Discerning Major Decisions

discernment.jpgSo, are you ready for the longest blog post in the history of long blog posts?

That’s probably not true, but it’s going to be pretty stinkin’ long – at least for TWOG.

I thought a lot of you would find the following (15 page) journal entry interesting, and that for two main reasons: First, I know that many of you are interested to know where my thoughts are on whether I should continue to pursue my doctoral studies or set them down. Second, I’m sure that many of you would be interested to know what my process of discernment looks like when I need to make a major decision, and this will serve as a good example.

This entry, of course, does not explain the entire process. In fact, it really only accounts for one day. But I make enough references to other aspects of my process of discernment that you should get a pretty clear picture of what the entire process looks like. I have taken similar approaches to at least 4-5 other major decisions in the last 8 years, but this is the first time I have written extensively about it.

I’d also like to encourage pastors or seminarians to read this entry carefully as it expresses some of my best thinking (however paltry) on the teaching ministry of the pastorate.

So, make some popcorn, settle in, and have a good read. Looking forward to your feedback.

Journal Entry from May 16th, 2008

Reading: Psalm 1; Proverbs 1-3; 1-2 Timothy; Titus

I have come to the point where a decision clearly needs to be made as to whether I continue on in doctoral work or set that aside and devote myself to other things. I have set aside this entire day to seek God in prayer, through his Word, through fasting, and in discernment to decide the matter. I don’t know that I’ll have an answer by the end of the day—God is not bound to speak—but I do hope to. I’ve thought about it much, have prayed and sought wise counsel over the last six months. It’s time to bring it to God and ask him to speak clearly and lead me one way or the other. I am thankful to have come to a place (more or less) of neutrality on the issue, so that I am well positioned to follow wherever God desires to take this. I’m beginning my morning with breakfast and Psalm 1 and Proverbs 1-3.

In reading Psalm 1, I recognize that the first thing I need to do in seeking the Lord’s voice is to repent and seek forgiveness for persistent sin. God blessed those who delight in his instruction, not those who stand in the way of sinners. And, as Proverbs 1 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” I do not expect the Lord to speak clearly to me if I persist in rebellion against him. Clearly, in Proverbs, the contrast between wisdom and folly parallels the contrast between righteousness and wickedness:

Prov. 1:23: “If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my Spirit on you; I will
make my word known to you.

Prov. 1:29-31: “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the
Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own desires.”

Prov. 2:3-7: “…If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is shield to those who walk in integrity.”

Prov. 3:5-7: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”

[spent an hour in confessional and repentant prayer]

I just enjoyed a long time of prayer in repentance from sin, for forgiveness and cleansing through Christ, and for healing, restoration, and heart change from the Spirit. Lying prostrate, face in the grass and hands open, I am refreshed and renewed, and ready to seek God’s will in earnest. I’m going to take time now to read the Pastorals to remind myself of the character and nature of my calling.

[spent about an hour reading the Pastorals slowly and meditatively]

Relevant counsel from the Pastorals for this decision:

  • There is a danger in education: namely, wandering away into discussion that just do not matter and do not benefit the church, but rather bring a haughty and arrogant spirit (1 Tim. 1:6-7).
  • An apostolic ministry is marked by preaching, message-bearing (ambassadorship), and teaching with faithfulness and truth (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11, 2:24; Titus 2:1).
  • The office of overseer is a noble task, requiring sober-mindedness and ability to teach. Presumably, the more sober-mindedness and capability to teach the better (1 Tim. 3:1-2).
  • Overseers must manage their household well. If they are not capable of managing their household well, they are not fit to be overseers (1 Tim. 3:3-4).
  • Servants of Christ are to train themselves for godliness, and in this context [1 Tim. 4] godliness is especially bound up with right thinking and right doctrine (1 Tim. 4:7).
  • The salvation of my people is, in some ways, tied to me keeping a close watch both on my life and on the truth of my doctrine/teaching (1 Tim. 4:16).
  • Preaching and teaching in the church is a particularly high calling, and must be taken very, very seriously (1 Tim. 5:17).
  • Teaching is incredibly important, but learned people have a particular propensity to get embroiled in controversy because of unhealthy cravings for it (1 Tim. 6:2-5; 2 Tim. 2:23; Tit. 3:9)
  • Paul urges his protégé: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved; a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
  • It is very possible to learn, learn, learn and never arrive at a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7).
  • Preachers need to be as well-equipped as possible to deal with controversy and potentially divisive teaching (2 Tim. 4:3-5).
  • In the Pastorals a right heart and proper character always undergird the knowledge required of an overseer.

I need to spend some time in prayer over these things I’ve seen. I’ll spend the next hour in prayer over each of these observations, and then fast and pray over lunch, asking God to help me to begin to put my best case against continued doctoral work together on paper, after which I’ll pray for God’s help in putting together my best case for continued doctoral work.

[spent a little more than an hour in prayer]

My best case against further doctoral work:

The foremost concern I have in considering continuing with my doctoral work is the time it will require and what things I might more wisely do with that time. Realistically, doctoral work from now until the end of my dissertation defense will likely require (granted familial and ministry commitments) 10-15 hours per week minimum for a duration of 4-6 years. In addition, periodic sabbaticals will be necessary before key events (i.e. comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal, dissertation defense), ranging from 2-6 weeks, and I am not certain that these sabbaticals would be granted by my elders nor whether it is justified to take that much time away from the work of the ministry. The weekly time taken for study would be time otherwise spent with family, working on home projects, pursuing other useful reading, and enjoying some rest and time for hobbies. In addition, more time could be given to building and investing in my ministry through New Hope Church.

Also, committing to a certain lifestyle and schedule for 4-6 years presumes that such a schedule will still be possible during all of the next 4-6 years. It is possible—even likely—that within the next 4-6 years I may be in a different ministry position or setting entirely unknown to me at the present, and that Leslie and I will (Lord willing) have at least one more child. In addition, continued Ph.D. work is expensive. Tuition rates will likely continue to climb in this economy, while financial aid will likely continue to decrease in availability. This will cause my family to face more difficult financial decisions regarding finances that we otherwise might.

In addition, there may be averse effects on my spiritual and devotional life. Rigorous study need not, but sometimes does, lead to pride and arrogance, to burnout, to an excessive craving for controversy, and to an excessive focus on minutiae, rather than on the big picture; to viewing the Bible less as the Word of God, living and active, and more as a textbook to be analyzed and criticized. Study can also lead to an overly critical and haughty attitude toward those who are not as studied, and can even lead to an over-reliance on the power of human cognition over against prayerful, humble, faithful submission to God and his Word. I do not presume to be immune to any of these potentially deadly effects.

Finally, committing to this course of study would likely forestall much involvement in the broader national and global evangelical movement for the next 4-6 years and will limit the vast majority of my ministry involvement to my local church.

Lord, is there any significant argument I have forgotten or omitted?

Before going to prayer and asking for God’s help in putting together the best argument for continuing doctoral work, I’m going to work some on a tentative weekly schedule to help determine whether the required weekly time is even possible to build in (see scratch paper).

[spent about an hour working on a schedule for fall, summer, and spring that would allow for 45-50 hours of ministry work, 12-15 hours of study time, and at least one full day, a half day, and two other evenings a week to be entirely devoted to family]

Making a schedule for the summer, fall and spring went fairly well. It is possible, I think, to devote adequate time to family, ministry, and studies. Clearly, however, it would require an extraordinary amount of discipline in time management. The allotted time frames would have to be almost inviolable. It would require that I decline or defer unnecessary counseling appointments and other commitments. I would need to say ‘no’ to plenty of otherwise good and enjoyable meetings and leisure times. It would put greater strictures on my sermon prep time, so that if my sermons are not finished during the allotted time, they would have to be preached unfinished in reliance on the Spirit to use unpolished work. That said, it does seem possible. The hours work.

[spent about 15 minutes in prayer for help in formulating the best case for doctoral work]

My best case for further doctoral work:
First and foremostly, continued doctoral studies would allow me an almost unparalleled opportunity for rigorous study with top-flight scholars, many of whom are among the most godly men I know. This would be an opportunity for extended honing of my skills in rightly handling the Word of truth. In some sense, the opportunity rather creates an obligation. That is, in view of the thousands of men and women—church leaders—around the world who would give almost anything to be able to pursue doctoral studies at Trinity with someone like D.A. Carson, it may be a deeply ungrateful and callous thing to decline such an opportunity.

To be sure, there are times that I have almost convinced myself that further academic study would be of very minimal value to my pastoral ministry. I’m not sure what has led my to think this, however, given that my years at Trinity where the single most formative of my life for pastoral ministry—particularly my time with Dr. Carson—that that I learned so well how to understand, handle, explain, and apply Scripture, which has profoundly impacted the way I do everything else in ministry. I have no reason to doubt that further study would do the same—particularly in light of the benefits I have already reaped from doctoral study for my pastoral ministry.

A Ph.D. would bestow an influence and stature of some degree and would open up more opportunities for broader ministry at home and abroad (e.g. short-term teaching posts in under funded foreign seminaries and pastors’ colleges). Stature and influences can certainly be sought for ungodly and self-centered reasons. But, if like Bonhoeffer, they can be used for the sake of the gospel, they can be incredibly useful.

Furthermore, I sense a good deal of fear and trepidation in myself about the possibility of changing directions in a course that I am reasonably confident God set me on in the first place. I sought the Lord in this matter before I originally entered the Ph.D. program and felt confident that he was blessing this course of action. It is not impossible that he meant for me to begin the program, learn some valuable things, spend the money, and the quit. And it is not impossible that I discerned his will incorrectly from the outset. But both of these appear to me to be unlikely. It seems much more likely to me that subsequent doubts have arisen from the fruits of poor time management, a desire for ease, and a fear of frustration and failure in the program.

The counsel I have received from godly friends and advisors has been split. Interestingly, the almost unanimous sentiment among those of my own generation has been to suggest that I quit the program, while the almost unanimous sentiment among those of older generations has been to urge me to complete the program. It may be that younger generations tend to be more ignorant and dismissive than older people and lack foresight. Or, it may be that older people tend to value “letters-behind-names” too highly, while younger people rightly tend to value authenticity and wisdom more than degrees, letters, and empty credentials. It’s probably impossible to discern these things for certain. I am certainly susceptible to youthful ignorance. And I am certainly susceptible to an idolatry of letters and credentials. But I also believe it to be possible to be wise and authentic and to hold weighty credentials at the same time. However, in light of fairly balanced scales in this matter, and in light of consistent biblical instruction, I am inclined to weigh more heavily the counsel of older men (who include my senior pastor) rather than young men (cf. 1 Kings 12).

Doctoral work completed and credentialed will likely afford me increased opportunities for leadership and involvement in the broader evangelical movement (after 4-6 years), both nationally and globally. For better or worse, more leadership, teaching, training, writing, and speaking opportunities are opened to godly men with academic doctorates. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing in and of itself—it is simply reality.
What is more is that I have always been frustrated by the growing gulf between the church and the academy, where a close relationship existed until even the 20th century. Too often, these spheres do not converse and the result is a lack of piety, practicality, and focus on the mission of the church within the academy, and a dire lack of intellectual rigor within the church. But one can scarcely lament the gulf without attempting to bridge it. Completing the doctorate but continuing in pastoral ministry would uniquely position me to stand in the gulf and converse with both sides.

Lord, is there any significant argument I have forgotten or omitted?

It is 6:30pm. My mind is exhausted. I can’t think of much more that I need to think or pray about, so I am now committing this all to the Lord.

Lord, please grant wisdom and clear guidance. Please show me what is best and I will trust you with the details. I desire to please you and submit to you in all things. Be honored and glorified in these decisions. I ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.


23 thoughts on “Discerning Major Decisions”

  1. Wow. Thanks for being so transparent and sharing your journaling on this matter. I will start by saying how glad I am I’m not going for any doctorates right now. Sadly, never have I thought to do something as obvious as spend a WHOLE day in prayer and God’s word to make a huge life decision. At best I’ll spend an hour or so, but usually maybe say a quick prayer and hope for the best, and usually get nothing and wind up getting impatient and moving forward on my own. Your comment — “I do not expect the Lord to speak clearly to me if I persist in rebellion against him” — really hit home for me. That makes so much sense. To quote a favorite film [about myself]: “That girl is next door to a perfect heathen.”

    I have two questions for you — did you randomly select Psalm 1 and Prov 1-3, or did you know they held a lot of good info about hearing from God??? And does Leslie have an opinion on this or is she just supporting whatever you decide? (Nevermind if that’s too personal of a question)

    And funny enough, before you even got into the stuff about the youngies vs. the oldies opinions, I (a youngie) was already rooting for you in my mind to NOT pursue the program, and every thought you had about what a youngie would think rang true for me, so you might be on to something there. (See, I’ve made it easy for you — any vote coming from Tiffany the heathen should probably send you screaming in the other direction 😉 )

    Seriously though. Great way to pursue it. I may have learned a thing or two here tonight. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. Just a few thoughts:

    1. My wife and I will be praying for you in this decision.
    2. It’s been my experience that thoughts of quitting, specifically because of doubts about the future or the availability of resources, are seldom from God.
    3. Those without a doctoral degree are probably the only folks who would tell you a doctoral degree isn’t necessary or worth pursuing. (I’m no Ph.D or Th.D either and I don’t mean any offense to anyone who would say this)
    4. Are you currently able to declare sound doctrine, exhort and rebuke with all authority? (Titus 2:15) It certainly seems so to me.
    5. I want to echo Tiffany’s point, include your wife. (not that any of us thinks you wouldn’t, you’ve only been emphasizing this since the beginning.)



  3. What?!?!? Bryan’s thinking about dropping the PHD? This is the first I’ve heard about it. Just kidding!

  4. I have a few comments that I have heard very wise people have said and I will just repeat them. One has to do directly with your situation, another is advice on how to make a decision and the other is a question I have for you:

    1. my question: what was it that lead you to pursue the doctorate in the first place? I know you said you sought the Lord on whether or not to pursue it, but why did you feel lead there in the first place?

    2. advice about making decisions: Psalm 143:10 says, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” A wise woman has told my husband and he has passed it onto me, that where the Lord’s will is, the Spirit grants peace. Pray about the two situations and where the Lord gives you peace, that is where the Spirit is leading you. Steve says, that he imagines himself making the decision each way and he always feels more peace about one than the other. I know you are praying about it and I just wanted to encourage you in that.

    3. comment you told me was said to you that would be a big seller to me: “I think you will eventually regret quitting.”

    Even though I am a “young” person, I think my position is somewhat clear…

  5. I would echo KG’s third point, something we “young” people tend to forget: either way, will you regret the decision in 20 years? Not that it makes it the right decision. But it’s a wise thing to keep in mind, especially on decisions where the near future looms much larger in the mind than the distant future.

  6. Bryan:

    I highly encourage you to complete the Ph.D. program.

    From day one in seminary when I helped you and Leslie move into your apartment on campus to day 800 where I saw you studying in the library, I was struck by your friendly personality along with your intense commitment to academic excellence.

    It is no secret that I approached my seminary experience as a nape-of-the-earth endeavor: I did what I had to do to pass. With that approach, I failed classes, I barely passed others, yet I graduated and now do what I went to seminary to do, you on the other hand, excelled and are doing what God has called you to do.

    As a chaplain deployed and stateside, I have enjoyed reading what you have written here. Your insights, your book suggestions, your weight-loss campaign, your Lifetime-Fitness rants (where I once worked and fully share your chagrin), and your overall desire to glorify God have greatly served me as I serve in a heathen world. At times, there are in what you write glimmers of brilliance that are so radiant that is evident with polishing you could have a future in seminary teaching and beyond.

    To do that, you need a Ph.D. Yes, it will be a long and difficult hike. Right now, the feet ache and the backpack’s weight demand you reflect on the path your life takes.

    There is nothing wrong with that. You are allowed to catch your breath and reflect on what is ahead.

    Getting your Ph.D. will take you to greater heights. You can be the Moses for our generation–at least for a valley dweller such as me–who goes to greater heights to understand the God we follow and then brings it down to our level.

    You communicate with us valley folks, and you have a mind for the doctoral work. You just need the desire and motivation. Nothing worthwhile is easy. You know that. You earned your jump wings through effort. You earned your MDiv through effort. You, I firmly believe, will earn your Ph.D. through effort and support from those to whom you minister.

    In closing, after returning from a day hike in Bong State Recreational Area during spring break, I stopped by the admissions office to visit my wife before I went to work. Sitting on the couch was a frazzled-haired classmate. I said, what’s going on. He said that he was debating leaving seminary. I said, you got some bad mid-semester grades and now you are questioning being here. He said, “Yes.” I asked, what brought you here? He said that God did. I asked, did God just tell you to leave? He paused, and he shook his head side-to-side. To make a long story short, I saw him throughout the semesters and years in the gym working out and in the library studying.

    Bryan, I am looking forward to what you write not only here but also in a form bound to be published. You have the potential. You just need the desire, effort, and encouragement.

    You have my support and encouragement to complete your Ph.D.

  7. Vince – It’s like, more than the pseudo-Master’s degree that we got … and better than the fake Doctorate (like the D.Min.) that you or I might get someday so that we can be called “Dr.”

  8. Pastor Bryan, I’m a fan – of Christ in you. And i wasn’t going to respond but this has been eating at me sorta all day so here goes…

    1. Why not do this American Idol style? Open up 3 hours of text and phone voting & LET THE PPL DECIDE!!!!! Just kidding.

    2. However, had i to vote, i’d say get your darn PhD man… Oh you know it comes down to this: sometimes i think God let’s us pick. Sometimes i honestly think He let’s us decide. And that’s coming from a calvinist (“with a sense of humor, and a charismatic w/ a seat belt” as Mark Driscoll says.) I think your brain and your life and your mind and soul were made for this higher pursuit of learning – You were meant to be a voice to “this” generation – and the more at the feasting table you can digest, IMHO the better. You were meant for this, i really think. But still, i really think God lets us pick, sometimes.

    3. What’d give God most glory here? I always think He gets more glory in the “toughest roughest” and you’re sure the heck have to cling tighter to His infinite grace to get thru that rigorous schedule. Go for it. You started it, you finish it. Let your yes be yes!

    And i’m sorry this is going to be a little long too but I gotta go with my boi Johnny ‘Big Time’ Bunyan (sorry i make up names for my hero’s in the faith, we got the Martin L. Train & the Johnny C. Express too, Reform style) on this one… I’m gonna give you some Bunyan i’m sure you’ve read at one time Seasonable Counsels, or Advice to Sufferers, in the Works of John Bunyan Vol.2 — I know this is talking about suffering but i think there is an element which can apply if you want Here goes. This one hits it on the spot for me:

    “May we try to escape? Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Moses stood. [I’m skipping the references!] David fled, David stood. Jeremiah fled, Jeremiah stood. Christ withdrew himself, Christ stood. Paul fled, Paul stood. // There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly… Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word. Matt. 10:23… If therefore when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art His servant, thy life and thy all are His; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand.”

    Bryan – laugh. Amen. 🙂 Your friend, KT

  9. P.B. I just want you to know that your process for discerning God’s will for you in this has been encouraging, helpful and just all around lifegiving to those of us who are in your flock! That said…here are some really obvious things that I see as someone who has been directly impacted for the good by your teaching;

    *YOU have a gift for taking intellectually, theologically and biblically “packed” information and relaying that in such a way that uncomplicates it and MOST of all…points us back to the cross. You always exhort us to keep our gaze on the Cross and to never falter in taking the emphasis off it. You remind us that everything comes back to it and you bring the precious gift of salvation into everything we encounter in this journey of living out our faith in this world.

    It is evident that you are a sponge for knowledge…and its even more evident that to that end, WE as your flock benefit from it! Your pursuit of reading decidedly helps us to sift out the not so beneficial reads, from the ones that will add to our holiness. What I so appreciate P.B. is your willingness to share in admitting that there lies within you a propensity towards the things you listed as potential pitfalls. That sort of acute awareness will keep you guarded. You have a lovely wife who I know the Lord uses as a touchstone for much in your life so I would echo what many are saying and affirm that you are doing everything right to land you in a positon of COMPLETE obdience in this matter.

    As an aside…I am a living byproduct of this exact scenario. My Daddy is a pastor and one who really values theological education. He received his M.Div from Princeton Seminary and went on to Boston University, where he in fact completed all his doctoral coursework. He “ONLY” had his disortation to write 🙂 LOL! When he learned that the Lord was calling him to forgo that final step (for now…which has been 18 years) and enter into a Senior Pastorate position in N.Y. He submitted to that call and rested in God’s Sovereignty! God provides. Our Family has been a wonderful example of how the Lord emboldens those called into deeper study and provides for their needs all the while. Things were often tight, but we always had love and fun on top of our basic needs. Yes, Dad was busy, but we knew he was always there and my mom was amazing through it all! Anything that lacked has consequently been worked out to the good of this family (however painful a lot of it has been). So…you just never know what or when or how the outcome will play out. The beauty is…it’s still an option for my dad to go back and complete his Disortation. He has had an open hand about this and he has entrusted it to the Lord for completion if he wills it. That’s my family’s story.

    I think as difficult and stringent as your schedule may seem to be over the next few years…the fulfillment of such a thing as a Doctorate BY the strength of the Lord, will serve as a living testament to his continued Goodness AND those whom you teach, will winsomely benefit from it!
    In other words… GO FOR IT PB!!!!!!

  10. BTW: I full heartedly concur with Rudy Stevens in that I have had a sense that you will publish and that the incredible Insights that the Lord has given you for his people…will be shared through the fruits of published works.

  11. Hi PB-

    I loved your May 16 “mother of all Blog posts”. Wow. I had no idea you were in such a quandary over whether to continue your PhD studies.

    As far as degrees and alphabet letters behind your name goes, I guess you are already ‘qualified’ to do the work that you apparently love to do and are clearly gifted at doing (being a sheparding/discipling pastor). So you don’t NEED more schooling to function in our culture.

    But, since I already did the alphabet thing behind my name (albiet as a research scientist, so my situation is quite different), I will attempt to make one point. I believe that a major result of earning ‘your’ PhD will be the self-confidence you gain in formulating, and otherwise making conclusions and interpretations. The process of creating and defending your dissertation will absolutely and immeasurably increase your ability and most importantly your confidence in your thought process. I believe that you cannot overestimate the “forced maturity” that the PhD will give your thinking and discerning process, especially within your discipline.

    Since you already know that your abilities are all gifts from God, the REAL QUESTION is whether you want to refine your gifts. Or, more specifically whether the Lord is asking you to refine them. And HOW you will go about refining them.

    We didn’t invent the education system we live with, but since we live with it we pretty much have to use it, for all its flaws. It is usually apparent from about Day 2 whether someone will be a successful graduate student. I have 100% confidence that you can succeed as a PhD student. You already meet the spirit of the degree. You just gotta do it.

    I also have 100% confidence that it won’t be a fun ride, and that your family will suffer for it and that your disciples won’t get to sit around at Caribou with you as much. So I can totally empathize with your turmoil.

    But in my mind it comes down to what you want to do with your very real and tangible gifts. Many of us can see you as the Jonathan Edwards or the CS Lewis of the 21st century. I’m not trying to inflate you. I’m trying to inflate the ideas and ideals that you represent. They need to be revived in each generation. Is God asking you to be Bryan McWhite, or is God asking you to be the “First” Bryan McWhite?

    I believe that the PhD is the way that scholarly tradition is passed though the centuries. It works in every discipline from science to theology. Does God have to use the PhD? NO! But does he? Absolutely YES. Look at all of your spiritual role models!

    Here’s my bottom line: If God is calling you to the trenches as a pastor and shepherd, then you probably don’t really need the PhD. You’ve already trained for that job and you are doing it with great agility. But you are also doing something that most local pastors do not do. You are systematically reinflating Christianity for the 21st century from its roots in the first though the 19th centuries.

    If God is calling you to this task then you need to keep sharpening your mind and tools. The PhD isn’t about your credibility so much as its about your ability and self-confidence. You won’t be suddenly qualified to think and write and lead the day you finish your PhD. But conversely you won’t be able to compete on the field unless you train.

    Our century is going to be really messed up if some things don’t change soon. So, will the First Bryan McWhite please step forward?


  12. I’ve read your blog post and something doesn’t quite make sense to me. At the beginning of your post you said, “I have set aside this entire day to seek God…through fasting… I’m beginning my morning with breakfast…”
    If you planned to devote the day to fasting, why did you eat breakfast?

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