Hello and welcome to the Master of Divinity Podcast. I’m Michael Kooiman, and I will be your guide through these episodes—sharing what I know, posing occasional questions, and (hopefully) opening a world for you.
What is a Master of Divinity? The Master of Divinity, or MDiv, as it’s commonly called, is the basic degree for ministry in most Christian churches. It usually follows an undergraduate degree, and it generally takes three or more years to complete. It includes academic courses, as well as practical training, usually in the form of some sort of internship, similar to medicine.
And where do you get one of these shiny degrees? Generally, you attend a theological college, sometimes called a divinity school, sometimes a seminary, sometimes a Bible college.
While there, you learn about a variety of topics in about five main areas: the Bible, history, ethics, systematic theology, and the practice of ministry. I’ll say a brief word about these: Bible, history and ethics are easy (to describe, not acquire). Systematic theology is the study of Christian ideas, such as ‘what’s the Holy Trinity and how does it work?’ or ‘what does it mean that Jesus is divine?’ Big questions. We will take up these questions in the fourth course, but they also appear whenever we ponder faith. The practice of ministry is sort-of self-explanatory, when you think about it, but it is a topic within the basic degree that seems to continually expand and has a close kinship to the tradition you embrace. So the basics are fairly universal, like worship and pastoral care, but some study is unique to a tradition. I come from a more liberal tradition, so I did a half-course in social action, how to plan a protest. It was the 80s.
The overall purpose of this study is to give you a broad outline of the kinds of things ministers learn as they prepare to serve the church. Think of it as a “brain-dump,” sharing what I’ve learned to help you to better understand a life of faith. And this, of course, fits with one of the key lessons we will look at in the history of the Christian church (the second course). Martin Luther popularized the idea that we’re all ministers (the “priesthood of all believers”) and we should approach faith from an informed position.
To add in this, let me tell you about the website that I’m creating as we go. It will include the scripture passages I highlight, links to worthwhile things to see online, and the odd footnote. The website can be found at p2.ca/podcast.
To conclude, let me say a word about structure. When I did this study with live humans, it ran to about 20 evenings. Maybe it was 19, since systematic theology sort of demanded three evenings for the Trinity. So five courses in the areas mentioned: Bible, history, ethics, systematics and practical theology, with the last topic centred on worship. Evenings are not episodes, of course, so I have no sense how long this will take.
Finally, let me add an important caveat: If I had a lawyer, she or he would tell me to tell you that you will not receive a degree at the end of this podcast. For that you have to go to a proper university. What I will strive to do is share enough to peak your interest, and hopefully create in you a desire to learn more.
And a final caveat, then I’ll stop for today. This course comes to you through me, and everything I carry with me: somewhat traditional theology, liberal social values, and a decidedly Canadian view of the world. I can’t even explain what that is, so you’ll just have to look for it as we go. And I live in Florida, so there’s that.
Thanks for joining me, and I hope you enjoy the podcast.
Special thanks to Heather Maclean, who played the tune HOLY MANNA, an American folk hymn composed by William Moore (1790-1850).