Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What to Do with a PhD?

I’ve already written on a defense of the PhD in general before. This time, I’d rather write about why I am doing a PhD. That is, I will write about what I expect or what I’d like to do with such a degree, Lord willing.

In one of the points of that article, I said I would want to use my PhD in service of the church. I’ve come to realize how serious that is, and I want to think though, almost in a stream-of-consciousness post, how I might go about doing that.

My PhD would be in either philosophy or theology. So how might that help? Well, given my biblical studies and church ministries backgrounds, I would hope that rigorous philosophical thinking would contribute in some way. First, I could help teach believers how to think theologically, viewing the Bible as a whole. Second, I could help believers in the area of biblical interpretation. This second point is perhaps the biggest contribution I could make in the faith of the layman (depending on the person, of course). This is because believers can be taught basic doctrines, and even the basic reasoning behind these doctrines. This is surely important. However, in order to help them to take better steps in using the Scriptures themselves, they need to be able to understand how to interpret what they see before them. If there is one widespread error in the church today, it’s a failure to interpret properly.

Next, I can also assist in Christian apologetics and Christian philosophy. These two areas focus on every part of the Christian life. As the world around us turns more and more against the Christian faith, both in intellectual and cultural ways, Christians are going to want to know how their faith works in the world—or if it even does at all. A PhD in philosophy and theology is better equipped, on average, than laymen to help address these issues (please note this is stream-of-consciousness and not meant to impart an idea of superiority, any more than saying a pastor is better equipped to counsel implies pastoral superiority). It is perhaps the case that young people will not feel compelled to choose between what everything in the intellectual world is telling them and their Christian faith. As it turns out, they don’t have to!

All of this considered, I could do this as a Sunday school teacher, small group leader, conference speaker, and assistant pastor. Perhaps I will see all of these roles over the course of my ministry. I want to equip believers, and although a PhD is not necessary for any of these things, it will be a help for them.

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