Peter Enns: So you want to get a PhD in Biblical Studies?

For anyone considering a PhD in Biblical Studies or Theology (or the Humanities in general), read this post by Peter Enns.This is his “bottom line”:

Unless you can honestly say to yourself that you can’t imagine not getting a PhD in Biblical Studies, don’t do it.

He discusses frankly the challenges that come with getting a job in academia. The prospects are not good. And for programs that do not provide full scholarships and a stipend, getting a PhD might require several hundred thousand dollars in debt. That’s a lot of money to pay off working at Starbucks. Even if you do get job in academia, the salary won’t be much better.

Enns does note that the job prospects overseas are fabulous, but those jobs often (almost always?) require raising your own support. Every time I speak with someone who has an interest in PhD work I tell them that if they haven’t considered teaching overseas, they absolutely must. If they consider it and decide it’s not for them, fine, but the need is so great and the job market in the US is so dismal that it would be irresponsible not to give overseas ministry some thought.

Also, Enns’ last point about watching for “doctrinal issues” is a good one. However, it deserves some context. Enns went from being theologically conservative to being theologically liberal all while teaching at a theologically conservative school. Of course that is going to cause problems. If you are at a school that has a statement of faith, expect to be looking for a new job if you find yourself disagreeing with fundamental tenants of that statement.


About Peter Green

I am a doctoral student at Wheaton College. My dissertation is on vineyard imagery in the Old Testament, particularly as it is used to convey the theme of Creation to New Creation. My interests are (in no particular order): biblical ethics, epistemology, apologetics, sacramentology, science and faith, biblical theology, OT theology, biblical political philosophy, and intertextuality. I consider myself to be in the historic Reformed tradition, and attend a PCA church. I graduated from Covenant Theological Seminary--the PCA's denominational seminary--and hope work for Reformed University Fellowship, which is the PCA's campus ministry, following my PhD studies.
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