Which is more superior Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Theology?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by potpourri, Feb 20, 2015.

  1. potpourri

    potpourri New Member

    I have heard that a PhD and a ThD are equivalent in nature as both are research oriented degrees. However, some have stated that the PhD is a little more rigorous than a ThD. Does anyone have any opinion on this? Has anyone decided to do one over the other?
  2. Pugbelly2

    Pugbelly2 Member

    Generally speaking, the ThD requires more education. A typical path to a PhD would be an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree of as little as 30 hours (though typically 36-45), then a PhD of roughly 60 hours. A typical path to a ThD would be an undergraduate degree, a MDiv (72-90 hours), a ThM (another 36-45) hours, then the ThD (36-60 hours). This isn't always the path, but it's fairly typical.
  3. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Firstly, let me say that there are two separate, but somewhat related disciplines: Religious Studies and Theology.

    If I obtain a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from say, Penn State, the focus of my degree is going to be different than if I earn a Th.D. from Liberty University. Religious Studies is the objective study of religion. I identify as an agnostic. But I am fascinated by religion. I might earn a Ph.D. in RS and become an expert on say, Islam. Here, I am studying the religion of Islam.

    Theology, on the other hand, operates from the assumption that the teachings of a particular faith are true. So it isn't viewing religions objectively. It is viewing religions subjectively with the colored lens that one particular religion has a monopoly on "truth." If I found a Th.D. program in Islam and completed it, I would be primarily studying Allah (and other issues of divinity surrounding Allah) with my starting point being that Allah and Allah's nature is exactly described by Islam.

    This is an important distinction. If you are talking about a Ph.D. in Theology versus a Th.D., I would yield to Pubgelly's assessment. But when you start trying to compare a Th.D. to say, a Ph.D. in religious studies, you are comparing apples to oranges. At a religious studies program at a secular university, the Th.D. is not going to have the same prominence as it would at a bible college.

    I attended a Catholic University and never encountered a Th.D. All of my theology professors held either a Ph.D. or an S.T.D. (they really should consider changing that one). I had one professor who had an S.T.L. and no doctorate. So how valuable is a Th.D. in this setting? Well, it depends on where you earned your Th.D. If you have a Th.D. from Liberty University, it isn't going to have much weight in the Theology department of a Catholic University. That's because the "Th" part of your "Th.D." is focused on evangelical theology (of the Falwell brand at that). There do appear to be Catholic Th.D. programs, but I imagine those wouldn't help you get a job at a Baptist College.

    So we can speculate as to which one is better or if they are both equivalent. However, when dealing with degrees in Theology, you are going to be at the mercy of a religion's norms. Having an S.T.D. from the Angelicum in Rome is going to be better received at a Catholic University than either a Ph.D. or a Th.D. regardless of the course composition. Meanwhile, you're D.D. from Cambridge might give you your choice of jobs at any Episcopal Seminary in the U.S.

    Were I in the market for a religious doctorate (and if I actually still affiliated with a faith group) I would first consider what the norm of my denomination was and look to wherever I hoped to use the degree to get a feel for things. But crossing denominational boundaries is also somewhat rare. Catholic Universities typically hire Catholic theologians for their theology departments. Baptist Colleges typically hire Baptist theologians for their theology departments.

    So if being a theologian is your goal, then I would focus on positioning myself on whatever my denomination viewed most favorably. What are the best schools of theology for denomination X? Where do graduates of those schools go on to teach? Does said school offer a Ph.D.? a Th.D.? a D.D.? an S.T.D? All of the above? Because honestly, if you hope to become a theologian you have to appeal to the institutions that teach that same theology. If you just want to study "religion" and be able to teach in a secular university, then a Ph.D. in religious studies will get you there.
  4. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    To me that seems to be a reasonable description.
  5. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    Excellent analysis.

    Just to reiterate to the original poster of this thread: You will be boxed into a "denominational box" based on where you get your denominational degree from -- and degrees ARE denominational!
  6. JGD

    JGD New Member

    This is broadly true, and may very well be the case in America, but in the UK it's not quite as cut and dried.

    Obviously, everything you've said is true of a seminary education, but theology is also an academic discipline that is studied by atheists and agnostics. Traditionally, when talking about academic theology, as opposed to seminary (or practical, or pastoral, whatever) theology, you're really talking about an inter-disciplinary degree. Researchers in the subject study history, become proficient in ancient languages to translate and comment upon critical texts, they study politics of the classical world to get insight on political meanings wrapped up in religious texts as metaphor, they may study archeology if their research has a practical side to it and undertake field trips to the Holy Land or elsewhere, and they will definitely study philosophy of religion, which will include at least some formal logic. Belief in god is neither a prerequisite for studying theology nor a guarantee you're well suited to it.

    In the UK, the doctor of theology barely exists in universities now. I think Durham may have one. PhDs in theology are more common, and PhDs in religious studies are more common again. Traditionally theology was regarded as the 'Queen of the Sciences'. Of course, we live in a far more secular age, and I doubt this is even still close to being true.
  7. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    It's surprising how some extremely intelligent people get seminary or theology degrees, but they end up becoming non-Christian in their beliefs.
  8. JWC

    JWC New Member

    I think that depends on where one earns one's seminary degree. If it's from one that indoctrinates, then that is not all that common. If it's from one that teaches one how to think, then that is common.
  9. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Here is a more thorough explanation of the differences between theology and religious studies.
  10. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    I shall take a moment from my meditation on a mountain top to pontificate.

    First, an observation: I like Neuhaus. He reminds me of me. Yeah, I know… without the at-tee-tude.

    Neuhaus is quite correct in his differentiation between religion and theology. When I taught, the way I explained it to my students was that religion teaches what people believe, while theology teaches what we believe. (This is one of the reasons I did my M.A. in Theology and Law, but did my Ph.D. in Religion and Law. On the religious side, my M.A. focused more on systematics and apologetics, while the Ph.D. was geared toward more diverse denominational studies.)

    A note about the Th.D. – it generally does not require an M.Div. followed by a Th.M. The M.Div. can lead to a Th.M. (an academic degree) or directly to a D.Min. (a professional doctorate, generally 30 credits). There are many people who progress to a Th.D. program by way of an M.A.R. (Master of Arts in Religion), which is generally a 60-credit program.

    So what is the most valuable doctorate in general? Answer: The one you pursue. Virtually all doctoral students get the “rap” about how their particular doctorate is the most prestigious. Physicians practice at the shrine of the healing arts, lawyers from the noble pedestal of the law, ditto educators, ditto the more recent doctorates in the arts. When I attended my Union colloquium (the matriculating event in their program), we were visited by a department chair from Adelphi University (who, naturally had earned her doctorate at Union). Her rap? “Welcome to the most exclusive club in the world: the Ph.D. club.” She proceeded to tell us that whenever we ran into a fellow Ph.D. at, say, an airport, we would be automatically simpatico.

    Those who have expressed the simpatico factor in this thread are spot on – if you want to teach in a particular milieu, you need not only a particular degree, but one earned from that milieu’s perspective. When I taught in a seminary, I was told that, as much as they liked me, I would never be admitted to full-time faculty because I didn’t hold an M.Div. One of my Union adjuncts, an accomplished author with a J.D., M.Div., M.A.R., and D.Min., was told that he could not teach at one university because he didn’t have a Ph.D. Go figure…

    With my Ph.D., I was able to teach int both the seminary and university environments. I would not even have presumed to approach teaching at a law school, where the J.D. is the favored degree.

    As for inculcating students, you might be surprised. The school that inculcates more than most others in the wacky, wonderful world of Fundamentalism is Bob Jones University. Yet a scan of BJ’s faculty indicates that many of their doctorates were earned from secular institutions. Indeed, BJ believes in inculcating students through the master’s level, but acknowledges that at the doctoral level, students should have the balls to maintain sound doctrine. Again, go figure… (Editorial note: Neophytes refer to Bob Jones at BJU. Insiders use the abbreviation BJ. Which, of course, has another meaning in some circles.)

    Ultimately, I find that many people pursue a doctorate – any doctorate – for the sake of their egos. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have used a title in the last half-dozen year, but I know how great I am and don’t feel the need for external validation. (There are some people here who think I’m being serious. Hardly. But they can get over it. Um, so there.)
  11. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Any discussion that wakes Steve Levicoff from his slumber is a good discussion.

    For what it's worth, Dr. Steve, I read a ton of posts by you and always felt that you reminded me of myself but in a hypothetical world where I just completely didn't filter. It's also possible that I'm actually your subconscious acting out (like your DI Tyler Durden) and that I'm actually you pontificating in a semi-sleeping haze. Just a thought.

    I think that's a compliment somehow. Oh well.
  12. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    OK, that's just great. Now we've got Neuhaus channeling Levoicoff.

    .....now I have to go and check the TOS rule on multiple logins.....:grumble:
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 21, 2015
  13. Pugbelly2

    Pugbelly2 Member

    Ohhhhh crap....

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