(Guest post from Benjamin Kandt, who just completed his MAC degree and is in process towards completing his MDiv. He is a pastoral intern at NewCity Orlando)
I am writing as a recent graduate of the Masters of Arts in Counseling (MAC) program and a current student in the Masters of Divinity (MDiv) program at RTS Orlando. I am wholeheartedly convinced that these two programs not only complement but enhance one another. As a future pastor, I have the vocation of seeing Christ formed in his people, the Church. I long to be thoroughly equipped for this delightful yet daunting task. Being a dual degree, MAC/MDiv student has prepared me well for this calling.
John Calvin begins his Institutes of the Christian Religion by saying, “Our wisdom … consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” The MDiv program has stretched and enlarged my vision and love for our Triune God. The MAC program has expanded and deepened my understand and love for human beings, made in the image of God. As I sit in class with open Bible, the eyes of my heart are enlightened to behold “the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:18-19) which is an essential ballast when you’re wading into the depths of human sin, suffering, and sorrow. So interconnected and intertwined is the knowledge of God and ourselves that Calvin says that he’s not sure which one comes first.
As I prepare for pastoral ministry, I see these two degrees helping me in three particular areas: preaching, counseling, and spiritual formation.
- First, as a preacher I have grown in my ability to handle the text and situate it within the overall story of Scripture. Also, because I also have a keener understanding of the inner workings of the human soul, I’ve grown in my ability to apply the Scriptures to the hearts of my hearers.
- Second, in counseling the MDiv has taught me to revere the unfathomable depths of God and the MAC has taught me to be present with people while they disclose the depths of their soul. As holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom put it, “No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still.” In the MAC program, I’ve learned through experience how to bring good news to bear on marriages that are in shambles, traumatized war veterans, suicidal teenagers, victims of abuse, and those struggling with same-sex attraction. All the while, I am trusting in the God who is there and is not silent.
- Third, the MAC program prioritizes our own spiritual formation so that we can listen and love others from a place of personal growth and healing. Reflecting on Proverbs 20:5 and my time in the MAC program I believe that as we pay attention to our heart, we buy understanding. Then we can spend this understanding on wisely loving others. The MDiv program has shown me that Jesus is both the means and the end of all spiritual formation. Both degrees have been essential ingredients in my formation for pastoral ministry.
My favorite theologian, Augustine of Hippo said, “God and the soul, that is what I desire to know.” This summarizes my experience of being a MDiv/MAC student. I have come to know God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit more deeply and have come to know the soul more insightfully. In light of this two-fold knowledge, I stand in awe with the psalmist, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6). Therefore, I pray that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give (us) the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).