Mark Dever on the PhD and the Pulpit: “On Having a Doctorate in the Pastorate”

Should a pastor have a PhD? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? Mark Dever spoke on the assigned topic: “Why a PhD is Needed in the Pulpit” (mp3) but changed the title to “On Having a Doctorate in the Pastorate.” I outlined his brief remarks below and included some quotes from the questions and answers segment I found helpful.

Here’s the archive description: “Opening remarks and question/answer session conducted at the Feb. 27, 2002 meeting of the Graduate Club in the President’s Reception Room, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Five Reasons a PhD May be Helpful for Pastoral Ministry

  1. It may be helpful for the matter of what you study. If you pick something you’re edified by it can assist and help your ministry.
  2. It may be helpful from the very form of the studies. Doctoral studies should improve your ability to research and at best your ability to think.
  3. It may be helpful for the ministry you have while you’re in your doctoral studies.
  4. It may be helpful for the connections you make through your studies. Consider the community and relationships you’ll build which may serve your ministry in the future.
  5. It may be helpful for the credibility you may have with non-Christians and carnal Christians and Christians you don’t know very well.

A PhD is Certainly Unnecessary for Pastoral Ministry

  1. Great learning can be ill-used.
    1. You can become prideful.
    2. You can do people little good – you may speak above people’s comprehension.
  2. Little learning can be well-used
    1. John Owen on John Bunyan – “If I could possess that tinker’s abilities for preaching I would most gladly relinquish all my learning.”

Conclusion: “Involvement in a good church is unquestionably far more helpful in the pastorate than a doctorate. But a doctorate can be useful in the pastorate. To say less would be misleading, but to say more, any more, would be false.”

Questions and Answer highlights:

  • Sibbes, the subject of Dever’s PhD studies, edified and affected Dever with his meditations and concerns.
  • “There’s no question. If I had to weigh out my time in England between my involvement with the church and ministry or the doctoral work at Cambridge I learned far more from my time in the church and ministry than I did from doctoral studies. The doctoral studies were good. I don’t at all regret it. It was good. But yeah, it’s no contest.”
  • Dever did a PhD because he planned to teach not be a senior pastor. If he knew he was going to be a senior pastor he probably would not have done a PhD.
  • Not all pastors should get a PhD. Most shouldn’t. Some should. It depends on the person. And there are various recommendations in between.
  • (12:05): “I don’t think you have to have an M.Div. to be a pastor. Now, do I think there are advantages to it, sure, particularly the original languages. And the kind of study of church history and systematic theology. But beyond that… [I suggest] we just close down certain parts of the seminary. It would be best to turn those things back over to the churches.”
  • (16:23): “It’s not uncommon to have a pastor who writes, who’s an author. But to have a pastor as a scholar, to be able to keep up scholarly work, that is difficult.”

Other links related to this topic:

  1. John Piper’s thoughts on the PhD and the pastorate. I’ve found this very helpful and clarifying as to what to look for if a pastor (or aspiring pastor) were to go into further studies.
  2. Three SBTS professors on the PhD and the pastorate.
  3. Hiestand, Gerald. “A Taxonomy of the Pastor-Theologian: Why PhD Students Should Consider the Pastorate as the Context for Their Theological Scholarship.” Some highlights of this 12 page article/essay are posted here.
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About pjtibayan

I love Jesus Christ and live to share life and share Jesus together with First Southern Baptist Church of Bellflower primarily to Southeast Los Angeles County.
This entry was posted in Audio/Video Recommendations, Mark Dever, Pastoral ministry. Bookmark the permalink.

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