Master of Divinity or Theology???

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Disciple, Dec 8, 2003.

  1. Disciple

    Disciple New Member

    Can anyone help me with this (Please excuse my ignorance but I think about a distance learning degree in theology and need some information about these degrees)?

    - What is the difference between a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology?

    - Is "Master of Theology" and "Master of Arts in Theology" the same?

    - Is "Master of Divinity" just a religious degree and of no value in the "academic world"?

    - Which one of these degrees is academically more recognized?

    Thanks for your time!
  2. AlnEstn

    AlnEstn New Member

    Traditionally, and I think still in recognized seminaries, the Master of Theology degree is a 30 or so cr. hr. program beyond the 90 cr. hr. Master of Divinity. It is intended, among other things, to prepare a person to teach at the undergraduate (Bible College) level in an area of specialization. It is also intended to prepare one for a Th.D. or Ph.D. in Biblical studies. The Master of Divinity degree is a ministry degree, and as such includes a broad array of biblical, theological, and ministry courses.
    A Master of Arts in Theology degree at most accredited institutions is a 60 or so cr. hr. program meant to specialized in an area of biblical/theological studies.
    The Master of Divinity degree is a ministry or professional degree and is not the desired degree for an academic teaching position.
  3. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member

    Perhaps the doctoral programs in Theology in three well known RA USA evangelical schools will exemplify part of the differences between an MA (1-2 yrs), MDiv (3 yrs) (as Alan says a ministerial degree) and a ThM (4 yrs). Unless I misread their sites, here are some correct data:

    At Dallas Theological Seminary one cannot begin the PhD with only an MA. One can get an MA in sacred theology at DTS with only 32 units. The ThM is 120. One can begin the PhD there with the 90+ semester unit MDiv. Then 59-61 adiitional units are required. If one has a ThM, however, only 33-35 units are required. Plainly ,then, at DTS, the ThM reduces substantially the amount of work for a doc, but the MA does not even qualify one at DTS to start work on the doc.

    At The Master's Seminary for the ThD program the ThM not the MA is the prerequisite. The program is based on the experiences in that four year masters not a one or two year masters.

    At Baptist Bible Seminary (in Pa) the normal prerequisite for entering the PhD studies is the 90+ unit MDiv. If one only has the MA , more work is required. If one has a ThM then the amount of work is "significantly reduced." This latter school allows one to do the doc much by DL. 12 weeks of home study plus one on campus per course, I believe. A neat opportunity.

    So it is seen by these examples that a ThM is counted toward doctoral work at times, but the MA will not even neatly qualify for admittance into such a program. A theology doc in the USA from an evangelical school requires more than do some other disciplines.

    All of these also require from two to four "foreign" languages and a dissertation. Elsewhere, outside the USA, it sometimes appears that the "ThM" is similar in requisites to the MA. Unfortunate nomenclature!
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 9, 2003
  4. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Revival! Thread revival, that is....

    What is the difference between "divinity" and "ministry"? How would the requirements differ between a Doctor of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry, or betweem a Master of Divinity and a Master of Ministry?

    I think I understand now the difference between those and theology, although I didn't know that ThM comes after MDiv.

    Also, where does "Licenciate" fit in with all this? It seems to be the only use of that rank in US academia.

  5. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member

    Re: Revival! Thread revival, that is....

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 20, 2004
  6. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Good info

    Thanks Bill, that's really informative!

  7. james_lankford

    james_lankford New Member

  8. boydston

    boydston New Member

    One of the reasons that many seminaries require a Th.M. before doing Ph.D. work is that the additional year beyond the M.Div. tends to bring in an academic focus that is not as intense in the M.Div. (A Th.M. is the advanced masters that is usually completed in the year beyond the three it takes to earn just an M.Div.) In most schools the M.Div. is a professional degree and does not require a thesis. The Th.M. typically requires research and a thesis.

    Many schools will also accept an M.A. in theology as preparation for Ph.D. studies if the M.A. was academically rigorous AND culminated in a thesis. It is the thesis component that is seen as the primary form of preparation for the advanced research in the doctorate – more importantly so than the number of years in the degree.

    Some seminaries allow a thesis component in the M.Div. program for students who anticipate pursuing Ph.D. studies.
  9. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    The Master of Divinity degree is often regarded in academic circles (and by the Dept. of Ed) as a "first professional" degree. Nearly all other first professional degrees (e.g. JD, MD, DVM, DC, OD, DPM, DDS) are given the title of "doctor", even though they are not "research doctorate" degrees, like PhD, SJD, EdD, ThD, etc.

    Tony Pina
    Faculty, Cal State U. San Bernardino
  10. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 27, 2004
  11. cjoshuav

    cjoshuav New Member

    All of the above is good and accurate information.

    The only bit that I would add it that it is possible to go directly from a rigorous M.Div. directly to a competitive Ph.D. program (just as it's possible to go from an M.D. to a Ph.D. program without getting an M.S.).

    Some M.Div.'s offer an "Academic Concentration" for people who plan to seek ordination but also want to go on to graduate work. In addition, strong GRE scores and evidence of research competence can be enough to get a student into a good Ph.D. program.

    I have only an M.Div. and will be starting Ph.D. work at Vanderbilt this Fall.

  12. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 28, 2004
  13. cjoshuav

    cjoshuav New Member

    I don't expect that in the forseeable future, particularly since underlying theology heavily influences the nature of a program. I had a conversation with a conservative colleague recently and realized that, with the exception of the Bible, we did not read any of the same books in seminary. We both have M.Div.'s, but we have totally different degrees.

    I assume that Dallas would look askance at my coursework from Mercer; and that likewise Vanderbilt would be skeptical of an M.Div. from - say - Southern Seminary. Nevertheless, both Mercer and Southern are fully ATS accredited.

    It's a pickle (but one without a soul) :) .

  14. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 28, 2004
  15. boydston

    boydston New Member

    Not necessarily so. They will look at the content. But they want to know if 1) you can do the doctoral work and 2) if you will fit into their academic community. There have been lots of wonderful surprises over the years -- e.g. the BA from Bob Jones which earned advance degrees from Fuller.

    Dallas has a S.T.M. degree which in their system upgrades the M.Div. from another seminary (DTS doesn't offer an M.Div.) to the equivalent of their Th.M. They would likely require that before admitting someone into their Ph.D. program. But I'm sure that there are exceptions. There are lots of exceptions in academics based on equivalencies -- and who you know! If you distinguish yourself through publication and presentation it is entirely possible to move forward academically with less than standard preparation. Someone might even move into a traditional Ph.D. program with only a distance masters. ;)
  16. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    I realize this is kind of an old thread, but I'm a little bothered by some of the misinformation in it... not that most of the answers above weren't inherently good ones, mind you. But, really, the answers to the questions asked depend in large measure on:

    1) What kind of college, university or seminary is offering the degree; and/or,

    2) How (or even if) said college, university or seminary is accredited (and how); and/or,

    3) How the college, university or seminary is religiously affiliated (i.e., what denomination either uses or owns it) and, more specifically, whether or not the college, university or seminary is offering said degree(s) for specific roles in the churches of the affiliated/sponsoring/owning/operating denomination.

    To make too many generalizations about what the different degrees mean without first establishing which combination(s) of the above are true for the institutions in question is a waste of time.

    One of the first things to remember is that ministry, theology and diviinity degrees obtained from colleges, universities or seminaries as specific preparation for roles in specific denominational churches are sometimes not accredited at all -- by anyone. And within the denomination in question, that's usually okay. When such is the case, academic transferability is usually not an issue, so naming standards, time-to-completion standards -- or any standards at all, for that matter -- are often absent. The meaning of any given degree in such a situation could be almost anything. Just look around at enough bible colleges and seminaries that are not accredited by anyone listed on the CHEA web site and you'll see that in action in a big way.

    Only if anyone (be it the degree candidate or the church or, if further degrees are sought, other institutions) cares about transferrability of credits or degrees; or the ability of the degree holder to teach at an accredited college, university or seminary, does accreditation play much of a role. And, of course, once accreditation does start playing any kind of role that's when we start seeing at least the beginnings of some kind of standardization of degree naming and time-to-completion conventions. Sadly, even then, there are differences from denomination to denomination. And it's also true that if the the colleges, universities and seminaries being compared are regionally accredited, then some -- much, in fact -- of the information elsewhere in this thread starts to become accurate.

    Again, it depends on what college, university or seminary you're talking about. What, precisely, the "Master of Theology" degree means is better addressed (by me) in my reply to the next question, below. But one thing is for sure: Whether it's a "Master of Theology" or a "Master of Arts in Theology" from a college, university or even a seminary, neither is usually in the same league as a "Master of (or a "Masters in") Divinity" at most seminaries. An M.Div is usually in something of a class by itself. Though "colleges" and "universities" may offer it, it is usually seen as a seminary offering. It is nearly always considered a first professional degree specifically intended to prepare the candidate for becoming an ordained minister or something else on that level of importance to the affiliated or owner/operator church. The M.Div at most seminaries is at least 90 hours of credit and can take from three to as many as seven or eight years to complete -- even full-time -- because of the extensive and time-consuming internships, practicums and all manner of external/on-site/experiential study requirements.

    Sometimes. Sometimes not. Once again, it depends on which institution you're talking about. To make some of the generizations and definitive statements about it as I've read elsewhere in this thread can be misleading. The difference can be subtle, and will also usually have a lot to do with whether or not the seminary is denominationally affiliated or even operated, and whether the degrees it offers are requisite to specific church roles. But here's a rule-of-thumb that, while certainly not always accurate, is at least a good place to start:

    A "Master of Arts in Theology" (MA.Th) is generally little more than a graduate degree whose concentration happens to be theology in much the same way as a Bachelors degree happens to be in theology. An MA.Th is usually a 32 to 40 hours-of-credit sort of experience; and will often be an offering one may find at regionally-accredited colleges and universities (whether or not denominationally-affiliated or owned/operated), and sometimes also at seminaries.

    A "Master of Theology" (M.Th) degree may also be what a regionally accredited college or university (whether or not denominationally affiliated or owned/operated) happens to call what others refer to as their "Master of Arts in Theology" degree; but more often than not, the name "Master of Theology" is what a denominationally-affiliated or owned/operated seminary will offer -- and often as part of preparation for specific church role. It may be as simple as a 32 to 40 hour program, but sometimes it's nearly as involved as the M.Div with 80 or more hours required.

    One thing that's important to remember is that different denominations require different levels of education of their pastors, ministers or priests. I don't mean to offend, but some of the smaller, less-well-organized, fundamentalist and/or evangelical denominations don't even require a degree -- of any kind -- of their ministers or reverends. And before anyone out there looks down their noses at the notion of that, remember that even the bigger, hoity-toity denominations which require lots of education agree that all Christians are called to ministry by God, and that pretty much all we have to do is begin it. So a relatively uneducated (except for having read the bible) back woods preacher is actually biblically valid, even if practicably unwise in modernity.

    The larger, older, more mainstream and more highly-organized denominations (Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, etc.) tend to require higher degrees of learning and experience of their pastors, ministers, priests and reverends. Old LCA Lutheran churches, for example, once required, simply, a M.Th (or sometimes even only an MA.Th) of its pastors; but as that particular brand of Lutheranism matured -- and especially after it merged into the ELCA in 1987 -- the M.Div began to become the gold standard... along with a strong synodical recommendation that the pastor later try to obtain his/her ThD (Doctor of Theology) or D.Div (Doctor of Divinity) before his/her career concludes, if possible.

    A good way to observe this sort of thing in action is to visit the main web sites of the big denominations and read about their pathways to ordination; then go to their denominationally-owned/controlled seminaries and read about the degree offerings, and for which church roles they prepare their candidates. If you do this, you will immediately begin to notice a high incidence of degree naming and time-to-completion standardization as you go from seminary to seminary within a given denomination, but you may notice great standardization differences when comparing the degrees of one denomination's typical seminary to another's.

    As explained above, the M.Div is usually a first professional degree in specific preparation for ordination at most seminaries. To the denominations that own/operate said seminaries, that degree is extremely valuable, regardless.

    If said seminary is also regionally accredited (as most of the seminaries owned/operated by the really big denominations tend to be), then the M.Div most certainly has secular academic value, too. In such cases, no matter how you slice it, the M.Div represents 90 or so hard-earned hours of transferrable, graduate-level credit. That's nothing to sneeze at, no matter who's doing the assessing. If the seminary, on the other hand, is not regionally accredited (or at least not accredited by someone listed on the CHEA web site), then the objective, secular academic value becomes... well... questionable, at least.

    The M.Th is usually from 32 or 40 to as many as 80 or 90 hours of credit. The MA.Th is usually 32 to 40 hours. The M.Div is nearly always 90 hours or more. Even without factoring-in whether they're from regionally accredited institutions, the number of hours alone should say something about their relative value. Add-in that they're from a regionally accredited (or at least accredited by someone listed on the CHEA web site) seminary, and it seems to me that secular academia, generally, has no choice but to recognize and honor all of them as serious gradulate level work that has intrinsic academic value. For teaching purposes, it seems to me, any of them would be valuable.

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
    Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.
  17. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    Re: Revival! Thread revival, that is....

    Someone answered "none" to this question, but that is not exactly correct -- at least not in this context.

    Theology comes from the Greek words "theos," meaning God; and "logos," meaning "word." Strictly technically speaking, it is the study of the Word of God; but in a larger sense, it is the rational study of God, including various religious doctrines and their relationship to humanity and the world -- a discipline now considered essentially distinct from the direct study of the "Word of God."

    Divinity, itself, is the essence of God, which is truly contained in the Eucharist. A Masters degree in Divinity seeks to help the candidate understand that, and all it implies; and to prepare him or her for the arduous task of helping others to do the same. Included in any study of Divinity is a comprehensive course of theological study.

    A "Doctor of Divinity" (D.Div) is the next logical step for the holder of the M.Div degree. It is a second professional degree, usually specifically intended for ordained ministers who already hold the M.Div. It is the M.Div holder's path to people starting to write "Rev. Dr." before his or her name -- sort of a pastor's Ph.D. I don't know about you, but I like my Bishops and other high Synodical church leaders, seminary presidents, etc., to have the D.Div and for people to refer to him/her as "Doctor" or "Reverend Doctor" so-and-so. But that's just me.

    The "Master of Ministry" (M.Min or sometimes MA.Min) and its logical sucessor "Doctor of Ministry" (D.Min) is one of those kinds of degrees that is strongly affected by the three factors I itemized up near the top of this posting. It could very well be requisite to ordination -- especially if offered by a denominationally-controlled institution that doesn't also offer the M.Div or D.Div degrees. But more often than not, a masters- or doctoral-level "ministry" degree is intended for the highest of not-ordained church leaders, or future teaches/professors, etc. If it happens, also, to be offered by a regionally accredited college, university or seminary, it will have secular academic value as well.

    An example of this might be the regionally-accredited, online (distance learning) Masters degree (technically a "Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry") available from St. Joseph's College of Maine. It's actually just a theological Master of Arts degree with three possible specializations: Pastoral Ministry, Pastoral Studies, and Pastoral Theology. Because it's from a regionally-accredited college, it has secular academic value; and because it's from a Catholic college with decidedly religious core values which it unhesitatingly imparts to its theology students, and because it has a strong "ministry" specialization, there are most certainly a number of denominations that would see it as requisite to ordination -- perhaps after obtaining an additional certificate or something along those lines.

    It doesn't always. If it's a MA.Th then it certainly wouldn't. Again, it just depends on the institution's naming conventions and standards. Theological schools are left alone a bit more in this area. Government (or its authorized accrediting agencies) is(are) loathe to interfere with how seminaries do certain things... even when they're regionally accredited.

    It's commonly used by Roman Catholic seminaries to designate the equivalent of a Protestant M.Div -- but it very specifically and intentionally implies that its holder is on well on his way toward ordination. It's sort of an M.Div with a Catholic attitude. [grin]

    Hope all that (this posting and the previous one) helps a little!

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
    Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.
  18. uncle janko

    uncle janko member

    Welcome aboard.
  19. Bill Grover

    Bill Grover New Member

    The ThM at such schools as Baptist in Pa, Dallas Theological Seminary, TEDS, Fuller , and Western , which is RA/ATS accredited, is considerably different than a MA in Th.

    In these the ThM totals about a 125 semester unit degree , one year or more past the 90 unit MDiv. The ThM , in these, is in terms of entry requirements , as GPA and language preqs , duration, and likely often rigor too, superior than a MA or a MDiv.

    I know that I look at graduate study of Theology and the Christian Scriptures from an academic standpoint not just from what a church wants of its pastors. I know that my opinion is not shared by some church hiring boards. Nevertheless, while it is possible for unaccredited schools to have rigor, IMO, RA/ATS or NA accreditation should be seen as better assuring minimal requirements in terms of curricula and professorial qualifications. To me these are important.
  20. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    Re: Re: Revival! Thread revival, that is....

    I don't follow such things that closely, but every Doctor of Divinity degree I've seen has been either honorary, from an unaccredited school, or from a degree mill.

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