Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 19, 1956

Ph.D'S. Do Not Deify

Vaughn D. Shofner, Camden, Arkansas

Gentle readers, you can be helped to a fuller understanding of current problems by considering this article. I understand that if all the thinking of this paper came from this scribe, the above statement would be considered an exaggeration. I have recently been declared "hypnotized by a fallacious and specious mode of reasoning," and by the same great thinker pronounced "anti-orphan home, anti-college," and a plain "Sommerite" in spite of my repeated denials and sustaining proof. And being numbered with those who have lost all usefulness to the church by having opposed some popular trends, I just could not make the above statement. However, the foundational thinking of this writing comes from an article in the magazine section of a daily newspaper, by "Dr. Paul N. Elbin, a veteran educator, is president of state-operated West Liberty College, near Wheeling, West Virginia."

So, I reckon you can read his views without feeling that he is a part of a "small segment in the brotherhood" bent on "dividing the church" over the college question. And being a college president he can not be branded "anti-college." Consequently, his thoughts must be accepted as an endeavor to point out and correct a common attitude which causes too many people to act as though a college degree defies. Now, let's consider this educator's thoughts.

"Late one evening recently, a politician came to see me on 'urgent' business. His mission was to intercede for a boy who had been dropped from college. On behalf of the boy's father, a fellow politician and coal company executive, he asked us to please reconsider.

"The plea he presented was moving. But I happened to know something about the boy. He had barely scraped through high school. When we admitted him, it was on probation. By the end of his freshman year, it was evident that he was not college material.

"I explained all this to the politician. Yet as he went away I could see that he did not understand, that in his mind remained the belief that any boy financially able to attend college should be admitted and, if he behaved himself, in due time be graduated. In this, I fear, he merely reflected a common American attitude — one held by entirely too many parents.

"To these parents, a college degree for their children has become the be-all of life. And while this is in a sense admirable, it also is misguided — in some ways, dangerous. You can legislate equal educational opportunity, but you cannot legislate brains....

"This craze for college diplomas is debasing our colleges. Indeed, it is converting them into diploma mills. Standards have been lowered, facilities overtaxed, the supply of qualified teachers exhausted. But the worst feature of the diploma mill fad is not so much what it does to colleges as what it does to students. Family and social pressures that push them into a world they aren't equipped to cope with can mark them for life.

"More years in school do not necessarily mean more education. Not long ago, one Ph.D. I know resigned his first executive job a broken man. He had only one of the qualifications for executive work in education — his Ph.D.

He had received this by sitting patiently through course after course, gradually accumulating credits and scraping together material for a thesis. But when his executive opportunity came, patience was not enough. He fumbled, failed, developed terrible headaches and resigned with dismissal imminent. Now he's back where he started."

This brings before us the reality. All these degrees we boast of in connection with the church do not produce prima-facie evidence that all the wearers of them are so unquestionably intelligent that we must accept utterance from them as an "ex cathedra" statement. And maybe it will tend to turn some of us away from the gloom we face because we are unable to "understand" the "profound" reasoning of some of the doctors among us, relative to the institutions which are swallowing the churches.

And this will help some of us to see that even in the brotherhood too many have imbibed the idea, that to obtain a sufficient education to enable a preacher to appear advantageously in the pulpit, he just must stand under the high floating banner of a college degree. With only this mark upon him, the young man "has arrived."

I wish not to undervalue college degrees which mark honest attainments, but I wish to eliminate false standards and actions that have cheapened them. I do wish to stimulate those to persevere in the acquirement of practical education, who are deprived of the advantage of dazzling degrees. Franklins and Lincolns have always emerged from the workshop, illuminating the world as brightly as the most decorated college graduates. In this enlightened age, all who will may drink at the fountain of knowledge. Ignorance of the will of God is a voluntary misfortune. By a proper improvement of time, any person may lay in a stock of knowledge that will enable him to take a respectable stand by the side of those who bask in the blaze of college degrees.

So, there being no way on earth to lift above the fact that all of us are known by our fruits, I am compelled to oppose all the doctors who pervert the gospel of Christ in efforts to justify the whims of worldlings, whether in denominationalism or institutionalism, and I must place their academic attainments on the level with their perversions. They may be among those described in the quotations we used in this writing. They may possess only one qualification for legislating the thinking of the brotherhood on controversial matters — their Ph. D's. They too may have received them "by sitting patiently through course after course, gradually accumulating credits and scraping together material for a thesis." When the time came for them to prove their scholarship, "patience was not enough," and they "fumbled and failed." Therefore, the Ph.D. who so mocks the Lord of glory, in the church or in denominationalism, deserves no more respect for his scholarship claims than any other "Post-Hole-Digger" or "Pea-Hullin'-Dude"!