A Pastor with a PhD? Don’t Waste Your Time

At least that’s the opinion of John Piper. You can read his article in full here.

In part, Piper writes:

If you’re already a pastor, I wouldn’t get a PhD. It’s a lot of work, and the payoff is really small. Really small.

When I say really small, I don’t mean studying the Bible is small payoff. But the way most PhD programs are set up it is small payoff. Because you have to read so much junk in order to get your PhD. You have to become an expert in what other people are saying, most of which is wrong.

Most of the stuff that is written in the world isn’t true. And a PhD has to be an expert. And so you have to read gobs and gobs of stuff that is unhelpful.

Keep in mind, Piper already has his PhD. And in my experience, it’s always easy to discount the value of something you already have.

However, I think he has a point in there. A lot of what is required for a PhD in Old Testament Studies or New Testament Studies is not always germane to what a pastor does. The academic study of the Bible and the interpretive work pastors do has very little overlap most of the time.

Mind you, there are places of overlap and mutual edification. But, in my opinion, it’s about as much overlap as there is between the average pastor and an archeologist.

Most of what an archeologist does is dig up bits of dirt and debris that are of endless fascination to the archeologist, but yawn-inducing to the rest of us. (Like pottery sherds. If you’ve ever met an archeologist, you know what I mean.)

However, every now and then they find the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Rosetta Stone. They find something that intersects our world and impacts what we do. And in that moment, they both justify their existence and gain our unwavering attention.

But, as Piper suggests, that intersection is minimal. So, the payoff is limited. It’s just not as much as you might think.

Which is why most of the pastors reading this blog can’t really read Greek or Hebrew. Why? It apparently wasn’t worth their time. If it was, they’d have done it.

Whatever else they may say, it didn’t really matter. So they didn’t learn it. And if Greek and Hebrew matter so little to pastors with an MDiv, imagine how much less we’d all do with a PhD.


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