DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Own It

Written by: on September 20, 2018

This blog post will be a little personal in a sense that it will reveal one of the reasons I decided to pursue this doctorate. I had looked at several DMin programs and each one of them had one thing in common: rigid, set coursework. I am confident this kind of learning is effective for some, but I felt this approach, as seems to be the case in the American system of doctorate-granting institutions, would not work for me. Reading anything by Mortimer Adler is super helpful. He was one of the most influential philosophers and educators of the 20th century, and so anything he writes is worth paying attention to and in this reading, turned out to be affirming. Affirming in the sense that it validated my expectations and recent experiences in researching a topic I have been passionate about for some time.

The section I spent most of my time understanding and rereading was the section on “Five Steps in Synoptical Reading” in How to Read a Book.  I had to do this because the authors said something quite intriguing and subversive for reasons I still have yet to fully understand. He wrote “…it is you who must establish the terms, and bring your authors to them rather than the other way around.”1 I had a head-scratching moment, puzzled at what I had just read. Did the authors just tell me that I, the lowly learner, would tell the experts what I think they mean by using some of their own terms? I certainly did not expect this and Adler himself mention that this was one of the most difficult steps in synoptic reading.

Even though that point remains unclear, some of what seems wrong turned out to be a welcomed learning experience. I had been preparing for a talk that was scheduled to be delivered this past summer. The topic I studied was on culture based on an understanding of Jesus’ parable of the sower found in Matthew 13. There are many commentators, scholars and preachers who prepare sermons covering the meaning of the seed and the sower, but hardly any mention the significance of the soil. Long story short, I asserted the strong link between soil and culture. This set me off to explore the world of anthropology and sociology. I ended up reading dozens of experts on their definitions of culture. Before long I felt I had mastery over the subject matter and acquired a kind of authority about it, at least enough for a 40 minute presentation. So much so that I imagined myself tutoring these scholars of culture and helping fill in knowledge-gaps in their thinking. Now this may not be true, but it definitely felt like that. And of course, prior experience and familiarity helped but I believe this is as close as I will get in understanding Adler’s admonition to bring authors to our terms.

This new way of thinking taught me valuable lessons:

  1. One can be an expert of sorts on a particular subject if he or she has read and understood a good set of books on a particular subject.
  2. Reading between the lines, one can pick up implicit assertions that support and give credence to the topic being studied.
  3. Not one expert knows everything about one subject. This gives others an opportunity to offer other solutions to problems.

One might think that it would be beneath himself for a philosophical and theological luminary such as Adler to write a practical book on how to read one. But amidst the how-tos and hands-on of reading there is a strong ethical lesson for us to consider. One such lesson is his admonition to be polite when we disagree with an author. An oft-quoted line by Adler is “You must be able to say, with reasonable certainty, ‘I understand,’ before you can say any of the following things: ‘I agree,’ or ‘I disagree,’ or ‘I suspend judgement’”2 This wisdom cannot be overstated. The cultural milieu of today is full of people who are argumentative because they lack the maturity and skills to put together good arguments. We simply do not take the time and effort, as Adler would say, to understand each other. It has come to a critical point that we are numbed by current events and trust in our leaders is at a low point.3 This should not be the case, especially among Christians.

If we are to be good ambassadors for Christ, we must remember to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”4 For followers of Christ it is imperative to consider this as our calling. Our Lord speaks a blessing for peacemakers (Mt. 5:9). Proverbs encourages us to speak for those who have no voice (Prov. 31:8) and Peter exhorts us to engage in discourse with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15).5 

As I have stated in the beginning, this DMin program has a personal quality to it. My hope and prayer is that as I go through the rigor of study that I “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!”6


1Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014). 310.
2Ibid., 141.
3Orrin Hatch, “Identity Politics Threatens the American Experiment,” Wall Street Journal (New York), May 19, 2018, Opinion sec.
4James 1:19
5Tim Muehlhoff, Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, an Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2017), XII.
62 Pet. 3:15

About the Author

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Harry Edwards

Harry is married to Minerva and has the privilege of raising two young men. He is the founder and director of Apologetics.com, Inc., an organization dedicated to defending the truth claims of Christianity on the internet, radio and other related activities. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Education and a Masters of Arts degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University where he currently works full time as the Associate Director of the graduate programs in Christian Apologetics and Science & Religion. Harry is currently pursuing a DMin (Leadership & Global Perspectives) from George Fox University. He is an active member at Ocean View Baptist Church where he leads an adult Bible study and plays the drums for the praise and worship band. In his spare time, Harry enjoys doing things with his family, i.e., tennis, camping/backpacking, flying RC planes and mentoring others to realize their full potential in the service of our Lord.

8 responses to “Own It”

  1. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thank you, Harry. Your last points are so important in today’s culture. I recently heard that social media is designed with algorithms that cause one’s news feed to continually support your already held personal biases which is widening and strengthening the chasm of dichotomies between us.

    Reading to understand is critical in this day especially as we add to the body of written work, so that our contribution aids in bringing people together rather than adding further distance. Our culture is much more prone to jump to a conclusion and judgment than to truly understand and find points of agreement. May we all contribute in ways that influences people to come together and appreciate our diversity.

  2. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Harry,
    I really appreciated your drawing attention to the ethical responsibilities of active reading. That is, that we take the time and effort to build good arguments which would include growing in understanding, especially if we disagree with a source concerning a certain position. Perhaps part of our calling to our given doctoral research is to acquire skills that will help us to lead and equip the Church to grow in grace and favor. Peace and blessings, H

  3. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Our two Harry’s are speaking prophetically here!

    The blog post states, “The cultural milieu of today is full of people who are argumentative because they lack the maturity and skills to put together good arguments,” and I find this incredibly true. Harry then comments that perhaps part of our call to learn and study together is to grow the church in a better direction. May it be so friends, may it be so.

  4. mm Karen Rouggly says:

    This was very good, Harry. I enjoyed reading it, and I am so curious to hear your thoughts on the cultural implications you drew from the soil! This is the type of work I am consistently steeped in at APU and helping students understand cultural intelligence and cultural movements as they join God in the work God is doing around the world. Maybe you can give me your thoughts in Hong Kong! I am eager to learn from you!

  5. Andrea Lathrop says:

    I really appreciated this post and your experience you shared. I am still wrestling with the idea of being able to add my own voice and assertions to an area of passion once having studied it thoroughly from others.

    I agree with you about highlighting Adler’s points on how to disagree or agree with an author by coming to understanding first and by always being respectful. Sounds simple and yet seems to be more difficult and rare these days. I appreciated that he took the pains to write about this.

    See you soon!

  6. Thank you Harry, I really enjoyed reading your blog and it’s intriguing to me too, how “you establish the terms and brings the authors to them rather than the other way round”. My conventional way of thinking has always been that the authors are the authorities in the subject they’ve written about. But as you have said, no one has monopoly of knowledge and there’re still gaps to be filled. As a doctoral student, I should read to gather the already accumulated knowledge, identity the gaps, and by bringing the authors to my terms, be able add more knowledge through my research work. It seems to me that I should have hypothetical statement of the area of study and my stated assumptions which should guide me in bringing the authors to my terms to assess what they have written against my stated hypothetical problem statement and the assumptions there of.

  7. Thank you Harry, I really enjoyed reading your blog and it’s intriguing to me too, how “you establish the terms and brings the authors to them rather than the other way round”. My conventional way of thinking has always been that the authors are the authorities in the subject they’ve written about. But as you have said, no one has monopoly of knowledge and there’re still gaps to be filled. As a doctoral student, I should read to gather the already accumulated knowledge, identity the gaps, and by bringing the authors to my terms, be able add more knowledge through my research work.

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