Why I Chose Asbury Theological Seminary For PhD Work

Without a doubt, choosing a PhD program isn't easy work. In fact, a whole lot goes into making such a choice. In my case, there were many variables that shaped my decision to accept the offer to study at Asbury Theological Seminary. To be sure, I had other offers. I was given an offer to work with the renowned Dr. Philip Esler at St. Andrews, I was given a greater financial package from Aberdeen, I could have stayed in the States while doing a distance program with the respected Pauline scholar Dr. Bill Campbell, etc., etc. The point is: I had options.

Some of the specific "variables" that I mentioned above centered around "family," "friends," "money / living expenses," "faith" and of course, "academics."

Comparing ATS to other institutions when it came to family and friends was quite easy. I, of course, grew up in KY, so, we already had those types of connections here. My spouse studied at UK and worked at a hospital for several years as well. Since we were in the middle of an international adoption, it would have been more problematic to move overseas and then try to get things updated. Needless to say, ATS was the best fit for my family...which is a HUGE deal.

One thing that all students think about when applying for a PhD is money. Tuition costs, book costs and just the costs of living in general are all important things to take into consideration. One of the things that helped me choose ATS was that they offered me a full-ride. Again, I could've taken a better deal but I didn't because it would've made it more difficult in a number of the other categories I've listed. Still, in KY, especially where ATS is located, the cost of living is relatively low. This is a BIG plus!!! Plus, with the job market for my wife, who is in the medical field, there are scores of job opportunities here. So, again, in this category, ATS was the best fit for us.

In terms of faith, I can't judge the other institutions I could've gone to because I have no familiarity with how they edify the faiths of their students. However, I had already done a Masters at ATS and I loved everything about how they integrated faith and learning. Even the library's direct and purposeful location right next to the chapel speaks to this connection! Again, I'm very ignorant about many other programs in the US or UK but I would venture to say that ANY other institution would have a hard time competing with the way that ATS does this. While some might see this as problematic or as "fundamentalist" the fact is, that is not at all the case. For me, one who was encouraged by a number of professors to attend a school that didn't operate out of a confessional standpoint (because it's supposedly better for jobs...which, I'm not really sure I buy because a scholar's work speaks for itself), I couldn't be more glad that I went against the grain of such advice. Yesterday when I was sitting in our Monday morning biblical studies gathering listening to Dr. Bauer speak, it was confirmed in me--as it has been so many times since I've been back at ATS--that I made a great decision. I would much rather spend 4-5 years of studying while being built up in my spirituality than being pulled away from it. Again, this was another BIG factor that led me to choose ATS.

As I already noted, I had done a degree at ATS prior to the PhD, so, I was familiar with the academic arena there. ATS has a list of well-known and respected professors:
* Dr. David Bauer (NT, PhD from Union Theological)
* Dr. Bill Arnold (OT, PhD from Hebrew Union)
* Dr. John Cook (OT, PhD from Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison)
* Dr. Joe Dongell (NT, PhD from Union Theological)
* Dr. Fred Long (NT, PhD from Marquette University)
* Dr. Bob Mulholland (NT, PhD from Harvard; Post Doc. work at Duke)
* Dr. John Oswalt, (OT, PhD from Brandeis)
* Dr. Ruth Anne Reese, (NT, PhD from University of Sheffield)
* Dr. Lawson Stone, (OT, PhD from Yale University)
* Dr. David Thompson, (NT, PhD from Johns Hopkins University)
* Dr. Ben Witherington, (NT, PhD from University of Durham)

The majority of these scholars have written important books and articles in their respective fields and are GREAT teachers. While I wish that Sandy Richter wouldn't have left and that David DeSilva would have come, this is still an incredible list of professors! If you are interested in attending ATS, I would highly encourage you to contact some of them and to begin to have conversations with them (you can even tell them I sent you, if you want). Anyway, when I lined this list of scholars up next to some of the lists at other institutions I either looked at or applied to, this list always stood out; this is a great group of scholars to know and work with. So, this helped make my ATS decision as well.

All-in-all, across the board, ATS has a lot to offer any potential PhD student. It is foolish for any applicant to look at 1 area of their lives over and / or above all the other areas too. Ultimately, it is best to choose a school / program that will be healthiest for you and / or your immediate family. In terms of family, friends, faith, expenses and academic reputation, ATS was a great fit for me and my family. One last thing, since I just mentioned spouses and family. ATS has a GREAT "Spouse and Family" ministry. This ministry is VERY intentional about making sure that your marriage stays healthy throughout your time at ATS. They have small groups, gatherings, retreats, date nights, etc., etc. I must say that EVERY SINGLE PROFESSOR I spoke with about a PhD program before I actually entered one (I'm not kidding, all of them said this), made sure to tell me that only 50% of marriages last through a PhD program. So, with a ministry like this one at ATS, where my wife has already been plugged in to a great degree, is invaluable. We want this time at Asbury to be her time as well as my time. So, I would urge you to keep this sort of thing in mind too.

If you have any thoughts, comments or questions about this post or PhD (or Masters) work at ATS, please, feel free to comment or email / get in touch with me. You can access the seminary's website by clicking the following link: Asbury Theological Seminary.

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