James White's Bogus Doctorate

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by Kizmet, Mar 24, 2017.

  1. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    I think that it depends on what kind of "religious convention" it is. My impression is that unaccredited and/or otherwise doubtful academic credentials are most prevalent out on the fundamentalist and pentecostal end of Protestantism, where many clergy operate their own independent congregations. Bogus credentials don't seem as common in more organized denominations with more explicit ordination requirements. (They often want to see ATS accredited degrees or degrees from their own seminaries.)

    The only James White that I've heard of is the football player. So I won't try to comment on this guy's education.

    But I will say that religious exemption isn't a guarantee against bogosity. It just means that religious schools have been exempted from having to meet the (often minimal) state-mandated standards that secular schools must meet in order to operate legally.

    Whether or not an unaccredited religious school is academically doubtful is going to be a function of more conventional variables that apply to all higher education institutions. What do its syllabi look like? (What do its students study? At what level?) What does its faculty list look like? (Who teaches there? What are their qualifications and reputations? Has anyone else in the field ever heard of them?) Does the school produce any scholarship? (What kind? What reception does it receive?) Has the school received any recognition from conventional academia in the form of collaborations, joint programs or projects, or grants and awards won?

    One would hope that the denomination will only recognize degrees that have some academic credibility.

    I don't think that it is trivial if a preacher is using a bogus credential to try to convince laypeople that he/she has some kind of higher professional training (and hence authority) in theological matters, in mental health (many of these religious exempt degrees seem to be in pastoral counseling) or whatever it is.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 3, 2017
  2. Abner

    Abner Well-Known Member

    "If anyone claims to be a follower of Jesus, they better first be patient, kind, decent, good, self-controlled and they better love other people first and foremost. This is stuff straight from the Bible. When someone claims to be a leader and fit to teach others about truth within my faith yet acts like a total ass, I just have the tendency to say they wouldn't know Jesus if He walked up to them and planted a kiss on their cheek. I call them a phony. I haven't met Mr. White, but what I know about him places him squarely in this category."

    That makes sense.
  3. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    Agreed. This has generally been my perception. Too many times in the world of religious celeb-centered "Christianity", you have these fairly bogus institutions of higher learning which are either watered down Bible education or indoctrination centers and Pastor A, who leads Happy People Megachurch and "Seminary" will award a Th.D to Pastor B of Niceguys Mega and "Seminary", who in turn awards Pastor A a Th.D. Larry, Moe and Curly all awarding each other doctorates.
  4. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly

    And yet Jesus followed His own code rather than the law as circumstances warranted. I would say that the law and what is right may overlap, but the former is not a subset of the latter.

    Or, as a guy I used to work for put it, "There's law, there's logic, and there's what people do."

    (I'm just making a standalone point, BTW; I'm not equating this with a defense of clergy with dubious credentials.)
  5. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    Fair points.
  6. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    This is where Maniac Craniac needs to come out with one of his neat little Venn diagrams.
  7. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Indeed He did, where called for. But remember "render unto Caesar, etc." He always knew what He was doing... and what "circumstances warranted."

    Yeah! I like His style!

    Jesus didn't need a Venn diagram - He knew "law, logic and what people do." (Thanks, Steve.) OK, maybe we do need a Venn diagram, but He didn't. :smile:

    I'm not a Christian - I have no formal religion - not that I have anything against the billions of people who do. However, I do have admiration for the historical Jesus and the deeds attributed to Him. (Even a couple that appear to be mistakenly attributed to Him, long after His death. E.G. the woman taken in adultery. This started as a well-intentioned story - a comment in the margins of the manuscript. It contains details a couple of centuries away from Jesus' time. )

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 4, 2017
  8. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    You have me intrigued. Are you a member of the clergy? Promise I won't hold it against you if you are.
  9. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    I've heard that story was possibly a later interpolation. Most Bibles mention this possibility in a footnote. It certainly sounds like something Jesus might have said, would fit the character.
  10. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Yes, indeed it does. I feel sure that the well-intentioned author had exactly that in mind. Possibly the earliest example of "WWJD" - "What would Jesus do?"

  11. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I completed few doctoral degrees from religious exempt schools and was ordained as an interfaith minister.
    It is a common practice among interfaith ministers to get cheap religious exempt degrees, most interfaith ministers do not get paid to perform regular services so it makes no sense to spend a fortune to get an accredited degree unless you want to teach at the University level.

    Some people use these titles and others don't, most people don't as they feel silly calling themselves Drs with a few thousand bucks degree earned from the internet. The first thing people do (like people in this forum) is to google your school and then mock you if the degree costs only few thousand and it did not require the 5 years to get. Most interfaith denominations require at least 4 years of service and at least 3 years of training that most of the time comes from unaccredited schools and many use distance learning but what it makes the minister is really the 4 years of service.

    I wouldn't use a Dr title from an unaccredited religious school mainly because you make yourself target to ridicule. You are not the only ones that mock people with degrees from Mickey mouse schools, I hear this all the time when a minister flash a PhD from a non accredited school and a obnoxious "real" PhD holder notices it. The Dr title is irrelevant for a minister as you are suppose to teach humbleness in the first place and using a Dr title from an unaccredited school does not say much about your humbleness.

    Reverends are suppose to add value based on their actions and contribution to society. If the reverend in question wants to be called a scholar, he or she would need to make merit by publishing in an academic journals. The PhD title does not mean much unless the reverend in question actually contributes to the academic community regardless of the academic status of his degree.
    The reverend is question (Mr White) seems to be more guilty of trying to impersonate a scholar when he is not rather than flashing a PhD that seems to me at least legit but not something impressive.
  12. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    Gotcha. I have nothing against unaccredited religious degrees per se. Used to attend a very large protestant church that included a small unaccredited, M.Div-granting seminary, and the faculty and students were not millists. The church was part of a small denomination/network and the notion was to provide a convenient and inexpensive means of getting the education to become clergy within it. Made perfect sense. But to my knowledge the degrees still took the normal amount of time and required the typical classes, and the clergy on the faculty had educational backgrounds which generally would've qualified them for teaching positions. They had no desire to seek accreditation as the resources necessary to achieve it would've thwarted their mission to make the education inexpensive.

    The biggest problem I have with the system is (as you point out) humility. If someone dedicates their life to serving others in a Christian context, it ought not be about them and their accomplishments, and titles and honorifics are so anathema in that context that it makes me wonder if the person has any real concept of the central point. Also, sundry evangelists and humble servants obtain their degrees from outright mills that aren't even mom-and-pop shops like CES, they just pay $300 and get a degree suitable for framing, or do such minimal effort that it's more or less the same thing. Now we're not talking humility, we're talking integrity. I've seen too many itinerant preachers and evangelists blow through who were complete frauds.

    My wife used to attend a church with a bombastic pastor who told the congregation "If you don't tithe at least 10%, you're stealing from God" (not a New Testament concept, but that's off topic). As it turned out, pastor was embezzling from the church. He was the one stealing from God, the one who'd been pointing a bony finger at the congregation! Anyway, a few years ago I wondering what became of him and I found out: he started a religious diploma mill and is churning out doctorates and masters out of an office in Tampa. Pretty typical stuff. Pretty depressing. It's why I left the institutional church, too many frauds in the pulpit--but I had to leave to preserve a relationship with Jesus. Funny, huh?
  13. Abner

    Abner Well-Known Member

    Once again, that makes perfect sense. :smile:
  14. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I totally agree with you. In few words, these degrees are there to qualify you to become a minister in a particular denomination and not meant to boost your ego and try to use it to become an expert or an authority in religion.
    The person in question seems to be using it as a qualifier to become a scholar authority and for this reason is being mocked.

    The main problem is that a lot of these religious leaders make a living with conferences and personal presentations in tv, they need the fast track credential mainly to boost their image in order to justify their fees and some people are not cautious enough to investigate the origin of their credentials.

    I don't know if these people should be called "religious", they seem to be preaching by example the opposite of what they supposed to be leading.

    There are many interfaith ministers that they do the same thing, they use the religious PhD to sell spiritual counseling, healing, etc. Some even become ministers not with the intention to preach but just to profit from the law that allows ministers to give counseling and spiritual healing without a license, many just finish the program and then open a healing practice when they should be taking a naturopath degree that takes long time to get and money.

    In few words, unethical people are everywhere, it is not so difficult to spot the fake ones based on their actions and huge egos.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2017
  15. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Well, it true that Mr. White has not been over-encumbered with humility :) Religious exemption aside, it is difficult to imagine any kind of a serious doctorate when all the courses and the entire dissertation committee consists of a single person--the school's owner. This appears to have been the case with James White's Th.D.
  16. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    My problem is that I don't see nothing wrong with an individual that wants to help his or her community by completing an unaccredited degree so he or she can serve as a pastor at a non denominational christian church or other faith. Many churches run with volunteers and many times these pastors do not even have unaccredited degrees but are just self taught. It is not realistic that a person would spend 30 K for a degree that can only be used to do volunteer work.

    Traditional faiths normally have the budgets to pay pastors and have all the right to ask for accredited degrees. In this case, it makes sense for someone to pay for an education because there is a potential salary at the end of the road.

    However, I do have a problem with people that get doctoral degrees from religious exempt schools so they can appear on tv and call themselves Rev Dr White and pretend that they are scholars and then ask for juicy donations for a new church or a new mission that perhaps has the only intention to create a job for the "Dr" as an administrator of this new mission or church.

    They should be a middle ground, not all reverends with unaccredited degrees are fake but not all religious PhD people have good intentions.

    It is true that many of the religious schools are basement operations with no solid backgrounds but there are also accreditation agencies within certain denominations that differentiate the quality of the education.

    In any case, I just don't like when people start bashing an individual just because of the unaccredited religious degree. The fact that someone has decided to serve a community for a spiritual purpose should not be seen as a negative. However, I understand that there are individuals that abuse these degrees to claim authority in a field for monetary purposes.
  17. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Funny - I have that same problem. Mine is not only with the rich and (unjustly) famous, but with those who obtain quick-and-dirty religious or health-related "degrees" just so they can "grift" and slide by, earning $25 grand a year or so from them. Some do incredible harm. In the "health" field, they often don't end up in jail until somebody dies. Sometimes, not even then. In religion and health, too damn lazy and larcenous to get an honest job - one that pays the same but requires actual work. Here's a nice rogues' gallery - some of the big-name academic frauds in the religion biz.

    Dr. Who? – Televangelists With Fake Educations and Degrees | | Dust Off The Bible

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 8, 2017
  18. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Denominations can require or recognize any credentials for their clergy that they wish. It is certainly true that not all unaccredited degrees are fake. I know pastors with non-accredited degrees who are honest about the nature of their credentials. I made the earlier comments about Walter Martin as an example of one who was dishonest about his credentials.

    Interestingly, since you mention bashing, James White has dedicated a good portion of his career to "bashing" those who disagree with his reformed Calvinist theology. Apologetics is defending the faith, not attacking the faith of others. White attended one of the top accredited seminaries (Fuller) and, with his knowledge of ancient languages, could likely have pursued higher degrees there or at other accredited institutions. Instead for whatever reason, he has chosen to pursue three degrees at Faraston/Columbia Evangelical Seminary. His choice. However, I can certainly see why those whose faith he attacks would question his academic credentials.
  19. b4cz28

    b4cz28 New Member

    There is zero reasons anymore for earning a degree like this. Most people who support this crap are people who hold degrees from these schools. Multiple people on this board..RFValve, you have one right? Anyone who has taken course at a real seminary know there is zero comparison.

    Now, the exception to this is a new school that is seeking accreditation actively. I can see attending in that case. Mr. White lied about his degree anyhow. He used a book he wrote, so in that case he never did the original research needed. That's the problem with these schools, zero standards or extremely sub par standards.
  20. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    Mr. White is only acting like many within his particularly virulent strain of the faith. Many have likened the neo-Calvinists (of whom White is a second tier celebrity) to the Taliban of Christianity. Intolerance, extreme defensiveness, want of integrity, underhanded attempts to take over various churches and denominations and general hatefulness are common attributes of that crowd. I used to be an elder within a neovcalvinist denomination based in England (Newfrontiers) and have seldom run into a group of Christians who acted less like Christ.

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