Monday, September 04, 2006

Top Rated Seminaries-- From the Devils to the Irish

There is now an article in First Things, that conservative periodical, about the rating of seminaries. It is an interesting article, even though it only reflects one person's opinion. Here is the link--
http://www.generousorthodoxy.net/thinktank/2006/09/reno_on_doctora.html

What is especially interesting about this article is that the author thinks Duke Divinity School is at the top of the orthodox heap even ahead of Notre Dame-- and provides a list of their faculty which are all, including the Dean, John Wesley Fellows with one exception. John Wesley Fellows are Evangelical United Methodists who were funded in their doctoral work by A Fund for Theological Education and now are making a big impact on the UM Church and its educational institutions.

What is also interesting is that the only free-standing Evangelical seminary mentioned is Trinity Evangelical, apparently mainly because of Kevin Vanhoozer-- who is indeed a fine scholar (see his Is There a Meaning in this Text?). While this is not a scientific sampling of opinions about seminaries, what it does give clear witness to is the rebirth and resurgence of orthodoxy in the United Methodist Church in various places, ways, and venues. As one who once taught at Duke, I have to say I pleased to see that someone outside of my Methodist circles has finally noticed.

15 comments:

B-W said...

Interesting, although I would be very curious as to why he left Fuller Theological Seminary off of the list. He doesn't even give reasons for not including it like he did for Vanderbilt, Emory, and Yale and several others....

Andy Rowell said...

Quickie clarification:

The original author was talking about the Ph.D. program at Duke University. This fall, however, Duke Divinity School accepted its first crop of Th.D. (doctoral) students. Basically the same profs teach at both places with some exceptions.

yuckabuck said...

"In the No. 2 spot, I put Notre Dame’s Department of Theology. It’s not firing on all cylinders. The biblical scholars pretty much follow the tired old distinction between “what it meant for them” and “what it means for us.” This guarantees their marginal relevance to the study of theology."
(from the linked article)

What's wrong with that?

The writer seems to feel that historical exegesis is mostly irrelevant to "thinking about the living form of faith in our time." He berates Vanderbilt, Emory, and Yale for giving in to "the intensely ideological agendas of Christian feminism, gay and lesbian liberation, as well as recycled versions of liberal Protestantism." But without a firm grounding in "what it meant then," what will stop him from his teaching consisting of nothing more than his own ideological agenda (however orthodox or conservative it may be)? Or does it come down to the post-modern idea that there is no underlying truth/reality to discern in the Scriptures, and therefore education comes down to merely making sure you have bought into the "right" ideology?

Gimme that ol' time theology.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for drawing our attention to this interesting piece. I'll post a blog entry on it later. It's nice to see Duke right at the top, but I'd like to add something that the article does not make clear, which is that the Graduate Program in Religion at Duke is jointly run by the Divinity School and the Department of Religion. One would not have realized that on the basis of the article. I'd argue too that the joint involvement enhances the students' experience because they will inevitably be involved with faculty from both the Divinity School and the Dept of Religion. (e.g. in New Testament PhD students will get to know me as well as Richard Hays, Joel Marcus, Susan Eastman, Douglas Campbell and Kavin Rowe).

To add a minor clarification to Andy Rowell's clarification in comments above, the new ThD program is based solely in the Divinity School whereas the PhD program is based in the Graduate Program in Religion.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks for these addendums, and also I agree with you Yuckabuck-- give me that old time exegesis or else we end up with exit Jesus.

J Hearne said...

Woo.

That is all.

Jim Martin said...

Ben,
Thanks for this post. I would like to read the article. It would be interesting to see what seminaries pastors might rate as tops and what seminaries profs might rate as tops and why. And--would there be any overlap?

David said...

Ben,

The article wasn't intended as a guide to where students should study; but there are two very practical issues about a Ph.D. program that all would be Doctoral students need to consider:

1. What level of financial support will I receive? and
2. Will I get a job when I graduate?

Answering these questions would cause most students to give a stronger nod toward Yale than the article suggests. It might also push an evangelical to pick the new Ph.D. program at Wheaton (fully funded with a solid faculty) over Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

BTW - I thought Asbury was going to start a Ph.D. in New Testament this year (i.e. for 2007). Is this still in the works?

Best wishes,

David

Chris Spinks said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris Spinks said...

Ben, I wonder if the title of your post is not a bit misleading. When I read "Top Rated Seminaries" I do not automatically think of what it is Reno actually ranks, namely "the best places to pursue a doctoral degree in the sorts of fields I study—theology and ethics." One can pursue doctoral degrees in theology and ethics in many places other than seminaries. Reno does not ever say he is ranking seminaries. We should be clear about this. I don't think your title is.

Jackson said...

This is a good piece and I think that Reno is correct in his first few picks.

I do wonder, however, how much firsthand knowledge went into his opinions, particularly with some of the schools that received bad press. I am currently in the religious studies program at Marquette University, and though I only have a few weeks under my belt, I have been thoroughly impressed with the high level of scholarship thus far displayed. I'm taking two classes on the Fathers and my professors are constantly challenging tired, historical "Harnackian" ruts. I've not gotten the "1970s" vibe from them.

Might I also add Father Alexander Golitizin to the list of esteemed Marquette scholars there listed. Fr. Alexander is a Russian Orthodox and a deeply spiritual man. He offers a unique perspective on Dionysius the Areopagite that I have found nowhere else in the literature. Besides that, to learn about the Byzantine tradition from a man who has spent time at Mt. Athos is quite an amazing experience.

Troy Stemen said...

Prof. Witherington,

Thanks for the link. People need to keep in mind that Reno is writing a blog off the top of his head. I don't think he did much research for this piece, but he was trying to fill a huge gap that Princeton Review and US News and World Report have left in their stables of college and university publications.

Failing to rank theology/religious studies programs immediately makes these publications irrelevant to quite a few people.

Oh, and what he says about Vanderbilt is true. Politics enters the classroom far too often here. Fortunately, there are a few great professors here like A.J. Levine who keep their personal agendas to a minimum while teaching.

Troy

P.S. Are you going to visit us at Vandy this year?

Doc said...

Does any one of the named profs at Duke believe in the full authority of Scripture?

Doc

Jay's Blog said...

Hey Ben - Can you let us know what your top 10 seminaries would be? I'm currently a student at Regent School of Divinity and am considering Ph.D programs. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated, P.S. Graham Twelftree sends his regards! Just kidding.

horseman said...

Can you recommend any solid (accredited) online programs, considering the issues presented here? Becoming a traditional student is out of the question for me, since I have a job and family. I am interested in a Masters in Theology - or a program that offers in depth study of scripture and church history. Pinpointing such a program has been difficult for me.