Seminary launches global Ph.D. in World Christian Studies
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, is now accepting applications for a new, pioneering Ph.D. degree in World Christian Studies. The degree will not only train missiologists but also provide opportunities for missionaries and non-Western leaders in partnering national conventions worldwide to complete doctoral studies while living and working in “World Christian” settings that are developing in the non-Western world.
“A new episode has begun in Christianity. New actors are living out the drama that unfolds when serious indigenous believers transmit and socially translate the Gospel into the non-Western world,” says Keith Eitel, dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern.
“The result is transformation as Christ impacts the world’s cultures. A hundred years from now we will only be able to study this era from the vantage point of history. With this degree program we can be eye-witnesses and actually become part of its development.”
Eitel led the school in developing the innovative degree, which he says is more than just a Ph.D. in missions under a different name. The explosion of Christianity in non-Western contexts has resulted in North American and European Christians quickly becoming a minority.
“This degree’s dimensions are multifaceted and will lead to a reassessment of things we've studied, such as missiological subjects, history, etc., with this new perspective,” Eitel says.
“In other words, how is life different living in a world where North American and European Christians are now a minority and those living out the faith in Latin America, Africa and Asia are the leaders? So this is a major perspectival shift and actually a newly developing academic discipline.
David J. Hesselgrave, professor emeritus of missions at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and one of the world’s foremost missiologists, expressed excitement over the degree, saying it meets the needs of the ever-shifting global context of Christianity while maintaining theological integrity.
“The Gospel mandate to disciple the nations is now 2,000 years old. Over those years the world has changed, and recently it has changed dramatically—so much so that missiologists are discussing completely new strategies and methods, new forms of worship and witness, and new types of initiatives and research. None of this is lost to those involved in the new Ph.D. program in World Christian Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“The program offers on-site study opportunities all around the world under distinguished professors of various ethnic and educational backgrounds. Best of all, the integrity of the ‘old’ is not lost in the discovery of the ‘new.’”
The modified residence program blends a traditional British academic research model with American research doctoral standards. Students visit the Fort Worth campus once each year for an intensive, three-week period of seminar, colloquia and library work, with remaining coursework completed through online, one-on-one tutorials with their mentor in the PhD program.
In addition to supporting missionaries interested in doctoral studies who do not want to leave their field of service, the new program also provides the opportunity for faculty in global seminaries to earn an accredited Ph.D., which in turn will make it possible for these seminaries to enhance faculty development and keep faculty in their current roles.
Southwestern’s board of trustees approved the degree last fall, followed by approval from the accrediting agencies.
Anthony George, chairman of the trustees’ academic administration committee, applauded the delivery method and said, “This degree will make possible for certain national pastors in various countries around the world to pursue terminal degrees and not have to leave their church and their country to come study at Southwestern.
“It enhances Southwestern’s ability to extend our conservative theology and evangelical perspective on Scripture all over the world right here from Fort Worth.”
While some might assume that the new delivery method will water down the degree, the Ph.D. in World Christian Studies will prove as rigorous as traditional methods.
“My concern with non-resident Ph.D. programs has always been the almost inevitable tendency to ‘dumb down’ the degree in order to make it accessible,” Southwestern president Paige Patterson says.
“The uniqueness of this far-reaching design is that it makes the degree accessible without lowering a single solitary standard. I love it and anticipate incredible interest and results.”