SBTS introduces first Protestant Ph.D. degree in spirituality in United States

Communications Staff — December 8, 2008

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will introduce in January what is believed to be the first doctor of philosophy degree in spirituality offered at a Protestant institution in the United States.

The new degree accompanies Southern’s doctor of ministry in biblical spirituality, which the seminary started in January 2008.

Don Whitney, senior associate dean of Southern’s School of Theology and director of the Center for Biblical Spirituality, said the introduction of the new Ph.D. degree comes at a key time.

“Spirituality is one of the fastest-growing areas of theological education,” he said. “If someone — regardless of background — wants a terminal degree in spirituality so they can teach in this fast-growing field, Southern will now become the top choice for most doctoral students. It is exciting to think of influencing such a great percentage of the next generation of those who plan to teach what you yourself teach.”

Russell D. Moore, senior vice president for academic administration at Southern, said in an age when the extremes of New Age religious experience or dry rationalism are championed in the culture, Southern Seminary’s doctoral programs in biblical spirituality will strike a decidedly different tone.

“These new programs are the first and only of their kind and will help equip our churches and schools with an ancient and relevant concentration on leading men and women to conformity with Christ through the Spirit,” said Moore, who also serves as Dean of Southern’s School of Theology. “Don Whitney and Michael Haykin are the two preeminent evangelical leaders on spiritual formation and the spiritual disciplines. I can think of no two scholars I would rather see training up a new generation of scholars and leaders in this field.”

Whitney, author of “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” (Nav Press 1997), leads the biblical spirituality D.Min. program at Southern. Michael A.G. Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality at Southern, will head up the Ph.D. in biblical spirituality degree.

Haykin said a heightened interest in spirituality in the culture and the current fascination with piety among evangelicals makes a Ph.D. program in biblical spirituality particularly timely and important.

“The cultural interest in spirituality, though not in religion, compels evangelicals to think seriously about this area,” said Haykin, author of “The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality” (Evangelical Press 2008). “There are massive changes afoot in our culture … a culture of consumers in which the present moment is exalted, the past forgotten and one’s identity is re-tooled with every new season of fashion.

“Then, there is the fascination with piety that is now gripping evangelicals and we need to tap into two key sources (to inform this fascination): the Scriptures, lest we lose what has made evangelicals unique. Second, our historical roots in the piety of the long 18th century, Puritanism, the Reformation and also the ancient church. None of the latter can be read uncritically, but needs to be tested against Scripture.”

The biblical spirituality Ph.D. will include a seminar on the theological foundations for spirituality, taught by Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern who also serves as president of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Tom Schreiner, associate dean of Scripture and interpretation at Southern and New Testament editor of the recently released “ESV Study Bible” (Crossway 2008), will teach exegetical foundations for spirituality.

The doctor of ministry in biblical spirituality is the only one of its kind offered among the six seminaries in the Southern Baptist Convention. The D.Min. is a non-residential degree, while the Ph.D. is a residential degree, Whitney said.

For more information about the Ph.D. in biblical spirituality, call 502-897-4119 or email For more information about the D.Min. in biblical spirituality, call 502-897-4113 or email

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