An Advanced Degree Worth Pursuing

A few rambling thoughts on pursuing Christ:

A few years ago I was in the early stages of a PhD program. I was working with two professors to carefully craft my dissertation proposal. For a number of reasons, I could not complete the program. For me (and I mean for me, not for everyone!!!), the degree may have been intellectually stimulating, but ultimately of little worth considering the big picture. Outside an incredibly small number of academics, no one would’ve read it. More important, though, I fear that at the end of the program I would’ve known more about my subject matter, but still remained largely ignorant of the greatest “subject matter” given me, namely myself.

The Lord saw fit to make me, well, me. And, within myself the Lord breathed his breath of life causing this dust to become a living being. Furthermore, when I look into the mirror and gaze not merely with the eyes but through the eyes at the reflection looking back at me, I see the imago Dei. When I think and feel, I experience on an infinitely small scale the reality of God. How incredible!

When I stop to truly ponder the significance of my being made in his image (and you, and the entire human population), I realize how little I understand of this wonder, and how little I seek to understand more. Then, when you factor in the Incarnation, the fact that God himself became man, from embryo to adulthood, I am struck by Jesus’ example of what humanity was actually destined for. I see in Jesus a reversal of all the world’s system in preference for the values of the Kingdom of God. It is Jesus we are called to emulate. But, how?

Well, for starters, I think we cannot begin to follow Christ without understanding two things: 1) what is central to Christ evident in his words and through his behaviors, 2) where am I inconsistent with Christ in my own words and behaviors.

Great. So how can we get at knowing those?

Carefully studying the character of Christ, his words, behaviors, orientations, loves, etc. and comparing those critically with my own character, words, behaviors, orientations, and loves. In doing so, the hard questions of “why” should be asked about these attributes, and attempts should be made to get to the roots of our deep seated problems. None of these things are accomplished overnight, nor over a lifetime. Yet, this is an advanced degree in you that’s worth pursuing.

At the end of my life, when I stand before the Creator of Heaven and Earth, what will I want to show? Will I want to show advanced degrees, or advanced degrees of holiness? I don’t mean to say those two concepts are mutually exclusive. They are for me. When I completed my M.A. degree (which was 77 hours long!) my head was full of wonderfully intriguing concepts, but my heart was cold as ice. I may have “thought” like Christ, but to even hint that I acted like Christ is completely false.

Admittedly, this may be more my fault than the process of education. However, our educational process is more geared to filling the mind than forming the heart. Yet, that’s why (in my opinion) Christ came. Christ came not only to save men’s souls, but to change man’s entire orientation to God and others. Christ came to establish a particular kingdom which required inhabitants to live in certain ways. These ways were not theoretical, but real and practical. These new ways of behaving required full attention, like an advanced degree. This program gives you more than mastery of content, but of character.

An advanced degree gives one an opportunity to study a subject in which anyone may enroll and pursue the same course of intellectual knowledge. Yet, you seek to study your own soul and it’s maker, no other on the planet except you can advance in such knowledge. Now, that’s an advanced degree worth pursuing!

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