PhD Program Celebrates Silver Anniversary

Date Published

May 1, 2018

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Published by Calvin Seminary

The fall of 2017 marked the 25th anniversary of Calvin Seminary’s PhD program. Seminary faculty had floated the idea of such a program as far back as the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that then-President James De Jong and board member Norman De Graaf launched a fund- raising campaign to endow two PhD faculty chairs and to provide scholarships for doctoral students. Much of the impetus for the new program came from the seminary’s desire to serve the needs of the global Christian Church, which was expanding at a remarkable rate in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. An increasing number of international students were coming to Calvin Seminary to study for a ThM (Master of Theology) degree, and they would often express a desire to earn a PhD degree at the seminary as well. After years of praying, planning, and fund-raising, the first class of students was admitted in the fall of 1992.

Since the first PhD degree was awarded at commencement in 1997, 66 men and women have graduated from the program and are now serving in a range of academic and ministry roles around the world. Today, they are seminary presidents, college and seminary professors, pastors of congregations, and leaders in a variety of other ministry organizations. About half of these graduates are from outside North America—Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Japan, Madagascar, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, South Korea, People’s Republic of China, and Uganda. Their years on the Calvin Seminary campus have enriched not only them, their families, and their current ministries, but also the seminary community itself as these students have brought to their studies in North America perspectives and questions from their experiences in churches around the world. However much Calvin Seminary has been a blessing to them, they have fully as much been a blessing to us.

The PhD program currently admits about four new students each year and offers concentrations in the areas of church history, Christian doctrine, ethics, and philosophical theology. Through the generosity of multiple donors over the years, each one of these students has received funding to cover full tuition and a modest living stipend for four years. If sufficient funds can be raised, we hope to expand our concentrations in the next few years to the fields of Old Testament and New Testament as well. With God’s blessing, we trust that the PhD program will continue to make its mark on the life of the seminary—“a very distinctive and significant mark,” as former President De Jong put it a few years ago. “Our doctoral students create a sense of esprit de corps—a very continuous, close, caring interaction with the faculty and with each other. They’ve made us better as an institution and as scholars and as stewards of the Church worldwide.” 


By Lyle Bierma 


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