The ontology of the academic

Why does it matter? Why am I pidgen-holing myself under the phrase “I am not an xxx scholar” and trying to fit under “I am an xxx scholar”?

For my entire life, I have been an expert generalist; programming software for a number of environments, desktop, internet, different languages etc, and enjoying the fact that I can learn and experiment in whatever I felt like at the time. I never finished my first degree, and I never held a job for longer than 18 months in my 10 year career. If I lived in a perfect world, I would spend the rest of my Christian scholarly life with the same ecclectic style.

HOWEVER, there is one thing that I am passionate about. I want to teach people who would otherwise not be taught. I want to train ministers of the Gospel who would otherwise not be as effective if I did not go. Whether it be in Asia, Africa or the US, I want to serve God by equipping an army of ministers to take the Gospel into their own culture. This is the first thing that I have been focused on enough to dedicate more than 18 months to it.

So, the way of the world is that you need a Masters at least, and preferably a PHD, to go and teach. And the way of the world is, as far as I can tell, you need to specialise to do a post grad. And when you specialise, you need to do it in a field that will catch your interest for the 7 or so years it takes to do a post grad part time. This specialty determines which department of a college you go into, and what things you are considered “qualified” to teach about.

Of course, this seems so arbitrary. There are some BDiv degrees that are more rigorous than other college’s Masters, and I’m still trying to figure out whether a PHD at Sydney is noticably more work than a Masters at Moore. I’ve taught in India with a Diploma of Theology, but most colleges there (not to mention the nice folks who give out visas) still require the letters after your name. They might not be good letters, but they have to be there.

So here’s me, thinking about a 4th year project, and thinking about a post grad degree that will get me into the kind of college where I can do the most good, in the most effective period of time. So I desperately cast about looking for what I can do, what scholarly system I can fit into (yes, even what “game” I can “play”), what boxes I need to check before I can go out and do what I so strongly believe I am called to do.

Hence, I ask “what kind of scholar am I?”. The two question I can think of that need answering are:

What am I passionate about?

What does the third world need?


2 thoughts on “The ontology of the academic

  1. I’m wondering if only the first question needs answering?

    Without the passion will you be able to sustain it long term?

    If you pick your area based on need, what will keep you going through all the tough times when it seems like you are running into a brick wall?

    I know the “right” answer is God. But being realistic, isn’t there so much need, that you really have the “luxury” of the opportunity to pick you area knowing that whatever you pick, there is going to be more need than you an fill?

    I mean, it’s not like there is a surplus of Evangelical Scholars lining up to work in Bible colleges across the world.

    • Basically, it matters because some fields are completely useless. I’m not sure that a speciality on the debate methods of the Protestant Scholastics would be particularly useful in the third world. Then again….

      Anyway, with much love and respect to the OT department, there is no point teaching Hebrew Poetry if people don’t understand how to exegete Mark or Romans. There is probably little point in Doctrine either, since it would be teaching people to recite facts, rather than to think theologically. So part of what I’m trying to figure out is- what of the things that I am passionate about will bring the most bang for my theological buck.

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