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SBC Seminary Perceptions


didymus
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I applied to PhD programs in early Christian studies/patristics at a wide range of schools (Catholic, secular, and evangelical).

The results are almost all in, and it looks like I'm only going to be accepted to the evangelical seminaries (Southern and Southwestern), despite what I felt was a strong application. I believe that having both an MDiv and a ThM from Southern negatively affected my chances of being accepted at non-evangelical institutions (though I would love to be persuaded otherwise).

Anyway, at this point, my two questions are:

  • What, if any, are your perceptions/impressions of the doctoral programs of these two schools (especially in church history/historical theology)?
  • Do you anticipate that completing a degree from an evangelical seminary will be a hindrance to broader academic pursuits down the line (job hunting, publishing, etc.)?

Thanks for any insights. Just trying to get a sense of the way these programs may be viewed by people not affiliated with them, now that my more preferred options are mostly off the table.

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I view them as being conservative and you'll likely only land a position at a conservative school.

Will it impact publishing? Maybe, that's a little too soon to tell but there are certainly conservative leaning journals that you'll do fine at due to your school's reputation and name.

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20 minutes ago, didymus said:

I applied to PhD programs in early Christian studies/patristics at a wide range of schools (Catholic, secular, and evangelical).

The results are almost all in, and it looks like I'm only going to be accepted to the evangelical seminaries (Southern and Southwestern), despite what I felt was a strong application. I believe that having both an MDiv and a ThM from Southern negatively affected my chances of being accepted at non-evangelical institutions (though I would love to be persuaded otherwise).

Anyway, at this point, my two questions are:

  • What, if any, are your perceptions/impressions of the doctoral programs of these two schools (especially in church history/historical theology)?
  • Do you anticipate that completing a degree from an evangelical seminary will be a hindrance to broader academic pursuits down the line (job hunting, publishing, etc.)?

Thanks for any insights. Just trying to get a sense of the way these programs may be viewed by people not affiliated with them, now that my more preferred options are mostly off the table.

It's probably true that having both an MDiv and ThM from Southern negatively affected your chances. And yes, completing a degree from an evangelical seminary will make it more difficult when it comes to landing a job, even at evangelical schools (which seem to prefer non-evangelical PhDs). In terms of publishing, going to an evangelical seminary won't necessarily hurt your chances (as long as you do quality work), since journals conduct blind peer reviews.

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2 hours ago, Kuriakos said:

A PhD from an SBC seminary is worthless. They have literally hundreds of doctoral students and they are inerrantist (i.e. require students and faculty to believe things that are factually untrue)

I am less interested in the confessional theology of the school itself and more interested in the opportunity to study under a faculty member who is the current president of the North American Patristics Society, an experience which I feel would not be "worthless." Thanks for the comment...

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50 minutes ago, didymus said:

I am less interested in the confessional theology of the school itself and more interested in the opportunity to study under a faculty member who is the current president of the North American Patristics Society, an experience which I feel would not be "worthless." Thanks for the comment...

 

On 3/26/2018 at 2:34 PM, didymus said:

Do you anticipate that completing a degree from an evangelical seminary will be a hindrance to broader academic pursuits down the line (job hunting, publishing, etc.)?

Which is it? Do you want to have the experience of studying with a scholar you respect, or do you want to get a job? Kuriakos was simply saying that if you get a PhD from an SBC seminary, you likely won't get a job. Those schools churn out PhDs. You will not be competitive at all for jobs outside of very conservative schools. That's why Kuriakos said it would be worthless--it was in response to your original question. That may not be the answer you want to hear, but it's better to face it now than later. If you'd be getting no money to attend an SBC seminary for a PhD, I would turn it down. No sense in paying for something that very likely won't end in you having an academic job.

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6 hours ago, didymus said:

I am less interested in the confessional theology of the school itself and more interested in the opportunity to study under a faculty member who is the current president of the North American Patristics Society, an experience which I feel would not be "worthless." Thanks for the comment...

Dr. Bingham is a solid dude and a fine scholar, but that doesn't change the fact that an SBC Seminary doctorate is the kiss of death for an academic career

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If you want to get into a "regular" (i.e. secular) academic PhD you will (likely) need an M* from a secular school/program. Kuriakos is spot on, however painful it is to hear. One scholar will not make much of a difference to hiring committees and journal editors; most of them will have no clue who Bingham is and have no choice but to judge you by the school attached to your name. If you go this route you will certainly never leave the conservative bubble; if you do it will be from clawing your way out, inch by inch. :(

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Do either of those schools provide (good) funding? You didn't list money as one of your priorities, but just throwing that out there as a point of consideration.   

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One of those programs they’re interested in said applicants should expect no direct aid and appeal to their congregation for funding. They’re indirect aid came in the form of a discount if you were from a SBC church. Your annual fee went from about 54k to 33k.

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As most people have noted above, there are multiple factors at work. 

SBC actually reports a respectable "vocational placement" out of the PhD  program.in general. However, I have a feeling that their choice of term does include those who work in ministry outside of an academic context as well to be counted. So before anything, find out the placement of the program into academic jobs. Those academic jobs are also probably at small Southern Baptist colleges. If that is where you want to end up, then SBC may be ok for you.

Also, the attrition rate of the program is around 40%. Multiple factors are probably involved. Money is definitely one of them. 

See http://www.sbc.net/cp/ministryreports/2017/pdf/seminaries/sbts/sbts-ats-report.pdf

 

If this is your first go around in your applications, I would highly encourage you to do all that you can between now and December and beef up your applications. Learn a language. Present papers/get them accepted to conference. Rework your statement. Add more research to your paper. Not getting in your first year does not doom you from not getting in anywhere. Also, while other threads have downplayed the UK PhD route, if you are going to go ahead and pay money to a SBC program for a PhD it may be worth your while to try your hand at doing a UK PhD (even part-time from distance). While it will not have the prestige of a Tier 1 US school, it will give you more opportunities than a SBC school. 

 

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13 hours ago, xypathos said:

One of those programs they’re interested in said applicants should expect no direct aid and appeal to their congregation for funding. They’re indirect aid came in the form of a discount if you were from a SBC church. Your annual fee went from about 54k to 33k.

That's borderline criminal.

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2 hours ago, ChristoWitch87 said:

That's borderline criminal.

It is. SBTS, in particular, explicitly says on their website that doctoral students are not eligible for ANY institutional aid and cannot use federal loans to finance their education.

Per their ATS report, despite bringing in nearly $2 million in annual revenue from PhD students, they awarded exactly $7,750 in scholarship money to them and their website seems to indicate that came in the way of travel funds for conferences.

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1 hour ago, xypathos said:

It is. SBTS, in particular, explicitly says on their website that doctoral students are not eligible for ANY institutional aid and cannot use federal loans to finance their education.

Per their ATS report, despite bringing in nearly $2 million in annual revenue from PhD students, they awarded exactly $7,750 in scholarship money to them and their website seems to indicate that came in the way of travel funds for conferences.

The current Air Force Chief of Chaplains has a PhD from there. I was sort of wondering how one earns a doctorate (D.Min aside) while simultaneously being full time military.

I'm torn, I have no problem with people self financing if they can but I think this should be the exception rather than the norm. Not to mention the market saturation it causes.

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I know something about this and there is some serious misinformation in this thread. Tuition at SBTS is not 34K or 55K per year. It's 34k (for SBC students) or 55k (for non-SBC students) for the entire program, paid over four years. The vast majority of students will pay the SBTS rate (if they aren't already members of an SBC church, they can join one). So it turns out to be a bit more than $8,000 per year. Tuition at SBC seminaries is heavily subsidized by the SBC's Cooperative program. It's pretty much the lowest you'll find at any seminary, but there isn't a big discount rate.

OP, the PhD programs at SBTS and SWBTS are really designed to create pastor-scholars. If that's what you want to do, it's a good option. It's flexible in terms of scheduling and affordable enough that a lot of people can pay as they go. You should think of it as an expanded, more rigorous ThM with a research bent. But if you want to go into academia, you should not do a PhD at an SBC school (or probably most other evangelical schools). It won't just be a hinderance for job hunting. It will positively disqualify you for virtually all jobs at secular universities and mainline/liberal seminaries. It won't be very competitive at evangelical colleges or seminaries either where you would be competing with people with PhDs from major universities in the US and UK, as well as Wheaton, Trinity, etc. There is a large number of people with PhDs from SBTS or SWBTS who end up teaching at Baptist colleges or SBC seminaries, but they represent only a small percentage of the total graduates. As for publishing, there is no reason in principle that you can't publish with a PhD from an SBC seminary, but the training you'll get will prepare you more to serve the church and the evangelical academy. 

Based on what you have suggested about your interests, I think you should probably turn down both offers.

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An alternative route is that you could start the degree program at one of these schools without intent of finishing. I had a friend who meshed well with a professor at an upper tier school overseas, so he started a PhD program at an SBC school and then switched out. I'm not advising this route- personally, I would apply for funded MA programs and PhD programs next year at secular schools, lest you run the risk of reinforcing the fundamentalist stereotype. 

 

Although, I'm in an off year of academic studies and I do understand the frustration that you're facing. It's no fun. But sometimes, an off academic year can land you in a better position academically than doing more schooling. 

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