John Piper gives his answer, and I think it’s a good one. He says,
“The way most PhD programs are set up it is small payoff. Because you have to read so much junk in order to get your PhD. You have to become an expert in what other people are saying, most of which is wrong.
“Most of the stuff that is written in the world isn’t true. And a PhD has to be an expert. And so you have to read gobs and gobs of stuff that is unhelpful…
“If a PhD program is set upâ€”and there are some!â€”to really let you work on the Bible for three or four years and on understanding its larger implications for life and reality, then, on your way towards the pastorate, that could be gold.
“But mine wasn’t set up that way. And when I was done with those three years I had a piece of paper, the German language, and an appreciation for academic theology; but I had not grown much at all, except what I got on my own.
“So it is possible to do stupid PhDs for the piece of paper. I would much rather you do a wise PhDâ€”that is, go to a place where they really let you study the Bible mainly. Yes, you’ve gotta read other stuff. But you want to come out of there with three years’ worth with a big, large, strong, robust, deep grasp of God and his ways in the world, not just a little tiny slice of what a thousand wrong people are saying about some teeny verse in the Bible. That’s just a sad use of three years.”
There’s always more that can and should be said in answer to a question like this one. Having said that, I think Piper’s answer is correct. You don’t need a Ph.D. to be a pastor. Nevertheless, some will want to pursue this kind of study. Pastors need skill in handling the text of scripture, and Ph.D.’s that enhance one’s ability to deal with interpreting and applying the Bible are the best ones there are for pastors.