Andersonville Theological Seminary Respected Throughout the Christian World

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Garp, Jun 13, 2022.

  1. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    I can across this on an old Andersonville page:
    "As an Affiliate Member of the ABHE, ATS Academics are highly regarded throughout the Christian world."

    ABHE affiliate status is defunct as of a few months ago. But, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Andersonville academics were not highly regarded throughout the Christian world even when they had it. That seems to be marketing designed to appeal to people's bias for the school (inexpensive). On the other hand, perhaps people at Dallas Theological Seminary and Oxford were in awe of Andersonville academics. Perhaps the only reason they weren't faculty there was they would have put to shame DTS and Oxbridge scholars.

    How is that sort of nonsense even believable and to whom? It sounds good but was there ever any substance to the claim? It is quite a shamtastic claim.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2022
  2. Andersonville has made major changes in academic, faculty, and programing. The President, Jimmy Hayes, was very reluctant to move forward. Now, the school has Greek and Hebrew courses and will soon add Syriac. The President's son recently received his DMin from Luther Rice. His mother, received her Masters in Counseling from Liberty a number of years ago. They have dropped the PhD offering and now only offer ThD and DMin advanced degrees. Their website makes no false claims about affiliations or accreditations.
  3. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    Andersonville notes their certified status with NCCA and that they have twice been named School of the Year. Steve Levicoff called NCCA an insidious credential mill. If I recall correctly other than the misleading nomenclature there were all kinds of issues with people associated with them (NCCA) having substandard degrees. In fact, I think NCCA was in the business of certifying entities offering substandard degrees such as doctorates.

    If they are improving, why are they tied to this entity? Apparently, proudly. Complete ignorance? Marketing (dollars)?
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  4. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    :) :) :)

    Steve Levicoff on Andersonville: "Heck, I upgraded Andersonville years ago - from a diploma mill to a degree mill, from a scam to a sham, and from a sleazy rip-off to, um, a sleazy rip-off." It's here:

    We have SO many threads and posts on this school - with SO many um - pithy remarks! Some witty, too. Try the search thingy, if you're interested. It seems like a favourite school to bash, whenever someone's in the mood. That usually happens for a reason...
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2022
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  5. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    That was a classic! Steve was hitting on all cylinders on that one. Funny!
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  6. Michael Burgos

    Michael Burgos Active Member

    Here is my cautionary tale:

    Having lurked on this board for many years, as a registered member and not, I thought I might contribute my experience with this particular institution. Since it may seem foreboding to parse through the years of comments on Andersonville Theological Seminary (ATS) for those not too familiar with this board, I figured I would distill what I consider to be an evenhanded review. Here are three reasons to countenance the following reflections: 1.) I have first-hand experience. 2.) I am not hostile to institutions that lack recognized accreditation and I do not assume (as some on this board) that regional (RA) or national accreditation (NA) equates to rigorous (or theologically faithful) education. Nor do I assume that a lack of recognized accreditation means that an institution is a diploma mill or that it necessarily offers substandard programs. 3.) I have earned degrees from both unaccredited and regionally accredited institutions. I have an RA Associate's/Bachelor's, an MA from a recognized UK university, and an MA from an RA university all in theological/biblical studies. In addition to the graduate program I completed at ATS, I have a doctoral degree from another unaccredited institution, albeit a legitimate one.

    After having graduated with an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited private university (double major in Bible & Theology), I was interested in pursuing graduate studies. I had applied to three RA schools seeking a research degree (both via distance and traditional) and was accepted by them all. However, I was hesitant to contribute further to my loan debt and two of my choices did not accept federal money. Simultaneously I had other financial responsibilities that outweighed spending $15-30k on a graduate degree. At the time I was working in a non-ministerial job and had no immediate plans of transitioning to ministry. I decided to look for an unaccredited institution that met a few criteria: A biblical languages program, asynchronous courses, affordability, a thesis as part of the program, and a longstanding commitment to theological orthodoxy. Having seen ATS degrees listed in the credentials of people working at legitimate schools and serving in churches, and because the price was low, I applied, paid my tuition in full ($1k), and enrolled. In retrospect, I wish I hadn't attended there and had instead opted for one of several other institutions. I wish I had heeded the many warnings on this board and elsewhere. In two years I graduated with perfect grades.

    My experience at ATS was unpleasant at best. First, the coursework was grossly substandard. All of the courses (except the biblical languages) did not require any reading beyond the Bible. Rather, all of the courses were based upon archaic and insipid lectures that reflect scholarship that is outdated and often indefensible. Students had the option of reading several "Recommended Books" in each course. I read them all, feeling guilty about the inadequate coursework. In retrospect, the book choices were mediocre. The assignments were simplistic and juvenile. Most courses require students to complete several fill-in-the-blanks homework sheets and nothing more. A few courses required essay questions or on rare occasions, an exegetical paper...err a paper about a biblical text. However, little to no direction beyond an essay prompt was provided. Not even pagination standards were provided. As for the course content, most of the lectures were expositional-style commentary (barely) without anything remotely close to substantial interaction with the biblical text. Theology classes were similarly poor. Moreover, some of the content was theologically horrendous. One lecturer (the president of the school) insisted that the ceremonial laws depicted in the OT regarding intermarriage between Israel and the surrounding nations preclude contemporary interracial marriage. That is, racism is taught at ATS under the guise of biblical Christianity. An anti-Reformed sentiment and King James Onlyism are also well represented at ATS. As for the biblical language courses, I found that these were the only classes that required actual coursework. The lectures for these (having done language training in my undergraduate program and at the graduate level at an RA school) are moderately helpful (i.e., not as helpful as they should have been). The textbook choices for biblical languages were good. James Hayes, who now has a DMin from Luther Rice (he didn't then), did regularly supervise these courses and was eager to help when I had questions. Surprisingly, Hayes required the Nestle-Aland GNT and not the Textus Receptus. The assignments for these courses were substantial but often pointless. For example, in Greek III I was required to identify and parse every single participle in the Gospel of Mark in addition to providing translations w/ verbal parsing for select passages. In another course, only translations and workbook exercises were required. Of these, the Greek courses were the worst designed. No exegetical or text-critical work was ever required in any of the courses I took. That is amazingly deficient. Having gone on to take these classes and much more at other (i.e., legitimate) institutions, the contrast is stark indeed.

    At the close of my program with ATS, I completed a thesis. Unsurprisingly, this aspect of the program was mismanaged (if even managed) by the staff (not really a faculty). I was given no supervision, closing comments, or required to complete any defense. ATS required that I submit a research proposal which they accepted without inquiry and I submitted two bound copies as they required. I was supposed to one of these receive back with the approval page filled out but I never received it even after repeated emails and calls. After six months of going back and forth, I gave up.

    ATS' programs are substandard on every level. Its programs are imbalanced, extremely low quality (read: totally inferior to a legitimate institution), and do not afford students the education it promises. It offers at least one degree without the standard prerequisites (e.g., a Master of Theology [ThM] is a post Master of Divinity research program but ATS treats it like a thirty-credit MA) and counseling tracks that feature a modality that is straight-up lunacy (NCCA and its "temperament therapy"). I did learn much while completing that program but despite of its innumerable deficiencies. I read widely and thoroughly and light years beyond what was required. I crafted the few papers and my thesis (80 pp. w/ 200 footnotes) with care and thoroughness (I doubt they were even read since no feedback was ever given-- only a letter grade). I also learned that it is wise to wait when finances and time allow for attendance at a reputable and venerable institution that has proven itself to afford its students a worthwhile education. If you do not, you'll likely end up regretting your decision. If anything, ATS is essentially a business endeavor that appeals to those with a low budget who are seeking theological education. It offers its customers a poor product under the guise of faithful theological education.

    To those still unpersuaded: I know that ATS had an affiliate status with the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). It is irrelevant and pointless IMO. ABHE affiliate status is certainly not indicative of academic rigor as my experience above demonstrates. I am also aware that ATS has a few hired instructors in the last five years who have graduate degrees from reputable institutions (e.g., DTS). This too, while a step in the right direction, has not changed the systemic problems inherent at ATS. Whereas ATS has reportedly changed some of its coursework, most courses remain the “lecture-based” dribble that was required when I attended. The pernicious rumors about ATS pursuing recognized accreditation are, therefore, merely rumors, wishful thinking, and misguided hopes.
  7. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Michael, thank you for your interesting, firsthand account.
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  8. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    Michael, I found your statement interesting if not appalling even: "One lecturer (the president of the school) insisted that the ceremonial laws depicted in the OT regarding intermarriage between Israel and the surrounding nations preclude contemporary interracial marriage. That is, racism is taught at ATS under the guise of biblical Christianity. An anti-Reformed sentiment and King James Onlyism are also well represented at ATS."

    Does make one wonder about the choice of name for the Theological Seminary. Why would you name a seminary a name associated with a notorious Confederate prison known for horrific human rights abuses?

    You did a thorough job of laying out deficiencies.
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  9. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    They still have this graduate program, which is odd if they are on their way to accreditation, since as you note it is not organized correctly (as a post MDiv program). Surely, that issue would be an issue for an accreditor. I wonder if the founder (father) had no idea when they began the seminary? Though now the son has a regionally accredited doctorate, he should know better.

    Sounds like the Dollar Store or WISH version of a seminary degree.

    I shouldn't be too negative. If they are striving to get better that is a good thing.
  10. Michael Burgos

    Michael Burgos Active Member

    Even most MA's are at least 36 credit-hours. I suppose they could rebrand their Master of Theology an MTh, but even then that traditionally includes a research component, esp. in Europe/SA.

    You would think!

    James Hayes has balked at accreditation a few times. He once noted he would be attending a conference or seminar hosted by ABHE. That was maybe five years ago. If there is an improvement, it's marginal.
  11. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    I think LBU was doing the same thing at the same time and both discovered it was too much for them in terms of cost, effort, and getting their programs up to the norms required. They both dropped the publicized effort.
  12. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    LBU and Andersonville both fill a niche for affordable education. My issue isn't with that but the gravity of what they are getting. Are they really getting a seminary education? I suspect that may more likely be the case with LBU who seems to enjoy a better reputation.

    But why mess with them. I think Michael talked about some credible (accredited) university he was considering with low tuition (may have been the Dutch one) Why invest around the same money for something so below par? We know why? Many people aren't up to doing the Dutch PhD program. They need not only affordable but easy (and preferably quick). If they could get in, accredited programs would soon show their lack of preparation and the challenges of intellectual rigor.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2022
  13. Michael Burgos

    Michael Burgos Active Member

    I've applied to a few institutions for a doctoral program. I'm torn between a professional doctorate and a research doctorate, but I'll have to decide by the end of the year.
  14. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    I suppose the obvious thing is that it depends on your goals. Personally, I like the idea of a research doctorate not only because you're generally getting better mileage out of it but because you are researching areas of interest to you. This is especially so if you are thinking of one of the research/dissertation only doctorates (UK, SA, EUR). There seem to be a lot of professional doctorates out there and you almost get the impression that some of them are simply cash cows for some institutions. I think the PhD is still top dog in the academic world.
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  15. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    And people who get various professional doctorates sometimes go back to earn a PhD because, well, it is a PhD.
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  16. All past history and admittedly, not stellar. But, as I stated, changes have been made and are continuing to be made. I won't comment on them again until they receive accreditation from a USDoE recognized accreditor, which they will. Thanks for the dialogue.
  17. Michael Burgos

    Michael Burgos Active Member

    What evidence do you have that ATS will receive recognized accreditation? I have yet to see a shred.
  18. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    We can remain hopeful that the cranking out of doctorates at the level of Knights of Columbus home study courses is at an end. However, it is discouraging that they proudly display certification and accolades from a credential mill. If they were turning over a new leaf or understood what they were doing you would think it would be gone. You would think the Master of Theology would have been eliminated or requirements upgraded. More good faith efforts needs to be displayed to make change believable.

    Also, hopefully that racist opinion you mentioned by the founder is gone from the curriculum. Not a bad idea considering that issue to drop the name Andersonville. Surprised the mascot isn't a Rebel.
  19. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Gone maybe. But not forgotten. Ever.
  20. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    Definitely something problematic that should be owned and moved on from. Bob Jones U did that.

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