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erika
10-06-2006, 06:13 AM
I'm not asking about ability here, so much as what an agent would consider. Would they even look at a book/proposal about God's nature (e.g. When Bad Things Happen to Good People) by someone without a PhD?

Thanks for the insight.

citymouse
10-06-2006, 04:06 PM
Erika, one does not have to hold a PHD to tackle theology.
How many of the original Twelve held PHDs?

Now if you want to get into God and bad things that happen on Earth I'm your man. But any discussion of that would have to be out of group.



I'm not asking about ability here, so much as what an agent would consider. Would they even look at a book/proposal about God's nature (e.g. When Bad Things Happen to Good People) by someone without a PhD?

Thanks for the insight.

TeddyG
10-06-2006, 04:20 PM
I honestly do not understand what theology has to do with a Doctorate?
Whatever the doctrine you are dealing with, in whatever religion, the theology is the nature of that religion. How you accept it, deal with it, osmosis into your brain and heart and soul, does not require a university degree.

The eternal discussion between man and his God is one that is open for anyone and certainly for writers. Of course if you are proposing a book on the discussion of theological perspectives then a publisher would want to know your credits etc. and thus degrees may be important as well as titles.

But if you are dealing with either a self-help book or a fictional work why should your degrees or lack thereof have a thing to do with it. What would be important is your message to the public you would want to reach.

MHO

Roger J Carlson
10-06-2006, 06:56 PM
Whether it should be important is immaterial. The fact is that with non-fiction of any sort, credentials are important and a PhD is a pretty good credential in any context.

I doubt very strongly if an agent or publisher would look at a book about theology unless you had a degree in theology.

ETA: This would have been a terrific question to have asked the guest editor Charlene Patterson of Bethany House last week.

veinglory
10-06-2006, 07:26 PM
Everyone can tackle theology for themselves. But of a person was to try and teach it I would expect them to have attended a seminary and/or university (with a few very rare exceptions)

Kentuk
10-06-2006, 08:03 PM
I'm not asking about ability here, so much as what an agent would consider. Would they even look at a book/proposal about God's nature (e.g. When Bad Things Happen to Good People) by someone without a PhD?

Thanks for the insight.

I think it would depend on your religion. If you are a Buddist you won't need a PhD but would need endorsement.

Are you really talking theology or ministry? Do you consider your views original or are you working from an established framework. Are you seeking to be published by the religious press or secular?

The secular press would consider your book if it was controversal enough and well written.

Kentuk

Robin Bayne
10-07-2006, 01:42 AM
I doubt very strongly if an agent or publisher would look at a book about theology unless you had a degree in theology.
.
I agree--if it's an academic approach. If you are applying theology to everyday living (after all, we are all theologians : ) then I would think you could sell it.

You can take free theology courses on line and possibly use them as part of your education--http://www.bible.org/index.php?scid=2

I took the intro class last spring and am now in the class on:
Bibliology and Hermeneutics

erika
10-10-2006, 03:38 PM
Thanks for the insight. The reason I ask is that I am particularly drawn to non-fiction and while I enjoy all the greats, I find myself hitting a brick wall every time I read Lewis, Merton, Augustine, Luther, etc. It's not that I disagree with these luminaries. It's like they stop too soon, like they don't want to take their conclusions to the next logical step. And I honestly don't think anyone wants to take the next step. It could be ugly and upsetting.

So I would say that I may have some original thoughts, but mostly my ideas come from greater minds in times past, thoughts that I think have been wrongly obscured by contemporary Christendom and our society. I know, another topic for another forum.

Thanks again!

SeanDSchaffer
10-10-2006, 04:37 PM
I'm not asking about ability here, so much as what an agent would consider. Would they even look at a book/proposal about God's nature (e.g. When Bad Things Happen to Good People) by someone without a PhD?

Thanks for the insight.


Just in my personal opinion, I think that if you don't have a doctorate or a PhD, you should tackle the tough issues the way C.S. Lewis did: through fiction. Agents and editors, like others have said, will be looking for credentials, because to them it's not what you know, it's what schooling you've had.

It's a sad fact, but nonetheless that's the way Western society seems to work.


Otherwise, I agree with Citymouse: none of the original 12 apostles had doctorates or degrees. In fact, the Bible tells us in the Book of Acts, that these men were found to be "Unlearned and Ignorant men" by the learned of the day.

The only learned apostle was the Apostle Paul, as I understand it. He, however, was not one of the original 12. But if you think about it, the apostle that is quoted more often than any other is Paul.

No, people tend not to believe laymen when they write nonfiction about the tough issues. It's a sad fact, but this world has a very stupid idea that only the learned can talk about God.


Still, that's the world you're going to have to preach your message to. If you can't do so in non-fiction, then I would do so in fiction.

Jenny
10-11-2006, 09:02 AM
I think Sean's point about the power of fiction is an important one. However, if you really need to go the non-fiction route, I don't think (remembering that my opiinion is non-expert) that a theology degree is necessary to get an editor to sit up and take notice. The challenge though without the doctorate is to have something else to hang your hat on. So maybe theology from a psychologist or sociologist or some other academic discipline. Or from a powerful or unique personal experience. I would think that a title something like "Theology from a Broken Heart" would sell quite well. It would probably cross disciplines into self-help/healing, and going this way would mean sharing painful personal experience with the world. But I wouldn't bet against selling a book idea like that.

Why not write down your ideas and if you can't get an agent/editor nibble, you can use the non-fiction skeleton to follow Sean's suggestion into fiction?

Good luck

Medievalist
10-11-2006, 09:15 AM
If you're writing about Theology, you need a degree.

If you're writing about Faith, then you need faith.

Publishers are interested in both.

Kentuk
10-11-2006, 10:17 AM
If you are writing about theology you need an audience. If you are going a step further then say Martin Luther most theology insiders will insist you shouldn't be listened to and include not having a PhD among the reasons.

I should also point out that although we don't allow Christians to burn heretics anymore they still want to. They are at their most vindictive with people who almost believe what they do but diverge on one key point.

On the other hand if you are willing to lose everything, Christianity today is in crisis. The issue of science vs faith is taking a horiffic toll. Christians who do embrace science and keep their intelectual integrity seldom have the faith and the commentment to stand up to the conservatives.

Good luck erica

Terry aka Kentuk

mrsrgm
10-11-2006, 03:30 PM
I don't see any harm in shaking up the theology insiders... ;)

SherryTex
10-11-2006, 06:51 PM
It depends upon your objective. PhD's get you noticed. But what you write gets you published.

The topic you want to wrestle with, you should research to see what others have said on the topic if you feel they might provide insight.

G.K. Chesterton did not have a college degree and wrote on everything that interested him from a position of a person of Faith who was committed to persuing it in earnest.

C.S. Lewis read Chesterton and converted. He had the degree first and then the faith.

Read their stuff, write your big question and then begin searching for how to answer it.

You might read Peter Kreeft as well, he takes a readable approach to theological gripping questions.

I find many people who have those intials after their names, (a personal goal of mine that has been sidelined for the moment), write with such density as to be unreadable. It can be frustrating because they have wisdom to give, but it is hard to absorb.

veinglory
10-11-2006, 06:59 PM
I think the issue is more that during a PhD you learn what has already been done, which is a lot (in theology or any formal discipline). Could a lay person disover some new and original perspective? Sure. But it is more likely that they are be reinventing the wheel, but in a less round form. It would be important to avoid doing that by having the proposal looked at by a few people who do have the letters after their names.

As other's have noted, if you are describing existing approaches or expressing a personal view then that is a different issue.

Roger J Carlson
10-11-2006, 11:02 PM
If you are writing about theology you need an audience. If you are going a step further then say Martin Luther most theology insiders will insist you shouldn't be listened to and include not having a PhD among the reasons.

I should also point out that although we don't allow Christians to burn heretics anymore they still want to. They are at their most vindictive with people who almost believe what they do but diverge on one key point.

On the other hand if you are willing to lose everything, Christianity today is in crisis. The issue of science vs faith is taking a horiffic toll. Christians who do embrace science and keep their intelectual integrity seldom have the faith and the commentment to stand up to the conservatives.

Good luck erica

Terry aka KentukThis isn't limited to Christianity, though. You'd find just as many scientists who would be willing to burn someone at the stake for preaching Velikovsky at a Cosmology conference, and for much the same reason.

Kentuk
10-12-2006, 08:01 AM
This isn't limited to Christianity, though. You'd find just as many scientists who would be willing to burn someone at the stake for preaching Velikovsky at a Cosmology conference, and for much the same reason.

Erika if you can do for theology what Velikovsky did for earth scientists then it might be worth the grief.

Kentuk

joymark
10-12-2006, 09:12 AM
Here's just a thought off the top of my head. Is there a minister or clergyperson you are associated with who has similar theological leanings and could be used to "vet" your writing for you? If so, maybe a publisher would be willing to take a look at it if they could put "Erika with Pastor So-and-So" on the author line of the cover. This might (or might not) work exceptionally well if the person has published before.

As for myself, I would be interested in such a book if it were in my field(s) of interest or work. I'm personally a minister (worship leader) and I don't turn my nose up at a book just because the author is a lay person. Quite honestly, I could care less.

I think the folks here who've used C.S. Lewis as an example are dead on. He was a layman. Sure he had credentials, but not in theology. Look at The Problem with Pain, Mere Christianity, and The Four Loves. He wasn't afraid to dip his pen into the theology well. Could he have gone further? Sure.

Just realize that doing something along this line is not going to be appreciated by some. Tolkien and Lewis's close friendship was strained somewhat because Tolkien (a devout Roman Catholic) thought that Lewis should leave the theology to priests and others who had been "properly trained." Thank God he didn't, or we would have never been given some fine jewels of Christian thought. (IMO)

Ok, I'm now rambling. Probably not good for a newbie. Good luck.

Scarlett_156
10-12-2006, 07:23 PM
I can only speak for myself, perhaps, when I say if something is written by a person whose credentials are included on the book jacket, nine times out of ten I'm not going to read it.

Selling such a book-- assuming it's a nonfictional collection of essays or something of the sort-- might be a different trick than trying to sell the average MS. Perhaps getting some testimonials from degreed people who have already sold books might be an idea before you approach an agent with it...?

As for your question: I can't imagine why a non-degreed person would NOT want to tackle so-called "tough" theological questions. If you have what you consider to be an unique insight, I would hope that you would feel obligated or perhaps COMPELLED to share it with the rest of the world.

I post about subjects of religion and spirituality on many different public forums, for example. I have insights that I feel I should share with others, and so I do so-- in an immediate fashion. In this manner I receive a great deal of feedback which is very sustaining. People who are intrigued (or offended) by my words will often contact me, and the resultant dialog is helpful on both sides.

The product of all this discussion is a formulation of ideas. Instead of putting this formulation into one comprehensive manual, I use it to season all of my writing and communication with others-- but that's my personal preference! Your style seems to lean more toward "putting it all together in one place", i.e., a manifesto, which is totally cool with me.

So: Find people with credentials you respect, approach them with a request to read through some of your writing and comment on it (which others replying to this thread have also suggested.) After some discussion has taken place, ask that person to provide a testimonial as to the worthiness of your ideas. If testimonials gained in this fashion are included with your submission to an agent, that will MORE than make up for your lack of a degree.

I hope this was helpful!

Dan A Lewis
10-13-2006, 10:21 AM
I'll volunteer the title of a great book: The Analogical Imagination, by David Tracy. In it, he examines the way classics, literary and otherwise, provoke us to deeper understandings of people with different religious beliefs. Along the way, he takes a very broad look at Christian traditions and the practice of theology. It is a book about how to think about theology. It's challenging reading, but very rewarding.

One of the things Tracy writes about is to consider your audience. Theology that you write for academic purposes has academic standards (rigor, logic, a consideration of prior work, perhaps complexity, perhaps originality). Theology that you write for apologetic/polemical purposes has far different standards. And what Tracy calls systematic theology is different still.

Systematic theology is a reinterpretation, a re-vision of the Christian story. As such, it could be fiction, or art, or exposition like Mere Christianity. Systematic theology doesn't justify itself through argument. Instead, it attempts to inspire recognition, and empathy. Every unique person has their own story to tell, and every culture needs to hear it in a personal way.

Some recent Christian writers whose work you might consider are Philip Yancey and Donald Miller. As far as I know, they're not doctors or magicians. They manage to write poignantly, personally, and honestly anyway, sometimes about Biblical things, and sometimes just about life. It's theology, but it's not really academic.

ECPA (http://ecpa.org/) is a consortium of evangelical publishers. You might go through their membership list and see what kinds of nonfiction they accept. Zondervan is only accepting academic titles, bible study aids, and ministry resources. Tyndale wants no academic work, but popular practical applications.

One of Tyndale's pages recommends establishing yourself with a portfolio of credits in Christian magazines. This helps them (and an agent) take your book proposal seriously. Maybe that is another path to nonfiction writing apart from the PhD.