status

Why the Languages are Important for a PhD

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been devoting myself to learning theological French in order to satisfy my second research language requirement prior to my comprehensive examinations.

There is often a push and pull in a PhD program about any number of the requirements. As I’ve seen in my evaluations of different programs before actually entering one, the requirements are often the same across the board. Particularly for those of us pursuing PhDs in a humanities subject (such as theology, history, etc) one of the requirements are two research languages. On my degree completion plan, I have the option of any of two of three research languages: German, French, and Latin.

Not too long ago there was a bit of a dust up about whether or not PhDs in New Testament needed to know Greek for their final examinations. It resulted in a good conversation around the blogosphere. Why a PhD in New Testament should be able to graduate without reading knowledge of Greek is a mystery to me. A PhD, more than any other degree in the university curriculum, should demonstrate mastery of a field of research. So, along those lines, I have no problem stating:

Research languages (i.e. foreign) are important and should continue to be required for those pursuing PhDs in humanities subjects.

Part of proper scholarship is the engagement with a broad array of thinkers and scholars. To best do this, being able to get outside of the box that one’s primary language creates allows access to some who will stretch a student/scholar’s abilities and thought processes. Even today, when we have more access to translated scholarship, there still remains a substantial body of literature outside the English language that should be engaged. Online translating tools, such as Google Translate, remain unreliable and often give incorrect translations of texts as they lack the ability to distinguish nuance.

In my own studies, in historical ecclesiology, I’ve encountered a number of works that meet this classification. For my dissertation, one of the key works that I am using is by a German scholar of the late 1800s, Rudolph Sohm. In writing Kirchenrecht, Sohm argues that the earliest churches had no ecclesiastical constitution but were ruled by a charisma (understood differently than the charismatics of today) which provided leadership for those who were seen as gifted by God. This is an essential point for my work on the role of local church autonomy in the early churches. However, Sohm’s work has never been translated into English. (A challenge I might take up…after my dissertation.)

Other examples abound.

Having competency in two research languages allows one to engage in this kind of broader research and fill out the views that would be other otherwise unavailable to the student.

Along these lines it is important to note this: a PhD isn’t a gimme degree.

Too many students believe that just because they pay tuition and submit assignment they deserve a degree. Our entire higher education system has become a secondary entitlement program where students demand degrees and passable grades for shoddy work.

Because a PhD is a rigorous degree it should also have requirements that are equally rigorous.

To be honest, over the past month I’ve been staying up until about 2 AM most mornings working on my French so I might pass a competency exam. This isn’t fun, but it is absolutely worth it. There are certainly other things I could be doing, but because I’m enrolled in a PhD program I have purposely set aside these things to pursue a higher calling. Languages are difficult and add an important step of rigor to a PhD.

PhDs are important degrees for those who desire the highest levels of intellectual engagement and academic accomplishment. If you cannot learn two research languages that might be a good indication that you aren’t cut out for a PhD. This likely will sound like a kind of elitist, and it certainly is. We should have no illusions that a PhD is as simple to achieve as an undergraduate degree. The language requirements of a PhD are an effective vetting mechanism to ensure that the highest qualified students (note, this is intellectual qualification not monetary) are obtaining these degrees.

Finally, the language requirements of a PhD provide an important tool for a lifetime of scholarship that awaits. Though I am not entirely convinced that Latin, German, and French should be the only research languages, this harkens of colonialism, a student should have the ability to add in an appropriate language. By having two research languages in their research tool chest, academics are prepared to provide quality research and engagement with works that have yet to be written.

Perhaps, in summation, the language requirements for a PhD are important for these three reasons:

  • The ability to engage in a broad discipline of research and scholarship
  • A reasonable vetting step for the most rigorous of academic degrees
  • Developing tools for a lifetime of scholarship

 

So what do you think? How have you engaged with research languages? Are there other reasons for requiring languages for a PhD?

20
Aug 2013
POSTED BY Garet
POSTED IN

Education

DISCUSSION 1 Comment
status

Building a Young Church: Part Two Validation

As we continue to talk through some of the essential building blocks for building a young church, or a church of young adults, we next turn to the key element of validation.

Validation is an organizational priority of authentic engagement. This is often accomplished by the investment of capital (monetary, leadership, and facilities) to give more specific attention and placement of an emphasis on the ministry for that group.

If a church desires to grow their young adult base, a key step in evaluating whether or not they are validating, or willing to validate, effective environments for young adults. This isn’t about creating plastic rooms that meet a specific ratio for hipster style low lighting, but it is about having appropriate textures and spaces that facilitate ministry connection for a young adult crowd. The same environments and methods used to reach and keep senior adults are not as effective for young adults.

For many young adults in their 20s and 30s, a key to workplace happiness is the intentional validation of their efforts and roles. While this certainly is a universal rule, it is often the case that this age group will work at jobs longer where they are given appropriate validation and recognition by their leadership. Articles which have mentioned this kind of managerial insight have appeared in business publications including Forbes Magazine. Now, if you’re knee-jerk reaction to that statement is to roll your eyes and gripe about entitlement then perhaps that is part of the problem.

This isn’t about some kind of psychologically programmed post-adolescent coddling, but it is instead the result of a desire to know where, in a world of hurts, harms, and hang-ups, that a person belongs and contributes. Validation for a young adult ministry isn’t about being the full time focus and effort of a church onto that group, but is, instead, about being mindful of their presence.

While an institutional building, metal folding chairs, bad coffee, and mint green walls are a non-issue for other generations, for young adults highly validated spaces for their group gatherings, fellowship times, and service represent a kind of mindfulness about their presence that they appreciate. For so many young adults the aesthetic of their experience is as important as the script of a video, the Bible passage being considered, and the conversation that takes place.

This means that churches which are appropriately providing validated young adult environments have a strong tendency to attract and keep young adults.

As a result, when we think strategically about these environments we should keep in mind that mixing in a reinforcement of the church culture will be as important to motivating young adults to service and missions as making an announcement.

Just like how a comfortable coffee shop makes a more conducive environment for conversation, reflection, and work, appropriately validated young adult ministries tend to allow for greater movement and growth (specifically relational and spiritual) for strategically minded churches.

Some key questions for evaluation might include:

  • In our current facility, how much space is specifically designed for young adults and their children?
  • When we talk about events or activities in our publications and on Sundays, what percent of space is given to young adult activities?
  • How often are young adults featured in roles of service and missions?
  • As it relates to our children’s spaces, are they conducive to easy check-in and provide a sense of security?
  • Are the sermons we preach using illustrations and examples from media in the 70s and 80s or from the last five years?
  • Is there a prioritized space for young adults to connect that isn’t a classroom?
  • How much of our programming dollars and hours go to creating events and activities that meet the priority needs of young adults in our church and community?
  • Do young adults have ways of providing feedback and generating new ministry ideas as much as established generations in our church?

 

This certainly isn’t a deal breaker for a community, but it is an important step. As we turn to our next part of this discussion let’s consider what it looks like to provide effective programming and ministry models for young adult ministries.

status

Recommended Books for Recent Seminary Grads

Every spring, and often in the fall, our seminaries are turning out new crops of graduates who hope to enter some role in pastoral ministry. Hopefully, during seminary, each graduate has developed some reading habits that will last them for the rest of their lives.

What are some particularly helpful books for recent seminary graduates to read to help make the transition from academic life to pastoral ministry?

After having read some substantial theology for the last several years, there are five recommended books that some of my fellow ministers have recommended for recent graduates:

A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke. This was one of the first books recommended by a seminary professor for graduates. It is the classic text that, in a concise 57 pages walks recent seminary graduates through the transition from academic discussion to application within local church ministry. Others have attempted to match it but this is still the classic text.

Brothers, We are Not Professionals by John Piper. Arranged in 36 chapters, Piper’s text develops a practical pastoral ministry for pastors who are both new to ministry or are veterans. Piper’s paradigm for pastoral ministry seeks to rediscover the shepherd’s task and heart and move ministers away from the professionalization that has lost its connection with biblical ministry.

They Found the Secret by Raymond Edman. Moving towards a more devotional topic, one of the questions that I’ve had for established ministry leaders when I am able to take them to lunch or sit and talk with them, is “What books impacted your life the most?” One of the books that I’ve consistently heard from so many was this one by Edman. It is a classic on finding the “exchanged life” that can help each of us focus our ministry trajectory at an early stage.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell. Seminary does many things well, but one of the challenges that we see all too often is that there is a lack of actual ministry preparation. We learn plenty of wonderful things about theology and biblical studies, but actual pastoral ministry has less to do with those and so much more to do with leading people. Maxwell’s text is, in my opinion, the best at helping us understand several key leadership rules to will help us, along with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, motivate people to life change.

Good to Great by Jim Collins. Obviously this list is less theological, but as we all find out in ministry, the pastorate is less theological than we hope. When I first sat and read this text, in my first church out of seminary, it shook my world and help refocus my leadership goals. Collins has brought together some of the best practices of making good organizations great. When I’ve asked that question about who pastors read, Collins’ text has also made that list of some of the most dynamic pastors who have built Jesus loving, God glorifying churches of all sizes.

Certainly there are a number of other texts I could put on this list, but I wanted to keep it slim. Every year when I organize my yearly reading schedule (outside of seminar and research texts) I try to read three of these five.

Seminary prepares us so well for the rigor of ministry and these texts will, hopefully, add to the practicality of ministry. While some might decry the lack of substantive theologies, in reality for most seminary graduates we need a dose of reality in our first pastoral role that familiarizes us with the beauty of our parishioners.

So, what other books would you add? What practical texts have help mould you for ministry?

status

Persecution in Egypt

We, in the west, should never forget that actual persecution exists in the world.

This dispatch was posted from Cairo today. Things are getting very bad for faithful believers across these parts of the world. Please pray appropriately:

Dear Friends,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

As I write these words, our St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Suez is under heavy attack from those who support former President Mursi. They are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the church and have destroyed the car of Rev. Ehab Ayoub, the priest-in-charge of St. Saviour’s Church. I am also aware that there are attacks on other Orthodox churches in Menyia and Suhag in Upper Egypt (photo above), as well as a Catholic church in Suez. Some police stations are also under attack in different parts of Egypt. Please pray and ask others to pray for this inflammable situation in Egypt.

There are even some rumors that Muslim Brotherhood leaders asked the protestors in different cities to attack police stations, take weapons, and attack shops and churches.

United Bible Societies bookshop in Assiut was damaged in the clashes today. Here’s a picture they posted to their twitter account.

14
Aug 2013
POSTED BY Garet
POSTED IN

Church

DISCUSSION No Comments
status

Building a Young Church: Part Two Some Data

The conversation about millennials and their spirituality continues to thrive, just as it has for the preceding generations. Over at Association of Religion Data Archives, they have posted a research backed study about some key characteristics of churches that reach young adults.

Here are the Seven Characteristics they’ve listed:

Young churches, young people: Congregations organized in the past decade were three times as likely to have a significant number of young adults as congregations organized before 1976. “One of the most effective ways to reach young adults is to launch new congregations,” Sahlin said.

The KISS principle: Keep it spiritual, stupid: Congregations reporting high levels of spiritual vitality were three times as likely to have significant numbers of young adults as congregations with low spiritual vitality. “What they are looking for is something that touches them,” Sahlin said of young adults. “They’re looking for something that connects to the divine in a palpable way.”

Eat, pray, read the Bible: Congregations that reported a lot of emphasis on spiritual practices such as prayer and scripture reading were five times more likely than congregations that put no emphasis on such practices to have large numbers of young adults in the pews. “It appears that congregations that teach spiritual practices are much more attractive to young adults,” Sahlin and Roozen reported.

Keeping up with new technology: Congregations that reported multiples uses of technology such as social media and websites were twice as likely to have a significant percentage of young adults as those that reported marginal use.

Electric guitars rock: Congregations that used electric guitars and overhead projectors in their worship often or always were about twice as likely as congregations who never used them to have significant young adult participation.

Gender balance: While women outnumber men in most congregations, the study found the more men there were in a congregation the more likely it was to attract young adults.

Promoting young adult ministry: Congregations that placed a lot of emphasis on young adult activities and programs were more likely to attract young women and men.

 

This list isn’t surprising, in fact, it is what should be expected. There are a host of reasons that some churches reach young adults more effectively than others and this list is a good place to start.

As we talked about in part one of our series, after a church has answered some basic questions about whether they can, should, or desire to reach young adults (we call this confronting the brutal facts conversations) this list is a helpful second step.

How are you doing in reflecting the characteristics of this list? What does your community do to utilize these marks, and perhaps some others, to aid in reaching young adults and building a young church?

We’ll be exploring some of these categories more deeply in the coming weeks. There are some provoking points about, and not just the one about technology. How our churches example gender equality (even for the most complementarian of churches) can speak volumes for our approach and theological grounding.

So, what do you think of this list? Is it accurate? Is it helpful? What should be added?

12
Aug 2013
POSTED BY Garet
POSTED IN

Church

DISCUSSION No Comments
status

Is Genesis 1 a Preface?

At lunch yesterday I read through Jason DeRouchie‘s recent article in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society “The Blessing-Commission, the Promised Offspring, and the Toledot Structure of Genesis.” (Yes, the title is as intriguing as the article.)

Though this is terribly concise, DeRouchie’s article explores the literary system of  Genesis whereby its author(s) used the phrase ‘eleh toledot (“these are the generations of ” or “this is the account of”) to begin new sections of the biblical book. The phrase ‘eleh toledot occurs in the following places:

Toledot Chart

In his piece DeRouchie goes on to discuss the difference between the toledot as chapter headings as opposed to colophons, or types of sub-headings. He ends up discussing how he sees several of these toledot structures as dominant section headers with sub-headers. It is a fine journal article.

So, I noticed that the first place the toledot phrase occurs is Genesis 2:4. Now this is interesting, since the content of 2:4-25 form a second account of creation, this one focused on the Garden of Eden, the author of the text has chosen to mark this with the toledot function. Here’s the text:

Standing at the beginning of this new section, the toledot structure is not a backwards referent to 1:1-2:3. As most contemporary commentators have pointed out, as reflected in some translations, the first account of creation does go from 1:1-2:3, not 1:1-31.

For the author of this section to have included a significant literary device such as the toledot feature, it is perhaps reflecting that the first account is, indeed, prefatory. That is, Genesis 1:1-2:3 reflects a preface to the book of Genesis that stands outside, or before, the rest of the content of the text.

The difference between Genesis 1:1-2:3 being a preface as opposed to an introduction is important. If prefatory matter stands outside the rest of the book in terms of linear progression, explaining the events leading up to the first true scene of narrative history in 2:4, than what is in the preface does matter to the text but is not entirely congruent with the aims of the remainder of the text. As someone else has put it: the preface is the book about a book and the introduction is about the content of the book. 

If we look at Genesis 1:1-2:3 as a preface, it details content or ideas that led up to the events that begin the actual narrative in 2:4.

Though this doesn’t mean we have to discard existing theories of interpretation, it does, perhaps, help us better understand the literary intent of the author in that first section. It does not appear that the first section (Genesis 1:1-2:3) is a foreword, that is a text written by another to discuss the rest of the text.

As we consider the first section the structure and pattern of the text appear, at least to me, to be written to first show how the God of Israel stands above and beyond the gods of pagan kingdoms. Then it also speaks about how glorious the God of Israel is in His creative act.

It should also be noted that YHWH, the Hebrew proper name for God, first appears in Genesis 2:4 whereas Elohim is the primary word used in 1:1-2:3 to refer to God.

So, is Genesis 1 a preface? If it is does it impact our interpretive approach at all? Does it allow us to see there is a larger literary function of the passage rather than a static, linear accounting that automatically flows into Genesis 2, then 3, etc?

The toledot structure appears to be important to the author of Genesis. Maybe it should be equally as important to us as we consider interpretive decisions and how they relate to our overall theology.

UA-40705812-1