- Carl Trueman posts his second blog in praise of the generalist, this time arguing that being a generalist is in fact possible.
- Bob Cargill has an excellent reflection on the relationship of faith and doubt. “While the interplay between faith and doubt is daunting enough in the abstract, its lived manifestation fundamentally alters the foundational worldview of anyone who dares to wield the powerful sword of doubt. And that is precisely what I did.” (HT)
- James Smith continues to talk about going to grad school, this time looking at the importance of friends, family, and church in the grad school experience.
- Laura Miller has an interesting post at Salon.com on some significant problems with Google Books.
- Mere Orthodoxy has an interview with Brett McCracken, the author of Hipster Christianity.
- Nijay Gupta offers some reviews of a couple of books on the historical Jesus.
- Justin Taylor offers a list from Ken Myer of the 10 best books for developing a better understanding of culture.
- And, Daniel Kirk explains one reason why understanding Greek accents is more important than you may have realized.
- Carl Trueman reflects on the importance of the generalist and the “vortex of specialization” in academic studies.
- Joel has posted three articles on the role of women in the early church (here, here, and here).
- David Murray argues for the importance of preaching without notes. HT
- Mark has begun commenting on David Dewey’s A User’s Guide to Bible Translations.
- Logos is a developing the new Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series.
- Denis Alexander comments on how ideology guides the use of evolution in the science and religion debates.
- And, the guy who wrote the “Jump the Shark” episode of Happy Days actually defends the episode and argues that it did not signal the downfall of the show.
Fellow philosophers, I found another resource. It is a NPRish radio show based out of San Francisco called “Philosophy Talk” (very “Car Talk”-ish). They have covered many subjects so you may find a few shows worth your time. Listen here.
I was going to try and post something thoughtful and intelligent this evening, but then I ran across this article in Ten of the Bloodiest Bedtime Stories. That’s just not fair. How am I supposed to resist a title like that? Sure I still need to finish preparing my lectures for my Philosophy & Theology class tomorrow (don’t tell my students), but this is critical research that absolutely cannot wait. If I really thought about it, I know I could come up with a way of integrating this material into our philosophical ruminations. So, I’ll get to kill two birds with one stone. (See, the bloody imagery is everywhere.)
Obviously, I succumbed to the temptation and read the article. It was fun. Stupid Little Red Riding Hood stays inside the wolf’s belly where she belongs, two of those three whiny pigs get eaten, Belle’s father actually sells her to the Beast in exchange for his own freedom, the Little Mermaid dies and her beautiful prince marries someone else, and Pinocchio smashes Jiminy Cricket with a hammer. That’s outstanding. Why doesn’t Disney make these stories? They’d be so much better.
One question that comes to mind after reading these other endings: Do we coddle our kids too much or were the kids of an earlier era a complete emotional/psychological mess?
In case you’re having a hard time getting into things after the long weekend, here’s a list from MSN on 10 Obscure Marriage Laws. My three favorites:
- In Montana you can get married without either the bride or the groom actually being present at the ceremony. Just send proxies to stand in your place, and you’re good to go. I wonder if the proxies get to go on the honeymoon too?
- In Kentucky, it’s illegal to marry the same man four times. Three times is perfectly fine. But, four times? That’s wrong.
- In Truro, Mississippi, before a guy gets married he must “prove himself manly” by hunting and killing either six blackbirds or three crows. Apparently, the ability to kill things is a sure sign that you’re going to have a successful marriage.
- Dan Wallace discusses the question What Bible Should I Own? (He recommends the NET and ESV.) TC takes issue with one of his comments.
- James K.A. Smith comments on the best graduate schools for studying philosophical theology.
- William Black continues his series on comparing evangelicalism and Eastern Orthodoxy, with a post on The Holy Spirit in Evangelical and Orthodox Perspective.
- Michael Halcomb points out that College Press has now made their entire commentary series available online for free. He’s also made the download easier.
- David Brooks has a NYT opinion piece on David Platt’s book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.
- The Man Booker Prize 2010 shortlist is out. If you’re looking for something interesting to read, this is often a good place to start.
- And, if you haven’t visited Google.com today, you should check out today’s logo. It’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, it sounds like it’s only available in the US.
One of the more common questions I run into as a Th.M. program director is, “Do I need a Th.M.?” That’s an understandable question. Before you spend that much time and money on a degree, you should be convinced that you really need one. And I probably answered that question a dozen times this past summer. So I thought I’d do my best to answer it here. Here’s my answer….No.
I realize that’s probably a surprising answer from someone who runs a Th.M. program, but the simple fact is that whether you are headed toward a doctoral program, local church ministry, or something else, I’m not aware of any Christian vocation that absolutely requires a Th.M. In virtually every sphere of life, the Th.M. is optional. So do you need a Th.M.? Probably not. It used to be the case that many Ph.D. program required that M.Div. students get a Th.M. as an academic upgrade to their largely ministerial degree before beginning their doctoral work. That is generally not the case anymore.
But, if you don’t actually need a Th.M., why would you bother getting one? Ah, now that’s a different question. Whether you should proceed with a Th.M. is not so much a question of whether you need a Th.M., but whether you need a Th.M. The job that you’re headed toward may not require a Th.M., but there are a variety of situations in which a Th.M. can be of tremendous value anyway. Here are several reasons that you may want to pursue a Th.M. even though it’s not absolutely required.
- Filling gaps in your training. Let’s face it, unless you are a truly unique individual, you probably did not have time to pursue everything that you needed to in your Master’s degree. There’s a good chance that you prepared really well in some areas and less well in others. Even if you intend to specialize in one area of biblical/theological studies, a Th.M. provides you the opportunity to develop some of your secondary interests and fill some gaps in your preparation. Some of our Th.M. students come in with only the basics in Greek, Hebrew, systematic theology, or church history. These students use the Th.M. to fill these holes in their training.
- Broadening your training. Other students were able to lay a good foundation in all the biblical disciplines during their undergrad and graduate programs, but still feel the need for greater breadth in their preparation. I entered my Th.M. at least partially because I wasn’t ready yet for the kind of specialization that would be required in a doctoral program. Specifically, although I intended to focus my Ph.D. in systematic and historical theology, my Th.M. allowed me to spend considerable time on Hebrew and OT studies. These were areas that I did not develop adequately in my Master’s training, and I wanted a broad foundation that included significant time in all of these disciplines. Others are interested in using the Th.M. to prepare for local church ministry, seeing the Th.M. as an opportunity to broaden their biblical/theological training further than they were able in their Master’s programs.
- Determining your specialization. One of the more common reasons for pursuing a Th.M. is that you want to continue on to a doctoral program, but you don’t yet know the specific specialization that you want to pursue. You may be interested in both systematic theology and church history, both NT and OT, or both the Gospels and the Pauline literature. Without a little more focus, it can become difficult (if not impossible) to select to right doctoral program for you. The Th.M. gives you a little more time to pursue various interests so that you can make the right decision about what you want to focus on in your doctoral program. As a matter of fact, it was during my Th.M. that I was finally able to settle on systematic theology as the focus of my doctoral program rather than historical theology or NT studies. So, the Th.M. proved very helpful for me in this area.
- Developing your specialization. Other students know what they want to specialize in during their Ph.D. program, but aren’t yet qualified to pursue that specialization at the doctoral level. If you fell in love with Greek during your Master’s program, but didn’t have enough electives to develop sufficiently in this discipline, the Th.M. allows you the time to lay a solid foundation for succeeding in your doctoral program.
- Developing more teaching areas. Many schools are looking for people who can teach in more than one discipline. If you only have a specialization in Old Testament Law and its ancient near-eastern parallels, you may find it somewhat more challenging to find a teaching position than the person who is qualified to teach introductory classes in a couple of different disciplines. A Th.M. lets you develop some of those secondary teaching areas that can be very attractive to administrators.
- Deepening your biblical/theological foundations for effective ministry. This is actually somewhat akin to “broadening your training,” but I wanted to make it more explicit that the Th.M. can be a great degree for ministry preparation. It’s not just a pre-Ph.D. degree. As Mark Stevens helpfully pointed out, the Th.M. can help add depth to your preaching/teaching ministry and give you a chance to develop (further) your understanding of pastoral theology. Around half of our Th.M. students use the degree to prepare for a doctoral program. The rest are in the program to deepen their preparation for effective ministry.
- Setting you up for future success. All of these really add up to the same thing. Although the Th.M. is not absolutely required for anything, there are a variety of situations in which a Th.M. can be very helpful in setting you up for future success in your doctoral program or ministry setting.
So, as I often tell students, the Th.M. is the one degree program that no one actually needs. (That’s why they don’t let me work on marketing material.) But, the Th.M. can be very valuable for a lot of people in quite a few different circumstances. Whether you fit in any of those categories is something that you need to work out.
The Hugo Awards (science fiction) for this year are out, and here are the winners in the best novel category:
- The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade) (tie winner)
- The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK) (tie winner)
- Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor)
- Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
- Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Spectra)
- Wake, Robert J. Sawyer (Ace; Penguin; Gollancz; Analog)
I’ve been meaning to read Boneshaker for a while now and just haven’t gotten around to it (so many books to read). If anyone has any thoughts/recommendations about the other books on this list, I’d love to hear them. I need some fun reading to balance out the philosophical theology I’m reading for my Th.M. seminar this semester.
By the way, I’m currently reading Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. Would someone explain to me why his books are so popular? I read Anathem last year and found it to be tedious, didactic, and way too long. So far, Cryptonomicon falls in the same category. If someone wants to straighten me out on this, please feel free.