Monday, December 5, 2011

Some Advice for the Young and Aspiring Theologian

Last year I completed my Master’s degree, and, by God’s grace, I am going to begin my Ph.D. in New Testament studies in 2013 (which, right now, seems far away, but I think it will be upon me before I know it…). With that said, I have a few advisory items for the young and aspiring biblical studies/theology student:

  1. Read Helmut Thielicke's "A little exercise for young theologians".
  2. If you have the means, get a formal biblical/theological education (e.g. M.Div, MTS, D.Min, Ph.D.), it will give you more “street cred”.
  3. Complete as much education as possible before getting married.
  4. Once you are married, complete as much education as possible before having children.
  5. Read and pray.
  6. Do not go to the same school for more than one degree (i.e. do not go to Moody Bible for both undergraduate and graduate education). It will be most beneficial to “mix it up”.
  7. Complete your Master’s degree at an evangelical seminary.
  8. Do not complete your Ph.D. at an evangelical seminary.
  9. Read just as much literature from those you disagree with, as you do from your theological “buddies”.
  10. Begin the task of writing now. Whether it is blogs, articles, or books, get started now. This exercise will benefit you in the end.
  11. Learn the languages (e.g. Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and German – for starters).
  12. Read and pray. A lot.
  13. Do not be afraid to be wrong (i.e. stay humble).


  1. Just curious, why do you say to not get your Ph.D. from an evangelical seminary?

  2. I have two primary reasons (remember though, I haven't yet begun my Ph.D., so once I've finished I might change my perspective): 1.) I don't know of an evangelical seminary that would carry the same level of academic prestige than that of a secular institution (e.g. the various UK schools, Harvard, Princeton, etc.). 2.) I like the idea of establishing your foundational theological principles while attending an evangelical seminary (although you will be certainly challenged with variant theological perspectives), and then hopefully having those principles significantly challenged at the doctoral level by a "non-evangelical". But I am certainly open to being persuaded otherwise :)

  3. Spot-on, man. Some of this is advice I wish I had had before getting this far. I will add that even if you can't abide by all the rules on this list, it's better to do it as well as you can than not to do it at all. E.g., if you can't do it before mariage or children don't use that as an excuse not to do it.

    And I especially agree with your comments about doing one's PhD at a non-evangelical school. If you can hold your own in that milieu then you know you have what it takes to make a difference theologically in the academy.

    Excellent post.