Too Many PhDs?

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Martin, Nov 18, 2008.

  1. Martin

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    This morning I was thinking about all the new PhD programs in Biblical Studies/Theology (etc) and I started wondering if there were too many such programs. In the past three years alone Southern Evangelical Seminary, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, and Piedmont Baptist College have started their own PhD programs. All of those programs are within driving distance of each other. While that is good news for those schools, I wonder what it does for the academic job market. After all in North Carolina (alone) we already have PhDs in theology being offered by Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and within moving distance is Bob Jones University, and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. There are others in the area as well, those are just the "major" names (liberal and conservative). What are all these new PhD graduates going to do? They can't all teach since there are not enough jobs for all of them. Sure, many of them are and will continue to be preachers. However in an already tight job market I have to wonder why so many people seem to be rushing to get a PhD in theology. It seems to me that some of these people would be better served either going into a different field of study or not pursuing a PhD (depending upon God's call in their lives). I also worry about what the large number of PhDs in theology is doing to the field as a whole. How many of these PhD graduates are actually researching and writing in their fields? Surely not all of them or even most of them.

    I am not saying that we should discourage people from earning a PhD in theology. After all, if they believe God has called them to do that then they should. However I do believe we should always caution people about taking that route. After all it would be ashame to earn a PhD for academic purposes and then not be able to find an academic job.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. EdSutton

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    Are you sure that UNC-Chapel Hill offers a PhD in Theology? I didn't find that, although, not surprisingly, given today's PC, they do offer a PhD in Islamic Studies, and a couple of general types that appear to touch on Christianity, including one on "Early Christianity," and some concerning "Mediterannean Religions, including Judaism. I'm pretty sure that one would be fairly hard pressed to find any at most 'State-type' Universities in the US, that would welcome anything much resembling something like Baptist 'Orthodox Theology,' or any "othrodox Christian Thelogy, from what I've seen, although I would hope to find out that I'm mistaken, here, in this.

    Ed
     
  3. Martin

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    ==Its the same thing. People seeking to teach at the University level would consider UNC-Chapel Hill's PhD program a door to a teaching career.


    ==UNC's School of Religion is as left-wing and liberal as you can get. After all Dr. Bart Ehrman teaches there.

    My point was simply that there are too many of these PhDs. I was not simply refering to conservative programs.
     
  4. Rhetorician

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    Martin Response

    Hello Martin et al,

    You have made a keen observation that I have commented concerning before. If a young (wo)man or man wants to get the terminal PhD in "theology" it would probably better to earn one in "Religion" proper. One thing that some "big name SBC" types have done was to go and get a PhD in Humanities from a secular state school. I dare not name the people or the institution for obvious reasons.

    Then what happens is this. If they have received their PhD from this secular and state university and they have their "union card" MDiv from one of the "Big Six" SBC school they can come back and teach in that context. This is the route that I tried to follow but got somewhat detoured, but that is another story "entire" (as Gomer Pyle would say).

    A few things that need to be known if a young person is going to do a PhD in any context.

    1. Study in a "big name school," Vanderbilt, Emory, Duke, UNC, etc.

    2. Study with a "big name" person, a person who is renown for his or her scholarship.

    3. Study a new subject matter, or old subject matter from a "new perspective."

    4. Do any or all of the above in combination.

    5. You must have something that sets you apart.

    6. Don't do it unless or until you know for sure that it is God's will for you to teach in the academe.

    7. You must have a friend who can help you get hired.

    8. You must trust in the Providence of God and his timing.

    There will be and is a glut of all PhDs whether RA/ATS seminary PhDs, TRACS PhDs, big name university PhDs, History PhDs, etc., et al.

    There are indeed way too many PhDs for the market place today in Religion and Theology.

    Make surest thou lookest before thou leapest!:laugh:

    "That is all!"
     
  5. TomVols

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    Like James Boice and Ryken, I'd like to see more Ph.Ds in the pastorate. That was my intent. Of course, I wanted to do some teaching here and there, but ultimately my Ph.D would've been geared toward pastoral ministry.
     
  6. Martin

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    ==My question about such "practical" PhDs is why not go the DMin route instead of the PhD? PhD is a research degree and not a practical degree. You wanted to do teaching and preaching, so the PhD would have worked well for you because you would have had to do research for your teaching position. However I wonder about people who are pastors who intend to do no academic teaching yet who still earn PhDs. Would they have been better served with a DMin? After all a research degree assumes the person is training to be an academic. I don't know the answer to that question. I am honestly asking.
     
  7. Martin

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    ==Very good advice. If a person is in a highly competitive job market, and higher education certainly is that, then they should do everything to make themselves stand out from the crowd. Anyone going the PhD route, in almost any field of academic study, should take your advice very seriously.

    ==Very true. In academics is it not "what" you know but "who" you know. People who don't have any inside connections need to start working on getting some. Networking is very important in higher education.

    ==Very, very, very true (Proverbs 3:5-6).
     
  8. TomVols

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    Ph.Ds in systematic theology, ethics, pastoral ministry, etc., can be very useful in pastoral/church ministry. I think too often we too quickly build a "theory vs. practical" dichotomy. Why does the theoretical/research based of necessity be impractical?

    I do not discount the usefulness of the Doctor of Ministry degree. That will likley ultimately be my choice. However, there will be (I hope) some research, systematic theology, etc. to it instead of just practicum and experiential studies.

    remember too that Ph.D. work can include "practical" work and occasionally you get some theological/foundational studies in a D.Min program.

    Shouldn't a local church pastor have some academic foundation? At one time, the most educated man in a community was the pastor. Why have we watered this down?

    Boice rightly argues that the needs of the local church demands scholarship from its pastor. His excellent chapter on this in The Preacher and Preaching" ed by Logan, P&R, is requisite reading for any preacher (read the entire book for that matter).
     

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