Should pastors get PhDs

Earlier today I posted a link to a video of John Piper discussing whether pastors should get PhDs. That video has begun to make its way around the blogosphere and has prompted a really thoughtful response (both appreciative and critical) from Dane Ortlund. Nick Norelli has also weighed in with a brief comment in favor of Piper’s overall take on the subject. I’d encourage you to watch the video, and then I’d like to hear what you think. I’d also be interested to know if you think that his arguments extend to Th.M. programs as well.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on May 18, 2010, in Th.M. Program and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. a) It is pretty uncontroversial to recognize that a pastor doesn’t need a PhD to do pastoral ministry. No degree is actually necessary to be a pastor. In my denomination, the M.Div. is basically a stamp that says, “this guy has been academically trained and equipped to be a pastor in our tradition and should be ready to take ordination exams.” Theoretically, you could take your ordination exams and pass without getting an M.Div (though you would have had to pick up Greek, Hebrew, Church history, theology, and knowledge of sacraments from somewhere before you show up at presbytery).

    b) Piper’s reasoning sounded a bit anti-intellectual and pietistic, however. Whether you are doing academia or pastoral ministry there is a lot of stuff you read or have to keep up with that is “junk,” e.g. Eckhart Tolle, The Shack, etc. Further, Paul exhorts Christians not to be held captive to “philosophy and empty deceit.” One take away from that would be that we should read some “junk,” so that we can recognize it (lest we be captive and not know it). Maybe he was just saying that it is not practical to get a PhD. But it didn’t sound like that.

    c) No. Piper’s arguments don’t extend to the Th.M., though like a Ph.D., it isn’t necessary to have one to pastor. But if you can get additional education as you go, why not? In most other jobs its actually commendable to pursue development opportunities.

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