Three years ago, I began my Ph.D. studies at The Institution. Eight seminars, four colloquia, two research languages, two sets of comprehensive exams, and one dissertation later, I’m finally finished. Sometime after 11:00 a.m. EST this morning, I’ll walk across the stage to receive my doctoral hood and degree. What a satisfying joy it shall be.
In no particular order, here are a series of reflections and lessons learned after my time at SBTS.
20 Takeaways and Tell-Alls
- If you’re married and decide to do any graduate or post-graduate work, make sure your wife understands—and welcomes—the sacrifice your studies will require. I could never have done it all without my wife’s skill at home.
- If you’re in ministry and decide to do any graduate or post-graduate work, make sure you live your studies before your congregation. Faithful studies should always increase your ability and humility. Put 1 Timothy 4:15 into practice. Demonstrate your progress in Christ before their watching eyes.
- An interested and able supervisor makes all the difference. Dr. Yuille has been a grace in my life.
- I entered the Ph.D. program intimidated at all the required writing. After my first seminar, I dreaded all writing projects. Now, few things get me as excited as putting pen to paper.
- Of all the seminary discussions I had to lead, my favorite to prepare for was on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
- Of all the seminary discussions I had to lead, my least favorite was on Eusebius of Caesarea.
- The worst book I had to read for a seminar was Weaving the Visions. Stay away, my friends, stay away.
- My personal favorite textbook was Puritan Spirituality: The Fear of God in the Affective Theology of George Swinnock. It’s (probably) the best scholarly summation of Puritan piety you’ve never heard of.
- Few things are as essential to diligent research work than a fascination with your dissertation subject.
- If you can, pick a dissertation subject that appeals to more than just your mother and advisor.
- Good Christian writing depends on good Bible reading.
- Pray for God’s blessing on your studies.
- The academy thrives on novelty and originality; pastoral ministry doesn’t.
- Discover what time during the day you read and write best, and guard it with all vigilance.
- A few good friends in seminary will sustain you through those days and nights when you want to give up.
- Doctoral studies are a boot camp in humility. You’ll never be the smartest scholar in the room.
- My studies seem to have forever altered my reading habits. I’m more content than ever not to read books cover to cover—for better or worse.
- Life in the seminary world is dangerous. You can quickly forget that there’s a whole wide world off campus that doesn’t care much about your studies.
- Louisville has really, really good food. I have many fond memories of student lunches at Joella’s Hot Chicken.
- I always thought I’d feel different when I finally finished the degree. I don’t. I’m still just a plain old pastor, husband, and father.