Friday, September 16, 2005

Letters at the end of my name...

As I approach graduation, the reality of having completed a “Master of Divinity” degree has struck me lately with its profundity. Sure, I suppose I could already list myself as “Ed Eubanks, Jr., B.A. Phil.” (for my Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy) but that seems pretty trite when an undergraduate degree is almost taken for granted in most of the world I live in (and it doesn't really matter that much to the rest of the world!).

Soon, however, I will become, “Ed Eubanks, Jr., M.Div.” This, too, seems trite in its own way; after all, is there really mastery involved? Is the title of the degree legitimate?

Don't get me wrong-- I have the utmost respect for my seminary, the degree program, and the faculty that teach it. And to be sure, many degrees that require 103 credit hours + 300 field hours are more properly known as “doctoral programs.” Having been through 99 of those class hours, I appreciate the level of education I have been given at Covenant Seminary.

Nevertheless, I wonder if it oughtn't be titled “Apprentice of Divinity” instead. So much of what a seminary education is about is simply gathering the tools for your ministry toolbox; the practical side of the training seems pretty close to reading the owner's manual with a particular tool.

When I bought a table saw, I read through the manual thoroughly, but when I was finished I was hardly prepared to begin making furniture. I knew the potential of the tool, and its dangers, but much practice (along with a lot of jigs and creative problem-solving) would be required to actually do the work of making furniture.

So it is with ministry and the “Master” of Divinity. Take homiletics, for example (that's the study of preaching). As I've mentioned before, I seriously question any student who believes that they are ready to preach regularly in a church if they've only done it in a few classes. Or counseling: is a new seminary graduate prepared to walk through the depths of depression with someone they minister to, just because they got an “A” in Introduction to Counseling? There is much work and practice yet to be done.

[By the way, I don't know about you, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea that someone might be awarded a grade of “A” in a class like homiletics. Doesn't that stroke the ego a bit too much, considering the gravity of the subject?]

What does it mean to hold a Master of Divinity degree? It means, at best, what it seems to be shaping up to be for me: that you've spent a lot of time with some amazing, Godly teachers who have themselves demonstrated that the parchment means very little; that what really matters is that you spend the rest of your life trying to live up to the title of “Master” of Divinity.


Milton Stanley said...

I'm afraid some M.Div.s interpret the "Div." part to think they've somehow mastered God. It is sort of funny, isn't it, to make a master's the entry level degree in the field. Maybe that's why in the old days seminarians got the B.D. But with doctors and lawyers taking doctorates as first professional degrees, it doesn't seem right for ministers to have to earn another bachelor's, now does it?

That said, I urge you to embrace your soon-to-be role as a Master of Divinity. Your two children should have prepared you for pastoral ministry at least as much as your M.Div.

And if you're interested in a blog resource aimed at helping ministers build their own characters, in being transformed into the image of Christ, you might want to check out my blog. Peace.

Milton Stanley said...

To clarify: I have three blogs, but the one I was talking about in my previous comment is called Transforming Sermons.

Ed said...

Thanks for the comments, Milton. I am familiar with the old "B.Div." but join you in lamenting its passing, at least in the U.S. (you can still get a B.Div. at some British and European schools). I do agree, though, that, in many cases, our social context requires a "professional" degree for pastors to be taken seriously.

You're right about parenting-- it has prepared me for ministry a great deal. It's amazing how much pastoral ministry is like parenting...

Thanks for the link to your blog(s); I checked out "Transforming Sermons" a few minutes ago, and you've got some good stuff. I'll add a link to my sidebar.