Graduate Student Profile

Roger TurnerName: Roger Turner

Undergraduate Degree: Government


What brought you to Liberty?

I did my undergraduate studies at Liberty, so I was familiar with the school already.  Even so, the main reason I chose Liberty over some other school is because of the particular sort of graduate training I wanted.  My initial desire, when I entered the M.A. program, was to train to become an apologist.  I had no idea about academia at the time; I simply knew that I wanted to study philosophy, mainly, as well as some theology.  Having taken a few undergraduate courses in both areas during my initial career at Liberty, I knew I could get the training I wanted by going back to Liberty.

What brought you to Liberty’s Philosophy Dept. in particular?

Before I answer this question, let me first mention that, as an undergraduate, I majored in government.  And I use the term ‘majored in’ rather loosely.  So, while a government major may not be obviously unrelated to the study of philosophy, given my background as an undergraduate student, it certainly was—I can assure you.  Long story short, I majored in government as an undergrad because, among other things, I thought it was a practical degree; I could get a job with the government if I wanted.  Even so, my favorite classes as an undergrad were my philosophy and theology classes; I simply thought majoring in such areas would be wildly impractical.  But, after having worked for the government for several years, it became obvious to me that God had wired me for, and given me a desire to pursue, philosophical studies. 

As I mentioned earlier, my initial desire, when entering the M.A. program, was to be an apologist.  And what’s more, I wanted an answer to a problem that had been posed to me while working for the government:  the evidential argument from evil.  I simply didn’t have a good answer to such a question.  So, I didn’t care much about being practical anymore (whatever, precisely, ‘practical’ means, anyway); I wanted to learn how to defend the Christian faith from such questions.  But, it took something like two weeks to figure out that being trained to be an ‘apologist’ wasn’t going to cut it.  I actually wasn’t sure what that meant anymore.  I realized that what I needed—to be a proper apologist, that is—was to be trained to be a philosopher.  Of course, the philosophy department is the place to do just that. 

Do you feel the M.A. in Philosophical Studies properly prepared you to do well at the doctoral level?

I can answer this question with an unequivocal ‘Yes’.  I’m currently working on a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Tennessee, and I have many colleagues who have acquired an M.A. degree from various prestigious programs.  Even so, I know from conversations with my colleagues, that the M.A.P.S. is second to none when it comes to rigor at the M.A. level.  As I’ve been in the Ph.D. program here at U.T., I’ve come to think of my training in the M.A.P.S. as a sort of Ph.D. ‘lite’.  Here are some reasons why:

  • The M.A.P.S. requires a proficiency in a research language.  Very few M.A. programs require this (though most Ph.D. programs do).
  • The M.A.P.S. requires for all M.A. students, a successfully completed comprehensive exam.  This is not true for many M.A. programs. 
  • Though this is not the case anymore, when I was in the M.A.P.S. program, the thesis track was required.  This is certainly not true of many other M.A. programs.  I understand that the M.A.P.S. is now offering a non-thesis track.  And that’s okay.  It’s okay because the M.A.P.S. student still has to pass the above two items, regardless whether or not they choose to do a thesis!  So, even without a thesis, the M.A.P.S. remains as rigorous as ever.
  • It’s a smaller program than most M.A. programs.  Most M.A. programs that offer just a terminal M.A. are fairly large.  What’s more, most M.A. programs usually aren’t just M.A. programs; they’re Ph.D. programs that have some M.A. students.  The small size of Liberty’s Philosophy department makes it so that an M.A. student can’t, as it were, slip through the cracks.  There’s just nowhere to hide.  As an M.A. student, it is demanded of you to produce high-quality work.  This is not the case at very many M.A. programs (especially those programs where they also offer the Ph.D.; the Ph.D. students get most of the attention and the M.A. students are rather like afterthoughts).

So, yes: I know that in the M.A.P.S. program that I was sufficiently prepared for success at the Ph.D. level. 

Describe your experience with the faculty.

This is really the heart of the degree isn’t it?  The faculty?  There’s really no point in pursuing graduate study—especially graduate study in philosophy—if the faculty’s no good.  Liberty’s Philosophy department faculty is the reason the M.A.P.S. program churns out graduates who go on to top-quality Ph.D. programs.  They have their degrees from some of the most prestigious universities in the world; and what’s more, they are tireless in their efforts to make each M.A.P.S. student as well trained as possible.  And they do it all in the name of, and for the sake of, Jesus our Lord.  As a Christian philosophy student, I doubt there’s much more I could have asked for. 

My experience with this faculty made my time in the M.A. program not only memorable and enjoyable, but endlessly fruitful.  I grew probably ten-fold in my knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ during my career as a graduate student in the Philosophy department.  These men were not only my philosophical trainers; they were spiritual advisors and mentors.  I can’t be more thankful than I am that Jesus allowed me to train under these men for the short time I did.  These faculty members were an enormous blessing to me as I went through the M.A.P.S. program; and I am confident that this faculty will be an enormous blessing to any student it serves in the future.

What are you doing now?

As I mentioned earlier, I am currently working on a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Tennessee where I was given a Teaching Assistantship.  In particular, I’m working with E.J. Coffman and David Palmer on metaphysical issues in and around the philosophical debate on free will.  I also get to teach undergraduate philosophy courses.  More importantly, however, by God’s grace, I have been able to talk to various colleagues, professors, and students about Jesus and the good news of the Gospel.  My hope is to go on to professional academia.