The Value of Theological Examinations and Doctorates

This is good; it is Barth discussing the worth of theological education at the highest levels:

When properly understood, an examination is a friendly conversation of older students of theology with younger ones, concerning certain themes in which they share a common interest. The purpose of this conversation is to give younger participants an opportunity to exhibit whether and to what extent they appear to give promise of doing so in the future. The real value of a doctorate, even when earned with the greatest distinction, is totally dependent on the degree to which its recipient has conducted and maintained himself as a learner. Its worth depends, as well, entirely on the extent to which he further conducts and maintains himself as such. Only by his qualification as a learner can he show himself qualified to become a teacher. Whoever studies theology does so because to study it is (quite apart from any personal aims of the student) necessary, good, and beautiful in relationship to the service to which he has been called. Theology must possess him so completely that he can be concerned with it only in the manner of a studiosus (Evangelical Theology, 172). ht: Kent Eilers



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13 Responses to The Value of Theological Examinations and Doctorates

  1. I think it is interesting that most of the great theologians, in the 20th century anyway, wrote and did their theological works for the greater part of their life. And this was after getting their doctorates. I think of course of Barth, and then also G.C. Berkouwer. Both had many volumes in their theological work. Even the American Donald Bloesch was writing his books on theology as he lived his theological life. Today it seems people get doctorates, especially Ph.D.’s to get simply into academia. And then they hit that “print or perish” yearly aspect. But the loss of the more or larger theological works, etc. are not happening today. Of course I am speaking generally.


  2. Ken Ranos says:

    “When properly understood, an examination is a friendly conversation of older students of theology with younger ones, concerning certain themes in which they share a common interest.”

    How I wish this were actually how examinations were approached! My Candidacy interviews have been the most unfriendly, most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. The entire process feels much less friendly than it feels judicial.


  3. This has always been something of a “judicial” nature! For me as an old Royal Marine, it was military like, and expected.


  4. Bobby Grow says:


    Yes, some of the process can be quite rigorous; and to a fault.

    @Fr Robert,

    I don’t have a problem with it being judicial; just as long as I know that being judicial comes from a concern of love. Just like the way God works in an order of being. 😉


  5. @Bobby: Agreed, and perhaps Law/Gospel, since this is theological. But of course some chain of ontology or order. Also we live in a fallen world, even before theological examinations! 😉


  6. Bobby Grow says:

    Fr Robert,

    Yes, esp. your point on the fallen world. That always gets in the way of things, doggonit!


  7. I should have known it would come around to it sooner or later, even if I’m twisting a little to make it fit the topic:
    Do you think Job was being juried on his doctorate? And was The Judge friendly?
    Personally, after all the kibbutzing that Job did on his miseries and his affliction at the hand of God,and after all of the judgement at the hands of his friends, when the Lord spoke to Job, it was decisive, without the slightest hint of compromise or concilation, “Job, since you think you know, you go right ahead and tell me”. But while the Lord was firm and unyielding, I believe it was the heart of a Father who knew what Job was going through and with a hand as gentle as a misty rain on a sweltering day. If Job physically heard The Lord’s voice, or The Lord’s voice was inside of him, there was just a hint of affectionate humor: “Tell me about behemoth, how you lead him about, and tell me about leviathan”. The Lord knew from the beginning that Job would yield. He loved meeting Job where he was and loved being intimate with Job in judgement.
    Job suddenly knew beyond question, by the uncompromising Love of God, that God was just, and right and righteous, and Fatherly. I think he always knew that, he just could not resolve his conflict, and wanted to speak to Him.

    There are few people in the O.T. that stand out to me like Job.

    Back to the question at hand, I’ll bet Barth would have loved to have sat under Job for an examination. I’ll have to wait my turn too.


  8. I will have to admit most of my Job experiences in life (and I have had a few at my age) were not directly theological. In fact sometimes I wonder about the whole so-called need for “doctorate’s”? Before the Throne, they mean nothing in themselves – but perhaps only the spiritual labor and lessons learned in or from.. or out of them! I thankfully think I learned a few along the way, and I am not even done yet! Indeed the greatet “examination” – the Bema Seat of Christ… Is still in front of us all, until death and the eschatological!


  9. Bobby Grow says:

    Yep, no doubt Fr Robert. It’s easy for you to say, you have two doctorates; right? Where did you get your doctorates from?


  10. Bobby Grow says:


    That was a creative reading of my post 😉 . I’m sure Job will be a great brother to talk to some day. Although, I think we have it better than Job did; since we live after the fulfillment of what was only a promise in Job’s day 🙂 .


  11. Bobby,

    All my degrees are British, from Manchester to Oxford. Btw, my very first degree was a BA in philosophy, and Roman Catholic. In many ways this was my best formation. There are so many colleges and several Premanent Private Halls (PPHs), all of religious foundations in Oxford.


  12. Yes we have the fulfillment, and the earnest of the Holy Spirit. That also makes us more responsible right? I believe that the closer I think I’m drawing to the Lord, the less excuse (of ignorance) for my sins. So, in the mirror, I never look clean. But that’s another topic ;).


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