Dave Black’s advice on Doctoral work

well, to the propsective doctoral student is here.

an excerpt:

Here’s something else I tell prospective students. All other things being equal, you will want a university doctorate rather than a seminary doctorate. I am not saying that seminaries do not offer excellent Ph.D.s, and I am certainly not saying that students should not earn their doctorates from SEBTS. But, I think, mature students fare less well in the typical seminary curriculum than in the more research-oriented program in most universities. The irony is that your favorite professor might very well teach in a seminary, in which case it will be obvious where you ought to study! When I ended up in Basel it was largely because I didn’t want to suffer through the busy work of the typical U.S. seminary Ph.D. program, and I most certainly did not want to get my theological education second hand. I was not disappointed on either count. Basel was for researchers who could work independently.

I have heard this too – study at a University if you can.  I think you should go where ever God tells you to go but then God desires a relationship with us, not a religion (he might be the big boss upstairs, but then again, most people don’t have a relationship with their boss do they?) So, hey, if you go to a University or to a Seminary, I think God will be pleased with you and bless you either way!!

That said, based on your career goals, if you want to teach then yeah, I’d say shoot for earning a University degree as much as possible.  Go where the greats went!

I have a book on the Synoptic Gospels too written by Dr. Black’s Doktorvater, Bo Reicke.  I need to pick it up again and learn from him!  🙂


3 responses to “Dave Black’s advice on Doctoral work

  1. That was a great article you linked to Brian. I was just visiting with a new Master’s student at my Seminary a few weeks ago who was curious about my “love” for books. He was Burmese and was sharing with me how different I seemed from his culture where elders were revered above books and how such things as the love of books seemed rather obscure and strange. I went on to share with him that though I loved reading (and collecting books) it was really actually a love of the writers. I had found mentors in men like Bonhoeffer, Lewis and Barth, Wright and Piper, Calvin and Luther, Tertullian, Augustine and the Desert Fathers, and on and on. My love for books was not really a love of books, but having found godly men who had gone before me and could mentor me in the journey ahead. They left a legacy of wisdom and I felt I needed to hear what they had to say as they reflected on life and the Church in the light of Scripture. In other words, I’m forever chasing “mentors” in the faith even dead ones (and some that aren’t dead, but that I’m not able to spend one-on-one time with…at least at the moment). The Seminary I am attending (though location was very important) was ultimately decided by me because of several of the faculty (one who left last year and was a rising Barth and Bonhoeffer scholar and the other who is the President and is a significant OT Hebrew scholar).

    I am still in the process of trying to determine what to do about my own Ph.D. studies in the next couple of years and so this article was very relevant and timely. I’ve actually been in talks with several schools (for several different reasons). The problem is that life is not always as simple as find the scholar and study with them. I still appreciate the article. Plenty of food for thought.

  2. I think the author has made a mistake. The research doctorates are not done at American universities, but in the European system. All American schools have plenty of coursework to go along with your dissertation. In the European system you work on your own. Check a couple of course catalogs and see if this is not the case.

    I, an older if not truly mature student, believe that I benefited greatly from my coursework at seminary. Even though I had just graduated from AGTS, I still had much to learn. The ramped-up courses and the interaction with my fellow students in those courses was invaluable in honing my thinking and research skills.

    Gary McGee counselled me against the European system. His belief is that if you want to teach, the research-based option will not prepare you as well. I now agree. By paying attention to pedagogy at both AGTS and Concordia, I believe that I am much more prepared to teach.

    The European system also has hidden busy-work. Seminars are offered that students are encouraged, but not required, to attend. At the end of the year, however, they will be tested on the subject taught in the seminar. Sure, you could read and prepare on your own, but you’re better off attending.

  3. I hear what you are saying Bob – I know Dr Aker advised University studies though not necessarily overseas University studies per se. I know a couple students at Baylor who are doing well but then I know plenty too who have seminary based PhDs and they do well too – which is why I tried to note one should go where one wants to go.

    Perhaps it all depends on where you want to teach too and what you want to teach – not sure a seminary based PhD will be able to get a teaching position at a general Christian University such as Seattle Pacific University or some other similar school unless they have really good connections but I could be wrong – so I think there can be lots of factors involved in deciding where to go – though I really appreciate hearing the input of Dr McGee. I really appreciate you commenting!

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