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In this post in my series “God and Man at Yale Divinity,”  I discuss my tenth week at YDS and my PhD aspirations..PhD AspirationsPhoto by Dunk is licensed under CC BY 2.0. This content uses referral links.

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes

I have just completed my tenth week at Yale. The semester is flying by, and I’m excited to see the results of my work at the end of it, to see how things turn out.

When the semester ends, I hope to be able to assess how realistic my PhD aspirations truly are.

(Still) Writing Papers

While I may, at this point, begin sounding like a broken record, I am still writing papers.

I finished my Early Christianity paper this week, which means I completed it about a month early. I only did this, however, because I like to work on one paper at a time.

While I may be ahead on my Early Christianity paper, I am behind on my other ones. I have not yet started on the one for New Testament, and I’m getting a little nervous about it.

Then, when I am finished with that, I have to complete a paper for my World Christianity class.

There is still a lot left to do.

Exegetical papers should not take as long as historical research papers, so I think I should be fine for New Testament. I would like to think I could get the research done in a week or so and start writing, but we’ll see.

Papers and research are the foundations of doctoral work, so writing papers will serve as a good gauge for me as I consider my PhD aspirations going forward.

PhD Aspirations

I got a 95 on my New Testament midterm, and I must say that I feel a bit disappointed. I don’t know where the other five points went.

While I recognize that sounds a bit ridiculous, and I usually wouldn’t feel this way about a 95, I’m not really sure what standard I have to meet to receive an H (Honors) in the class.

Good Grades for PhD Aspirations

I would like to get all Hs this semester to strengthen my PhD aspirations at the end of my time in the Master of Divinity program.

It appears, however, that each professor has his or her own standard. I have seen some things that suggest I need a 97 to get an H, but the syllabus in New Testament is unclear. I think the standard may be 95 or 93 in Greek.

So, I don’t know.

The whole thing is a bit confusing, as is the importance of the grades. I hope to gain admission into a top-tier PhD program, which suggests that I need to get the best grades possible.

Impressing professors here at Yale would be helpful, I think, so I’m trying to do the best work I can to keep my PhD aspirations alive.

Top-Tier PhD Programs

All top-tier PhD programs are extraordinarily challenging to get into, and no matter how well I do and no matter to how many I apply, it’s uncertain if I would get into any.

With my PhD aspirations focused on these schools, I know that I am going to have to remain mindful of my goals and work hard throughout my entire time here.

Right now, though, I intend to apply to the following programs. Perhaps I will become aware of more as time progresses here, but currently, my PhD aspirations are limited to these schools.

  1. Duke
  2. Harvard
  3. Yale
  4. Notre Dame
  5. University of Chicago
  6. Emory
  7. Princeton Theological Seminary
  8. Baylor

Vanderbilt is on the list too, but I’ve heard they haven’t accepted a New Testament PhD student in quite a while.

PhD Aspirations and This First Semester

This is my first real opportunity to establish a name for myself here, but I’m just not sure how to go about doing it. I feel like getting good grades this first semester would be invaluable in setting me out on the right path.

Even if I do very well here, however, I’m afraid that my age will be a hindrance to my PhD aspirations.

I’m thirty-four, which means that I will be almost thirty-seven when I graduate from Yale. This, in turn, means that I will be in my forties before I could enter the academic job market.

I fear that that will be held against me. Again, though, we’ll see.

I’m finally in a position where I realize that I need to set goals toward which I can work, while at the same time recognizing that there is so much that I cannot control.

I love what I am doing, so it is enough to enjoy where I am and doing it the best that I can. Hopefully, my PhD aspirations prove to be realistic.

One Class Ends Early 

The semester feels like it’s really starting to wrap up. My World Christianity class met for the last time this week.

The instructor runs an institute named for the original instructor of the course, a Professor Emeritus at Yale and a world-renowned expert in the history of the global missions movement who died unexpectedly last year.

The instructor for the course, therefore, has to return to his native Ghana to get the institute off the ground.

So, over the next few weeks, we’ll submit some short projects in place of meeting. Then, of course, we have our final paper due at the end of the semester.

That will, therefore, free up some significant time for me on Tuesdays. There is such a large gap between my first and second class on Tuesday (I have only two) that I often go home and return to the school later. Not having to go back will be nice.

My attendance in the Hebrew class I am auditing is also becoming more sporadic. I think I’ve gotten to where I need to be with Hebrew, such that I can easily pick things up again on my own. I doubt that I will audit the course again next semester.

I plan to limit my class load to twelve hours next semester. If I can maintain a schedule without Friday meetings, that would be great. 


I have noticed from various conversations that I have had and overheard here at Yale Divinity School that there is a general disdain toward the view common in more conservative circles of Christianity that sees the body as evil, as something to be overcome.

I must admit that, as an evangelical, I have had similar complaints in my view of this aspect of evangelical theology, or at least how it is commonly expressed in evangelical circles. I frequently encountered such teaching growing up in the Southern Baptist Church.

Two-Sides of the Same Coin

The progressives, however, have not merely rejected evangelical theology of the Bible, but, in my view, have almost completely abandoned historic Christian teachings on the subject of the body.

In this way, progressive Christianity and evangelical Christianity have become two sides of the same Gnostic coin. That is, they have adopted, on some level, different aspects of Gnostic teachings.

Evangelicals often reject the flesh as evil and the physical as something less than the spiritual.

While this most prominently manifests itself in strict sexual ethics, it also appears in other forms, such as a rejection of the sacraments and an emphasis on the individual’s invisible change of heart through a spiritual conversion process.

So, baptism becomes a mere symbol with no ontological effect, a wedding ring to symbolize the marriage, so to speak, but nothing more.

To evangelicals, therefore, everything of meaning happens in the realm of the invisible, the realm of the spiritual.

The Inner v. Outer Self

The progressives, however, do the same thing but in a different way. The spiritual—the feelings, the intellect, the inner-self—takes precedent over the physical. Therefore, the physical has little to tell us of any real consequence.

While evangelicals take their Gnosticism to a form of asceticism, progressives take it to a kind of libertinism. What’s on the inside is what counts, what makes you who you are.

I am still working this out in my head and evaluating what I hear and encounter around me. But the appeal of Gnosticism and why it was such a significant threat to the early Church is becoming much more apparent to me.

The Ubiquity of Oppression

When I was growing up, there was an old joke in Sunday School that, if you didn’t know the answer to a question the teacher asked, you should guess, “Jesus.” Jesus was always the right answer.

At Yale Divinity School, the right answer is always “oppression.”

There is such an obsession with “power dynamics” and oppression that it has become the North Star to which all other things point, the guiding light in exegesis, historical analysis, and academic study.

The Fetishization of Victimhood

I once read an article in National Review about the “fetishization of victimhood,” and such a concept is clearly born out here.

There is an almost monolithic stream of thought at Yale, in its culture and general disposition.

Despite, however, the seemingly fascist light in which elite universities are often portrayed in conservative media outlets—silencing of those who disagree, calling all opposing points of view “hate” without ever actually engaging with the argument, etc.—there is a diversity of thought in the undercurrent. Not everyone accepts these premises.

When people say that students are our future, we should recognize that there is a very real reason we do not allow them to be our present.

The Woke Scold

The aggressive woke scold crowd, the over-the-top group that is so ridiculous in the way it presents itself and distorts reality into a caricature of its darkest self, is a small minority here. But, as any parent will tell you, in a room full of babies, you only notice the ones screaming.

Most of even the most progressive students here are kind and willing to listen to others. Even obviously and unabashedly liberal students, for example, expressed disappointment over the cancellation of the scheduled talk by the Russian Orthodox bishop and the unwillingness of some students to dialog with others.

So it is with the obsession with oppression. The reality is that oppression does and has existed in many forms throughout human history up to the present day.

But to find oppression in every action, in every motivation, in every event is ridiculous. The absurdity of this worldview is demonstrated by the woke compulsion to express the existence of oppression as a cliché without reference to any specifics or evidence that they are willing to defend.

Irony in the Call

The irony in all of this, of course, is that those who cry “oppression, oppression, oppression,” tend to want large, coercive governments that diminish personal freedoms, to want to silence those with whom they disagree, and to want a collectivism that has proven time and time again to produce history’s most oppressive regimes.

Somehow Gladstone becomes the personification of oppression and Castro the paragon of virtue.

At this point, at least the anarchists make some coherent sense. (There is, however, also a movement of “anarchist socialists,” which is kind of like saying “free surf.” It makes no sense.)

Call to Consistency

Some of it is all very bizarre to witness. But, being in this environment forces me to evaluate my own points of view and to find their strengths and weaknesses.

And continually being challenged forces me to be consistent. This is not an environment where a conservative can get away with saying ridiculous, contradictory things that lack evidence in the same way a progressive can.

And, while that can be exhausting, it is also a good thing.

I’d Appreciate Your Support

I appreciate your taking the time to read my latest entry in my “God and Man at Yale Divinity” series.

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Support Yale

Yale Divinity School is a wonderful place, and I encourage anyone interested in pursuing further theological education to apply. For those harboring PhD aspirations, it provides an excellent springboard for further studies.

If you’re interested in applying to Yale Divinity School, I encourage you to begin your application here. You can also request additional information from the YDS website.

If you would like to support the work of Yale Divinity School, please consider making a donation.

If you have any questions about Yale Divinity School, please feel free to email me at garrett@garrettham.com. I speak for myself, not for Yale, but I’m happy to answer questions from interested students the best that I can.

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See Also:

The Social Justice Warriors: Week 9 at Yale Divinity School

Week 11: Veterans Day at Yale

Try The World


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