Not many husband and wife duos spend date nights debating terms like “commissional pragmatic consequentialism,” and the “virtuous Christian discipleship paradigm.” But Evan and Vivian Pietsch aren’t like most married couples. They still watch TV shows together, read books at coffee shops together, and do Bible study together, but Evan and Vivian each graduated with their PhD during Southern Seminary’s 232nd commencement in December.
“Since our rebirth in Christ in 2018, we do just about everything together,” Vivian said. “We enjoy working, writing, and studying together. We took all our classes together with our cohort in the Doctor of Education program and bridged to the PhD program last year.”
Their journey that led to the Pietsches walking across the Alumni Chapel stage together began in the New Apostalic Reformation Church (NAR), where they imbibed the Prosperity Gospel and elements of higher criticism. When the truth of the biblical gospel broke through to them, Evan and Vivian found a home at Southern Seminary. Studying with the authors who opened their eyes to Scripture, they knew they wanted to research the movement that caused them so much spiritual turmoil and in return, offer a theological response.
“After being excommunicated from the NAR church, we lost all our friends and family,” Vivian said. “We resolved to move to Louisville and attend Southern Seminary, where we could learn more about the truth of God and his Word.”
“Throughout our five years at Southern, the Lord healed relationships with both of our families and provided deep friendships rooted in him,” Evan said. “We learned humility, the difference between knowledge and wisdom, the importance of sharing truth with love and grace, and that the believer’s union with Christ is the wellspring for life and godliness. We learned to listen more before speaking, to prioritize the gospel with grace for secondary or tertiary issues, and to treat every person with dignity and respect as an image bearer of God.”
While they knew their end goal was scholarship for the Church, being married to a PhD student offered its own adventure.
“It is easier to get away with slouching off when your spouse is not a student in the same PhD program,” Vivian said. “When studying or writing (which was any time our eyes were open) we encouraged each other to excel and delve deeper into our research. The inverse is unfortunately true. When neither of us felt motivated, we received silent approval to be idle.”
Prioritizing family alongside academics is hard enough with one spouse working on a PhD, but Evan and Vivian had to learn, with much patience, how to emerge on the other side of graduation with their marriage and spiritual health still intact.
“Two PhD students, candidates, or graduates have only deep topics to discuss, so finding time and ways to connect spiritually without debating theology was difficult,” Evan said. “We did not have a lot of free time, so we held Bible studies and discussed what we were learning in our personal devotional times. However, the love of research and digging into a profound revelation of truth would often lead us to opening commentaries and interlinear passage guides.”
“The intense doctoral program demands continuous focus and attention, which is easier and harder when married to a fellow PhD student,” Vivian said. “Early on we decided to write near each other so we could collaboratively brainstorm. This worked well until one or both of us did not want to work on school or writing. We did not watch television or movies often, but we did take intentional breaks to spend time with each other and recharge. We have individual passions that we intentionally share with each other, and this has served to strengthen our enjoyment of the activities whether alone or together.”
The Pietsches plan to continue collaborating and working on upcoming book projects together. Their shared burden for the deceived members of the NAR movement motivates them to sharpen one another as they read and write for the glory of God.
“Our plan is to love God and our neighbor well by bringing gospel truth to redeemed and unredeemed people alike, all to the glory of God alone.”