A brother in Christ recently accused me of being "against higher education." His remarks were made after I chided a preacher for attaching "LL.D., Ph.D., Th.D." after his name. His "degrees" were placed on the front cover of a book he had written.
I want to make it plain that I am not opposed to men earning graduate degrees in any field. However, I am opposed to those who purchase phony degrees from a "diploma mill" and try to pass them off as the real thing! Our brother with the "degrees" had purchased them from a "university" that didn't even have a campus, library or accreditation. The "university" was in a man's front room! If you are willing to pay the price and write a brief dissertation, you too can wear LL.D., Ph.D., Th.D. after your name. Some time ago a similar "university" (i.e., diploma mill) awarded a doctorate degree to a Saint Bernard.
I have been trying to figure out why any man, especially a preacher of God's word, would feel compelled to purchase a phony graduate degree. I can only think of two reasons: insecurity or pride.
Some might desire to wear a title after their name merely to hide their own sense of insecurity. Maybe they think no one would listen to them if they were not "educated." Friends, all I have ever tried to offer men is the gospel of Christ. If the story of the cross does not appeal to them, I don't have anything else. Paul told the brethren at Corinth, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:1-2).
The pride of life might cause one to seek to be elevated above his brethren (1 John 2:16). Does anyone really believe that a phony degree is of any real value? Maybe this is why folks with phony degrees don't like to talk much about their alma mater. If anyone found out the whole thing was a sham, maybe they would just pity the man instead of elevating him.
Earning a legitimate graduate degree is a worthy endeavor. But friend, how does one become a "doctor" in the religion of Christ? What school has our Lord ordained? What type of degree did the apostle Peter have? The problem is that too many men have been "doctoring" up the gospel.
Brother J. M. McCaleb once wrote: "The etymology of the word 'degree' is significant. 'De' means 'down,' and 'gradus,' from which the latter part of the word comes, means a 'step' -- that is, a step down, or to degrade. The bestowment of a degree is the bestowal of human authority. He who seeks to be backed by human authority in order that he may have more influence as a teacher of the Bible degrades his calling. He puts human authority in place of the gospel, which is God's power to salvation. When people are thus converted, they are converted to men and not to God." ("Degrees," Gospel Advocate, Aug. 25, 1932, Vol. 74, Number 34).
The gospel has not lost its power. Literary degrees might help your vocabulary, but they will never take the place of diligent study in the Book of God.
David Padfield is the preacher for the Church of Christ in Zion, Illinois