The MDiv: Should It Become BDiv?

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Martin, Jun 1, 2010.

  1. Martin

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    Looking over the curriculum of most MDiv programs I have often wondered if it should be made an undergraduate program instead of a graduate program. Most courses in the MDiv program are introductory level courses that probably fit better with an undergraduate curriculum. At the graduate level, the M.A. should be the standard, then the Th.M., D.Min., and Ph.D.

    I believe this would allow for a more advance set of graduate programs better targeted at serious students of theology. As it is now, many "graduate" courses at seminaries are little more than undergraduate courses with graduate course numbers attached. Most seminary curriculums I have been a part of (SEBTS, LU) and have examined (curriculum, syllabi, etc) do not seem to be on the graduate level. This could explain why I, and others, who have gone on to do a secular graduate program found the secular program to be far more challenging than the seminary program. The result of this is too many preachers running around with "graduate" degrees who have not done generally expected graduate work (no thesis, no graduate research, no graduate committee, etc).

    What does everyone here think of this? Why do you think my idea is good or bad? How would we go about getting seminaries to change their programs?
     
  2. Havensdad

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    Martin,

    I have to ask when you took your courses at LU? Before or after the curriculum change (I think that was around 4 years ago...not sure though)?

    The reason that I ask, is while there are a few classes that are comparable to undergrad classes (usually the "discipleship" and "Spiritual growth" type classes) most of them are not. I have had two different friends, with secular MA's, who shuddered when I told them of my course load. Forty + pages of Research and Writing assignments, Book Critiques (no, not Huck Finn...we are talking seriously complex stuff here), etc., not to mention usually somewhere in the area of 600 to 1000 pages of required reading, along with tests and discussion boards, are certainly not typical of undergrad work.

    Like I said, there have been exceptions to this...but then, there are exceptions in the secular arena, too. You have to remember that an M.Div. has in most cases, 2 to 3 times more hours required than secular Masters degrees... even if you said half of the courses were the "easy" classes (which I would not agree with. I would say more like 1/3 to 1/4 were of the undergrad variety), it is still more than comparable to a secular MA.
     
  3. PilgrimPastor

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    Having earned undergraduate and graduate theological degrees with Liberty I'm not sure I agree with a major part of your argument, though this is true of some courses that had major "overlap" from the B.S. Religion to the M.A.R. / M.Div.

    That aside, I think you may be on to something. Although the B.Div. is of course not a new idea, this was the degree designation in the fairly recent past. It is etched all over many of the antique theological / pastoral books that I collect, for example.

    It is interesting that (a) I had as much Bible / Theology / Ministry courses in my Bachelor of Religion degree than a person with a B.A. in Business who then earns an M.Div. at many seminaries (b) that many free churches (Baptist, Congregational, Non-Denominational etc.) expects graduate work for the pastorate when in my case, had I stopped at the B.S.R. I would have the same (similar) training level (c) that after 120 undergraduate credits plus 90 graduate credits I don't have a doctorate until I do a D.Min. when in a secular program that total of graduate credits could easily amount to a 36 credit hour M.A. and a 40-60 credit hour Ph.D. or Ed.D....

    There is though, a wide variance in the purpose, structure, and history of theological training compared to say that expected of an elementary school teacher.
     
  4. TomVols

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    Actually, that sounds just like my undergrad work. Seminary was a little more beefy. There are exceptions and over/unders, of course. Occasionally a breather class would come along with maybe 20 or 30 pages of writing and about 500 pages of reading, but those vacations were few and far between (and usually ended up with significant testing).

    Martin, on the surface I'm not wild about making the M.Div a B.Div. Medical degrees, law degrees, and MBA programs often have the same introductory matter for entrants with no prior experience in that field. Yet those are Master's programs. I do think there should be a more viable alternative to guys like myself who had significant theological, Biblical, and ministerial education prior to seminary. The M.Div program was redundant, pure and simple. However, for the guy with a BA in communications, architecture, Business...I think 90 hours of theological education is a bare minimum.

    There should be MA programs for people with Bachelor degrees in theology, etc. The greater the number of Biblical/theological/ministerial hours in the Bachelor program, the lesser the hrs in the MA. For instance, if you have a 36 hour major in religion from a baptist college (or Christian college), 60 hours should be plenty. For someone like myself, having 30 + hours in Bible, 24 hrs in Theology, 36 hours in ministry, etc., a 36 hour Master's degree is more than enough (and should qualify for entry into PhD or D.Min programs all else being equal).
     
  5. Havensdad

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    Then you my friend, are the unbelievable exception to the rule. Most undergrad classes are like this one...

    http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/bioadvise/syllabi/Bio203_S10.pdf

    Which, for 2 courses, Biology 203 and 204, require a total of 1300 pages (650 each) and 4 multiple choice/short answer exams.

    Even English Composition, a writing heavy class, consists of only 10 to 15 pages of writing at most colleges...


    http://www.peru.edu/artsandsciences/docs/Eng101_Holtz_000.pdf

    Or, to compare "apples to apples," consider an Undergrad class in History (12 pages of writing)...

    http://www.luonline.com/media/3415/courseguides/HIEU201_Syllabus.pdf

    to a secular MA class, whose only writing assignments is a case study summary and a short, "Philosophy of education" statement of unspecified length

    http://www.luonline.com/media/3415/courseguides/EDUC703_Syllabus.pdf

    to a middle of the road seminary class on Baptist history, consisting of about 30 pages of writing...

    http://www.luonline.com/media/3415/courseguides/CHHI694_Syllabus.pdf

    My question is, where did you get your undergrad? A friend of mine who just finished her BA, was complaining about a "long" 10 page paper...I have to warn my friends to stay away from whatever school you went to!!
     
  6. TomVols

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    :laugh:

    My BA is from Clear Creek Baptist Bible College. And of course, I went to Southern. Both were reading and writing intensive. I also did some work at Tennessee Tech (very tough state school, similar to GA Tech and Purdue) and assorted classes at other big boy undergrad schools. I did my composition classes at Cumberland, Roane St, and Tech. And HS was no walk in the park. Every day in my honors English comp class, you had to go in and write 3-5 pages by hand on a topic on the board. It was graded intensively. So do the math. 5 days a week. 3-5 pages per day. 40 weeks of school.

    My most intensive class was probably a class on "Church Action in the Community." I probably did 100 pages of writing and read a couple thousand pages. I'd say I read the most in my theology classes. 2000-3000 per semester. But the writing wasn't bad. Just a couple of 15-20 page papers. Then again, the midterm and final had essays as well so that's another 10 - 15 pages of writing.

    I'm thankful for it all. It almost killed me, especially taking 20+ hours a semester towards the end. But in the pastorate, you need to do a lot of writing (well, I do for my sermons) and you do a ton of reading (well, I do for my sermons) and you have to do both well, and quickly, to gather, sift, and synthesize the information.

    Now you've got me thinking about the easier classes both on the college and seminary level. I may have to get back to you. My MBA work didn't require the bulk, but you did a lot of shorter writing - 3-5 page reflections on issues in a business setting.
     
  7. sag38

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    I have an MDiv from NOBTS without languages. My specialty is Marriage and Family Counseling. But, the Lord led me into the full time pastorate instead of becoming a licensed family counselor. So, I guess in some eyes here I am an inadequate pastor because I don't have some language jewels in my crown. Good to know that I don't have to meet their extra Biblical standards to serve where God had placed me. With that said, I have looked int NOBTS language certificate. I'm thinking very seriously about it not to meet some extra Biblical expectations but for my own Biblical education.
     
  8. sag38

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    Martin,

    An MDiv is a professional degree and therefore is different than a secular degree. The work load I endured seems to compare with friends I know who have MBA's.
     
  9. sag38

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    Wait, I just checked out the price for a Languages Certificate from NOBTS. $175.00 per hour plus costs of books and application fees. Even though I've attended the school they want transcripts again (that's not cheap, to include one from themselves). I guess my past degree from them doesn't mean much when it comes to jumping through application hoops. For 18 hours of language learning it is right at $5000.00. I wonder if our friends who think my training is so inadequate would be willing to put their money where there mouth is and contribute to the "Get SAG Biblical Languages Training Fund." Send me a PM for my Pay Pal information where I will gladly accept donations.
     
    #9 sag38, Jun 2, 2010
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  10. Siberian

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    I don't think going back to a B.Div. would be a great idea. The M.Div. model mirrors most other professional degree models; a three or four year program built on an ideally broad B.A. education. And, as someone pointed out earlier, other professional degrees are equally 'entry' degrees in their fields (e.g., J.D., etc.).

    As everyone knows, at one time most professional degrees used the bachelor nomenclature (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Divinity, etc.). But the upgraded nomenclatures were necessary to avert confusion since a B.A. was required to enter those programs. If the seminaries went to a truly undergraduate divinity program (with out a B.A. admissions requirement), would that then be the standard pastoral training ? That sounds like a dumbing down of the training to me.

    As far as what we could do to get the seminaries to revert: we could donate a lot of money with accompanying letters of request (they will need the cash to supplement the drop in enrollment - who will want to get another bachelor degree?).
     
    #10 Siberian, Jun 2, 2010
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  11. preachinjesus

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    getting back on topic...

    Well until our educational process starts getting their arms around whether or not they believe post-secondary education is necessary for adults this will always be a tension.

    I can't speak for everyone or anyone. My path was good for me, but I also had a firm sense of calling and God put people into my life to help direct my paths. That said I do have plenty of good friends and peers in ministry that did not have the same opportunities or calling from their youth to follow my path. An interesting survey to take is how many ministers delayed seminary (and for what reasons) until their 30s or 40s.

    I did a double major in my undergraduate, one of which was a degree in biblical studies. This allowed me to take the basic MDiv coursework and substitute a multitude of courses for ones already covered in my undergrad work. By doing this I was also able to take upper level theology courses that were seminar level.

    This basically let me have an advanced masters degree which allowed for easy transition into a PhD. Not everyone has that opportunity.

    Honestly, if I found a young guy (high school here) who had a definite calling to ministry I'd recommend the following:
    Get an undergraduate degree in biblical studies from a great Christian university
    Find and get an advanced MDiv
    Get into a ministry position for two years, then do a PhD in some area of theology

    By this point he'll be in his early 30s with at least 35 years (maybe more) of strong ministry in front of him.

    I just think too many churches are used to seeing the MDiv as a requisite degree for ministry. About nine months ago I was consulting with a local church who was looking for an associate pastor. They really got hung up on MARE/MACE, MATh, MA, etc degrees from (imho qualified) candidates who didn't also have an MDiv. Maybe this is something about the nature of education, but it seems to me as I encounter so many churches the MDiv is a pretty standard criteria for a pastoral level candidate.

    If we start changing the nomenclature again it'll just frustrate our people. Just my opinion. :)
     
  12. TomVols

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    Sag, there are other ways to get language training that you deride yet at the same time say is helpful enough you'd go back to school for it. That said, do you accept Euros at Paypal? :thumbs:

    No shocker that NOBTS wants more money even though they hold your transcript. Okay, mild shocker. But still.....there are resources available should you find yourself unable to do the prep formally. PM me for some if you like.
     
  13. TomVols

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    A local baptist association just shredded any resume with a doctor's degree of any sort. It darn near did it with anyone with a Masters. It goes all ways.
     
  14. Rhetorician

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    Martin Response

    Hello Friend!!

    I hope you are well. I will give my two cents worth if I may?

    First, I learned one from old Dr. Roy Beaman of Mid America Baptist Seminary when I was doing my 96 sem. hr Diploma of Theology (later to be changed to an ADiv degree). Old "Doc" said that we "specialize" before we "generalize," and since then I have learned that he is correct.

    Secondly, there is an overall "dumbing down" of the American educational system, especially on the College level. College degrees are not much more than a glorified vo-tech degrees any longer. I hear it constantly at the college where I teach: "Why do we have to take religion...Eng. literature...sociology...psychology?" etc. These have nothing to do with my major?! So we have belittled and sold the Liberal Arts Education out of the system...nearly.

    Thirdly, if and when we go to a BD degree like the European model then we will bring, IMHO, a greater number of illiterate preachers to the pulpit than we have now. If the BD is done at the expense of a Liberal Arts education.

    In defense of the 3 year MDiv degree, would you want a physician or lawyer to practice on you or for you who was not a well educated person and who only knew their "craft" well? Think about it--seriously!! :BangHead: And I know I am bashing my head against a wall here. There should be more education coupled with mentor ship or apprenticeship--not less. IMHO!!!

    There is more I can assert but I will wait until someone takes me to task.

    "That is all!"
     
  15. sag38

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    I think that language training is great. Is it absolutely necessary? No, it's not! Otherwise, you would knock a large percentage of called men out of contention. Then again, maybe that's the goal of the educational elitists.
     
  16. TomVols

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    elitists like Wesley, Piper, Luther, Vines, Olford, Hill.....:laugh:

    Why does asking preachers to know the languages of the Bible equal elitism?

    The elitism that exists is in reverse - that is, those who exalt their lack of knowledge of the Bible languages (all the while giving lipservice to praise such a knowledge, so it seems). Merely my opinion.
     
    #16 TomVols, Jun 2, 2010
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  17. TomVols

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    Moderator's note

    By the way, we're off topic. This language bashing thing has gotten to be a theme of late. Let's stay on topic. I've not helped...I've been in this too, defending the Bible languages, but let's keep our eye on the ball shall we? These are fellowship forums and not intended for derailing

    Sag, I posed a question to you so you have the right to respond. Carry on :)
     
    #17 TomVols, Jun 2, 2010
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  18. Baptist Believer

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    In my experience, my B.A. in Practical Theology from a Texas Baptist university prepared me more for ministry than my work at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (an SBC school).

    I was more challenged in my faith and taught to think in a theological fashion in my college classes than at seminary. Furthermore, more was demanded of me, both in classroom participation as well as papers, etc.

    For the record, I was in the M.Div program (including Biblical Languages) at Southwestern at the end of Dilday's presidency (Spring 1990), through the takeover, and into Hemphill's presidency (Spring 1995), and there wasn't much change in the level or quality of my seminary education. I was there for a long time because I had to work full-time to support myself and pay for school. Most of the time I felt I was doing remedial academic work.

    A number of good professors retired/resigned during that period and new ones came in, but it was still basically the same level of work -- about the level of an undergraduate program at a public university.

    From what I discern, the Religious Education school was not nearly as rigorous as the School of Theology.

    While I was at seminary, I looked up my former pastor's D.Min project in the library archive to see what interested him while he was in school. I was disappointed to see how poorly his project was researched and written, and that his theology on his project on tithing had a theology that could be most succinctly expressed as "God loves his obedient [in terms of tithing] children more than those who are less faithful [in tithing]."

    That project wouldn't have received a passing grade in any of my undergraduate courses, but it was apparently good enough for Southwestern to hand out a D.Min.
     
  19. gb93433

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    Had you taken Lorin Cranford for Greek and NT studies I am sure you would have a different opinion. In my second year Greek class was a student who had taken two years at another SBC school and he was behind those of us who had Cranford for just one year. In reality he had the equivalent of about 0.67 semesters compared to where we were.

    I noticed the the RE school was at a very low level. I had more in curriculum development and testing at the undergraduate level in a secular university than SWBTS gave their students. The RE school was more about how to use SBC materials.
     
  20. Dr. Bob

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    I am old enough to remember the change for 96 credits of graduate work from a BD to MDiv.

    There is no other professional degree requiring so many hours ABOVE a college/university level leading to just another bachelor's. That is demeaning.

    A glance at a college "New Testament Survey" and seminary "New Testament Introduction" might lead one to think it is repetitious or on an undergrad level. Anyone who has taken New Testament Introduction knows it as light years different.

    Many seminarians now come from secular undergrad programs and require some special work (say, Greek 101) to even start at a seminary level. Most seminaries have such non-credit "bonehead" programs. But coming from a Baptist college with a major or core of 30-40 credits undergrad in Bible-relating subjects, stepping into the harder grad-level courses is not as difficult.

    Just not sure what seminary (for credit, not catch-up) courses would be considered typical of undergrad work. I sure missed them! ;)
     

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