So… I’ve been thinking a lot about grad school since I’ve been at Coral Ridge. The other day two of the professors from Knox Theological Seminary (which is right across the street from Coral Ridge) came to speak to the interns about their programs. One of the professors, Jono Linebaugh, preached the other day at church (see his sermon here, it’s awesome).
I asked them what they thought about the conventional wisdom that you need to go to the schools with the best reputation in order to get into a good Ph.D program. What Jono said was interesting. He mentioned that he went to a tiny Anglican seminary that no one has ever heard of and then went on to do graduate studies at the University of Durham, which is one of the finest Ph.D programs in New Testament studies. He said that the school which you go to for masters level work is not ultimately as important as the degree you complete, the recommendations you receive, and the research you complete that can demonstrate your competence in performing extended research since a Ph.D program is primarily a research program.
He also mentioned that most schools in Europe look down on the M.Div degree, which is mainly a pastoral vocational degree, and would prefer candidates who have completed an M.A. This is odd because the M.Div contains all the course work that you would complete in an M.A. plus more. Yet, the M.Div is seen as somehow less academic since most go on to be pastors rather than scholars.
He suggested I do an M.A. instead of an M.Div, and I have heard the same advice from my boss here. The thing with that is that the M.A. programs are usually specialized in either the New or Old Testaments, rather than both. Because of that you only study one of the languages and don’t do much work in the other Testament. I’m not a fan of that. I don’t want one, I want both. If I want to be a pastor, which is certainly where I think I’m headed, I would like to have had in depth look at both Testaments since I will be preaching from both inevitably. But I also wanted to do Ph.D studies and don’t want to necessarily do an M.A. in between an M.Div and Ph.D just to placate the powers that be.
So here’s what I’m thinking. Knox Theological Seminary offers a sizable discount for people on staff at Coral Ridge because the seminary was founded by the late D. James Kennedy who was pastor at Coral Ridge before Tullian. Although it is a smaller and younger seminary, they have a phenomenal faculty (Bruce Waltke teaches in their Old Testament department… this guy is literally one of the best Old Testament scholars alive). I was looking at their programs and this is what I found out:
When comparing the M.A. programs for both Old and New Testaments, I saw that there are a significant number of classes that you have to take in both programs (the bold ones at the bottom). It’s 28 units of common coursework between the two programs. Each of the programs also have 32 units of coursework that is unique to that degree. So, if I were to do an M.A. in Old Testament, which would take two years, I could then enroll in the M.A. in New Testament and only have one year of additional work to do because I would have already completed 28 units that are required because I would have already taken it during the first degree. There are three electives during each program, which means I could take preaching classes as electives. This way, if I’m allowed to transfer that many credits (I don’t know why I wouldn’t be able to), I could graduate with the equivalent coursework of an M.Div (because I would have taken all the preaching classes as electives) in the same time period of 3 years, but I would actually earn two Masters degrees.
Not only that, but it would be absurdly affordable:
(Click to see full sized)
Knox compared to the other seminaries I was looking at is much less expensive (and compared to Santa Clara is preposterously less expensive). Considering that they have such a great faculty, that’s pretty amazing. What is also incredible is the fact that I would be able to work at Coral Ridge while going to school, and get a sizable discount because of that. Since I want to work as a pastor, I couldn’t imagine a better opportunity—I would be able to do intensive academic study while getting practical experience at a church that I love with mentors here who clearly want to pour into my life and see me grow. I would not be retreating to an academy of higher learning before working in ministry—I would be able to both simultaneously! Es perfecto!
Now, none of this is set in stone, of course. God has a way of changing things quickly, so I want to be entirely open-handed with my plans. I think that is right to prepare and plan, but we also believe that: the heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps (Prov. 16:9). But if this works out as I think it might be able to, I may be able to get two masters degrees for the price of an M.Div, have it almost entirely paid for (if not entirely paid for) with the discount available to Coral Ridge staff and Veterans’ financial aid that I am eligible for due to my Dad’s military service (not including the potential scholarships that may be available), and be able to work at the same time at a great church.
I don’t even know what to say. Florida has been incredible. God has done so much and made so many opportunities available to me. I can’t believe it. He is way too good to me. Oh my goodness… Speechless.