A Pastor with a D. Min. Degree Should Not Be Addressed as "Dr." - Tom Kelley

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Don Johnson's picture

Since I have only an MDiv, I expect everyone to call me Master

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

... not sympathetic.

The reality is all of us share our labels with many we would prefer not to identify with. PhD's have to share that set of letters with the whole gamut from geniuses to morons (you know, the PhD's who can't tell the difference between what to say to an editorial board vs. what to say to an elementary school student, for example.)

Likewise with BA, BS. MDiv, or any other credential out there.

(And most people don't know that MDiv's usually involve significantly more credit hours of work than your typical Master's degree.... My MDiv was 96 hrs; your typical MBA is 60 or less.)

The proof is in your work. Embrace that reality.

Jim's picture

My take is that one should address others as they prefer to be addressed.

One may not know but ...

If after addressing someone as say "Bob" and Bob says ... I have a PhD. 

Then he is signaling that he prefers to be addressed as Dr!

-------

If a pastor introduces himself as "Pastor ____" - I surmise he prefers to be called "Pastor"

 

TylerR's picture

I want to point out that, if we take Don's advice (if the DMin = title of "Dr," then MDiv = title of "Master"), then a lot of Pastors will be called "Bachelor So-and-So." We must tread carefully, brethren ...

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

We get the word "doctor" from the Latin docere, to teach, so we might infer that any competent pastor is, indeed, a doctor in some sense.  "Master" etamologically has a lot of the same meaning, actually.  That noted, I tend towards Proverbs 27;2 and Matthew 23:5-7 in my approach, along with pointing out that appeal to authority is a fallacy.  Most of the time, if someone must be called by that title, there is a bit of the Pharisee and Scribe about him.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

Advertising your degrees matters if you're a Mason or a thermometer.

I call my physicians "Doctor". I called my teachers with PHD's "doctor".

I call my friends with PHD's by their first names.

And those two pastors I knew (one with a DMin and one with an honorary) who held meetings with their churches explaining that they were now to be referred to as "doctor"-------I call them by their first names just because I enjoy it. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Aaron Blumer's picture

Appeal to authority is only a fallacy when it isn't a relevant argument... and there are different kinds of authority involved here. The authority of command has no relationship to what's true or not true, so it's just about always invalid to say "This is true because I'm your boss and I say so."

But then you have the authority of learning, as in "he's an authority on mitochondrial DNA analysis." The authority of expertise is often valid because the argument is basically a combination of appeal to special experience and appeal to knowledge of the field/the body of information you have had to master.

Still, it's always more persuasive to give people the reasons why A is true or not true. In my experience, even when it's valid, appeal to expertise gets you a kind of temporary acquiescence at best. Pointing to evidence and reasoning allows people to find their own way to the conclusion -- both more persuasive and more respectful of their ability to think, and so also more winsome.

"Trust me; I'm an expert" is kind of a last resort to use in a pinch... or when there just isn't time for a better approach.

(Sadly, "Trust me; I'm an expert" is stock in trade for many of the more credentialed people I know! ... along with "How dare you question me; I'm an expert!"  ... and they wonder why people aren't convinced.)

Larry Nelson's picture

In my early IFB days I was at Fourth Baptist in Minneapolis from 1972 - 1981.  Richard V. Clearwaters was still Fourth's pastor then.  He was colloquially known as "Doc" Clearwaters, which seems to me to have been used as much as a nickname as a title.  I recall him being referred to as "Doctor" Clearwaters only on rarer, more formal occasions.  His doctorates (two or three, I think) were honorary, not earned.

Bob Merritt, the pastor of Eagle Brook Church, Minnesota's largest church (by far), does have an earned Ph.D, although it's not widely known.  I have never heard---not even once---anyone refer to him as "Doctor Merritt."  In fact, I'm not certain I've heard anyone refer to him as "Pastor Merritt" either.  At the church, the great majority of its attendees simply refer to him as "Bob."   (Sometimes as "Pastor Bob," but from what I have seen, "Bob" is most common.)

In my young(er) and dumb(er) days, I accepted an invitation to accompany a pastor to First Baptist Hammond's Pastor's School.  (Let's just say that attending once was more than enough for me...)   Anyhoo, as the crowd mingled in small clusters during a break in the antics, someone near me referred to the week's host as "Pastor" Hyles.  Immediately, some bellicose thug within earshot stormed over and bellowed at the poor guy, "That's DOCTOR Hyles!"  (Need I say that Hyles had no earned doctorate.)

At my current church, my pastor has an earned Ph.D (SBTS: 2009).   Nobody in the church ever refers to him as "Doctor _________."   Among the congregation, he is simply "Pastor (first name)," or simply "(first name)." 

G. N. Barkman's picture

I've long considered the desire to be called "doctor" a manifestation of weakness, if not sinful pride.  When a legitimate degree is involved, true humility is happy to let it speak for itself.  For those who know, it's sufficient that they know.  They do not need to be constantly reminded.  For those who don't know, it really doesn't matter.  Let another's lips praise you, and not your own.  I'm sure those in the know will sometimes inform those who do not, and your esteem will be raised even higher in their minds because you did not try to impress others with your degree.  Of course, the trafficking in honorary doctors degrees takes the prideful pomposity to a whole new level.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

<snip of some interesting things about Doc Clearwaters and Bob Merritt>

In my young(er) and dumb(er) days, I accepted an invitation to accompany a pastor to First Baptist Hammond's Pastor's School.  (Let's just say that attending once was more than enough for me...)   Anyhoo, as the crowd mingled in small clusters during a break in the antics, someone near me referred to the week's host as "Pastor" Hyles.  Immediately, some bellicose thug within earshot stormed over and bellowed at the poor guy, "That's DOCTOR Hyles!"  (Need I say that Hyles had no earned doctorate.)

<snip>

The funny thing about this--well, ANOTHER funny thing about this--is that as far as I can tell, the title "pastor" is the higher honorific in the Bible.  You have the passages I mentioned about those who would insist on being called "rabbi" (teacher, doctor), and then you've got the huge respect for the shepherds in Scripture.  Good choice to "not let the door hit ya where the Lord split ya" with regards to Hyles, BTW.   One of the best things I ever did in this life (or not did as the case may be) was to ignore (be ignorant of) the megachurches in my home town (Fairhaven) and 20 miles away (FBC-Hammond) when I was a young pup.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

I have two Ph.D.s (Post Hole Diggers) and I know how to use them.  And my first two initials are DR. 

Someone with an earned Ph.D. has my respect.  But you may lose more than you gain by insisting you be called Doctor.  I answer to just about anything.  But if someone wants to be called Doctor, I’ll be glad to do so. 

Reminds me of the mother who said, “My son is a Doctor, but not the kind that helps people.” 

I am especially impressed with a Ph.D., who does not act like he has a Ph.D., and relates well to regular folks.  My ideal of a great scholar is someone who can take deep, complicated truths, and make them so simple anyone can understand. 

Master David R. Brumbelow

Ron Bean's picture

I was older when I was introduced to the credentials of fundamentalism. My previous background had involved contact with academia and a lot of "real" doctors. The practice of using the title for those with honorary doctorates amused me and created more than one embarrassing moment when I questioned the practice.

A young theologian named Fiddle

Refused to accept his degree.

He said, "It's hard enough being 'Fiddle"

Without being Fiddle D. D.!"

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Don Johnson's picture

My earlier comment was meant as a joke, in case any slave was wondering...

I think there is a weird aspect of independent Baptist culture that obsesses with "Doktorates" earned or otherwise. I've always liked what Lester Roloff said, when offered an honorary doctorate by BJU, "That'd be like putting sugar on an onion." (Beneth Jones confirmed for me once that my recollection was correct on this.)

On the other hand, there seems to be an attitude of disrespect from the non-doctors among us for the experience, ability, and pastoral gravity many of the men in our ranks display, even though they "only" have a DMin or an honorary. Whether you call them doctor or not, there should be some respect for men who have a lifetime of credible ministry behind them.

Pride cuts both ways.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

When you remarked about being called "Master," I immediately thought of Luke Skywalker before Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. The Emperor hissed at Luke:

In time, you will call me ... MASTER!

For what it's worth, I knew you were joking! My own opinion is ... who cares?

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist