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What Good Is a Ph.D. for Reading the Bible?

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A close-up of a christian woman reading the Bible. Kjetil Kolbjornsrud / Shutterstock

When I was a Ph.D. candidate in Yale University’s New Testament program, I had the honor of preaching at an ordination service for a classmate who was being ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Following the service, a number of my classmates asked me why I wanted to spend four-seven years working on a Ph.D. in New Testament when I clearly had a "gift" for preaching. I responded that it was actually my academic study of the Bible coupled with my life experiences that illumined and enlivened my preaching.

I did not grow up reading the Bible. I was almost 19 years old and a U.S. Army soldier stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany when I purchased my first Bible. A series of life-changing events led to me "accepting Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior." A few months after purchasing my first Bible, I attended a revival service at a local church. I returned to post that evening describing the service to fellow soldiers, who, along with myself, comprised a group self-identified as the "Soul Patrol." We were African-American Christians who strongly believed in the necessity of Christian evangelization.

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Soong-Chan Rah is the Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. This article is adapted from his forthcoming book, Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times. Copyright (c) 2015 by Soong-Chan Rah. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

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