedingly small portion is now in print and the demand for these works is negligible. The unchanging emphasis in the Scriptures upon doctrine, which subject is referred to in the New Testament more than forty times and is that to which a Christian is to “take heed” (1Ti_1:3; 1Ti_4:6, 1Ti_4:16; 2Ti_3:10, 2Ti_3:16; 2Ti_4:2-3), stands as a silent rebuke, whether heeded or not, to all modern notions which belittle the importance of Dogmatic Theology, and also stands as a corrective to those who neglect any portion of it.
    It is no secret that the average minister is not now reading Systematic Theology, nor will such writings be found to occupy a prominent place in his library. Shocking indeed this condition would have been to ministers of two generations ago—men whose position was respected in their day because of their deep knowledge of the doctrinal portions of the Bible and whose spoken ministries and writings have gone far toward the upbuilding of the Church of Christ.
    The present situation is not one of passing moment. As well might a medical doctor discard his books on anatomy and therapeutics as for the preacher to discard his books on Systematic Theology; and since doctrine is the bone structure of the body of revealed truth, the neglect of it must result in a message characterized by uncertainties, inaccuracies, and immaturity. What is the specific field of learning that distinguishes the ministerial profession if it is not the knowledge of the Bible and its doctrines? To the preacher is committed a responsibility of surpassing import. Men of other professions are tireless in their attempts to discover the truths and to perfect themselves in the use of the forces belonging to their various callings, though these be in the restricted field of material things. The preacher is called upon to deal with the things of God, the supernatural and eternal. His service is different from all others—different as to aims, different as to available forces and, of necessity, different as to adequate preparation. Few clergymen's libraries will include even one work on theology, but a medical doctor will assuredly possess a worthy work on anatomy. A form of modern thinking tends to treat all matters of doctrine with contempt.
    No substitute will ever be found for the knowledge of the Word of God. That Word alone deals with things eternal and infinite, and it alone has power to convert the soul and to develop a God-honoring spiritual life. There is a limitless yet hidden spiritual content within the Bible which contributes much to its supernatural character. This spiritual content is never discerned by the natural (ψυχικὸς), or unregenerate man (1Co_2:14), even though he has attained to the highest degree of learning or ecclesiastical authority. The natural capacities of the human mind do not function in the realm of spiritual things. The divine message is presented “not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1Co_2:13), and the Spirit has been given to the regenerate that they might “know the things that are freely given to us of God.” When, on the ground of scholarship, unregenerate men have been permitted to dictate to the church what she shall believe, she has descended from her supernatural character to the level of a human institution, and it is safe to conclude that men are unregenerate who deny the only ground upon which a soul may be saved."
     
  5. MB

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    I'm not going to say education is a bad thing. Certainly a good education will help you all your life. However is it going to bring you closer to God than those who do not have a PHD.

    In my humble opinion I believe we all should be doing what God directs us to do in life. Ask God what He wants of you then do it no matter what anyone else says.
    MB
     
  6. Bronconagurski

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    I agree that we need to be directed by God. You asked, "However is it (by it you mean a phd) going to bring you closer to God than those who do not have a PHD?" If you get it just to say you have it, then I say it may not bring you closer to God. But if you get one to learn all you can about God, then I don't see it could not bring you closer to Him.
     
  7. preachinjesus

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    I have a PhD in historical theology (with a fairly narrowly focused dissertation) and have mostly found it an aid and not a hindrance to ministry.

    One of the challenges with PhDs is the better they are the more involved you tend to be in minutiae which isn't applicable to practical ministry. Another challenge is that one can become exceedingly arrogant because of their knowledge and not be humble or understanding why the other 95% of people don't care about the differences between infralapsarianism or supralapsarianism.

    The best book I read between my masters studies and my PhD was Helmut Thielicke's A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. I also remained in pastoral ministry while working on my PhD. That was hugely valuable for perspective.

    All that said, I do think a PhD is a good step for people. However it does not guarantee ministry "success." It will help one be able to develop consistent and rigorous study methods, understand essential issues and a paradigm for handling challenges before they arise, and even provide a hugely important epistemic framework for questions. At the end of the day, though, you must always press forward to make things practical, understandable, and sensible.

    Spending time with leaders like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Charles Stanley, Jerry Falwell, and others allowed me to recognize that these men had sound ministries because they understood that people need a place to be loved and encouraged and challenged. The Sunday pulpit isn't a place or time for an extended lecture on theological triumphalism or beating back textual critical problems. It is a time for people to know they are loved and know they have hope.

    So I do think having a PhD helps you in ministry. Besides, you get paid to study in ministry. Why not have a fun degree that allows you to develop and write stuff you enjoy.

    My constant encouragement to people who desire to get PhDs and go and teach is to realize the job market for professors is abysmal and getting worse. I know of a school that posted an open position for a NT Prof and got 250 resumes from qualified candidates (not to mention the 200 others) from all over. When they narrowed the field more appropriately they were still left with stacks of resumes, CVs, and writing samples from people who had PhDs from European schools (Oxford, Durham, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Tubigen, etc) alongside those with PhDs from US schools (Harvard, Chicago, Wheaton, TEDS, DTS, SBTS, etc.) The whole system is highly competitive and if you're not going to high end (read: European) school then you should consider the pastorate. Its a wonderful life and works well for me. Maybe when I get to the point that nobody wants to listen to me much because of my age I'll consider a teaching post...but I enjoy doing what I'm doing now. :)
     
  8. Bronconagurski

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    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I imagine it was challenging and exciting to be able to write a doctoral dissertation.
     
  9. SovereignMercy

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    I like what my professor said.

    However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
     
  10. preachinjesus

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    Im always happy to share. A dissertation is simultaneously the most thrilling and the most laborious thing one can ever do. :type:
     
  11. 12strings

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    Where I come from is the following:

    a. I meet with a group of about 10 area pastors monthly, wherein we pray together and pick a ministry topic to discuss for the mutual edification of all. The breakdown is like this:
    -PhD's: 3
    -Current PhD Students: 3
    -Doctor of Ministry: 1
    -Masters: 2 (I'm one)
    -High-school Education, but self-reads a lot: 1
    The conversations, if left to the Phd's and future PhD's, tends to get very cerebral...most of all the Current Students...It seems to take a few years for the Effect to wear off so the men can move out of academic mode and back into normal life mode. (Granted, this effect is also true after getting a bachelors and a masters.)

    b. On the flip side, a few positives:
    -Those with PhD's tend to be more careful about saying precisely what they mean, which is definitely a good thing. It makes them concise in conveying information.
    -There is defitely a range, and much of it depends on the individual...some PhD's can feel overly cerebral, as if they are always in debate mode, or at least academic lecture mode...others seem very normal.
    -My own Father got a PhD 30 years ago and wrote his dissertation on Women's roles in the church, which he says really helped him to understand how his new(at the time) wife could minister in a fruitful and biblical way. It helped in his marraige as well.
     
  12. Bronconagurski

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    Thanks for the interesting observations. 30 years ago your Father's dissertation was cutting edge, so good for him.
     
  13. Aaron

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    :thumbs:
    :thumbs: What he said.
     
  14. Aaron

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    What is listed by Paul as criteria for qualification to serve as a pastor?
     
  15. Bronconagurski

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    I get your point about the qualifications concerning a man's character. That means you are fit to be a pastor, it doesn't mean that education in the scriptures is not important.
    And what is it that Luke said that Pastors should be doing instead of waiting on tables?
     
  16. preachinjesus

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    We're not talking about qualifications. This is an open conversation about the helpfulness of a degree. Please stay on topic.
     
  17. Aaron

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    Oh, in THAT case, a degree is nothing but wallpaper.
     
  18. MB

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    How is it that turning to any other source than God. Can one hope to learn more about God? A semenary teaches only what they perceive according to there own bias. In fact many change their views in seminary leaving their first love of the scriptures.

    God teaches us according to;
    1Jn 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

    I do not agree that a PHD can bring you closer to God. Since it is God who draws us and not some theological school. It is God who blesses us with understanding. What is it that God cannot teach me or you.
    MB
     
  19. Yeshua1

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    Would say that it is required for those who desire to fulfill education as being either a seminary teacher, or else doing books/manuscripts, but NOT for those involved in daily "regular' church ministry!
     
  20. Bronconagurski

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    God gives the increase, but man is responsible to sow and water the seed. Why didn't God just convict the Ethiopian Eunuch without Phillip? After all, he was reading the word. Discipleship includes men of God teaching young preacher boys the deep things of God, imo, and that, my friend, is how it brings one closer to God. A good teacher doesn't teach as much as he guides and inspires the student to study and let God teach him. The teachers at this Bible College were all involved in ministry at one time or another and they also can help with sharing their life experiences. No offense, but your view reminds me of a preacher that I knew some time ago that had a son around 15 or 16 that surrended the call to preach. I gave the young man a Strong's concordance and the dad gave it back to me and said if his son was really a preacher, he could turn to any scripture and God would help him preach it. I am sorry, but that isn't the way it happens.
     
    #20 Bronconagurski, Sep 18, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 18, 2012

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