What is a D.Min (Doctor of Ministry)?

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Letter WWithin the past 40 years or so a [relatively] new type of program has cropped up in education, that of the DMin, the Doctor of Ministry. The degree surged in popularity for a few decades, began to fall to the wayside (so much so that Princeton discontinued its DMin program), but has kept a somewhat steady pace amongst evangelicals.

The DMin may sometimes get a bad rap in academia as being a ‘fluff degree’ or a ‘watered-down doctorate’, but with more schools offering DMin programs and more ministers entering into those programs, it’s helpful for us to have an idea of what we’re dealing with.

In short, the DMin is a degree program designed to fill the learning vacuum present for ministers who have completed their Master of Divinity (MDiv) and have been serving in ministry for a while. Ministers who stop cultivating their knowledge will inevitably stunt their maturation as leaders, and so the DMin is a practical doctoral-level degree designed to integrate scholarship with practice and push those in ministry towards further growth.

Thus, the DMin is the highest professional degree for those in the field of ministry – the terminal degree for ministerial studies – with the goal of increasing the minister’s effectiveness in their area of the church.

It is a professional degree – as opposed to an academic degree – which means that the focus of the curriculum is geared more towards practical application than research.

A DMin program usually takes around 3-4 years (2 years of coursework and another for the final project/thesis) and most programs work to have a flexible schedule by combining short on-campus residential seminars with distance learning (this isn’t unique to the DMin, many schools across the pond have a similar setup). The goal of this is to help those in the program to earn the degree without leaving their ministry to do so.

Most DMin programs require their applicants to hold a MDiv from an accredited theological school (some allow applicants to substitute other ~72 hr master’s level degrees provided they include Greek and Hebrew), and between three and five years of active ministry experience.

So it is a fluff degree or a watered-down doctorate? Well, no. The DMin is not merely an lighter version of an academic doctoral degree (PhD); rather, it has a completely different goal. The DMin – like the MDiv – is a professional degree rather than a research degree; in that respect it is more like a Medical Doctorate. The DMin is a degree in action, where as a PhD is a degree in intellectual rigor.

So is what the DMin? the terminal degree for those in the field of ministry – a practical professional degree geared towards growing ministers in their field of expertise, whether that be expository preaching, reformed theology, pastoral ministry, counseling, apologetics, ministry leadership, or many others.

Given that a DMin is a degree completed after a master degree and has the word ‘doctor’ right there in the title, there is some debate as to whether somebody with a DMin should be referred to as Doctor (as we do with those with a PhD). We’ll tackle that question next time…

Book Review: The Religious Life of Theological Students – By B.B. Warfield

Warfield Religious Life of Theological Students.pngLetter TThe Religious Life of Theological Students was originally given as an address by B.B. Warfield at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1911, in which Warfield talks about the great task set before seminary students.

Warfield begins his talk with a defense of seminary learning as a whole, pointing out that “Say what you will, do what you will, the ministry is a ‘learned profession’; and the man without learning, no matter with what other gifts he may be endowed, is unfit for its duties” and that in turn “Paul, in other words, requires of you, as we are perhaps learning not very felicitously to phrase it, ‘instructional,’ not merely ‘inspirational,’ service.”

However, the chief point of Warfield’s talk is not merely that the student – as future minister – must be studious. Rather, “A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly.”

The advice given by Warfield in order to achieve this is to be an active member of your church, and more pointedly to “… make all your theological studies ‘religious exercises.’ This is the great rule for a rich and wholesome religious life in a theological student.” Thus, the goal is – as with any vocation – to do it to the Lord.

On the whole, this is a wonderful little read, and quite inspirational for one engaged in such study.

Memorable Quotes:

– “‘Vocation’ – it is the call of God, addressed to every man, whoever he may be, to lay upon him a particular work, no matter what. And the calls, and therefore also the called, stand on a complete equality with one another… Here is the divine right of every workman, no one of whom needs to be ashamed, if only he is an honest and good workman.”-4

– “… if you do not find Christ in the conference room it is because you do not take him there with you…”-10

– “… to do all this you must keep the fires of religious life burning brightly in your heart; in the inmost core of your being, you must be men of God… One hint I may give you, particularly adapted to you as students for the ministry: Keep always before your mind the greatness of your calling, that is to say, these two things: the immensity of the task before you, the infinitude of the resources at your disposal.”-12

– “I am sure that if you once get a true glimpse of what the ministry of the cross is, for which you are preparing, and of what you, as men preparing for this ministry, should be, you will pray, Lord, who is sufficient for these things, your heart will cry; and your whole soul will be wrung with the petition: Lord, make me sufficient for these things.”-15

Specific Criticisms

The only criticism that might be put forth is to question Warfield’s assertion that one who is not ‘learned’ – if by this he means ‘seminary trained’ – is unfit for ministry. If he merely means that they should be studied in Bible and the things of it, then I don’t suppose anybody could disagree.

On Apologetics – Purpose, Why You Should Take An Interest

 

apologetics3.pngLetter Not too long ago I had a conversation with a man who has been a pastor for quite some time, and who was at the time taking a course in apologetics. He was clearly frustrated with the course, and as he spoke he attempted to explain why he disliked it so much. His main criticism? That it was pointless.hylian_shield_vector_by_reptiletc-d49y46o

As I listened further I discovered something interesting, his reason for the belief that apologetics was pointless. He said to me “I have no need for this class. I already know why I believe what I believe, and I believe the Bible. The Bible is the only reason I need.”

This statement was interesting, because it betrayed a twofold misunderstanding of the nature of apologetics.

First, the pastor’s statement betrayed a misunderstanding of how to approach belief in the Bible. If one is to believe the Bible one must have beliefs, it will not do to simply say “I believe the Bible” – you must follow that up with what you believe the Bible says and why, and how that squares with your experience of the world. This misunderstanding was addressed in our article Beliefs and Believing the Bible, so it needn’t be addressed any farther here.

Second, the pastor’s statement betrayed a misunderstanding of just what it is that apologetics – more specifically a course in apologetics – is trying to do for the believer.

Somehow he had come upon the misconception that this course in apologetics was meant to give him reasons why he should believe in the truth of Christianity. In case there is some misunderstanding, or in case this view is somehow more prevalent than I realize – that is not the point of apologetics. The goal of learning apologetics is not to convince yourself of the faith; the goal is to give you 1) An understanding of other groups and other perspectives so that you will know how to approach those who come at the world from a different viewpoint, and 2) An understanding of logic and reason as it relates to philosophy and theology as a whole, so that you may know how to explain the truthfulness of your beliefs to others, so that you may give a defense of your faith. Not to give you a reason to believe, but so that you may explain to others how there are reasons to believe. The goal of apologetics is a defense of the faith; to give an answer to those who bring objections against it, and to give reasons for it.

So if you are studying apologetics and feel that you are wasting your time, remember, you’re not learning it for your sake, you’re learning it for the sake of your neighbor, so that you may answer their questions in love and provide not just a testimony of how Christ has changed your life, but also a rational explanation of how He is true.

Because many people have genuine questions about the faith, hard questions, and we as Christians need to be able to address those questions; we need to be able to explain what and why we believe.

There are answers to the hard questions, and learning the school of apologetics will help train you in giving those answers.


If you’re not already a believer, then you should know that it is right and proper for you to have questions and misgivings about the faith, but you should also know that there are answers to your questions. We as Christians have often done a poor job of educating ourselves on those answers, of not being able to explain why we believe what we believe, and we need to amend that; but that is a mistake of individual Christians, not of Christianity as a faith.

The Minister and His Greek Testament — J. Gresham Machen

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The widening breach between the minister and his Greek Testament may be traced to two principal causes. The modern minister objects to his Greek New Testament or is indifferent to it, first, because he is becoming less interested in his Greek, and second, because he is becoming less interested in his New Testament.

The former objection is merely one manifestation of the well known tendency in modern education to reject the “humanities” in favor of studies that are more obviously useful, a tendency which is fully as pronounced in the universities as it is in the theological seminaries. In many colleges the study of Greek is almost abandoned; there is little wonder, therefore, that the graduates are not prepared to use their Greek Testament. Plato and Homer are being neglected as much as Paul. A refutation of the arguments by which this tendency is justified would exceed the limits of the present article. This much, however, may be said—the refutation must recognize the opposing principles that are involved. The advocate of the study of Greek and Latin should never attempt to plead his cause merely before the bar of “efficiency.” Something, no doubt, might be said even there; it might possibly be contended that an acquaintance with Greek and Latin is really necessary to acquaintance with the mother tongue, which is obviously so important for getting on in the world. But why not go straight to the root of the matter? The real trouble with the modern exaltation of “practical” studies at the expense of the humanities is that it is based upon a vicious conception of the whole purpose of education. The modern conception of the purpose of education is that education is merely intended to enable a man to live, but not to give him those things in life that make life worth living.

In the second place, the modern minister is neglecting his Greek New Testament because he is becoming less interested in his New Testament in general—less interested in his Bible. The Bible used to be regarded as providing the very sum and substance of preaching; a preacher was true to his calling only as he succeeded in reproducing and applying the message of the Word of God. Very different is the modern attitude. The Bible is not discarded, to be sure, but it is treated only as one of the sources, even though it be still the chief source, of the preacher’s inspiration. Moreover, a host of duties other than preaching and other than interpretation of the Word of God are required of the modern pastor. He must organize clubs and social activities of a dozen different kinds; he must assume a prominent part in movements for civic reform. In short, the minister has ceased to be a specialist. The change appears, for example, in the attitude of theological students, even of a devout and reverent type. One outstanding difficulty in theological education today is that the students persist in regarding themselves, not as specialists, but as laymen. Critical questions about the Bible they regard as the property of men who are training themselves for theological professorships or the like, while the ordinary minister, in their judgment, may content himself with the most superficial layman’s acquaintance with the problems involved. The minister is thus no longer a specialist in the Bible, but has become merely a sort of general manager of the affairs of a congregation.

The bearing of this modern attitude toward the study of the Bible upon the study of the Greek Testament is sufficiently obvious. If the time allotted to strictly biblical studies must be diminished, obviously the most laborious part of those studies, the part least productive of immediate results, will be the first to go. And that part, for students insufficiently prepared, is the study of Greek and Hebrew. If, on the other hand, the minister is a specialist—if the one thing that he owes his congregation above all others is a thorough acquaintance, scientific as well as experimental, with the Bible—then the importance of Greek requires no elaborate argument. In the first place, almost all the most important books about the New Testament presuppose a knowledge of Greek: the student who is without at least a smattering of Greek is obliged to use for the most part works that are written, figuratively speaking, in words of one syllable. In the second place, such a student cannot deal with all the problems at first hand, but in a thousand important questions is at the mercy of the judgment of others. In the third place, our student without Greek cannot acquaint himself with the form as well as the content of the New Testament books. The New Testament, as well as all other literature, loses something in translation. But why argue the question? Every scientific student of the New Testament without exception knows that Greek is really necessary to his work: the real question is only as to whether our ministry should be manned by scientific students.

That question is merely one phase of the most important question that is now facing the church—the question of Christianity and culture. The modern world is dominated by a type of thought that is either contradictory to Christianity or else out of vital connection with Christianity. This type of thought applied directly to the Bible has resulted in the naturalistic view of the biblical history—the view that rejects the supernatural not merely in the Old Testament narratives, but also in the Gospel account of the life of Jesus. According to such a view the Bible is valuable because it teaches certain ideas about God and his relations to the world, because it teaches by symbols and example, as well as by formal presentation, certain great principles that have always been true. According to the supernaturalistic view, on the other hand, the Bible contains not merely a presentation of something that was always true, but also a record of something that happened—namely, the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. If this latter view be correct, then the Bible is unique; it is not merely one of the sources of the preacher’s inspiration, but the very sum and substance of what he has to say. But, if so, then whatever else the preacher need not know, he must know the Bible; he must know it at first hand, and be able to interpret and defend it. Especially while doubt remains in the world as to the great central question, who more properly than the ministers should engage in the work of resolving such doubt—by intellectual instruction even more than by argument? The work cannot be turned over to a few professors whose work is of interest only to themselves, but must be undertaken energetically by spiritually minded men throughout the church. But obviously this work can be undertaken to best advantage only by those who have an important prerequisite for the study in a knowledge of the original languages upon which a large part of the discussion is based.

If, however, it is important for the minister to use his Greek Testament, what is to be done about it? Suppose early opportunities were neglected, or what was once required has been lost in the busy rush of ministerial life. Here we may come forward boldly with a message of hope. The Greek of the New Testament is by no means a difficult language; a very fair knowledge of it may be acquired by any minister of average intelligence. And to that end two homely directions may be given. In the first place, the Greek should be read aloud. A language cannot easily be learned by the eye alone. The sound as well as the sense of familiar passages should be impressed upon the mind, until sound and sense are connected without the medium of translation. Let this result not be hastened; it will come of itself if the simple direction be followed. In the second place, the Greek Testament should be read every day without fail, Sabbaths included. Ten minutes a day is of vastly more value than seventy minutes once a week. If the student keeps a “morning watch,” the Greek Testament ought to be given a place in it; at any rate, the Greek Testament should be read devotionally. The Greek Testament is a sacred book, and should be treated as such. If it is treated so, the reading of it will soon become a source of joy and power.

–By J. Gresham Machen