Long-distance/part-time/non-traditional Ph.D.?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by agapetos, Jan 20, 2005.

  1. agapetos

    agapetos New Member

    Hi everyone,

    I've been reading some various posts (mostly lurking ;) ) and wanted to get some opinions on this matter.

    I've been a Christian about 13-14 years. I consider myself Evangelical. My church currently is Park Street Congregational in Boston, MA, where I was the seminary intern (2001-2003). It is part of the Conservative Congregational Christian Convention. My internship consisted of doing visitation for year (10+ hours per week) plus Missions for a year.

    My training is both in theology (graduate and informally) as well as engineering. I do enjoy academics. Briefly on my curriculum vitae:

    - 11 years full-time professional experience in software engineering (mostly software quality assurance and automation)

    - Bachelor of Science (SB) from MIT (Cambridge, MA) in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

    - I was in progress for a second bachelor's degree in EECS from MIT (I chose not to finish that although I have 5-6 courses left, it would have taken another term or more full-time)

    - I have done some coursework at Harvard College (Cambridge, MA) in Psychology, about half a concentration [Intro to Psych; Psychopathology, Social Psychology, Cognition, etc.]

    - Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (S. Hamilton, MA), just completed. Some of my electives were done at various places like Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School (Brookline, MA) (Patrology) and St. John's [Roman] Catholic Seminary (Brighton, MA) (Foundations of Ecclesiology). I took 7 years to complete this part-time while working full-time.

    Major theological interests:
    Ecclesiology (Theology of the Church)
    Theology of Work

    Major concerns:
    At this point in my life (I'm 32), I don't feel called to full-time ministry aka "professional ministry". My gifts and talents also lie in Engineering (as difficult as work is sometimes!) I have explored whether God wants me in ministry or even changing career, and the answer is no at this time. So if I were to do a Ph.D. (which I'm sure I'd enjoy), it would have to be part-time, a non-traditional Ph.D.

    I'm somewhat of a pragmatist, and like some of the accoutrements of working as an engineer (great pay, flexible lifestyle). I'm realistic enough about issues such as work, career (and career suicide), marriage, etc. I should mention I'm unmarried at this point, but dating someone.

    I think a longer term Ph.D., part-time would be fine with me. I would have no problem with getting it in 20-25-30 years time. The questions are more how I get there, what the end-game looks like, etc. One of my friends (a M.D. "PGY5 dropout" who has way too many degrees and now does Pharmaceutical consulting) reminds me that sometimes where you got your degree and what kind of degree you got is as important occasionally (at least on the superficial level) as what you did for your dissertation and who your advisor(s) was/were.

    At least from my limited knowledge, what I've been doing in the last year or two is building up contacts, especially of people who have similar interests as I do. I have been seeking to dialogue more with them. I'm thinking that perhaps they can guide me minimally by passing on their knowledge and wisdom, and I can do the coursework (or even my own study/reading) in the meantime or something through their guidance...

    George Hunsinger (Princeton) -- Augustine, Barth scholar, some interests in Ecclesiology
    Geoffrey Wainwright (Duke) -- interests in Ecclesiology and Ecumenism
    R. Paul Stevens (Regent) -- interests in theology of work
    Haddon Robinson (GCTS) -- interests in theology of work; have a bibliography from Will Messenger (head of the Mockler Center at GCTS)
    Kenneth Swetland (former academic dean of GCTS)
    Miroslav Volf (Yale) -- except he's moving more towards reconcilliation (and away from theology of work or ecclesiology, that's at least what one friend who's down there tells me)

    If you have any advice or wisdom for me, or even other names of advisors, that would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Jack Tracey

    Jack Tracey New Member

    I applaud your attitude toward your goals and the process. My only point of advice would be that you consider cultivating relationships with faculty members of known research oriented, dissertation-based Doctoral programs (such as are found in the UK, OZ and ZA). These relationships might someday turn into "dissertation advisor" relationships should you someday decide to enroll in one of those programs. Have fun.
  3. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member

    Ho Agapetos:

    Of your namesake, The Beloved, AKA Monogenes, it is written:

    Ho huios mou ho agapetos mou houtos estin, eis on ego eudokesa

    May that one guide you in your future academic choices.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2005
  4. Guest

    Guest Guest

    GREAT church! Home of that wonderful evangelical preacher Harold John Ockenga.
  5. uncle janko

    uncle janko member

    Park Street Church is in the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.
  6. Guest

    Guest Guest

    I know, the "Four C's." Great conference. Wish some like-minded churches in the NACCC would join them.
  7. Haggai12

    Haggai12 New Member


    Hello Agapetos,

    You might consider something more radical.

    Take a look at some of the South African doctoral programs, especially those like Unisa, that have great flexibility and low cost.

    Next, take a look at: http://www.iics.com

    Their stated mission is:

    Develop Godly Leaders
    The Mission of International Institute for Christian Studies is to bring glory to God and impact the world by developing godly leaders for every sector of society - government, business, home, church, the arts, law, the sciences, education - as we provide key universities and academic institutions with educational services and Christian faculty who teach and live in such a way as to draw others to faith and transformation in Christ.

    Faculty Placement
    IICS places faculty from a wide range of disciplines in teaching positions at secular universities outside North America and the UK. We also establish Departments of Christian Studies, provide library collections, sponsor business and teacher training seminars and provide curriculum consultation.

  8. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member

    IICS does look good ; it sends lit to ETS members.
  9. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Don't know if you've seen this from the Norman Geisler web site.

  10. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member


    I have been an ETS member only since '01 as I recall.

    EVERY year members MUST sign this doctrinal statement :

    "The Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore INERRANT in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, EQUAL in power and glory."

    While not expert in such things, I do not see how Open Theists, whom I understand think that God may make mistakes, could suppose that what God says in the autographa of Scripture is INERRANT!

    But, then, I am sort of an expert in Christology, and yet I also do not see how those ETS members [ as Dahms] who by their eternal generation/eternal subordination doctrine IMO are saying that the Son is less than the Father in knowledge, sovereignty, or aseity could sign a statement that says the Son is EQUAL to the Father .

    I am probably more upset by Dahms's three articles in NTS and JETS on the Son's dependence on the Father for existence and direction than I am about Sander's "The God who Risks."

    I'm just a big stupid, I guess:rolleyes:
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2005
  11. agapetos

    agapetos New Member

    back to Ph.D.'s ... in other countries


    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Assuming money is not an issue (engineering pays extremely well and a part-time Ph.D. won't cost me an arm and a leg unlike doing it full-time), it think it still behooves me to consider several points of view:

    1. The reputation of the school and what kind of degree is superficially important:

    For instance, many people are impressed that a certain person I know went to Harvard for an M.T.S. What they don't realize is that Harvard Div School is Unitarian Universalist, and as one Harvard grad (a minister today) put it, "I went into Harvard saying, 'I love Jesus'" and I graduated saying 'WHO is Jesus?'"

    Granted, all things being equal, most people who don't know much are more impressed by where you went to school and what degree you got.

    2. To those who are more scholarly, they realize that what you wrote a doctoral dissertation on and who was your advisor are much more important.

    Take for instance, my senior pastor, Dr. Gordon P. Hugenberger. Most people are impressed he's a doctor (and did his undergrad at Harvard, M.Div. at Gordon-Conwell, doctorate in England). The scholarly community goes beyond that, and tries to figure out his specialization, which happened to be "Marriage as Covenant" (Family and Marriage in the Old Testament). His doctoral advisor was Gordon Wenham, a top-notch Pentateuch scholar.

    The issue for me isn't "I just need any old Ph.D." -- my means must serve the Church (and bring me to greater holiness) as well as the ends must serve the Church (and bring me to greater holiness). Whatever I do, I would do it for Christ. If getting a Ph.D. brings God more glory, so be it. If not getting a Ph.D. brings God more glory, so be it.

    3. Sometimes going to a school that would challenge you a little is good for you.

    Although it was the atheist Nietzsche that said, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger," I think that it is often healthy to have places of education that offer different schools of thought to help you grasp a deeper reality. Walter Kaiser Jr. got his Ph.D. from Brandeis, John Sailhamer from UCLA.

    I'm certainly not suggesting I go to a place that is toxic to my faith, or so devoted against traditional Christianity that it blinds itself to the Truth. However, I think that academics, in some ways, is about the pursuit of Truth, and my limited and finite mind cannot grasp every subtlety about it, and other perspectives help me understand it and appreciate it better.

    4. The landscape of American higher education is changing.

    One of my friends currently is at the University of Notre Dame, studying with George Marsden and Frank Turner and others. (He was in Marsden's and Al Plantinga's bible study before.)

    Marsden co-authored and edited a book of essays in honor to (Cardinal) John Henry Newman -- the latter is known for his 1854 book "The Idea of a University" on educational policy and what should go into higher education and why. Marsden and others are realizing that many are going into higher education not just solely to become academicians and teachers and professors and researchers. There are CEOs of NPOs who want to get a Ph.D. in sociology because they want to get the research methodology. There are others who want it because they want to have delved that deeply into a small subject area.

  12. Guest

    Guest Guest

    You're certainly not stupid. I guess there will always be weird theologies [God is dead, Kushner's "there are some things God can't do," open (free will) theism, etc.].

    I would not want to worship a God who is not omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.
  13. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member

    Re: back to Ph.D.'s ... in other countries

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 22, 2005
  14. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Re: Re: back to Ph.D.'s ... in other countries

    Wasn't aware of this. Congratulations on your retirement. I am sure the students will miss you!
  15. uncle janko

    uncle janko member

    I doubt it. Not after Bill locked 'em in the classroom and read them his entire dissertation at one sitting and wouldn't even let 'em go pee.
  16. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member

  17. Tireman4

    Tireman4 member

    Congratulations Bill. Good luck with your doctorate. I will never teach in the public school again. I taught at a charter school and it cured me. 7 th graders are too wound up and they dont get my jokes. Oh and sorta off topic. This is for Jimmy, Dr Glatthaar increased our reading list to 18 books. Count 'em, 18 books. I am reading the 4 th book now and hope to get to the 5 th done by Sunday. I think I am going to die. This isnt even my specialty. Oh well. Congrats Bill and have fun.:)
  18. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Well, if one must go while doing something, I can't think of a better way than to be reading. Reportedly, Elvis was reading a book on theology when he died.

    Have fun!
  19. Guest

    Guest Guest

    :D :D Now why would he read to his ghost writers? :D :D
  20. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member


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