I received this message via Scott A. Oakman
<firstname.lastname@example.org> on Fri, 20 Dec 96 11:46:49 and wanted to
respond, inasmuch as I have had the same struggle as the person in
question. I believe (via the routing information) that the original
author was Hedrick so my primary reply is to you, Hedrick.
> I am having a doubt about pursuing a Ph.D in physics. I want to do
> something with my life to do God s work, but I am not sure if
> getting a Ph.D in physics is the way to go. It just seems that
> all the knowledge about the world that we obtain from studying the
> physics of nature will be all useless when the kingdom comes. But
> no one knows when this will be we should do our best with our
> earthly duties. But I am not sure if getting a Ph.D in Physics is
> the right choice.
> ... I am trying to get a Ph.D and I am now in a Ph.D program. But
> taking classes in physicss is not really making me happy. I know
> I could do well in my classes but I am starting to see no point in
> doing well in classes. The class material is not fun at all to me.
> However I would not mind doing research at the frontier of
> physics. the money that I have to pay for graduate school isn t
> little. I guess I am trying to figure out where I should put all
> of my effort into.
> after getting my Ph.D in physics, there is no guarantee that there
> will be a job for me after some grueling 6-7 years in school in
> addition to 4-5 years in undergarduate school. After I get my Ph.D.
> , I have to do what is called postdoc positions. basically, it is a
> minimum wage job for people with ph.d basically you work under some
> researchers or professors helping them with their project.
> I guess I am looking for some kind of guidance or advice or words
> of encouragement from others. See for doctors, I could tell
> myself that after some grueling years at the medical school, I
> will be helping other people. For lawyers, I could tell my self
> that I will be fighting for justice. but for a physicist, I don t
> know what to tell myself.
I hear you. I became a Christian 20 years ago, after completing my
bachelor's degree in engineering. I went into engineering for all
the wrong (Christian) reasons: I liked the money and I enjoyed the
ego trip I received ("O-o-o-oh, you're an engineer; you're so
smart!). When I became a Christian, I had no motivation for
engineering and struggled for several years about what to do in life.
It didn't help when in the church I saw much praise for students who
entered the ministry or mission field (as church planters and such)
and heard much exhortation to "give yourself to God's work". Like
you, I thought, "when the kingdom comes, there will be no need for
engineers" and "since the Bible tells us to make the most use of our
time, for the days are short, shouldn't I do "Christian" work?"
Over the years, God has spoken to me about a Christian's vocation and
advocation. To begin with, when the kingdom comes, we will need
physicists and engineers as much as we will need doctors, lawyers,
police, or even ministers! After all, the Bible teaches that "we
will all see God, as face to face (1 Cor 13:12)" and that we shall
see God, just as He is (1 John 3:2). So, the fact that, in the
kingdom, there will be no need of physicists should not trouble you.
Perhaps God _does_ have a need for physicists (and engineers) in
Second, our purpose in this life and in the life to come is to
know God and to enjoy Him forever. For me, knowing God is also to
know the things He has made. I see His order and beauty in the all
the created world, corrupt as it is through sin. There is as much
holiness in studying God's world as in studying the Bible - both are
forms of theology, both are given from Him. The crucial issue is,
why do we study His works? For exploitation, pride or selfishness?
I have met persons who are diligent in the ministry for these wrong
reasons. But to study God's Word and His creation, to give Him
glory, to know Him better, and to serve humanity, is just as holy as
the greatest evangelical sermon.
Third, I have been told there are two works of humanity that are
important to God: to reach the lost for the eternal shores and to
preserve the creation until God decides it is time to bring us home.
We all know about the former; it may be our advocation but not
everyone is called to be a "professional Christian" (I know, I left
engineering to become a minister but left the ministry when God
called me to return to minister to the unchurched). Also, if there
were no Christian physicists, chemists, engineers, or other,
non-church occupations, what a sorry world we would have! Where
would Christian radio be without the technically skilled (and
trained) Christians? What about the printing press, the knowledge of
new medical chemicals or equipment be? Does God leave all the work
in this world to the non-Christian? I rather think He reveals His
greatest secrets to those who fear Him and seek to use His knowledge
for the benefit of humanity, rather than selfish gain or ego trips.
Fourth, the Bible states that "All labor is profitable but mere
talk results in poverty (Proverbs 14:23)." Some ministers should
heed this message. If the Holy Spirit says that all labor is
profitable (and there are other passages like this), then we should
have no anxiety about our work in this world, provided we do it for
There is more I could say on this subject but the point I am making
is this: God doesn't need another bishop in this world, what He wants
is for people to seek Him and glorify Him in whatever they do. It is
as godly to be a physicist as to be an evangelist, if that is what
you are called to be, even though the days are short. Remember, the
angel in Acts 1:11 told the persons watching to go about their
business and not to worry about when Jesus will return.
These comments are in regard to your seeming anxiety about being a
physicist in these latter days. Now, regarding the other points
about which you wrote, don't worry about the job you will have. This
probably seems like a trite cliche, but it is a true statement.
Jesus tells us to seek after Him and allow Him to take care of our
needs. This contradicts the world's view and requires a lot of faith
to trust God when you don't see the answer. Let me tell you of my
own personal experience: I completed my PhD this past spring and have
been working here since last year. My doctoral studies were drawing
to a close and my wife and I were growing discouraged about job
prospects. I had PhD graduates in my field around me who could not
find employment; I sent out literally dozens of resumes to
universities, colleges, and industries with no response. All my wife
and I had to go on is that we knew God had called me to return to
school (from the ministry) and get my doctorate - we believed God
would supply but it was getting to be a challenge to hold on. It is
a long story but the summary is this: we had reached bottom in our
hope; nothing was opening up, not even post-docs. But suddenly, from
out of nowhere came a letter saying there was an opening for a
faculty position to start in 8 weeks. I felt it was already filled
but we felt we had nothing to lose. Three weeks later I was hired!
God opened the door when it was most needed.
You have said that you do not enjoy your classes. Not everyone is
called to be a physicist, just like not every one is called to play
professional sports. Not knowing you, nor having discussed the issue
with you (you can email me personally if you wish to discuss your
situation), I cannot advise you regarding whether you should or
should not finish your doctorate (it took me 13 years to complete
mine - I left a doctoral program once because I didn't see a value in
it, just like you have said). But I would ask this, do you enjoy
trying to understand the universe God has created? What is your
greatest desire? If God were to appear before you and ask you what
career would you most enjoy, what would you say?
Finally (I hear a great sigh of relief out in cyberspace), don't
worry about the post-doc. Have faith in God, tell Him your concerns,
burdens and questions (He already knows them!). We are here to serve
Him; in that, we find our greatest fulfillment. If He leads you to a
post-doc experience, trust Him for His wisdom. In whatever work He
gives you to do, do it mightily, as unto the Lord, for it is the Lord
God who we serve.
Write me personally if you wish.
William M. Frix
Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering
John Brown University
Siloam Springs, AR 72761
Phone: (501) 524-7466
FAX: (501) 524-9548