This is a personal letter written to one of our students who graduated with the Doctor of Ministry degree. She is assuming a full-time position with the Seminary. Dr. Milton was encouraged to share the letter by the Dean of the Seminary. We have received permission from the recipient to publish it. We trust that is both encourages and instructs other graduates with other degrees, and in other fields, everywhere.
My Dear Dr. Saracut,
To Florica, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Timothy 1:2 ESV). The purpose of my little epistle is to congratulate you and to encourage you in Christ on the occasion of receiving your doctoral degree.
Your life reveals one whose impulses and ambitions are under the control of the Holy Spirit. Such a life is a beacon of light, albeit the reflected light of a Greater Being who is the light of the world.” Having a strong Christian lady and doctor of the Church as part of our seminary team is a blessing to so many. So, I begin by thanking you, not for what you have done, or will do, but because of who you are in Jesus, our Lord.
Congratulations again on your remarkable achievement. And just how extraordinary is this happy event? We must consider that while earned doctorates (professional or academic) are more frequent in the clergy, and higher education sectors, only 4.5% of Americans receive a doctoral degree (US Census Bureau report, 2019). Women make up considerably less than 4%. The achievement places those select few doctoral recipients in a rarified height, indeed. Now, think of the odds against an East European single-lady earning a doctorate, whose first language is other than English! Your achievement is nothing short of stunning.
You are the pride of your Seminary. However, I think you are much more. I believe that your achievement justifies calling you the “Pride of Romania,” and, indeed, “an American success story”—and this I say without the slightest hint of hyperbole.
Earning a doctorate is a presenting event that has, of necessity, many unseen virtues beneath and beyond the degree: diligence, perseverance, and everyday old hard work. For these gifts and graces we give thanks. Of course, as in everything, there is the entropy of sin in a fallen world pressing to do harm. For some who are careless in their dependence upon Christ, proleptic and unseemly powers that are at work in the world will seize upon the weakened spiritual immunity, invading the soul, and infecting the virtues that fuel good works. These foul forces can devour all purity, leaving only morsels of memory. But if they are allowed to remain, the infestation will produce a grotesque nest of potential virtue-killers. From such a dynamic of decay will grow all-too familiar mutations: self-centeredness, austerity, aloofness, ingratitude, and that most hideous and vile bacteria, pride. At length, the disease creates a brittle, doctrinaire disciple that no longer resembles the Lord of love who called them, and who is, almost universally, avoided for their contemptuous opinions of all but themselves.
May I exercise my pastoral credentials for this auspicious occasion? Indeed, if I were permitted to speak a word of ministerial encouragement, a word that might enrich the virtues, and strengthen your spiritual resiliency, I would I say to you,
“Dr. Saracut, you will be wise and faithful to use your recently conferred credentials as a ‘license to learn,’ and a ‘certificate to serve God and Man.’ As a license to learn, you have honed research and writing skills that can be used to tackle the great questions that are forever concerning to the Body of Christ: ethical questions about, e.g., the extent and limits of technology in the service of the Great Commission; the possibility of relating the many variables about how Faith matures; organizational pathologies that plague the practice of ministry, and inhibit world evangelization; and spiritual cancers of the human soul. Therefore, “Do theology” in the service of the Church, from the most humble act of theological reflection to mammoth scholarly projects that will require the span of life’s years to investigate. As a certificate in service to God and Man, I speak of the object of your study and teaching. Let your doctoral degree be the towel of Christ-like servanthood that you employ with modesty and humility to wash the feet of those whose journeys have left them dusty and deprived.
In summary, the divine teaching of our blessed Lord must be inscribed on a standard that is forever unfurled before us:
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more “(Luke 12:48 KJV).”
I want you to know that our well-placed pride is not greater than our earnest and fervent prayers. In the hardest days, remember how God brought you thus far. In days of success—and I ask God to grant you many such days—remember that all good things come from Him and be grateful. For ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change’ (James 1:17 ESV).”
I am deeply honored to be your colleague in the Gospel of God’s grace, and I pray that many souls will be saved, innumerable lives transformed, and a multitude of souls safe in the arms of Jesus when He comes again, as a result of your life’s response to His unsearchable grace ( 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Commending you to Christ and the Word of His grace, I am
MICHAEL A. MILTON, Ph.D., M.Div., M.P.A.
James Ragsdale Chair of Missions and Evangelism
President, D. James Kennedy Institute of Reformed Leadership
US Census Bureau (2019). Number of People With Master’s and Doctoral
Degrees Doubles Since 2000. The United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/02/number-of-people-with-masters-and-phd-degrees-double-since-2000.html.