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The Painful Realities of the Adjunct Life

We’re taking a look at the economic realities of trying to live out a theological vocation in the academy. In the last post, we focused on the shape of the academic job market, which is still rather bleak. Today’s post moves in a different direction: trying to make it as an adjunct.

classroom (550x388)

An additional part of the economics of the theological vocation comes into play when we include the reality of the adjunct life. Although I was not able to locate statistics from ATS on the use of adjunct faculty, the trends in U.S. higher education as a whole are quite clear. In 1969, 78% of professors held tenure-track positions. By 2009, that number had dropped to 33.5%.[1] And at private 4-year schools, over half  were part-time, non-tenure (53%). I do not think we would find that these numbers reflect ATS schools as a whole, but they do suggest an industry-wide trend toward more “flexible” faculty.

Thus, even though full-time positions have grown scarce, plenty of part-time, non-tenured teaching opportunities await the new PhD. And students often use these positions as a way of staying near the unicorn, running alongside for a while, hoping to jump on its back when its not looking. My concern, though, is that too many are getting trampled in the process.

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Wheaton College papers at ETS/AAR/SBL (2014)

Hand with agreement reaches out from heap of papersIt’s that time of year again when a rather insane number of Bible and theology profs from around the world all converge on the same place. This time, San Diego! If you’d like to see what my colleagues are up to this year, here’s a complete rundown of papers being presented by Wheaton College faculty and doctoral students at this year’s conferences.

(Update: I’ve added a few that I missed a few the first time around.)


Jordan Barrett, “Revisiting Augustine on Divine Simplicity: The Significance of his Context, Scripture, and Theology”

Dan Block, “Book Review Session: For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship” Dan will talk about his book for the first 40 minutes and the remaining time will be a review

Dan Block, “A Place for My Name: The Role of Zion in the Mosaic Vision of Worship”

Paul Cable, “Imitatio Christianorum: Ecclesiology, Ethics, and the Imitation of Believers in Philippians”

Susanne Calhoun, “Ecclesiology: Theologians 2”

Marc Cortez, “The Insanity of Systematic Theology: A Review of Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology”

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Flotsam and jetsam (11/17)

work cited

Good Reads

  • Reason and the Republic of Opinion: the ideal of “clear and intelligent thought,” stripped of its condescension and its indifference to the non-rational dimensions of human life, deserves to be defended. We need not be a nation of intellectuals, but we must not be a nation of idiots. (New Republic)
  • The Rise of the Dones: At Group’s recent Future of the Church conference, sociologist Josh Packard shared some of his groundbreaking research on the Dones. He explained these de-churched were among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best. (Holy Soup)
  • Wonder and the Ends of Inquiry: Modern popularizations of science make much of wonder—but expressions of that passion are notably absent in professional publications. This love-hate relationship between wonder and science started with science itself. (The Point)

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Top Posts of September

top fiveHere are the top five posts from the past month. And I’ve included one post that was actually written a while back and has recently resurfaced for some reason. Check out Women Who Gave Their Lives for the Church if you’re curious.

Flotsam and jetsam (8/20)

rolling tacos

Good Reads

  • What Are Gospel Issues? All I am saying is that virtually any topic can be tied to the gospel in some way or another. If that is all we are doing, the argument “X is a gospel issue” is a well-nigh useless argument, because the claim could be advanced for almost any topic, irrespective of that to which X refers. (Don Carson)
  • Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds: We need to provide research and evidence-based knowledge to publishers on what kind of devices (iPad, Kindle, print) should be used for what kind of content; what kinds of texts are likely to be less hampered by being read digitally, and which might require the support of paper. (The Guardian)

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May’s Top Posts

top fiveMay was awfully quiet around here, but I’ve got some good stuff planned for the rest of the summer. So stay tuned for that. While you’re waiting, here are the top five posts from the last thirty days.

Flotsam and jetsam (5/30)

gone reading

Good Reads

  • Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say:  The pay gap between college graduates and everyone else reached a record high last year….Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree. That’s up from 89 percent five years earlier, 85 percent a decade earlier and 64 percent in the early 1980s. (New York Times)
  • Why Agnosticism Probably Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means:  Agnostics are often characterized as ambivalent or wishy-washy fence sitters who refuse to make up their minds. But there’s much more to agnosticism than these tired misconceptions, including a stricter adherence to scientific principles than those typically invoked by atheists. (io9)

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Flotsam and jetsam (5/21)


Good Reads

  • Five Implications for Churches as the Boomers Retire:  On January 1, 2011, the first Boomer turned 65. In fact, on that day, 10,000 of them turned 65. And that pace of aging will continue until 2030, when every Boomer is 65 or older. The implications for churches are staggering.  (Thom Rainer)
  • I Don’t Want to Be Wrong: False beliefs, it turns out, have little to do with one’s stated political affiliations and far more to do with self-identity: What kind of person am I, and what kind of person do I want to be? All ideologies are similarly affected. (The New Yorker)
  • Neuroscience Talk May Literally Be Rewiring Our Brains: This is in fact the golden age of brain research, but by the time the experts actually explain their research to us, our culture will already have decided what we want it to mean, and have fit it into our myths cape. (Fred Sanders)
  • What Is Heresy? An interesting interview with Justin Holcomb on the nature of heresy. (Rachel Held Evans)

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April’s Top Posts

top fiveAll five of the top posts in April had to do with the Wheaton Theology Conference. Since I didn’t want the list to completely dominated by one topic, though, I’m just including a link to the conference videos, which was the top post for the month and also includes links to the other posts. Then I skipped down to the most popular posts besides the conference. Enjoy!

A Prayer for Sunday (Catherine of Siena)

St-Catherine-of-Siena (200x267)Saint Catherine of Siena was a philosopher and theologian in the middle ages. She was actively involved in many of the political and theological issues of her day, but her most famous contribution was her involvement in convincing the pope to return the papacy to Rome after nearly seventy years of “captivity” in Avignon. She is now regarded as one of the two patron saints of Italy (along with Francis of Assisi) and one of the patron saints of Europe.

Catherine died on April 29, 1380. In honor of her life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from her.

Holy Spirit, come into my heart;
draw it to Thee by Thy power, O my God,
and grant me charity with filial fear.

Preserve me, O ineffable Love,
from every evil thought;
warm me, inflame me with Thy dear love,
and every pain will seem light to me.

My Father, my sweet Lord,
help me in all my actions.
Jesus, love, Jesus, love.

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