Things I Learned on the Way to a PhD
I told my family that I would do a cartwheel upon him finishing his PhD. Conversely, he wrote a few words from the hubs regarding finishing his PhD (insert theme music: "Two steps forward, I take two steps back....we come together cause opposites attract." Thank you Paula Adbul):
About Family and Character
My kids don’t care what a Ph.D is. In fact, they are confused why I can’t prescribe medicine. They just want to know when Dad will be finished studying.
My wife is happy with a husband who loves her, even if I didn’t have graduate degrees.
Insecurity frequently drives Ph.D studies as much as any other motive.
Having a Ph.D doesn’t make you smart. It just means you have suck.it.up, a lot of information, and probably a fair bit of pride.
While a Ph.D can make someone proud, it can also make someone more humble because you realize how little you actually know. Ph.Ds don’t take away sin. Only Christ does. If anything, they make you a bigger hypocrite, because you learn more than you can never quite live up too.
Balance requires great humility.
Simply getting praise for having degrees doesn’t satisfy the deeper desire to feel loved.
No one can do everything well. Find your niche. Be content with the fact you have weaknesses and limitations. It’s ok. You are not God. With that awareness, do what you do with excellence.
Having a Ph.D is not as precious as being a child of God.
Studying Scripture and Theology
A number of theological ideas are not so clear-cut. Many doctrines that a pastor affirms with vehement dogmatism just aren’t as obvious as he makes them sound.
Christians need to humbly have a “both-and” attitude and not simply an “either-or” mentality. Nuance is important. We can’t just write people off as simply “playing with words.” Words matter.
Christians with Ph.Ds need to be careful not to “pull rank” when discussing the Bible. Otherwise, people will trust you and not Scripture. I plead for Christian PhDs to show people the biblical text.
Both laypersons and even “professional” Christians (pastors, etc.) are really intimidated by the Bible. As a result, they forgot what they know in everyday life, like what “because” and “therefore” mean. I wish they would know that knowing Greek by itself doesn’t make someone a Bible expert.
Just because people are really smart and they’re the “good guys” (i.e. people in my camp) doesn’t make them right. For that matter, those whom I really disagree with are still full of good ideas, even if they apply them wrong (in my opinion). Even heretics are persuasive for some reason . . . they have just enough truth to get gain a hearing.
Studying the Bible and loving Jesus are not necessarily the same thing.
Christians are far too angry when it comes to theological matters. Likewise, conservative Christians are just as likely to close one eye to inconvenient passages as are liberals.
About Getting a Ph.D
A Ph.D is not worth simply having the title itself. You should want to accomplish something with it; otherwise, it’s not worth the hard work and sacrifices you and your family will have to give. After my first M.A. degree, my wife didn’t call me “master.” After earning my M.Div, she didn’t call be “divine.” After the Ph.D, she’ll still just call be “Brad” and my kids will call me “Dad.” And I’m very happy for it.
More Christians need Ph.Ds because there are a lot of problems needing to be solved but so many people tend to be a bit anti-intellectual when it comes to the Christian life. As a result, they become anti-theological and functionally close to being anti-biblical (though they would certainly take offense at this last sentence).
Writing well is harder than you think. It is an underdeveloped skill in this day of Facebook, Twitter and text messaging.
Diligence in study and writing can be a great labor of love . . . even if it doesn’t look exactly like the way someone else loves.
Getting a Ph.D is means, not an end. You need to write and expect people to criticize something you say. Changing the way someone thinks is not an easy or quick process. Criticism means they are actually thinking about what you say. The truth is . . . your labor is most likely to have its biggest effect either behind your back or after you’ve died. This is good. Otherwise, you would be self-deluded with your “greatness.”
It’s hard to find people to help proof read your stuff. People just don’t have time . . . and that’s ok. Therefore, I am especially grateful for those who have been so gracious to be dialogue partners with me.
Typing classes in high school should be Pass/Fail and not affect your GPA. I took a typing class but for fear of lowering my GPA, I never learned to type correctly since I could peck keys faster that doing it correctly. Learning to type would have been very helpful in this process. I still type using only about 5-6 of my fingers.
SEBTS is a fantastic school.
Despite its many challenges, ADHD has its advantages. One of its lesser-known manifestations is “hyperfocus.” Very helpful when trying to maintain a full time job, raise five kids,
married flourish in marriage, and finish a Ph.D within a decade.
Spellchecker on MS Word automatically shuts itself off after so many words are either misspelled or come from a foreign language.
Zotero is an amazing resource for managing information needed for citations and bibliographies.
Double-check your dissertation defense time. The night before I checked again and my defense started at 1:00 pm, not 1:30 pm like I had thought.