Saturday, February 19, 2005

Hell Exists

Word on the street is that Brian has gone soft on hell in his latest book. Well, while I may agree with him on the otherworldly hell, I have just been told, "Welcome to hell," by Andy Root, who's a year ahead of me in the PhD program at PTS.

You see, on Wednesday, the practical theology faculty approved my research topic proposal for my dissertation, which clears the way for me to take my comprehensive exams in May and September.

"What are comps?" you ask. Well, on the appointed day, I need to show up with an empty hard drive on my laptop (and paper and a pen if my computer breaks down). I'm given an envelope and an empty room. Then I open the envelope, which reveals three questions. I have six hours to answer the three questions. No books. No notes. Most people write 30-40 pages in the six hours.

I then turn in the answers. Overnight, I can edit the essays for grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but not for content. Then I turn in the final version the next morning.

This entire process happens five times.

The five exams are on 1) the history and theory of practical theology, 2) the history and theory of Christian education, 3) practical theology in dialogue with systematic theology, 4) practical theology in dialogue with social theory, and 5) practical theology in dialogue with psychology.

A week after the fifth exam (sometime in September), I have a two-hour oral defense of my answers in front of a committee of the faculty.

If I pass, then I have a couple months to get a 20-30 page dissertation prospectus to the PhD studies committee for approval.

So maybe you can see why Andy said, "Welcome to hell."

And maybe you can understand why I get a little ornery when people with D.Min. degrees insist on being referred to as "Dr." OK, I get a lot ornery. So does my brother, the surgeon, when he meets a chiropractor.

(Before all you D.Min. holders rip me, I think it's a fine degree. In fact, I imagine that I'll be teaching some D.Min. classes in the near future. I just think the degrees are substantially different and should have a different appellation.)


Blogger manofredearth said...

My head hurt just attempting to imagine what that would be like. And you're even up at 5:30a on a Saturday??? Ugh. Either your timestamp is way off, or your kids are mad-crazy for the cartoons that come on early. ;)

6:48 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Geez, that sounds like the exams I recently completed as a small part of my ordination process. Don't you wish they just slap you on the back and say, "We know you are qualified to teach and do research based on how passionate you are for the subject and how much you read the Word"? Just kidding. I know you have worked too hard to feel that way. You have an appreciation for what folks like you must endure in an institutional setting.

I loved your comments about the DMin and how you may teach a few DMin classes in the future. :)That is classic. LOL!


10:29 AM  
Blogger Friar Tuck said...

I have considered both pursuing a D. Min and a Ph.D.

I am leaning toward a D. Min.

Why? As much as I like thinking and the intellectual world, a D. Min is a degree in action, where as a Ph. D. is a degree in intellectual masterbation.

How is that for a conversation starting comment similar to..DEATH TO SPANKING.


10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to teach practical ministry in bible colleges and seminaries and the DMin is the degree that best helps do that for someone seeking to teach practical ministry.

I also saw that the previous comment by someone spelled masturbation wrong. Maybe he should get his PhD so he can spell it correctly.

11:55 PM  
Blogger thebloke said...

Hell. I was going to say I have lived it and am living in it, but only because I keep forgeting what our Lord has done for me.

On another note, I never knew one needs to have a Ph.D. to know how to masturbate, er, spell it. Haha...

In any case, I often wonder why one of the key searches that hit my blog is the word "musterbate" until I realize that I actually mentioned a dysfunction called, "Must-erbation" sometime ago in one of my posts (a condition symptomatized by the excessive dependency upon, and almost insane need to have, a list of "musts"). I often wonder whether those who searched on that keyword were spelling the word incorrectly, perhaps or were they looking for what I blogged about?

12:27 AM  
Blogger Sivin Kit said...

there this guy I know .. who insisted I address him as "Dr." and it's not even a proper Dmin, of course not a PhD. And worse, when I know it's probably closer to a degree mill (though to be fare there is some course work). It's not that I want to glorify acedemics as a higher species, but there's a difference between some really hard work and thought then just a short cut degree which is plaguing our part of the world in the name of being practical (then they start giving other people "hell"). I blogged about it here for therapeutic reasons. Anyway, I have got a friend who might go for CORE in S'pore.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee Tony, for someone that rails on the outdated system of university & seminary education you sure seem to have a lot of pride wrapped up in the title & the degree that you're pursuing within that system! Good luck...

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee Tony, for someone that rails on the outdated system of university & seminary education you sure seem to have a lot of pride wrapped up in the title & the degree that you're pursuing within that system! Good luck...

8:13 AM  
Blogger mary fran said...

"The five exams are on 1) the history and theory of practical theology, 2) the history and theory of Christian education, 3) practical theology in dialogue with systematic theology, 4) practical theology in dialogue with social theory, and 5) practical theology in dialogue with psychology."

Well, let me see if I can help you.
2)Christian Ed pretty much sucks in church.
4)HMMM...I know about social theory, but that's it.
5)Oh, now this one should be fun. Think of all the dynamics you've already observed in conversations with me and other neurotic emergers!!!

Seriously, what books on practical theology and psychology could someone with a "theology for dummies" background actually grasp? I'd love to explore this idea(SHOCKER).

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow... didn't realize there was such a hierarchy amongst degrees in the church... i've always thought that if i went beyond my MDiv that it would be a DMin because it's a practical degree while a PhD is more academic. So I mean, it's not like anyone is saying one is better than the other (although i'm sure most PhDs would say a PhD is better) because they are for different reasons. So what's the big deal that they're both called Doctor? Calling a DMin a doctor does not negate the work that you've put in to get your degree, does it?

10:48 AM  
Blogger Chris Scharen said...

T--all I can say is "Ass in chair, dude!" It is the only way.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Anastasia said...

I only had three exams, eight hours each, two questions. No extra time for editing. And I was seven months pregnant.

Hell, indeed.

Good luck!

4:38 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

bo ho
This crying came from a man that asked to be in PHD program at Princeton, you know one of those easy schools we are always hearing about. I only wish I had been granted the blessing be able to do a phd at princeton. And as from hell, brain needs to "go soft". That's the whole reason I am becoming a Northern Baptist. My dad says the difference between Southern Baptist and Northerns is that the northern baptist say there ain't no hell. Southern baptist say to hell there ain't.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

bo ho
This crying came from a man that asked to be in PHD program at Princeton, you know one of those easy schools we are always hearing about. I only wish I had been granted the blessing be able to do a phd at princeton. And as from hell, brain needs to "go soft". That's the whole reason I am becoming a Northern Baptist. My dad says the difference between Southern Baptist and Northerns is that the northern baptist say there ain't no hell. Southern baptist say to hell there ain't.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Thanks for reminding me that I have better things to do with my life. Sometimes I think I don't, but then you come along and remind me that things such as sleep, time with the family, pleasure reading, television, sports and excercise are good things and that I may not be able to do PhD and those things.

By the way, will I have to call you Dr. A--hole?

7:51 PM  
Blogger Anastasia said...

wow, this has become really quite nasty.

On the upside, I'm really pleased that the anti-intellecutalism I encounter so often isn't just about me.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anti-intellectualism? That's really not very postmodern or Emergent of you...

5:03 AM  
Blogger EL MOL said...

agreed, Dmin's are stupid. But it is demeaning to your intelligence to watch you defend your PHD with the schoolground "my doctorate is better than your doctorate rhetoric"

that said . . .

peace and clarity while you are in hell . . .

7:02 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I love Tony and A--hole is a term of endearment I hold for selct few friends (but none of them are Drs- if they are, they have DMins and are only psuedo doctors or mini doctors).

Tony, if a DMin has to go through very little, while you have to go through the comps and a dissertation, should either of you be allowed the same designation as an MD who goes through an even bigger hell for even longer. Should they be called Super Doctors?

9:20 AM  
Blogger gavin richardson said...

i happen to like my chiropractor. we call him doc, if that bothers your brother, just consider it slang.

you'll have to take up the rest of the labels/titles with your conterparts. i thought you didn't agree with titles anyways?

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


for tony, having lots of critique of education and hierarchy and deconstruction of ecclesiology and church - will you publicly use your title of "Dr." on books, when you speak etc. which is a screaming expression of the peak and celebration of modernity and all it's glory? that would seem a contradiction, so what will you do?

11:22 AM  
Blogger Mark said...


Let me know if "hell" is worth gaining the title of DR.

Good luck!

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony, perhaps I am reading you wrong, but you seem to wear the hard work and intellectualism of PhD like a badge of honor. Perhaps arrogant elitism? I remember a post last month entitled "Why not to get a PhD," where you culled a complicated passage from a paper you presumably wrote for a class. (Which, by the way, I interpreted as too simplistically aligning Husserl and Heidegger, and overly-simplifying the notion of Dasein. But maybe I'm wrong.) You seemed to want to show off how erudite you can sound. Again, forgive me if I am misreading you, but the post about your comps sounds similar.

If you are just letting me into your world, then I thank you for your transparancy, and I am sorry for my wrong-reading. If you are trying to impress me, or legitimate yourself as a scholar, or legitimate Emergent, then maybe a slightly more humble tact would be appropriate?

Maybe I'm wrong...

- Joshua

1:31 PM  
Anonymous John Musick said...


Let each foul cynical comment serve to remind you why humanity needs people like you and spur you on to make this world a better place by revealing the Kingdom. I pray God's grace for you to keep your head upon the breast of God and above the detritus of the pride of men.


8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't this comment:
"And maybe you can understand why I get a little ornery when people with D.Min. degrees insist on being referred to as "Dr." OK, I get a lot ornery. So does my brother, the surgeon, when he meets a chiropractor," STEEPED in the "detritus of the pride of men"?
just curious...

9:33 AM  
Blogger Mitch said...

Ha! I go away for two weeks and suddenly...

A friend made this comment to me recently "Too smart and not smart enough to stay out of trouble". Or something like that.

Tony, I think it was you who wrote that you make a habit of not commenting on your own posts. I hope you also don't make a habit of reading the comments of others on your posts.

Good luck with your exams. And try not to use the "Dr" that you've earned. It's a lable that means too many things to too many people; much like "christian".

11:20 AM  
Anonymous John Musick said...


You know, Blog comments are a lot like bellybuttons and butt-cracks: Everybody has one, but only a few are grand enough to look at and most shouldn't be shown in public.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Empowerqueen said...

1John 3:13....

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? You think that the world "hates" Tony, and that the (sometimes critical or questioning) responses on his blog are some sort of persecution? That claim does a grave injustice to people who actually are persecuted. Give me a break.

Look. To all of you Tony Jones groupies out there, I am sure that he is a big boy and he can take some critical commentary. If he couldn't, he wouldn't have a blog, and he certainly wouldn't put the provocative comments out there that he does.

It seems that the posts that disagree with Tony's assertion are done so in a polite, questioning way -- to which Tony chooses not to respond. Don't dismiss a post out of hand simply because it might be actually question Tony Jones! :) Instead, further the dialogue. Engage them at the level of the idea that they present. Call the question into question if you want.

I think this is what your idol Tony would want, anyway...

- Joshua

9:24 PM  
Blogger RobeFRe said...

2Tim 2;16

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with what the previous anonymous said.

and Tony - stop whining!

10:58 PM  
Blogger RobeFRe said...

I would have proffered 2Tim 4:5 but I was afraid you would think I called you a Min with good news.)8~)<

11:19 PM  
Blogger Mitch said...

I don't know Joshua, about persecution and such. I honestly didn't expect this series of comments. It sounds mean to me, not at all good natured, much less expected.

When I read Tony's post I heard a man who was tired and not in a very appreciative mood; which I can relate to. I can even relate to his feelings towards "Dmin" degrees, even though I haven't the slightest clue what that means.

I've witnessed similar battles in computing sciences between peoples with university baccalaureate degrees and peoples with community college certificates, for much the same reasons; practicality over masturbation. I was on the masturbators’ side then.

Personally I think that masturbation is an important part of practical application; and that you only need a few people capable of effective masturbation.

In this field of study, I'm a novice practitioner. It would be nice if the masturbators would remember to speak English once in a while, to help us practitioners out a bit.

I understand that masturbators should, through the education process, possess and in-depth knowledge of the subject and an understanding that is far more comprehensive (?) than that which you would expect from even an outstanding practitioner.

I still think/suspect that there was a whole lot of rude flying around the blog, but it is true that I am not familiar with your personal relationships.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My goal is to get an honorary doctorate and you will call me doctor and you can kiss my ..... butt!
In addition, do you know what you call a person who has the lowest GPA in his or her graduating class from a Doctorial program?


1:46 PM  
Anonymous Gary Manders said...

Question: Is the number of exmas you have to do determined by the subject of your intended PhD Thesis? Would someone doing a biblical theology PHD have a different set of exams to complete? Just intrigued by the process at Princeton, it seems very demanding. Do you have prepatory classes on the different subject areas of theology before you sit the exams?

1:36 AM  
Blogger rob said...

Are these your friends?
What do folks say who dislike you?

Thanks for the emergent community post. It rocked.
This week was a wake up to me for how many folks can't wait to argue. Bizarro.

Will you get to the cabin for a break, or stuck in NJ for the duration?
Pace yourself,

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who has grown up in a chiropractic family, and who has worked for chiropractors when they go through five years of school, learning human anatomy and their century-old healing art, and I see the "miracles" that happen in our office when subluxation is reversed and people can breathe, see, walk, and make love again, it gets me hopping mad when people in the medical profession look down their noses at chiropractors!

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know hell exists...Why? I live it.

1) I have an a-hole for a father. He is a lazy, lethargic bastard, who has achieved nothing in his life, has always been poor, has messed around with other women, has spent 0 minutes with his children while they were growing up, and worst of all, smells.

2) My mom can't go to sleep without take pain medicine which turns her into a zombie half the day, and has a gambling disease so bad that she spends $1,000 a week on slot machines.

3) My brother, who is the smartest person I know, had to go and marry this stupid, poor, Mexican girl.

4) I have been unemployed for 3 years, the last 2 companies I had worked for went bankrupt, all my friends have abandoned me, I have no family to speak of, I struggle with finances, I had to move back in with my parents (see baove), and to top things off, I have the worst luck in the world.

Not only does heel exist, either there is no god, in which case who cares, but if there is a god he/it/she/whatever is either a) a weakling, b) a sadist, c) or disinterested in our lives. How else would you reconcile the overwhelming pain, misery, suffering, and loneliness of life with god?

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for demeaning those of us who work very hard on a dmin, taking it seriously and putting in years of research, and for not taking the time to distinguish between professional and acadmic degrees doctorates.

Next you'll be moaning about non US P.hD's and how they are an easy option, maybe you should have gone to europe, where they just give them out to people for nothing.

Whilst holding a D.min I respect and admire P.hD academics. I don't rant at how they are so adademic they can't relate their work to real people...maybe I should start to...sigh.

Why polarise people...your post was fine about the hard work you have to do...we support you in that. But please remember people with D.min and lesser appellations will stumble across your postings.

Surely we want people to aspire to education and application, not be polarised by posts like these. Emergent and you can do better Tony...please.

6:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, aspiring "Dr" Jones, I wonder if you can heal the poor soul from a couple of posts back who is screaming for help...or perhaps we should call in a DMin who is practiced in the compassion of our Lord and practical ministry. The title Dr. would be be more appropriately ascribed to one who is moved with God's love to minister healing as an outflow of their hard work in studying theology proper - the character of God through direct contact with Him, prayer and living a sacrifical life. Knowledge puffs up while loves builds up. That's not just philosohpy, its essential truth applied pragmatically. Pontification and philosophy will not save this one, sir.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the suffering soul who is living a hellish circumtances:

I was quite grieved when I read your post. I had an unhappy family life as a child and left home at age 15, but what you are having to endure right now is truly hellish.

God wants you to know that He does see and He is also grieved by what is happening to you and your family. It is not His will nor His desire for these things to happen, but He will not violate the freedom to choose that He has granted each one of us. Bad things happen because people have chosen their own way instead of living in obedience to God, through a vital and intimate loving relationship with Him. He will not step in where He is not invited. But He will bring about healing, change and liberty to everyone who calls upon Him and yields to Him in obedience. He has done it for me and many others. It may not happen in the way or on the day we would like, but He will always answer a desperate cry for help from those who are willing to give Him everything in exchange for everything He has pusposed for them.

I encourage you to cry out to Him and ask Him to reveal the reality of His existence, His love for you and the way to healing through the provision already made for you by the sacrificial life that Christ Jesus lived. If you are sincere in wanting truth and truly want to know the God who created you as a person, He will answer your prayer - guaranteed. I Pray that He will send others to help you connect with Him in a real and intmate way, without laying any heavy burden of dead religion on you.

I am sorry that you have had to witness the petty bickering and useless rhetoric displayed here. I ask you to forgive those who call themselves ministers of God behaving this way rather than reaching out in the love of Jesus to help. God does not need them to meet with you. He wants to draw close to you Himself. And He will, if you will cry out to Him in desperation and allow Him to.

I am praying for you, your family and your situation. Most importantly, I pray that you will come to know the love of Christ in reality and that He will set you free from the evil that has tormented you for so long.

Dr. Anonymous, DMin

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony Jones, the aspiring Ph.D., talking about the hell of comps. and the inferior status of the D.Min. grads is so full of crap that it is painful to watch. He is getting his Ph.D. in practical theology, not systematic or historical theology, or especially an area of biblical studies, where he would have to master Greek, Hebrew, a few other related ancient languages, as well as have a real proficiency in Latin, French, German, and possibly Dutch, not simply pass a short translation test. His comps for any of those would be real Hell. As it is, he is getting a D.Min. type Ph.D. - that is what it is! A D.Min. is focused on practical issues, and the "project" not "dissertation" consists of much of what he is doing in surveys and interviews, etc. only he is putting in a little important and, of course, original analysis that will add to the body of knowledge. BTW, PTS has a D.Min. program. What does the director think of Tony's attitide of arrogant BS? (is that a degree?) I wonder whether N.T. Wright, who earned his D.Phil. in NT at Oxford could hold a candle to Tony? Or perhaps J.I. Packer, also from Oxford? Or perhaps Keven Vanhoozer, who did his research on Ricoeur at Cambridge for one of those give away Ph.D.s. Or maybe Richard Muller, who did his work in historical theology at Duke, and is clearly able to read more languages than Tony can count on his fingers and toes. Perhaps Alister McGrath, with a D.Phil from Oxford and an earned Doctorate for his work in theology should bow to the extensive hell that the "practical theology" comps will inflict on poor Tony. Stan Grenz, who promoted a generous "irenic" othodoxy, who earned his doctorate from Munich, once called himself a "pietist with a Ph.D." even though his degree was not actually a Ph.D. but a D.Theol. would never disparage those poor D.Min. idiots (some of whom he taught) who are doing essentially the same practical crap as Tony, an essentially quantitative survey of eight emerging churches, with a little analysis thrown in. Tony is really going to be a "D.Min. with a Ph.D." when you think it through. Oh and look at the slim and bloggish output in scholarly tomes of N.T. Wright, Packer, McGrath, Muller!!!, and Vanhoozer! Sad. Too bad. They should throw in a curse (or cuss) word to make their work more rigorous. Damn - give me a break. Some of us even have taken more than one Ph.D. - one from an American school like say Yale in Historical Theology (btw-they give those away for a small fee and a short term paper) and a Ph.D. in New Testament from a non-US degree mill like the University of Edinburgh (try a viva voce there instead of your comps). To quote the famous scholar, "Hark, hark, the dogs do bark, but the caravan moves on..." Or perhaps Spurgeon may have had better success if he could have gained a D.Min. or even a B.A. for that matter? Too bad he never amounted to much. He not only did not feel the pride of being called doctor, he made his publisher take the title "The Reverend" off his sermon publications, since he was never ordained. Yet C.H.S. was far more a "doctor" (latin=teacher) of the church than a certain Pompous Ass (P.A.) or Phony Dork (Ph.D.) will ever be.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Luther said...

Well, I am in the doctor of ministry program at Boston University. We MUST write a dissertation to get the degree! The classes are demanding and most of the requirements are similar to those of the doctor of theology program. Before rash judgments people should verify WHERE people are getting their D. Min.
If you are getting a PHD or THD in a not so famous school is that "better" than a D. Min. from Harvard, Yale, Boston University and others like those?
So, people have to understand that a D. Min. from a prestigious school is very hard and demanding almost as THD or PHD programs!

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Dr. JW said...

As a pastor, I elected to pursue a D.Min. It has greatly aided me in the ministry God has assigned me. While in seminary, I had to take rigorous courses and complete a project. Afterwards, I wrote a 258 page dissertation, in the Chicago Style I might add, and I had to defend it in front of twelve probing professors of numerous religious disciplines. My seminary is accredited by ATS. I earned my doctorate. However, I earned my D.Min. because I am actively involved in church ministry. My D.Min. was earned to educate and empower a powerless people. It was earned so I could enhance missions and win the lost,teach the found and send the taught. If earning a Ph.D makes you feel superior to someone who has earned a D.Min., then you need to evaluate your motives and self-esteem. My friend, only what you do for Christ will last and it is evident that you did not get your degree for this purpose. When you stand before God, your Ph.D or D.Min. will mean very little. Instead of us demeaning what someone has earned, we need to encourage one another. Heck, I am happy if a person takes a course in religion. You are entitled to your comments; however, I know this is not an attribute of Christ. This is education gone wrong. My heart goes out to you. Yours in brotherly love, Dr. J.W.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Dr. JW said...

By the way, I was offered three teaching positions. Two in humanities and the other in teaching world religions. Did I mention I am a D.Min.? If you have Godly favor, anything is possible.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It depends on what the end goal is... a PhD or ThD may be the best bet if you wish to teach at the University or seminary level. As a practicing clinician a DMin may be a very appropriate choice. For that matter a DrPTh (Doctor of Practical Theology) may be a good option also. If you are in a related discipline and wish to enhance your knowledge and practice with a theological perspective, the practical degree may be best. I would consider a program from a nontraditional program such as Trinity Seminary or Master's Divinity School. A
physician, advanced practice nurse or other professional should consider all of the options!

9:32 AM  

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