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Duke M.Div Inquiry


neat
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I am planning to pursue an mDiv program in Fall 2016, and am still in the "put together my list of institutions to apply to" phase of things. For various reasons, I am thinking of Duke divinity to be one of the most attractive potential landing spots- I wanted to reach out and see if anyone had any comments on their own experience there (or has heard things from someone who has attended, etc). I see positive reviews pretty consistently (here and elsewhere), but thought that it might be worth reaching out more directly for information. 

 

In addition, if anyone else has thoughts on things to know/remember, comments from their own mDiv experience, etc it is more than welcome. 

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Before anyone can give you a helpful answer, it would be helpful for us to know what your goals are. Are you wanting to go into ministry, or are you thinking about PhD programs beyond the MDiv? 

 

If your plan is ministry, then how conservative/progressive you are and the kinds of churches/ministries/etc. you'd like to work for are is going to matter a lot in making the decision. If you can provide some more info, you'll get better advice.

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Thanks for reaching out, MarXian. One of the reasons that I am interested in an MDiv is because I have a fairly wide variety of interests, and do not have my heart set on a specific path (or an academic field). I have served in ministry (in a lay capacity) and have found much of the work to be a great fit for me. I would love to serve in a professional capacity. However, I am currently an educator in a public high school and am interested in religion (particularly religious history) and theology as academic disciplines, too. I have an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy, and am drawn to fields like church history, ecumenics, practical theology, and philosophy of religion. I love teaching. From the research that I have done online and through conversation, an MDiv is an excellent introductory graduate degree (in that regard) and provides an opportunity to explore some of these fields as areas of further study. My heart is not set on a PhD- I would be interested in pursuing a ThD or something similar, too. I would love to teach at the university level, but I understand the commitment involved (and the job prospects in the field). Frankly, I don't believe that I have enough experience in these fields to know if they would prove to be a suitable landing spot for me over the long term. It seems to me that pursuing other degrees (certain MA's, MAR's, MTS, etc) feel more "focused" than an MDiv- I am very much interested in a degree that will allow me to engage in multiple fields, multiple areas of thought, etc. Quite frankly, I would like to be able to explore a bit more before selecting about a specific career path- and from my understanding, an MDiv is a pretty standard "introductory" degree, whether you end up pursuing ministry or the academy (in related fields, of course). 

 

Although it is not the only institution that I am looking at, I think that one of the reasons that Duke appeals to me in particular is because of the makeup of their faculty and the culture of the institution. They seem to be more progressive and academically rigorous than many evangelical seminaries, but more conservative than the so called "mainline" divinity schools like HDS and YDS. However, I recognize that research (about an institution) can only get you so far- and I would love to hear personal accounts from others of their experience (either at Duke or more broadly, in an MDiv program). I am a nondenominational Christian and am fairly progressive- I am less interested in attending an evangelical seminary (many that I have known have felt that these seminaries don't have much interest in engaging with other faith traditions or philosophies- although, to be fair, this is a generalization), but conversely, one of the mainline Divinity schools like HDS or YDS are perhaps a bit less appealing to me- I think that studying in a confessional community is still important to me. 

 

All comments or thoughts on this line of thinking are welcome. 

Edited by 918Philosophizer
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Although it is not the only institution that I am looking at, I think that one of the reasons that Duke appeals to me in particular is because of the makeup of their faculty and the culture of the institution. They seem to be more progressive and academically rigorous than many evangelical seminaries, but more conservative than the so called "mainline" divinity schools like HDS and YDS. However, I recognize that research (about an institution) can only get you so far- and I would love to hear personal accounts from others of their experience (either at Duke or more broadly, in an MDiv program). I am a nondenominational Christian and am fairly progressive- I am less interested in attending an evangelical seminary (many that I have known have felt that these seminaries don't have much interest in engaging with other faith traditions or philosophies- although, to be fair, this is a generalization), but conversely, one of the mainline Divinity schools like HDS or YDS are perhaps a bit less appealing to me- I think that studying in a confessional community is still important to me. 

 

All comments or thoughts on this line of thinking are welcome. 

Based on this I think that Princeton Theological Seminary would be a solid option for you as well. 

Plus we have the ~money~

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Yes, it sounds like PTS or Duke would be a good fit for you. I've known some more progressive Protestants who, for example, left evangelicalism but weren't quite comfortable with the more "old school" mainline folks, and found a great fit at both those places.

 

It's not a bad thing to have options at this point. It wasn't until 18 months into my time in seminary that I firmly decided I would apply to PhD programs. I came in thinking I would, got a part time job in ministry, thought I would be a pastor, changed my mind, etc., etc. It's common to go through that since seminaries are made up of tons of different people with all sorts of different backgrounds and interests. It can really get you thinking about what you'd like to do with degree. That said, don't feel like you absolutely have to do the MDiv. I honestly wouldn't recommend it unless you're seriously considering ordained ministry of some sort. You're going to have to do a lot of practical ministry courses that are going to feel like a waste of money unless you've got your sights set on a ministry position. The only exception might be is if you really get into practical theology.

 

Divinity schools and seminaries offer general master's degrees. There's a reason Yale designates some of their degrees as "concentrated"--many seminaries and divinity schools don't offer degrees with that level of concentration. I have an MA in theology from an evangelical seminary and I found it very general compared to the MA in English that I completed before it. It was honestly a little too general for the work I'm doing now. I've found that I've had to do a bit of catching up in my PhD program on the theology side of things (mostly the historical stuff.)

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  • 9 months later...

You may have already made up your mind on where to go by now, but if you are still interested in hearing about Duke Div.,  I completed my M.Div. at Duke a couple of years ago.  What has been said in previous comments, and specifically what you have said about Duke being a confessional community that is also academically rigorous, is correct.  Duke rejects the idea that Christian intellectual credibility requires Christians to be vague or open about their theological commitments.  This is not to say that Duke encourages theological arrogance or an unwillingness to listen to others' ideas, but rather is a way of recognizing that common terms are a prerequisite to conversations of all kinds, including Christian conversations.  There is plenty of room to disagree within Christianity, but denying that Christ is fully God and fully human, for example, would change the character of discourse such that Christian conversation would no longer be possible, since Christ's divinity and humanity are part of the theological bedrock of Christian discourse.  I think of Duke's approach to theology as orthodox eccumenism--a commitment to the ecumenical creeds of Christianity, while also being open to a wide range of differing interpretations and perspectives that are informed by those creeds.  Perhaps you already understand all of this, but it is at the core of Duke's approach to theology, and I'd love to talk more, if you'd like!

Also, I was strongly encouraged by faculty at Duke to pursue the M.Div. over the M.T.S., and I can tell you that, at Duke at least, you actually have a bit more room for course specialization in the M.Div. than in the M.T.S.  This is because the M.T.S. is a two year degree, and requires many of the same--and I mean literally in the same room at the same time--courses as the M.Div.  By the time you have completed the core courses for the M.T.S., there aren't many semesters left to take specialized courses, and you have to take what is being offered right then.  With the M.Div., by contrast, being able to take a few electives here and there over the course of three years provided a lot more room for specialization than I would have had if I had done the M.T.S.  Of course, the M.T.S. does culminate in a thesis, which is certainly beneficial if you plan to go on to doctoral work.  Duke has graphs showing the breakdown of core courses and room for electives for both degrees on the website, so you could look at them that way.  And also fyi, my understanding from other students is that you can change from M.Div. to M.T.S. without too much hassle after you have matriculated.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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