Yesterday Peter Enns wrote a depressing, but helpfully honest post titled, “Some Unasked for Advice on Whether an Evangelical Should Get a PhD in Biblical Studies” wherein he argues “no” a PhD is not a good idea unless you have a “genuine, authentic, deep inner drive” to do one. In his post he points out that evangelicals who obtain a doctoral degree in biblical studies are likely to have low paying jobs, they will fight and scratch for the few positions available (often being adjuncts at best), and they will need to be aware of the many doctrinal controversies that can result in a pink slip.
Enns says that receiving a PhD from a seminary is a bad idea. I have done two graduate degrees at an evangelical seminary and I am aware of the problems this might cause for me. (I aim to do my doctoral work at a university.) For others this is not as problematic because if someone affirms the confessional stance of their seminary’s denominational affiliate it may be that the network created by common belief results in a job. I don’t have this option.
None of these points made by Enns were surprising. I know the job market is terrible, and the pay worse, and that the concept of “tenure” is almost extinct. I know that the doctrinal politics of evangelicalism have created a world of academia that appears quite hostile. I know that associations with evangelicalism is likely to prevent many colleges and universities from hiring someone they fear to be a “fundamentalist.” I want to discuss something else.
Enns’ advised readers to “think globally” saying:
The job market in “conventional” schools is miserable, but there are Christian institutions around the world who would give their right arm to have good, humble, and educated people teach them biblical studies. Of course, this is a very big shift in expectations for many earning PhDs in the west, but there is a need there.
This leads me to a question that I ask somewhat tongue-in-cheek: Is Spanish more useful than German? My emphasis is not on Spanish. You could substitute it with Mandarin, Korean, Hindi, or other languages spoken by a large population base. In the field of biblical studies most students are required to know two additional modern languages for research other than English. For obvious reasons those two are often German and French, sometimes Italian. But is this a mistake? How many people must interact with Bultmann? Well, OK, German seems somewhat essential at this juncture, but as someone who has been trying to study French I haven’t found it all that useful for my research thus far. But what is a seminary or university had an opening in South America–Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico? Educators are given quite the teaching load and I know many who haven’t touched their German (let alone French) since they graduated. Is Spanish more useful than German or French? Hindi?
Would doctoral programs be more useful to doctoral students if they asked for one research language looking backward (like German) and one looking forward to employment (like Spanish)?
Let me know your thoughts on this. What do you think of giving biblical studies doctoral students the option of choosing a second language more geared toward teaching opportunities than research?