MA, Phd, etc.

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Brice, Jun 13, 2008.

  1. Brice

    Brice
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    Hey Friends,

    I’ve got a few questions. If these have been answered in prior threads, please accept my apologies in advance. I did some searches, but couldn’t find any precise answers.
    I am looking at doing graduate work. I do not want to go into the pastorate, so the M.Div isn’t “up my alley”. I would like to follow the “secular model” in the sense that you go from the MA to the PhD. The catch is that I want to study Christian theology and eventually teach at the undergraduate college level (not seminary). I’ve come across three basic models thus far,
    - There is the seminary option, which seems to be the MDiv and then possibly a PhD; this seems to amount to a lot of “methods” and less research (less academic in nature?).
    - I’ve also come across a lot of terminal degrees that don’t have a thesis option and don’t focus on languages.
    - Lastly, there is the secular option. This seems to amount to the study of religion as an all encompassing phrase. Not necessarily the in-depth study of Christianity, but religion in a general sense (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.).

    I’ve looked at Candler, Vanderbilt, Baylor, TCU, etc. and can’t seem to find adequate information. In sum, are there MA to PhD programs in Christian theology, Christian history, etc. that prepare one for Christian academia?

    Thank you in advance for your help.
     
  2. StefanM

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    I know Wheaton has a MA/PhD model, but it's selective and very expensive.

    If you want a seminary PhD, you can sometimes sneak in the program with an MA in the content area, but that depends on the institution. The standard is the MDiv.

    That being said, if you don't have church ministry experience, many of the Christian colleges out there may not be inclined to offer you a position. There is a glut of PhDs in Christian fields, and most of them are going to have an MDiv with church experience. The idea is that someone who will be training a pastor (even on the undergraduate level) needs some ministry experience.

    The religious studies PhD will most likely not satisfy your desires to research specifically Christian issues. You might be able to take a comparative religions approach with certain aspects of Christian theology vis-a-vis Islamic or Jewish theology, but the thrust of the program will be totally different. Although they sound similar, theology and religious studies are not cut from the same cloth.

    Now, if you don't mind this, then you're probably best served to go the secular route. Secular institutions won't care if you have any church experience because it's simply not relevant.

    Be aware, though: you are seeking to walk into a field with an abundance of PhDs without full-time, tenure-track positions. Be careful. If church ministry isn't an option for you, you may be facing a struggle.
     
  3. Brice

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    Thanks for the response Stefan. It is my understanding that the sciences are fairly open, but most fields do suffer from an abundance of PhD’s. With this understanding, I would certainly be ok working in some theological capacity outside of the classroom, just not the pastorate. The irony is I turned down some top-tier institutions in another field for that exact reason (glut). I figure, if I’m going to face an uphill battle, it should be in an area of strong interest/a calling.

    I do have some questions regarding your comments. The implication is that the MDiv > MA. I guess this goes against my understanding of academics, but usually the MA/PhD is academic in nature, thus preparing one for academia. I have the utmost respect for the MDiv, but I always viewed it as a terminal degree. This is where a lot of my confusion arises. Also, you seem to imply that practical pursuits (MDiv, pastorate, etc.) will trump the academic pursuits (publication, research, etc.) in relation to academic employment. Do you find this to be true?

    Thanks again for the information. I’m trying to put this all together in mind, so forgive me for being a bit of a contrarian.
     
  4. StefanM

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    You are correct in viewing the MA as the more "academic" degree. The MDiv isn't a "terminal" degree at all; it's a professional degree. You'll find, though, that the vast majority of students in PhD programs at seminaries will have the MDiv. Some of them will follow the MDiv with a 30 hour ThM, which is the more "academic" masters, even more than the MA, because it requires an MDiv for entrance. Some people also go with the ThM to bolster their credentials to be more competitive for entrance into a PhD program.

    The problem with the MA is that it puts you on uneven ground. Now, if you do really well, have high GRE scores, and excellent references (having articles published also helps), then you might be ok. You will, however, be competing for spots with people who have MDivs (90 hrs.) and some with ThMs (120 grad hours total) with a far shorter MA.

    The problem with theological studies is that you cannot compare the field to other academic fields. It's a different beast entirely. Some seminaries won't even admit you unless you have an MDiv or its equivalent.

    Why is this? I think there are a variety of factors in play, but the basic seminary degree is the MDiv. It provides the best opportunity for a student to get all of the "basics" (including languages) while providing some electives for depth. The seminary PhD is naturally built off of its basic degree.

    Another matter: you asked if the practical would trump the academic. I'd say probably not. It's not that the practical would override publications, but you must bear in mind that you may be in the following situation:

    You: MA, PhD, worked as grad assistant, published two articles and working on your first book

    Another: MDiv, PhD, worked as grad assistant while also pastoring a local church for 5 years, published two articles and working on his first book

    Which one is going to be more attractive for the institution focused on training ministers? The second. He has both the academic and the ministerial experience.

    There are a lot of PhDs out there with experience and publications. Institutions don't have to choose between them.

    For schools that don't have as much emphasis on the ministry angle of it, then you might be on equal footing. However, you have to recognize where the opportunities are. You won't have a lot of opportunities teaching Christian theology at a college that focuses primarily on academia. There simply isn't the interest there. A religious studies degree from a secular institution would help more in that area.

    You said you would be willing to work in a "theological" field outside of the classroom other than the pastorate. What field did you have in mind here?
     
  5. Brice

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    Stefan,

    Thank you again for your response, it was very informative. I think there are some points in there that would make for some interesting side discussions. I’d certainly enjoy a conversation on the value of practical/academic versus a more intensive academic experience. There is certainly something to be said for both tracks.

    In your experience, who is teaching the undergrads? I can certainly see the necessity of having MDiv teach future pastors, by way of seminary, but what about the general student body. Certainly someone is teaching the undergraduate courses in theology at Liberty, Wheaton, Biola, etc.; are they all MDiv’s? The implication is that one can’t become a theologian without being in the pastorate, or at least studying for the pastorate. Either that or the cards are stacked against them in favor of clergymen.
     
  6. Martin

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    I would suggest Wheaton College's MA in Biblical Exegesis . You could then apply for admission to their PhD in Biblical & Theological Studies. See admissions information here. They have very tough PhD admissions standards so, if you go that route, make sure you cross all of your "t"s and dot all of your "i"s by verifying that each program would allow you to apply to the next. You should also have a backup PhD program. Maybe from a more secular university. Just my two cents worth.
     
  7. StefanM

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    I personally attended a small liberal arts college with 3 religion faculty members. Two had MDivs and one had an MA in Christian Education (the basic seminary degree for CE, not a thesis-based MA program). Now, beyond this, I can do some research.


    http://www.liberty.edu/index.cfm?PID=12442

    That's the faculty listing for the School of Religion at Liberty. Most of the professors seem to have a seminary background (MDiv, MARE/MACE, ThM). There are a few professors, especially in the field of philosophy, that have university MAs and university PhDs.

    http://www.wheaton.edu/Theology/Faculty/index.html

    Wheaton seems to have more MA/PhD professors, which is not surprising given that the school itself offers the MA/PhD track without even offering the MDiv. Most of the professors in theology seem to have MDivs or ThMs, though.

    http://www.biola.edu/academics/undergrad/bibstud/faculty/

    Biola's faculty has a few with MAs, but MDivs and ThMs are more common.
    -------------

    I hadn't expected to see this, but I noticed a large number of professors with multiple MAs.

    These institutions probably aren't the norm, though, as they are larger institutions with significant graduate programs. Most Christian colleges are not going to have significant (if any) graduate programs.
    ---------

    I think that you can become a theologian with a position without an MDiv or being a pastor. You just need to go to the right schools with a similar philosophy. For example, Wheaton College would be a good fit because they do not offer an MDiv. Their PhD program is less likely to discriminate against an applicant without an MDiv.

    Even Harvard, for instance, maintains a distinction in their doctoral programs. To be admitted to the ThD through the Divinity School, you must have an MDiv or equivalent. For the PhD through the graduate school, a master's isn't even required, although you probably won't be accepted without one.

    Simply put, you need to have an "eye" on which kind of PhD program you are seeking. Some require MDivs, some don't.

    Another factor to consider: Do you have a BA in the field? If not, then the MDiv would probably be the better option. It would certainly be easier to "ramp up" to doctoral studies. Without a strong background in the field, an MA may not even be an option. Most programs have prerequisites.
     
  8. Crabtownboy

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    Have you considered the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, Czech Republic, [IBTS]. They are accredited through the University of Wales and so your study is in the European method .... lots of independent research. This means you can continue to live in the States the large majority of the year and only go to Prague during what they call 'intensives'. Intensives are one to to weeks of meeting with your advisor, attending lectures and continuing your research. The library at IBTS is the
    largest English language theological library in Europe.

    From their home page:

    You might like to check it out.

    www.ibts.eu
     
    #8 Crabtownboy, Jun 13, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2008
  9. Martin

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    ==If history is an interest you could get a MA in History or Church History and then do a "secular" PhD in History doing your research dissertation on a Church History topic. Then you could teach in any format you could find a job in. Trust me, what has been said about jobs in academic circles being hard to find is 100% true. It almost comes down to being in the right place at the right time.

    MA History programs are a dime a dozen. Most state universities have those programs. MA Church History is a bit tougher to find. However I do know that Liberty University's MA Religious Studies has a Church History concentration. As I already mentioned, Wheaton College has a good program in Church History. However doing a "secular" MA History and PhD History would probably do just fine. Do your research on a Church History topic. That is what I am doing. My thesis is on the Puritans and King Philip's War. So if History is your interest, that maybe a great route.

    Btw, Liberty University has launched their MA History program. For the Fall '08 semester only you can apply and be accepted without GRE scores. Click HERE for information.
     
  10. StefanM

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    Also, if you wouldn't mind "double dipping" so to speak, then you might want to look into the option of taking multiple MAs (or at least an MA plus 18 grad hours in another discipline).

    For instance, you might get an MA in Ancient history, an MA in NT, then a PhD in history, and you could teach both history and NT on the college level. Ditto for any other field where you have at least 18 graduate hours. The PhD in history gives you more "mileage" in the academic world, though, and if you need to take a position at a secular school, every school out there has history profs.
     
  11. Brice

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    Stefan, Crabtown and Martin,

    Thanks for the help. With regard to Stefan’s post, Biola was actually one of the faculty pages that I looked at in my previous research. I found it to be an eclectic mix, but I wasn’t sure if this was the norm or the exception. LU’s faculty seems to be very MDiv driven and less “academic” in nature. I wonder if they are a bit reluctant to welcome the Ivy’s, Baylor, Vandy and the like, for fear of liberal integration. I also noticed Biola had UPenn, Notre Dame, etc. present on their faculty. Wheaton and Baylor seem to be more accepting of less conservative institutions as well. I am not sure if this is bad or good, but it is an interesting observation. On a side note, when I said I would do work outside of academia, I didn’t have particulars in mind. More so, I meant that I would be ok using my skills in a related field if the opportunity arose. Also, double dipping wouldn’t be bad, as it seems like it would still be shorter than the MDiv -> PhD route.

    Martin, I did consider the exact route you presented, as History and theology are my areas of interest. I would like to integrate theology into my program as much as possible. I wonder how one could do this in a PhD in history program? I am also of the understanding that breaking into academia, in the field of history, is nearly impossible. Since you are a history guy, you might find this very interesting, as it goes against my understanding: http://www.historians.org/Perspectives/issues/2007/0701/0701new2.cfm

    Let me know what you think of the data. I know LU offers a few interesting programs, and I love the institution, but I’m looking to branch out a bit. I would think one would have a brutal time getting into a PhD in history program coming from LU at this time, as it isn’t established. As well as LU doesn’t have as much academic “clout”, as some other institutions.

    Thanks again for your help friends. I would like to discuss, on another thread sometime, the value of the MDiv to PhD versus the MA to PhD; I think that would be quite interesting.
     
  12. Martin

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    ==Well it depends upon your area of interest. For me, my area of interest is early American Church History and early American History (mainly 17th century). So the two fields go together. There is history, theology, and politics all through that period of history. Of course that period is not unique. I can think of major historical and religious events in American History that changed a generation. Your area of interest maybe Ancient History. In that case you could focus your research on some aspect of early Christianity. There are many ways to marry History and Theology. You could do that at the MA and PhD level. If that is really your interest.



    ==Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No. After all, I did and if I can do it anyone can do it. It is all about being prepared with the best education, making connections, and then being in the right place at the right time. You may have to do adjunct work at two or three schools, you may have to work at a museum or historical site, you might even have to teach in a high school. However if you are prepared the struggle will pay off at some point. For me I love to teach. So community college is perfect for me. Others love research, writing, and teaching, so research universities are perfect for them. It is all about what you want to do and what the Lord has called you to do (hopefully the two are the same).




    ==Those articles are interesting but I don't put too much stock in those things. It all depends upon who you are and where you are. Small schools are often over looked in the national numbers. For example. I know of a history department at a small state university that was looking to hire a Civil War Historian. It took them over a year to fill the position. Why? Nobody was applying. There are jobs out there, it is just a matter of finding them. The article states that the job outlook for historians is somewhat good, and I agree. I know community colleges have a hard time filling positions (mainly adjunct). So while it is tough getting your foot in the door, once you do get your foot in...you are in.




    ==I got a MAR from Liberty University and I have no trouble getting it accepting by state Universities (etc). Six of my church history hours were transfered into my MA History program. Six hours is the maximum number of transfer hours. Granted I am not at an ivey league school or anything like that, but it is a state university. The community college system of North Carolina has also accepted my degree from Liberty University. I guess it just depends upon what you are comfortable with. If you would not be comfortable going to Liberty, if you have doubts about that, then you probably should not go to Liberty.

    Hope that helps!
     
  13. Brice

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    Thanks for the response Martin. You have some interesting perspectives. With regard to my comments on LU, I wasn’t taking a dig. I graduated from LU, spent many years as a resident student, and will likely have a second degree from there before I pursue my plans. It is a great institution, and I support the school to the tenth degree, but I think it is time for me to diversify. On the other side, I do wish they would strengthen their academic credentials a bit, as they have the potential to be a top-notch university.

    Thanks again for the info; it gives me a lot to consider.
     
  14. Rhetorician

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    Brice Response

    Hello Bro. Brice,

    I have been to Choteau, MT on a mission's trip and preaching enterprise. So, I have not been able to check in on this discussion. This, however, is one of my favorite type topics.

    I would like to encourage you to consider the MDiv "over against" the MA alone.

    Since we do not know what our Lord Jesus might and can do with us as we go along; it seems to make sense to me if you do have some sort of "call" to prepare for such. If you do not at this time feel the call to a vocational church ministry, please consider that that is where you are now. I can think of at least two reasons to do the MDiv maybe with the MA.

    1. You will obviously be "fit" for pastoral, denominational, para-church, or other ministry service with the MDiv degree.

    2. It will open doors for you to teach in other venues such as Bible colleges or seminaries where they value the need of "ministers" who have educational and experiential credentials "to bring to the classroom."

    I know that it puts another couple of years in your educational plan but it may be worth the costs and time in the long run.

    If these ideas have already been discussed then disregard this post.

    Just thoughts to ponder.

    "That is all!"
     
  15. Brice

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    Thanks Rhet, all of you had great insights, and I will use this information to make some decisions. I do think the MDiv is a viable option, and the one that I will most likely choose. As you said, I may receive a calling to ministry that I do not have at that this point and time. I guess life is made to be taken one step at a time.

    If you guys don’t mind, I’d like to hear some opinions on a couple names. So far, I’m considering Biola (Talbot) and Baylor.
     
  16. Rhetorician

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    Brice Suggestion

    Hello again dear brother.

    If you are (or are not) a Southern Baptist then I would surely suggest that one of the SBC "Big Six" would do you well. Of these I would consider most closely The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where Al Mohler is pres. It is Reformed, in the SBC camp, and very rigorously academic. The SBC seminaries are the best bet price wise you can find also.

    If you are a dispensationalist's bent, then of course you would want to consider DTS, Dallas that is.

    If you want a broader Evangelical perspective then Trinity and Gordon-Conwell always are in play. Also, Wheaton as mentioned above for the MA/PhD tract is also very very good, but all of these cost mega bucks.

    "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is certainly a valid question to ask of us, of yourself, and of the Lord of course.

    The earlier you can define what you want to do and where you want to go, as the Lord leads, then you can prepare to do or be that particular thing. It is much like doing or getting a secular degree so that one can earn a living at the trade or profession desired. If one wants to be a Lawyer then it becomes necessary to go to Law School, and preferably one that is known for the narrow field where the attorney-to-be can concentrate in that chosen area.

    Anyway, you get my gist as it were. But, this must be held in tension with the "Lord's will," one step at a time, marrying, having babies, making a living, etc., et al. And all must be done while maintaining a vital and vibrant relationship with the Lord along the way, OR you can loose your way. Take it from someone who knows.

    I hope this helps in your quest. I will be glad to talk with you off line or PM if needs be.

    "That is all!"
     
  17. Brice

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    Thanks Rhet, I’ll definitely take a look at the “big six”. As someone of the Baptist persuasion, are there any other schools to consider? How does Talbot and Baylor line up? Which institutions carry the best reputation? Thanks again.
     
  18. Rhetorician

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    Brice Reply

    Brice,

    Thanks for the trust you put in my word. It means much.

    I would think that the seminary one attends would have to reflect what one wants to be, think, and believe when that one "turns out!" And a lot does hinge upon the fact of whether or not the MA is done by itself or in connection with the MDiv or of course if both are done.

    It will even matter which one is done first. It will also matter a great deal if the MA or MDiv is done in the seminary or university contexts. There are still some MDiv degrees that can be done in the university contexts which greatly can enhance or detract from their usefulness. For an example of this check out Baylor's programs.

    Having said this, look at Talbot. Proximity means much when going to seminary. As does the bottom line price for what you pay. Talbot is a great place and has turned out a good number of "Evangelical" people. Is that the "circle where you want to run and play?" That is not the only question but is a major question. If you want to look like one of their grads then that might be the place for you? If not then you need to move on along?

    Baylor is a "horse of another color" as said in the "Wizard of Os." They are historically Baptist. They have a deep Texas Baptist tradition. They are also intertwined with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary historically. They are a place where a person could go and do both the MA and MDiv at the same institution. (See above for MDiv's done at the university). They have had and do have a good academic reputation for rigor and such. However, they are somewhat liberal and have chosen to break nearly all their ties with the conservative Baptists of Texas.

    I might consider Baylor for the PhD terminal degree. I think, personally, I would only go there to do real academic work such as the MA or PhD. I am not so sure I would attend there for the MDiv degree looking towards the pastoral, para-church, or ministry vocations. For this very reason--the "moderate" or "liberal" slant that one would have to wade through.

    I know it only by repute, but I do have a good friend who works there and I have made collegial "friends" with other who work there; IE., speakers who have come to speak at my little college and I have done some book reviews for one of their journals.

    So, I hope this helps. I would be glad to talk to you via PM if you wish if I can be of further service.

    "That is all!"
     
    #18 Rhetorician, Jun 17, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2008
  19. Brice

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    Rhet,

    Thanks again for your time, it is greatly appreciated.

    If you don’t mind me asking, what do you mean by “evangelical’ in regards to Talbot? They seem to be, in a sense, Baptist leaning. I have this sense, only from interaction with a few Biola students, so I would definitely appreciate some information into their orthodoxy.

    With regard to Baylor, I found it intriguing based on the institutions academic reputation. Out of personal preference, I like the idea of studying at an institution that is attached to a larger university. That being said, this preference doesn’t seem to open too many doors.

    Also, after much thought, I’m leaning towards doing the MDiv and leaving the MA out of the equation for now. I would then continue onto a PhD program, God willing.

    If you don’t mind me asking, are their additional requirements when pursuing the PhD? Does the MDiv provide all requisite knowledge and coursework to continue on to the PhD?

    God bless and thanks again.
     
  20. Brice

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    To Rhet, Martin, Stefan and others:

    With regard to the MDiv to PhD route, is it typical or accepted to do so with the intention of going straight into academia? I recognize there is some practicum in the MDiv program, but are you expected to enter into full time ministry for a period of time? If I am called to ministry in the traditional sense, I will follow, but at this time I would like to pursue the academic route.

    Thanks.
     

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