Why Pursue a PhD?

So I’ve started down the road of doctoral work from the University of Bristol, in collaboration with Trinity College. Technically I am doing work in religious studies department of the university, but I will be centering on New Testament studies with a supervisor from the college. Specifically, I am working on the theme of mission in the gospel of Mark with Paula Gooder. It requires 2 or 3 trips a year to the UK, and about 15 hours of work a week. I’m really excited and a bit intimidated, but God has continued to calm some of my reservations as I move forward.

This will be a significant sacrifice of time and money for us, so why not just be thankful for my DTS degree and move on? While we definitely considered that option, I thought I’d share a little of the rationale for moving forward.

I think foremost is our excitement for the project. Julie is really behind me. And as far as I can tell, few have put forward a larger, more concerted effort in discussing the theme of God’s mission in Mark. I happen to think that, although not a central theme, the gospel of Mark  has in mind that listeners reorient themselves around living out their identity in Christ and proclaiming the good news to the nations. In other words, Mark had a missional purpose for his listeners. Specifically, he wants them to consider themselves sent ones; as Jesus went “on the way” to Jerusalem in order to die as a ransom for sin (10:45), we take up our cross and herald the good news (13:10; 14:9). I am really excited about working through this topic not only for myself, but for my future students and readers.

I also see an advantage for the institutions I serve. Although the EET isn’t technically seeking to gain or maintain formal accreditation with the government, we partner with other institutions that do. Let’s be honest, it never hurts a school to have professors committed to academic excellence. If I can contribute to raising the bar so that Christian schools help students correctly handle the Word, it’s well worth my time and effort.

I explored doing work in secular universities in Spain. However, I couldn’t find a program that really fit. Since I prefer a methodology that respects authorial intent and the historicity of the gospels, I would have been stirring up a hornets nest and didn’t really want that much stress. Thankfully, doctoral studies in the UK actually let more conservative Christians put forward and defend their ideas. Of course, there is definitely robust debate and a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints, but there is also a mutual respect among thinkers. I consider it a healthy challenge to enter and interact in this academic environment. I feel like I am following in the footsteps of so many of my favorite professors at DTS, who for the similar reasons obtained their doctorates from the UK.


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