Top Five Issues Facing Aspiring Theologians

Recently a good friend of mine (Ben) told me to stop making mention of other topics and to write my top five of this and that because he much rather read my original posts. He gave me a list of top five things to write about, which will last for about 3 days, but I like the idea, and maybe it will be easier to keep me blogging for the time being. I feel now as if i am out of seminary, I have not much to say, but maybe I can still try to add my two cents to the blogosphere this way.

One area that he made mention to me to write was the five issues facing aspiring theologians. Although I feel as no theologian, I differently wish I was, and I wish I was doing it full-time. However it is those issues that have stopped me, or keep me from becoming a theologian, that may keep a number of “want-to-be” theologians from doing what their hearts desire.

1. Competitive – The field of scholarship in theology at this time is as competitive as it has ever been. With the fall of the US economy, has taken its toll on the Christian Bible college and university in particular to donors. With that, the first thing out the door to go is the theologian, because of the accreditation requirements in the other departments. Making fewer jobs, for more up and coming theologians, making the field very competitive. The real problem in this is that the young theologian (25-35 years-old) has a more competitive field than those that have already been teaching for the past 10-20 years. Why is that you ask, because Bible colleges, Christian universities and seminaries rather hire a 40-60 year old man who has served 20 plus years in the pulpit or in ministry than hire a 30-year old who has just graduated with his Ph.D. and worked a part-time job to make it by the past 12-years.

2. Money – The cost of education is getting ridiculous in the US. Even more, the Christian/Bible college is jacking up their prices to cover the students they are losing to only then lose more students who decided to go to a community college or state university because paying $20,000 a year for a Bible college education is just stupid when one can pay $6,000 a year at a state university after scholarships and grants. But what is the issue that the upcoming theologian faces with this? Bachelor degree at a Bible college for room and board, and education is about $80,000 for four years. Then adding the M.Div. in a seminary. For example Westminster Theological Seminary at $415 a credit hour, taking their 111 credit M.Div. is going to cost you $46,065 and that is without housing. Then after you have gone to school for 8-years, you get to spend another 3-5 (depending the school) years working on your Ph.D. I do believe that these three steps are a must, and in no way should a teacher or a pastor lessen or skip his Biblical training because he one he does not have the time, two the money, or three and worst of all just wants to get into ministry. I myself looking into Ph.D. programs have realized now at this point at finding more money, more funds and more time to do my Ph.D. is hard. Money for example, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is $45,000 for the degree let alone housing and books. If you want to study in Europe, Whales Theological school was $40,000 let alone the books, flights and stay while there, and Highland Theological school was $50,000 let alone the rest.

Here is the biggest issue the theologians faces. In some cases, if you are called to the pastorate, the church helps you along, pays for your M.Div. or maybe your denomination cuts tuition in half like the Southern Baptist. If you want to be a theologian you are in most cases stuck with having to come up with the $175,000 over 12-years while attending classes full-time, let alone if your married.

3. Family – And if you are married, then comes the next obstacle, being able to balance the life of a full-time husband, maybe a full-time father, then part-time or full-time work on top of one’s studies. After marriage comes a new life that the want to be theologian did not think of while doing his bachelors or maybe his master degree. By the time a Ph.D. rolls around, his time and goals are spent differently than what he had thought they would be 4 years previously.

4. Years –  It takes a great deal of self-discipline to remain in so many years of schooling after enduring so many pervious years in middle school, jr. high, than high school. You then see that you have another 12-13 years to go, and it can get tiresome. the real theologian will fall in love with his studies and find enjoyment in knowing God, learning theology and be able to share his wisdom he has learnt with the local church, but the amount of years it takes in order to even apply to become a professor is one long road.

5. Where -Where you go to school will effect the places you teach for the rest of your life. For someone such as myself, applying for teaching jobs over the past 6-months it is a hassle in constantly explaining to people why I have a bachelor degree from a classical dispensational school and two master degrees from a traditional reformed seminary and I am not either. If you attend a seminary, most cases you will not being teaching in Ohio State’s religion department. If you have a degree from Westminster, Greenville, or Puritan you will not be teaching much at Ashland University any time soon. And if you have a Ph.D. from Baptist Bible College, you will most likely not be the next theologian at Reformed Theological Seminary. Where you attend seminary, your Biblical training, and degrees matters to your future employers. The issue that many young theologians do not think of is that where they went to school has an important role where they can teach in the future.

I end with a personal story about this. It was September 2007 and I was sitting in an Old Testament Introduction class when it hit me that I wanted to teach like this professor the rest of my life. I knew I had to attend grad-school or a seminary to get more training and at some point get a Ph.D. I decided Puritan Reformed Seminary for a number of reasons (Maybe I’ll do a post on that later) and no clue where I’d do my Ph.D. It was July 2009 sitting in front of Calvin’s cathedral talking with Drs. Michael Horton and Darryl Hart, when they asked me, “where do you want to teach, or in what setting” and my answer was liberal arts college or the university setting doing introductions to theology and the Bible in a religion department. They laughed a bit and and Dr. Horton said, have fun trying that. I asked them, why? does that sound hard? To which Dr. hart responded to me and I’ll never forget, “Michael, you have a seminary degree, there is no secular college, university, or liberal arts school that will ever offer you a job, let alone allow you to attend their school for a Ph.D. because you simply went to a seminary.”

Since then my own plans have changed, I just want to teach in a high-school, in a college, maybe one day a Christian University. I am looking myself where I can do my Ph.D., under who, where, and how to pay for it, but until I do, the chances of myself teaching in a college setting does not seem like it is going to happen anytime soon.

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4 Comments on “Top Five Issues Facing Aspiring Theologians”

  1. Ben T. says:

    Was just chatting with a co-worker about this yesterday — specifically the issue of financial support. Either seminary is way too expensive, or churches have fundamentally failed to support their ministerial candidates. I guess it’s probably some combination of both. I think the OPC is the only major denomination that has a program in place to support their seminarians.

  2. The OPC barley does anything for their seminaries I thought – at least it was that way in MI. A reason why the PCA may not help much, or any at all if because of the number of men waiting to fill their pulpits. They have tons of pastors in waiting.

    It is much easier to help your seminaries when you are a small denomination, like the FRC, HRC, RPCNA, FRCSC, or FPC. But also, the smaller denominations have their own seminaries which can help cut on the cost like that of the SBC with their seminaries.

    I really would like to see the reformed denominations have better affliction with one or two particular denominations. Then I could see where Covenant Seminary fell into being that they have FVs at their sem.

  3. Kyle says:

    The OPC has no official set program, it’s dependent on the presbytery.

  4. Thanks Borg for saying this. Ben lives in Philly where the OPC thrive and seem to have a set system unlike …. well you know.


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