Theological PhDs

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Martin, May 31, 2006.

  1. Martin

    Martin
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    Today I was looking at several PhD programs in Church History/Historical Theology (etc). What programs! Wow! :eek:

    The admissions standards, and graduation requirements...

    Nine hours of Greek...
    Nine hours of Hebrew...

    Two modern research languages (German and one other).

    And on, and on I could go....

    When I compare this to "doctorate" programs at some other "schools" ;) that only require listening to some tapes and taking some notes...what a difference. Imagine how much more a person will learn in a PhD program at Southern (SBTS) or Trinity Evangelical (TEDS) or Southeastern (SEBTS) than some of these lesser "doctorate" programs.

    Sorry, this just hit me today. I guess I knew it, but today it just HIT me. Wow, what a difference.

    If you want to learn, get in the program that will challenge you the most.

    Avoid the easy programs.

    Martin. :thumbs:
     
  2. Brandon C. Jones

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    Is this the part when I say that I had/have a friend who has dozens of accredited degrees but this particular program at X unaccredited school was way tougher than them all?

    I suppose I'm biased...I just spent almost 2 years trying to get into a theological studies doctoral program. After being rejected by quite a few places, God has graciously answered my prayers and I'm headed to Calvin Theological Seminary in August up in Grand Rapids. Now I am cramming German in time for my language test in September.

    My goal? To teach and preach God's Word and do it to the best of my ability.

    sincerely,
    BJ
     
  3. preachinjesus

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    PhDs require a wealth of knowledge at the start so they don't have to wait for the students to ramp up like MDiv studies. Helps allow the student to get the most out of their seminars and research.

    I school's requirements for their PhD is probably a good indicator of the quality of their instruction and degree (imho)
     
  4. Rhetorician

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    Martin et al,

    You are just now finding out what Broadus, Dr. Bob, UzThD, myself and many many others have been trying to argue for at least since I have been on the BB.

    Some of us who have the DMin degree have also done PhD and advanced standing work equivalent to the PhD. It is not at all easy, especially at the places you have mentioned. Those programs are equal to and in some aspects surpass Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, & Cambridge.

    For some reason people (some of God's servants and ministers) want an easy road and not the one that is tried and true. None of us would want to go to an MD or a surgeon who got his degree the quickest and easiest way possible through "Billy Bob's Drive Through University." But, we think it is OK to have a "gimme" Doctor of Divinity given so we will have the name and have the status of the title.

    I really get amused with those who get published in "Sword of the Lord" and such. They have started or help to start their little "church school" and so bestow on themselves the title and pomp and circumstance that the title brings.

    Just a plug for the DMin. It is built upon a 90 hour Master of Divinity. It has a three year internship like a medical doctor. It then has from 30-50 hrs and a written project/dissertation from 75 to 150 pages. Ask someone from the school where Haddon Robinson teaches Homiletics if there DMin was scholarly and rigorous or not?

    FWIW!

    sdg!

    rd
     
    #4 Rhetorician, Jun 1, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2006
  5. PastorSBC1303

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    I don't know about the DMin where Haddon Robinson teaches, but I do know about the DMin in Expository Preaching at Southern. I am approaching my final seminar and working on my project/dissertation right now. It has been a great experience, but in many ways has flat whipped me. It is a lot of work. But I would hightly recommend it to anyone interested!
     
  6. TomVols

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    Up until only a few years ago, the D.Min students at SBTS spent more time in the classroom than the Ph.D. folks did. No legit, accredited doctoral program is anything to sneeze at. Even though Columbia Evangelical Seminary is not accredited, their doctoral programs are very rigorous from folks I've known who have done theirs there. I think Whitefield Theological Seminary in Florida is the same way. But those are exceptions.
     
  7. Charles Meadows

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    The PhD degree is generally quite labor-intensive. I'm envious of those who are enrolling in programs! I would have loved to do it. But for now I just study in my spare time. At least I don't have to take tests!
     
  8. Joseph M. Smith

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    Does a PhD really serve a pastor well? The dissertation process involves investing a huge amount of time and energy into a relatively narrow subject -- like the use of a given Hebrew verb or the contributions of a particular figure in church history or in systematic theology. How does this equip a person for pastoral work, where one must be at least literate on many things? At one point I fancied myself PhD material, but circumstances ... no, the Lord ... intervened. A dozen years after my BD (as it was called then) I completed a DMin, and found that broad enough to equip me for campus ministry first and then a pastorate. Isn't the key thing that one needs to develop the discipline to study, on his own, what he needs to know?

    But if you intend an academic career, and are reasonably confident you are going to be teaching in just one field, then the PhD makes sense.
     
  9. Rhetorician

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    PhD Response

    Mr. Smith,

    Before I begin, I would beg Broadus to come in here and help me from his first hand knowledge and experience.

    Sir, I would say that the PhD (if indeed it is a REAL PhD like one from SBTS, SEBTS, Gordon-Conwell, Wheaton, TEDS, et al) is the BEST training for pastoral work one could have. This is true for many reasons but I will name only a few.

    First, the pastor (IMHO) should be first and foremost a researcher, writer, scholar, etc. to bring a true "Word from God to the people." This demands rigor, focus, language, history, and all of the disciplines so the "the man of God can rightly divide the Word of God"

    Secondly, by example of some of the great divines of the Reformation and Puritan era and formative years of the American Church the great intellects were the ones who set the standard(s) for all of the others. Learning and time in the study was the MAIN THING not a tacked on thing, it was what the minister did first and foremost.

    Thirdly, the minister of today takes degrees, learning, study, credentialing, and professional training of whatever type for granted. Let's face it, it is easier to work with a committee, visit the hospital, or go to a denominational meeting that it is to "study to show thyself approved!"

    Fourthy, (and let me preach a little if I may?), the preacher of today is really LAZY on many levels. It is easy to read the latest "Handfuls on Purpose" and "get himself a sermon" than it is to spend 20-25 hours in the study to "mine out of the 'mine of the books'" a real sermon and one of his own.

    Granted, there are some people who cannot get more education. But, my inference from your post is that the PhD is just wasted on pastoral ministry. Nothing could be further from the truth. And if that is the purpose and intent of what you said (and if it is not then please forgive and correct me), then I think it is 180 degrees out of sync like a car that has had the distributor put in back wards.

    IMHO!!!:thumbs:

    sdg!

    rd
     
  10. Charles Meadows

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    I'm not so sure Rhet...

    Now granted I am NOT a pastor so I don't claim to speak from experience here. But the degree of academic specialty in the PhD training may not be tailored for the needs of the average church. It is true that many great theologians of yesteryear were pastors and scholars - but that doesn't mean everyone is capable of that.

    I'm an amateur linguist (Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Arabic, some German, Aramaic, and Coptic). I do not purport to have a scholar's mastery of any of these languages. But I have studied enough scholarly works to realize that linguistics is much more than 12 semesters of Greek and Hebrew using works based on 19th century scholarship. I think that a high degree of skill in a certain area will obviously have great benefits in that area. But I am not convinced that the necessary amount of time spent in that special area is the best use of that time.

    The average churchgoer needs practical teaching, not lectures on verbal aspect or the "New Perspective". For all the diverse needs a pastor must fill it is my opinion that the PhD degree is not the best use of that time - too much time spent in a small area of study.

    My opinion.
     
  11. Rhetorician

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    Opinion

    Charles,

    I have always and still do respect your opinion. "Iron sharpeneth Iron" does it not?

    I remain fraternally yours!

    sdg!

    rd
     
  12. TomVols

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    Charles,
    I agree with you that the person in the pew needs "practical training." However, why do we assume that a person with a Ph.D. cannot impart practical sermons or discipling/mentoring? As Rhet has said, the pastor is to be a pastor-teacher, a scholar among his people. The pastor who knows his greek, hebrew and systematic theology can be far better equipped to deal with a 13 year old whose dad just died suddenly than those who do not.
    The assumption seems to be that the scholars go to academia and the leftovers pastor churches. BLAH! There is no better place for the scholar/shepherd than the pastorate. Sadly, I had to abandon my plans for a Ph.D. due to financial reasons and my parents' failing health. I still plan on advancing my education (and I read voraciously, keeping up with whatever the Ph.D. boys are reading in theology and preaching) to make sure my people have a scholar/shepherd. For me to do anything less means I am not making full proof of my ministry.

    Aside from that, Rhet deserves a big "AMEN!" :thumbsup:
     
  13. StefanM

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    I don't think Charles was saying a person with a PhD couldn't do those things. I think he was stating the obvious--that the Ph.D is not geared for that end, unless maybe you get a Ph.D. in homiletics or in some religious education field (I'm not up on these requirements, so I could be wrong).

    The Ph.D. is an academic research degree, as we all know. Certainly, a pastor will glean valuable information in PhD studies. The question, however, is it worth the 4 or more years of narrowly-focused study post-MDiv? I think that depends on the individual.

    IMO, the DMin. is usually a better option for most pastors. Let's face it--most ministers either do not have the academic ability, finances, or the time to complete a PhD, and the D.Min. is an immensely more practical option that does not require uprooting a family. Plus, as we have seen, solid D.Min. programs are rigorous and challenging. When paired with a rigorous M.Div. course of study, a pastor is excellently prepared for ministry.

    The Ph.D. is a good option for those who desire the intensely academic road, but it should not be expected of everyone--not even of most.
     
  14. PastorSBC1303

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    I agree. If a person has the opportunity and desire to pursue a PhD that is great and they should go for it.

    However, not everyone has the opportunity or leading from the Lord to do so. A PhD does not make a pastor.
     
  15. Broadus

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    At Rhet's behest :) , I will belatedly join this conversation.

    I agree that not everyone needs to do a PhD, but I would love to see more Baptist pastors with that level of training.

    A PhD need not be so minutely focused as to be of no practical benefit for the pastorate. For instance, my PhD dissertation in church history at SBTS (I was graduated at the age of 48 in December '03---it's rarely ever too late!) is entitled From Biblical Fidelity to Organizational Efficiency: The Gospel Ministry from English Separatism of the Late Sixteenth Century to the Southern Baptist Convention of the Early Twentieth Century. I find my historical research, in which I dug through reams of primary source material, immensely helpful in my own pastorate.

    Not only was my dissertation research and writing helpful to my pastorate, but the discipline of rigorous seminars and the requirement of critical thinking aid in my own exposition of the Scriptures each Lord's Day. Can someone gain such skills elsewhere? Absolutely. Does one need more than an MDiv, or even an MDiv, to have an effective ministry? Not necessarily. Nevertheless, we live in a culture where gaining advanced training has never been more readily accessible in all of church history. We ought to take advantage of such opportunities as much as we can.

    As an aside, I find the level of thinking in our Baptist churches and among our pastors to be alarmingly poor. We know how to get people to "join the cause," build bigger buildings, and support every-growing budgets. Do we, however, know how to help our folks biblically respond to an increasingly pagan culture with more than "churchy" platitudes? I think that PhD training, as well as solid DMin programs, help train the pastor to have such a ministry in equipping the saints.

    Blessings,
    Bill
     
  16. Rhetorician

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    To all who have an ear:

    Now folk; that is why I wanted my colleague in ministry to come into the conversation and offer his scholarly and well as experiential observations.
    They are always timely and pleasantly accurate. I trust you immensely. I count it a real treasure to have come to know you through and by the BB medium.

    Thank you Bro. "Broadus!"

    sdg!

    rd
     
  17. PastorSBC1303

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    Great point here as well. It amazes me at times to be around some fellow pastors and leaders in churches.
     
  18. Charles Meadows

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    Tomvols wrote:

    The pastor who knows his greek, hebrew and systematic theology can be far better equipped to deal with a 13 year old whose dad just died suddenly than those who do not.

    That is true. But a good background in Christian counseling is going to be more of an asset than an in depth knowledge of Greek or systematic theology in this particular case.

    PhDs spend a large amount of time researching a small area of study. The knowledge they gain is always (well almost always) an asset. No one will dispute that. But the DMin is more focused on the needs of a minister, such as counseling, homiletics, psychology, etc.

    I am not a pastor but I know many very well, including my father in law. He never got ANY degree but is a powerful preacher and is well read in salient issues.

    Remember the average person in a church needs a shepherd and a spiritual leader - not a linguist or history teacher. These are not bad skills - I am pursuing them myself! But they are not necessary for one to have in order to be an effective pastor.
     
  19. TomVols

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    In responding to my example about a pastor giving pastoral care to a teen who lost his father, Charles wrote:
    What gives the pastor his underpinning for his counseling? His theology :thumbs: Theology underlies everything the pastor does. All theology is pastoral; all pastoral ministry is theological.
    Charles also said:
    Everyone in the church needs a shepherd and spiritual leader. No one is arguing what you are arguing against. My position is that a sound understanding of the Bible and its doctrines that can be gleaned from seminary training at the masters and doctoral levels is vital to the pastoral role. I am not arguing that you can't pastor unless you have a Ph.D. I am simply arguing against the caricature that Ph.Ds can't pastor :D
     
  20. Broadus

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    Hi Charles,

    I don't think you intended to do so, but your observation presents a false dichotomy, in my opinion. After almost 30 years in the ministry, my observation is that "the average person in a church" needs a shepherd, a spiritual leader, and a linguist (at least enough of one to exegete and exposit accurately the Word of God), a history teacher (history reflects the workings of Providence), as well as a theologian. These are all necessary to be an effective pastor.

    Again, this does not mean that one has achieved advanced academic standing in all of these areas. It does mean that they are deemed important. The "pastoral" duties become mere religious emotionalism and sentimentality if now grounded in sound biblical and theological knowledge. And, of course, if the Holy Spirit does not bless our work, it is all for naught.

    I fully believe that my most effective "counseling" takes place when I exposit the Scriptures each Sunday. As my people understand more clearly the Bible, they are better able to handle the crises which inevitably arise. Actually, I firmly believe that my preaching and teaching decrease the need for personal counseling.

    Many pastors have overcome inadequate training and have been a special blessing to their congregations. However, there is less reason for not being adequately trained in our day. I have observed, also, many congregations which have been harmed because of inadequately trained ministers.

    Blessings,
    Bill
     

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