My Journey Towards a Ph.D. : Christy Thornton

My Journey Toward a Ph.D.


If I’m being completely honest, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would end up on the path to be a scholar. I was dead set on working overseas with unreached, unengaged people groups. I’d like to share a little bit of my story and the winding road that lead me here, not because it’s miraculous (in fact, it’s rather humdrum), but in hopes to encourage others who might be considering theological scholarship.


1.     Professors encouraged me.


Long before the thought of a Ph.D. had even crossed my mind, my seminary professors were already encouraging me to consider continuing my education. I can remember having a lengthy conversation with one my professors after class, which ended with him saying, “When you’re ready to pursue a doctorate, come see me.” I literally laughed in his face. Then, I had a hand full of other professors ask me if I had considered it. Eventually, I realized there may yet be some merit to the idea. I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say there is no way I would be pursuing a Ph.D. if my professors at SEBTS had not sought me out and pushed me to consider it. 


2.     I wanted to steward my gifts.

After a few professors sought me out, I realized I actually was good at school. I began to think maybe it wasn’t just a fluke that school had always been relatively easy for me. Maybe, God had gifted me with the ability to do academics. If that’s the case, then I have a responsibility to steward his gift to the best of my ability. Now, there are a number of different ways you can steward a gift like that, but continuing my education seemed like a pretty obvious place to start.

I also wanted to steward my singleness well. It’s tough to get a Ph.D., and it takes a lot of time and effort. I know a number of women who are more than capable to be scholars, but God has called them to be a wife and a mother. Being a wife and a mom takes a lot of time and effort, too. Because I am single, I have a little bit more freedom. I had a responsibility before the Lord to steward that singleness well. As I realized my academic gifts, and the freedom of singleness, suddenly it became strategic to pursue scholarship.


1.     I saw a need.


But my journey was never just about me; it has always been about serving others. I noticed in my Master’s work a considerable lack of assigned texts written by women. The reasons for that are complex. We don’t really have time to go into those complexities here, but I can say, that I don’t think it has to be that way. In fact, I think seminary students can benefit from diverse teaching and resources, and in my case, gender plays a key role. God made men and women different. We think differently. We see the world through different lenses, and there is beauty in our diversity. I believe such beautiful diversity should extend even into the evangelical academy. In order for that to happen, evangelicals, and more specifically conservative evangelicals, need more women confessionally aligned with them to be credentialed and engaging in scholarly discussions. It’s good for scholars to engage with diverse voices, and it’s good for church leaders and church members to see and hear women who are highly educated with sound theology.  The church and the academy need more women to pursue theological scholarship.

1. I walked forward in faith.

Once I saw the need, I looked around and realized I was gifted, I had the opportunity, and so suddenly, what was once just a suggestion became what felt like a responsibility.  I acted in faith and began the Ph.D. program at SEBTS. From where I sit right now, there are still a lot of unknowns about the future, and most days, I’m grateful for the uncertainty. This journey is not only about where I’m going, but also who I’m becoming. The unknown forces me to walk in faith, relying on Jesus as my Provider, for today and tomorrow.  I don’t know what happens next, but as I look back, I see God’s faithfulness. Looking forward, I am certain that I will continue to see his faithfulness day by day.

What about you? In what direction are people encouraging you to walk? Where are you gifted? Where do you see a need that you could fill? I pray that as God makes the path clear that you would have faith to walk with him down the winding road. Who knows, you might just end up a scholar too!