Distance Graduate program in Religion

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by austinator, Jul 30, 2009.

  1. austinator

    austinator New Member

    I'm looking for a distance MA or PhD/ThD program in Religion. I'm looking to study the Intertestamental period/Second Temple Judaism, Life of Jesus, and the Rise of Christianity.
    I know about Southern Baptist, Bible Baptist Seminary, and Liberty's program in Apologetics.

    I'm particularly interested in hearing about any UK or South African programs.

    One more question, will a MA or PhD/ThD from a UK or South African program allow me to teach on the University level (just at a small, liberal arts college--not looking to teach at Harvard)
  2. emmzee

    emmzee New Member

    Are you looking for an MA or a PhD? If you don't have an MA (or a ThM or something) you'll likely need to earn a master's before being admitted into a PhD program. (OR you'd have to do appropriate work equal to a master's and then start your PhD so either way ...)

    One UK option to consider is Trinity College Bristol, they offer UK style research only master's and doctorates. The degrees are validated and awarded by the University of Bristol. I am keeping them in mind if I decide to return to do further studies in religion/theology later on.

    In terms of SA programs, I've heard good things about UNISA, Pretoria, and SATS. From reading the opinions of others online, the generally feeling about SA degrees is that their practical utility is more limited than a US/UK degree from a reputable school, however such a degree could still lead to teaching opportunities at a school like you've mentioned. (Of course, with competition for jobs in the humanities being so fierce ..)
  3. austinator

    austinator New Member

    I realize that I have to do my MA or ThM before a PhD. I know of a couple of programs that I can do via distance here in the states, but if I saw a program in the UK I could do via distance, then I might consider that as well.

    Thanks for the help
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2018
  4. austinator

    austinator New Member

    If you have a MA degree in Bible, the school will ask you to come down an teach. If you have a PhD in Bible, they will beg you to come teach for them Every student is required to have a daily Bible class so there is almost always a need for a Bible teacher, as the Bible faculty at this school are teaching around 6 classes per semester each.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2018
  5. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    UNISA places great emphasis on theology. About 1/3 of all of their departments in the humanities and social sciences concern some variant of Christian, Jewish and increasingly in recent years, Islamic religion. (There's little offered on other religions.)


    The UNISA department most congruent with your interests might be New Testament. They claim to be the world's largest university NT department and that they are known internationally. Given UNISA's more than 100,000 students and its emphasis on theology, that might be true.


    They say:

    The Christian Spirtuality, Church History and Missiology department, the Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Studies department, the Religious Studies and Arabic department and the Systematic Theology and Theological Ethics department might have some relevance too. OT and Ancient Near Eastern Studies almost certainly does.

  6. telefax

    telefax New Member

    Hi Austin,
    Check out this fairly recent thread: Suggested Resources for Foreign Theology Degrees. For what it’s worth, while I’m one of the ones cautioning against expecting the same utility from a South African degree that one would achieve from a US degree, that’s more an awareness of the prejudices out there. I particularly like London School of Theology and Stellenbosch, and (very subjectively) think they are better programs than SBTS, LU, & BBS.

    In this particular field, perhaps. I would think you'd find less resistance to a foreign degree than to one of the SBC or GARBC ones you listed, unless you're teaching for one of their denominational schools.

    Best wishes,

  7. Haggai12

    Haggai12 Member

    Foreign degrees, US jobs..

    Hey Austin,

    There are a fortunate few (like brother Cory) who have foreign (theol) degrees and have 'landed' US teaching/admin positions.

    In general, however, if you really want to teach theol in the US -- even at a small (accredited) school -- you will be competing with folks that have 'big dog' doctorates (e.g., Princeton).

    I know this, because I applied for a few such positions. When I learned what kind of people I was competing with, I decided it was the Lord's way of telling me to stay in ministry -- not (formal) academics. As good as my South African qualifcations are, they just are not (very) competitive here in the states. You could even say there is (something) of a glut of highly, to over-qualified Christians competing for just a few jobs openings each year.

    As partial as I am personally to foreign qualifications -- especially for pastors/ministers -- I think the (general) reality is that if you want to teach in the US, you will have to have (a) good connections and/or (b) a 'big dog' doctorate.
  8. PMBrooks

    PMBrooks New Member

    I will echo what Haggai12 said...it is just the market forces at work. There are very few positions at seminaries and colleges in religion or divinity, and there are so many people who have degrees in those areas that want to teach. I am blessed to teach in a seminary. The only reason I got the job was because they wanted someone in house to teach theology at their seminary.

    I will say one factor that I have found that helps is if you are wanting to specialize in a certain religion, then that helps. My focus is not only theology but Islamic studies. I have been offered two positions to teach in that area even AFTER I landed my current theology position. But, you will need to find a religious studies program in Islamic studies, which is readily available at many of the schools we have discussed in the thread.

    Hope that helps!
  9. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    I'm not really in a position to comment on hiring in Christian theology. But I have observed Buddhist Studies a bit and can comment on that. I suspect that things aren't entirely dissimilar.

    It's kind of a small little world. There might not be more than 100 university scholars in the United States publishing regularly in the subject at any one time. So interested people tend to recognize names and they have a pretty good idea who's active and what their specialties and peculiarities are. There are often new names making an appearance, young scholars making names for themselves. If their contributions are interesting and valuable, then their names are apt to be remembered. If they show up at conferences and get introduced around, then they will be remembered all the more. If established names recommend them and treat them like proteges, so much the better.

    So in this one area of religious studies at least, hiring isn't really a matter of complete unknowns submitting applications and hiring committees automatically selecting the applicant with a degree from the most prestigious university. Successful applicants generally aren't unknowns. Those doing the hiring already know who they are. If employers favor the prestige departments, it's often because they host the big productive names in the field, because they push graduate students to do work that gets them noticed too, and because they introduce those students around to the kind of people who do the hiring. But individuals from less prestigious schools often get attention too.

    So if there's any relevance to the Christian theology world (and I expect that there is) then there are probably a number of things that graduate students can do to raise their own profile in their field. Students need to find ways of impressing influential people and getting their names out there as up-and-comers.

    Studying by distance learning at a South African university might mean professors who aren't nearly as prominent here in the States as they are back home. It will deprive students of full-time on-scene academic community and the resulting networking. At its absolute worst, it could land a student with a remote advisor who doesn't know them and is just kind of going through the motions. But that doesn't need to happen and I don't think that academic success here in the US is absolutely out of the question. It will demand hard-work and a bit of ambition though.
  10. austinator

    austinator New Member

    I'm not worried about not having a PhD from Princeton (about half of the Bible faculty doesn't have a PhD). The PhD on the faculty are from Florida (Classical Studies), Trinity (Philosophy/apologetics), TCU (Church History), Vanderbilt (Higher Ed Admin).

    PhD in Religion from any RA (or foreign) school could get me a job there
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2018
  11. austinator

    austinator New Member

    I wouldn't mind a Graduate minor in Isalmic studies or some coursework in Islamic studies. Islam is a fascinating religion--any school with a graduate distance coursework in Islamic study
  12. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    UNISA's Religious Studies department has moved pretty dramatically towards an Islamic Studies focus in recent years. It's now calling itself the Department of Religious Studies and Arabic.


  13. emmzee

    emmzee New Member

    Southern Evangelical Seminary offers a "Certificate in Islamic Studies" ... however it is of course taught from a Christian perspective, and requires one course in residence:
    Total cost: $5,400 (I think, calculated from their tuition page)

    A brief Google search also revealed this distance MA program, offered by "The Islamic College" and validated by Middlesex University in the UK:
    Total cost: $6,435.44 (approx; converted from 3850 GBP)
  14. telefax

    telefax New Member

    I think that Bill’s correlation is accurate, and extends to other disciplines within the humanities as well. Writing pieces that truly make significant additions to the knowledge base of a discipline or that change people’s view of a particular issue will catapult one beyond those with only a big-name degree. For example, I think Philip W. Comfort had actually made quite a name for himself in the field of textual criticism prior to his doctorate from UNISA.

    Haggai12 is absolutely correct that the competition is fierce, but readers considering further education shouldn’t assume that this is insurmountable. Those looking for a teaching position within Christianity can be somewhat encouraged by the fact that the various denominations/traditions offer those of a particular confessional stripe a smaller pool of competitors. I don’t know the extent to which this factor applies for different traditions within other religious faiths. For example, I recently spoke to a professor friend at a seminary who stated that the primary limiting factor for applicants was not a “top ten school” doctorate, but ability to sign off on the particular doctrinal position of the seminary. This means that a Princeton Ph.D. with a great publication record will still not be eligible for a position at Dallas Theological Seminary if he holds to the Westminster Confession. A Harvard Ph.D. who amazes the scholarly world by resolving the synoptic problem to everyone’s satisfaction still won’t be getting a slot at any Evangelical seminary if she rejects the Nicene position on the deity of Christ.

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