Friday, 10 October 2008

More Disciples Needed in Biblical Studies

My colleague, the Rabbi, has often publicly made it known that he has been praying for 12 disciples to be trained in the field of OT for the Malaysian church. He has successcully trained one who is now on the faculty of STM. But he is still on the aggressive lookout for 11 more. Any takers to do postgraduate studies in OT under the Reb?

I, too, have been praying for more quality disciples to be trained in the field of NT. At the moment, I have two working under me in for their postgraduate studies, and perhaps potentially another one next year. But we need more. Like what the Reb says, he is not going to be around forever, same goes for the budding NT scholar too.

It takes at least 7-10 years to train someone to be a specialist in biblical studies, be it in NT or OT. The usual path is the 3-year Master of Divinity track, followed by a 2-year Master of Theology, then another 3-5 years of PhD studies.

Let's assume this - both the Reb and I start mentoring one disciple each in 2009 in his/her Master of Theology studies in OT and NT respectively. By the time this person completes his/her PhD in OT/NT, that would be in 2014/15 at the earliest, provided we can secure all the necessary funding, and there is no further unforeseen circumstances that would derail our planning, and that all studies are done full-time, a luxury that not many can afford. This is a very long wait indeed.

Would the Reb and I be still around by then? Only the Almighty knows. As such, would any potential disciples like to take up this challenge? At the same time, would anyone out there like to support (both spiritually and materially) such a candidate for his/her studies?


Lee Chee Keat said...

HOnestly, I will be quite keen to join Rebbi. But, somehow, I felt my age would be a barrier due to the no. of years to be a specialist in OT. Also, due to the demand of the need of a pastor in the context of my conference with the demand of OT scholar in STM, I wonder how should this workout. I wonder whether there is such thing as calling to be a lecturer in OT or NT. How do you know whether that you are called to be a lecturer ? Also, what about the experience in pastoral ministry ? How can u be a scholar of OT or NT and yet do not have the experience in pastoral ministry ?

blogpastor said...

I salute the rabbi and homilia for their noble vision. May God grant the resources, especially the "disciples" willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

Kar Yong said...

Dear Blogpastor,

Thanks for your wishes and kind words.

Kar Yong said...

Dear Chee Keat,

I am so glad that you are passionate about OT studies, and I am sure Rabbi would love to have you as one of his disciples. So 2 down, 10 to go for Rabbi.

I don't think age is a factor here - you are still young enough but yet you bring along your life experiences with you. That's a very strong combination. I started my PhD at late 35, so you are not that old.

I had a choice of entering pastoral ministry or teaching in seminary. I choose the latter because that's where I feel I would maximise my giftings and also my training, despite a rather big cut in salary.

Whether pastoral experience is required for a OT/NT scholar is open to debate. A person with many years of pastoral experience may not necessary be a good biblical scholar, and vice versa. I guess it all goes back to a person's gifting and calling and also experience in life. While I may not be a "pastor" in a church, my heavy involvement in the church all these years has also helped me understand pastoral ministry. So, I don't see not having pastoral ministy could be a handicap for a OT/NT scholar.

Paul said...

Until Christian parents are willing to encourage the brightest of their children to enter the ministry and support them in take up biblical studies, there will always be a lack of OT/ NT scholars in Malaysia.

I know this may seem to be stereotyping but I think there is a lot of truth in this scenario.... as I have heard this a number of times

Parents encouraging and being willing to spend a million ringgit for their children to take up medicine overseas BUT will balk and discourage their children to enter fulltime vocational ministry. Reason being that there is no security in entering ministry, it is a thankless job etc ... and rationalising that they can be a professional, earn the big bucks and still serve the Lord in church etc.

I am not arguing that vocational Christian ministry is more noble than "secular" work. I do agree it is a false dichotomy of so called sacred versus secular. Rather I am arguing that there are an abundance of gifted Christians in the Malaysian church - many of whom have the aptitude to be be biblical scholars of calibre but the "church" does not do enough to encourage and support this option.

I have been asked often to consider doing further studies but I know my academic limitations and calling. I am not trying to be "modest" - just realistic. I know young people (in their twenties) who are at their age far more intelligent than I am, despite my being almost twice their age. They grasp things better and I think the only ministry "edge" I have is just more experience.

But for me, many things can be learned vicariously. One does not have to depend on personal experiences to be wise. After all, the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. I do know that in many real life situations, I have been wiser than people twice my age and longer in the faith who may earn big bucks and be "leaders in their fields" on the simple basis that I have the wisdom to apply the Bible properly.

Kar Yong said...

Hi Paul,

I agree with you that parents don't encourage their children enough - my parents objected to me going full time, and even until today, I can still hear murmurings. But beyond parents, I think the church also has a role to play - the church is not willing to pay more.

I told one parent what I am earning now with my PhD, and he was horrified - he said, "Even a fresh graduate can earn more than you."

A dear friend has told me once, "How long are you going to keep on sacrificing. You are not young anymore, and you better start thinking of your own bank account. The church will not take care of you after you retire."

I told my friend that perhaps I am such a big fool to do what I am doing now...I simply don't have any logical explanation to answer these people why I am doing what I am doing now...

anthony said...

time is the least factor here in the asian setting. often, asians don't get to go for post-grad studies until much later in life. if one is a pastor, there is often a long wait in the ministry for one's turn.

finance is the more worrying thing especially with the financial difficulties around the world. scholarships are hard to get and with fierce competition for a few scholarships.

what is more important is the desire to excel in this particular area of biblical studies. it will be the desire that will carry the person through in spite of hardships and obstacles. post-grad studies especially in biblical studies is not easy and often one can get down on certain days. that is when one's love for the biblical language and biblical study defeats all doubts and despair.

never too late to do what one needs to do for God.

Paul said...


Yes i did mention too that the "church" does not do not enough to support full-time vocational ministry as a desirable option. Basically its the poor pay and lack of respect for those in ministry.

When I was teenager, the common joke I heard was "If I (he / she) gets grade 1, then take up medicine, engineering, accountancy etc... if grade 2, then teaching ... if grade 3, then think about Bible school...

What's the update version of this?

Also I have this feeling that biblical studies are not considered that important. The Bible is considered accessible to everyone and that anybody can easily interpret without problem (half truth). Attend Bible studies and this becomes obvious - its most often accepted that everyone's opinion is equally valid.

"I have made up my mind. don;t confuse me with the facts!" :-)

Kar Yong said...

What Rabbi says is correct - while age is not really a factor, getting funding may be. It is almost impossible to get scholarship if one is above 35 or 40. There are fewer scholarships available now, and competetion is intense. But again, I still believe despite all odds, if we do our part, God will open the doors for us.

I guess the reaon I am still around is the love and passion for NT studies and the greek langauge. That sees me through all the ups and downs. I would have loved to share my passion and knowledge, but whether there is anyone keen and willing to learn is another...haha

Kar Yong said...

Hi Paul,
I am not sure whether what you say about Grade 1, 2 or 3 story still applies - as higher education is now easily accessible for many. But the idea that if you are the best, don't waste time to be a pastor still applies to a certain extent. Just listen to the stories of those now in theological studies, and you still do hear stories of objections/lack of encouragement from parents.

But I guess parents DO have a point, like what I am facing now. What my parents fear about me going fulltime is now coming to pass....that I would have difficulty taking care of them as their medical expenses would be very high as they age. I guess the church is more willing to care for pastor's children's education, but not the parents'......

I now wish I have more siblings........

pearlie said...

I was just being told during the recent Methodism class (not the lecturer or the students) that MSC is sufficient. No need to go any further :/ Only that I am not sure if he is generalising or is he suggesting to me that MSC is enough for what I am to do.

Kar Yong said...

Hi Pearlie,
MSC? Master of Sufficiency in Christ?

Or, you mean MCS....hahaha

pearlie said...

Master of Sufficiency in Christ?
hmm ... only in heaven ;)

typo lar ... brain and fingers not in sync!

chils said...

Yes, Pearlie I have heard that comment often enough. I have always felt it is rather condescending. This is inview of our Rabbi and esteemed NT Scholar's efforts (plus others)in putting the love of Scripture into us; and now a 'public cry for disciples'.

Then again, I acknowledge and recognise that we have to accept that different Colleges have different Objectives and Capacity. We ourselves also have our limitations and responsiblities. Fortunately or unfortunately, they are alternatives. MCS or MSC is not the end of the road. Looks like, one day, we may partake in more bak-kut-teh for supper, together?

Meanwhile, let's enjoy the time we have left?
assignments and all???

ps. thank you for bringing the subject up. Feels so good now that I have got that off my chest!

anthony said...

on whether MCS is sufficient, all depends on the person.

if a layperson with a secular degree wants some academic/theological education. MCS is a good starting point. it all depends of what is the next step.

does the person want to serve in the church? does he/she want to enter pastoral ministry etc later? then MCS is just the tip of the iceberg. one may want to finish up the MDiv and/or move on to do a professional degree like MMin or academic degree like MTheol.

studies is an never-ending task. taking up courses is a good way to continue to feed the soul. even lecturers and professors need constant input and mental stimulation. for those always giving, they also need constant input or one will run dry.

hence, we lack the mechanisms and learning environment here in malaysia. in uk, i will pop into the OT seminars held 3-4x a term. just to hear and interact with the speakers is a wonderful learning process. one don;t have to always ask questions to learn. i'll ask questions in my mind and wait and see whether anyone ask the same questions. bingo if they do! then i know my mind is working on the right track. here in malaysia we don't have such regular ongoing seminars. our minds lack the stimulation.

am already thinking of organizing a malaysian OT/NT (biblical studies) symposium (once in 3 years sort of thing), get 1 or 2 good biblical scholars to come and present some key papers, and the rest of the OT/NT lecturers in malaysia present seminar papers and invite public and seminary students to come and be intellectually stimulated and grow the passion for the Bible!!

anyone want to help organize this with the reb?

Kar Yong said...

Hi Chils,
I would agree with Rabbi that there is no end to one's learning. After having a PhD does not mean I don't continue to upgrade myself - there is still SO much that I simply do not know.

I always wonder if we say we love the Lord, we love his Word, but yet we discourage people from theological studies...I think sometime is wrong somewhere. Theological studies are not for those called into pastoral ministry, but for all of us who are called to be his followers...

Kar Yong said...

I am all for your suggestion for a biblical studies conference. So the question is BILA.....

Steven Sim said...

I have always think seminaries in Msia should start having those seminars (seminaries, seminar...see?), not just those ROH, AGORA, OHMSI sort of forum.

Pls do it!

Steven Sim

Kar Yong said...

Hi Steven,

Thanks Steven. Sometimes, with our heavy workload in the seminary PLUS work commitment in church (like me, having 2 jobs), it is almost impossible to take on extra responsibilities. But we will surely do our best. Let hope we can see such a conference takes place soon...