by David Kowalski
I believe phony doctorates are a moral scandal in the Church today. Many ministers are deliberately misrepresenting their academic qualifications with fake degrees.
There are two sources for these illegitimate titles: honorary doctorates and diploma mills. Honorary doctorates may be a nice gesture toward a respected person (as well as a good way to get donations), but these gestures are abused when recipients subsequently call themselves “Dr.”, implying they have done the necessary academic work to receive such a title and that the quality of such work was verified by authorities in that field.
Oral Roberts University has been especially liberal in handing out honorary doctorates throughout the charismatic world and many recipients use the title as though it were an earned one.
Honorary doctorates have been given to such esteemed recipients as Kermit the Frog, whose “doctorate” was bestowed upon him by Southampton College in New York. “Dr.” Kermit delivered the commencement address, passing along this bit of swamp-wisdom:
“Ribbit-ribbit-kneedeep-ribbit,” which means “May success and a smile always be yours… even when you’re kneedeep in the sticky muck of life.” 1
Kermit has the very same academic qualifications as many notables in the Church, including the late “Dr.” Jerry Falwell, whose formal education after high school was limited to an undergraduate degree at an unaccredited Bible College.
One can be a very good pastor or evangelist without having a doctorate. I am not demeaning those who do not have such a degree, nor am I trying to imply that self-education is invalid. Still, “Dr.” is supposed to mean something commonly understood.
I consider it unethical to treat an honorary title as though it were a legitimate one. If someone is given a “key to the city,” they are not thereby authorized to enter any building they choose whenever they want. Honorary doctorates do not qualify recipients to work in the field designated on the diploma. No one wants an honorary doctor to perform heart surgery on them.
Diploma mills, the other source of phony degrees, usually have small campuses but impressive websites. 2
They always lack respectable accreditation. Legitimate seminaries maintain rigid standards for awarding a doctoral degree and these standards are confirmed by respected accrediting agencies. These agencies are private corporations even though they are responsible to government agencies themselves. The government does not dictate what courses should be taught in a properly accredited seminary.
The diploma mill typically awards its degrees to people who complete a token of easy coursework (one diploma mill reportedly hands out “doctorates” in exchange for the reading of one book and the payment of $600). The mill’s overhead is minimal as those who run it do not have to maintain the kind of facilities or qualified staff real schools do. They consequently charge the “student” a small fee for their “course work.”
There are phony accrediting agencies that these unethical organizations use, so a “schools” “accreditation” may be as phony as their degrees. There are many diploma mills churning out degrees to undeserving ministers in a practice Christian author Steve Levicoff has referred to as “name it and frame it.”
“Dr. Dino,” (Kent Hovind), spoke in many churches, always calling himself “Dr.,” though his formal education past high school consisted of an undergraduate degree from an unaccredited Bible College, and a “doctorate” from a diploma mill run out of the modest home of a man named Lonnie Skinner. Since awarding Hovind’s “doctorate,” Skinner has named his business “Patriot Bible University,” and relocated to a small but separate building. Unfortunately for Hovind, he used similar ethics in paying his taxes and is now in prison for tax evasion.
One prominent diploma mill for ministers is “Friends International Christian University.” This “school” awards doctorates to candidates who, after completing very minimal prerequisites, finish eight, easy correspondence classes. A diligent high school graduate can have his or her “doctorate” in less than a year.
The average, real, earned doctorate takes over eight years to obtain after earning a bachelors and then a master’s degree. Doctorates from Friends International Christian University have been awarded to ministers such as “Dr.” Fred Price, “Dr.” T. D. Jakes, “Dr.” Ron Kenoly, and “Dr.” Stephen Wiley.
Perhaps no diploma mill has been more successful than “Life Christian University,” which consists of a group of people with mostly phony degrees who have awarded “doctorates” to dignitaries such as “Dr.” Rodney Howard-Browne, “Dr.” Joyce Meyer, “Dr.” Kenneth Copeland, “Dr.” Norvel Hayes, “Dr.” Kevin McNulty, “Dr. Billye Brim, and “Dr.” Benny Hinn. Whether these “doctorates” are “earned” or honorary is not clear — though the difference would be little more than a technicality.
Some diploma mills for ministers make no pretense to legitimacy. American Fellowship Church sells an honorary “Doctorate of Divinity degree” for $50. The Universal Life Church offers a free “Doctorate of Divinity degree” for anyone who receives their rubber-stamp ordination. “Cambridge Theological Seminary,” also offers “free” doctorates” but if one wishes to have an actual diploma, fees will be assessed, including ones for “transcripted application,” “permanent records,” and “state-approved institutional registration.”
This mill casts aspersions on competing mills and titillates potential clients with the promise of the added prestige one will have using their phony title:
“Every time you signed your name ‘Dr.’, ‘D.D.’, ‘D.Div.’ or ‘Doctor of Divinity’, it would have greater impact, and would enhance all of your words for the Kingdom of God that ever preceded – or ever would follow . . . even after you’ve gone on to Glory: if you had a Doctor of Divinity Title.” 4
The above quote from this “seminary” website appeals to the apparent motive behind the purchase of fake degrees — the desire to have an undeserved air of academic respectability. Labeling oneself with a phony doctorate is dishonest. I am convinced that deceiving the Church about one’s academic credentials in this way is a form of lying to the Holy Spirit.
“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…?” (Acts 5:3 NASB)
Ananias had “exaggerated” about the percentage of his income he had given, and this deception was less serious than that of most modern, academic, “exaggeration.”
“…These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.” (Revelation 14:4-5 NASB)
Read another article by David Kowalkski: Lying Leaders
© Copyright 2012, David Kowalski. All Rights Reserved. Do not republish. Published at Apologetics Index by permission.
- http://www2.southampton.liu.edu/news/commence/1996/kermit.htm ↩
- See the contrast between the “campus” of Columbia Evangelical Seminary (http://www.shields-research.org/Novak/CES/ces.htm) and the website (http://www.columbiaseminary.edu/programdetails/)
Columbia is an unaccredited, distance-learning entity that offers an unusually high number of credits for “ministry experience” (provided the customer pays the required fees for those credits). The catalog contains conflicting statements about credits for ministry experience in the doctoral program. In the description of the doctoral program, the catalog says on page 17 that one may purchase 32 of these credits to complete a 36 credit doctoral program. On page 18, the catalog says that, in the doctoral program alone, Columbia does not grant these credits for mere time in the ministry but instead grants “product-assessment” credits for tangible work done in the ministry. The conflicting statements can only be resolved if one sees the difference between credits for time in the ministry and credits for work done in the ministry as little more than a technicality.
“Dr.” James White may be Columbia’s most celebrated alumnus. White has done some credible work but his insistence on using a phony title (one of his publishers will not use it) is a black eye to conservative apologetics. Some people White has debated have used his phony degree as an opportunity to ridicule him and impugn the credibility of his arguments.
Note: The website that displays these photos is run by Mormons and is one way in which White’s theological adversaries have exploited this issue. While Mormon teaching is cultic, their theological errors do not affect the reliability of their photographs. ↩
- The image of a diploma on money is © Zimmytws | Dreamstime.com. It used used here by permission. ↩
- http://www.ministers-best-friend.com/FREE-Ordination-and-Honorary-Degrees-Masters-and-Doctorate-by-Newtonstein.html ↩
Related topic(s): David Kowalski, diploma mills, phone doctorates
First published (or major update) on Thursday, October 18, 2012.
Last updated on December 04, 2022. Original content is © Copyright Apologetics Index. All Rights Reserved. For usage guidelines see link at the bottom.
The only degree necessary: Approved unto GOD. 2Ti_2:15
Any other ‘degree’ used as this article puts it, that is not earned is SELF promotion. John 12:43
Why do ‘Christian’ leaders even pursue these fake titles? Does it really give them an edge? (I put ‘Christian’ between apostrophes because I do not consider some of those you mention by name to be Christians in the Biblical sense of the word).
What good does an “air of academic respectability” do? How many of the apostles used a title, honorary or not, to bolster their standing?
Thanks for a shining a spotlight on this issue, Mr. Kowalski.
A timely article. It is high time that the persons who receive honorary doctorate should avoid “Dr” as title before their names
Other than a medical physician, anyone using “Doctor” in their name is being phony and pretentious if they are outside of an academic setting.
While agreeing with Mr Kowalski, and the three responses above, it is perhaps worth pointing out that this is not a new phenomenon.
When writing my dissertation for a “genuine” MA degree, I encountered such spurious and honorary degrees as having been a problem in the UK some 130 or so years ago. My subject was one Revd Dr Samuel Wainwright, an ultra-Protestant Church of England clergyman (1824-1899), the origin of whose doctorate I could then nowhere trace. I did, however, find references being made to such degrees in the prefaces to the 1876 and 1877 Crockford’s Clerical Directory.
In the former year, the editor wrote about their “utter worthlessness”, and a “fraudulent traffic in pseudo-diplomas”, which were “freely advertised and hawked about by agents who profess to procure “learned degrees” in absentia for dupes in any and every profession that they might have the pleasure of writing some letters after their name and wearing fancy hoods”. The following year he added that “there were many clergymen who claimed degrees which they could not account for, and many too who ‘never beheld the erudite bodies’ the degrees of which they nevertheless appended to their names”
Long after completing my degree, I discovered that an honorary Doctorate of Divinity had been awarded to a “Rev Samuel Wainwright” by Kenyon College, Ohio, USA in 1870, but for what reason or whether this honouree and my dissertation subject were one and the same person, I have yet to ascertain. Either way, he did not hesitate to append the letters DD to his name on the title-pages of his books, or nor did his friends to his memorial in his last church and to his gravestone.
Perhaps more acceptable at the close of the 19th Century, such self-aggrandisement has no place in the 21st.
It is better to have the training without a degree than to have a degree without the training. If a person has earned a doctorate, then they have a perfect right to the title, but if it is honourary, then they really ought not to be using it.
I write of what I know – my father is a noted academic historian with a PhD, my mother has an MA, and I have a brother with a PhD. All these degrees are earned.
In days gone by, the degree of DD was often granted by legitimate institutions ‘by publication’, that is to say that a book published by a person would be treated as a thesis. That is also valid, because it is recognising work done – though only valid if the institution is a properly accredited one, such as the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
I covet a doctorate…I mean I covet the degree and the learning and academic rigor that would accompany it. I did finally come to the point that I realized the title is no issue. Most of the “Dr.’s” I know and work with go by their first name in every context. The only one who is ever referred to as “Dr.” consistently is held in such high esteem by all the rest of those men that they say it as a sign of respect.
Realizing that after completing a doctorate (will real coursework no less!!) I will still introduce myself as “Tom” has helped me remember that I am not working to my own advancement but to the ministry God has called me to.
It is rewarding to read such favorable responses.
Thomas: I am glad you offered your comment on coveting a doctorate. Most people do not realize the value in prolonged, directed study and in having to submit one’s work to authorities in a given field. I would never speak critically of real, earned doctorates, obtained from trustworthy institutions.
This is an excellent & probably long overdue examination of this practice by dishonest, unethical clergy.I commend the naming of names also, as many have used religion solely for power & prosperity. Those ‘fleeced’ are so often the poor & vulnerable.
I was duped into an unaccredited degree by one od these places. They have always claimed that accreditation is not necessary for anything. In the early 2000s they went ahead and got TRACS “accreditation.” And now that TRACS is under so much scrutiny, by the DOE, Bob Jones University is talking about SACS. They will have to completely fire their entire faculty and administration for that to happen. BE WARE of a BJU degree!
An excellent article!
Behind this compromise with pseudo-academic credentials is the essentially carnal and explicitly condemned quest the Lord Jesus described in Matthew 23:7-10, of wanting to be “seen”, be elevated above the others.
Here, there is a confluence of that carnal quest for elevation and the “scandal of the evangelical mind.” That is, we want to the titles but we don’t really want the substance of academic achievement. We want to be called “doctor” without having learned what a “doctor” has learned. It’s sheer hypocrisy.
Very helpful article, although there are a few technical errors. Not all doctorates require a master’s degree prior to entering the program (e.g., economics, sociology, psychology, etc.). In addition, the average time to complete a doctorate is not eight years, again, it depends on the field. In my field, the median time is 6 years. There are also research doctorates in Europe that can be legitimately completed in as few as three years. In spite of these small errors, you have pointed out important issues and are doing a service to the Christian community.
DrT: Thanks for your comment. There are doctoral programs that allow one to obtain a master’s degree in the course of pursuing a doctorate. Thus, one is able, if accepted, to enter a doctoral program immediately after obtaining a bachelor’s degree, and the master’s is earned along the way. I obtained the eight year average time to obtain a doctorate from a reliable publication. The key word there is “average.” Not all doctoral programs are equally demanding and I do not dispute your claim to being able to obtain a doctorate in your field in six years. The work required to get a doctorate in theology, on the other hand, often requires more time than other fields. As for the research doctorates in Europe, I am unfamiliar with the entry requirements or the accreditation of such programs. Thus, I would not be able to reply knowledgeably to that particular point.
All I have to say is that this article is missing one very KEY point,
You are forgetting Separation of Church and State! No matter how a person goes about obtaining a degree of any level within the Church it is only valid in truth if it is not part of any governmental or state run programs. For to be so operated is a clear violation of the integrity of the Sanctity of the Church! There must be seperation! So that means that in this world no the degrees should not be accredited as academically accredited ones. Hey people us common sense search the scriptures. No matter how much you complain about this issue its not going away!..
Sharif, you are most right in asserting that the government should never dictate doctrine or standards to the church. This issue, however, is not at all in view in the matter addressed in the article above. First, the government does not decide the accreditation of Christian institutions. This is a lie perpetuated by diploma mills. Accrediting agencies are private corporations. Though these corporations are accountable to government agencies themselves, the government at no time dictates what content should be taught in accredited, Christian schools. Accreditation is by no means a way of conforming to the world, it is simply a way of having one’s academic standards confirmed by a third party. Proper accreditation shows that a school has educated instructors and that the instruction meets generally recognized standards of higher education. It is hypocritical for diploma mills to argue that this is a worldly intrusion into the church since the mills follow government guidelines for such things as building codes, zoning, and income tax. They only object to accreditation because any real examination of their programs would reveal it to be a sham. Accreditation is not at all the forces of darkness intruding in the church; it is the light of third party examination showing that a school is a real school and not a fake one — and the government has no direct activity in this process.
One point I would add to my comments above is that if diploma mills really think they have something to contribute to the body of Christ, they need not deceive anyone into thinking they are a real institution of higher learning with the generally accepted standards and rigors involved. They can simply be honest about what they are and offer their material on a website. Of course, very few people would pay for that material without the phony doctoral degree awarded in exchange.
(Jacobus Arminius or James Arminian)’s Arminian Theology or “Free Will Theology” is generally taught at the same seminaries for Pentecostal-Methodist (Charismatics).
Wikipedia: “Mark Rutland is a missionary, evangelist, ordained minister of the International Ministerial Fellowship, and the third and current President of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”
Mark Rutland is a United Methodist Church reverend who serves as a President of Oral Roberts University. I live in Metro-Atlanta, and Mark Rutland is very popular here with his education at Emory University (UMC parochial) locally. He’s very dominant over the airwaves on Atlanta’s Christian radio stations and he frequents many UMC mega-Churches as a guest speaker throughout the Atlanta market.
I know nothing about “International Ministerial Fellowship” which sounds eerily similar to some of the institutions you’ve mentioned in the article. ï»¿
I know of no Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, or any other official denominational, diploma mills. Diploma mills are always independent institutions that service anyone who will pay, be they Calvinist, Modified Calvinist, Molinist, Arminian, or just plain confused.
Mark Rutland is a charismatic minister who has become president of Oral Roberts University. I don’t know much about his personal theology (though his high-level affiliation with ORU is somewhat disconcerting), but I have heard him speak, and he is a skilled orator. “International Ministerial Fellowship” is somewhat akin to a mini-denomination (though they would probably refer to it as a “fellowship” or “association”). I’m afraid I know very little about it, but I can say they are not themselves a diploma mill.
I do point out in the article that Oral Roberts University is perhaps the chief culprit in handing out honorary doctorates to ministers throughout the charismatic movement. As I said in the article, I consider the awarding of honorary doctorates to be an inappropriate practice and I think those who call themselves by honorary titles are dishonest
We’ve had a lot of problems with this as a Lutherans; with the Seminex walkout and excommunication of many pastors who broke off from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in the 1970’s.
Basically, a bunch of Socialists and Communists took up study and then tried to high-jack Lutheran Theology once they were great enough in number to crawl out and cause trouble. The Confessional Lutheran Church in Germany underwent the same invasion by the NAZI and Marxists.
The result was a divided Lutheran Church within the US with the LCMS taking a more literal approach to Biblical understanding and using Scripture to interpret Scripture.
The split-off of the ELCA believe the Scripture has become corrupt by mankind and their spirit is lead by the Holy Ghost to tell a new truth. The ELCA now ordains openly gay non-celibate ministers. The ELCA is now in open-communion with the United Methodist Church. The UMC and ELCA may very well merge together in the very near future. The (rNIV) Revised New International Version of the Bible is the only accepted Scripture within the ELCA at present; as their Study Bibles are now all (rNIV).
The ELCA opened their own seminaries to counter the LCMS. I know two congregational members who are perusing ordination through the LCMS at Concordia Seminary. One just completed his Masters and the other is in the Associate level for now. Learning the Hebrew and Greek alphabet started immediately for both of them. Concordia Seminary now offers some online classes for those who can’t immediately take on the expense of moving to the Seminaries’ campus locations.
I’ve debated some forums moderated by ELCA pastors and any quoting of scripture gets your posts deleted pretty quick. They really focus on flesh lead preaching and have little patience for Scripture among those who have a different point of view from themselves. The ELCA of course would argue that their verbatim is lead by the Holy Spirit and not their sinful flesh. The ELCA isn’t claiming to speak in tongues just yet, but they aren’t too far off from the Charismatic Christianity that’s sweeping our nation and diluting our Churches.
I wish this issue received wider attention. As one who worked very diligently to legitimately obtain a Doctor of Ministry degree from an accredited and well-respected seminary (Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, OH), I take extreme exception to the many “ministers” who flaunt titles that they have not earned. This deliberate deception is shameful for those who call themselves men and women of God. I would be very pleased to see the church begin “policing” itselfâ€”in other words, call these individuals out for the frauds that they are.
Your comment calls to mind observations I have heard from other people with legitimate doctorates, Barbara. Not only do phony doctorates lend false credentials to those who hold them, they tend to cheapen our esteem for real doctorates. Genuine doctorates require intense and prolonged study under the tutelage of authorities in a given field. A dissertation demonstrates the student’s sufficient mastery of the subject to be able to use his or her learning synergistically in an advanced writing on the topic in a manner that is supposed to contribute some new insight from the student. Those with real doctorates have earned a right to speak to scholarly issues related to their degree in a way that most others have not. Their voice on technical and scholarly matters in their field deserves to be heard with respect, and public respect for such learning tends be lessened and thus the degree cheapened by those who flaunt phony ones.
I have two earned doctorates ( medicine and dentistry) as well as a graduate degree in biology. It has been my experience that many ministers have little or nothing significant to say in their sermons. It is obvious to any congregant when they are hearing the true gospel preached at a collegiate level, regardless of the initials following the ministers name. One of the finest Bible teachers I ever knew worked in a junk-yard full time.
Seriously, how many ministers really preach at a level which engages the minds of their flock ?
Donald: While your comment is clearly off-topic, I could not help but approve it because you speak to a real problem in the church today. Real preaching is on the decline and too many preachers’ sermons lack meaningful content. There seems to be a lack of both prayer and study behind these sermons. It is not just those who have earned doctorates that want substance in the sermons they hear and substance can be communicated without the use of theological jargon (which is fine it its place). Many of our preachers today need to spend more time in prayer and study in order to effectively deliver a well structured and meaningful message from God that is empowered by the Spirit. Good preaching is hard work.
What you all fail to realize is the intent on the person receiving the Honorary Degree. It is nothing more than a title. Which to most people this demands respect. Like General, or Sargent, or, Colonel. You know Colonel Sanders wasn’t actually a Colonel, but I don’t see people complaining every time they enter one of his restaurants to sit down and have dinner. And there are many Pastors some of the greatest in our time who had Honorary Degrees and had the dignity to carry the title and show it great respect. Not to mention lead many to Christ. Not only this but, what does a secular government accredited institution know about what Almighty God recognizes. God himself has many titles. And God has often changed peoples names throughout History. As well as ascribed titles to those individuals. Abraham for instance. The father of many nations. So I think you all need to repent of your holier than thow, self righteous attitudes. And if you think I am mistaken then consider this with what you are saying. Lucifer stands before God’s throne day and night accusing the brethren. So what are you doing exactly? Ask yourself this question.
I’ll respond to your points in order.
First, a doctorate is supposed to be more than a mere title such as “Mr.” It is an indicator that one has undergone the rigorous education and training involved to be considered qualified to act and speak authoritatively with regard to a certain subject. For ministry, all one needs is the calling and enabling of the Holy Spirit and we do not require doctorates of pastors and evangelists. The doctoral degree tells us that someone is qualified to speak authoritatively on the subject matter involved (such as physics, Greek, or theology) and to perform duties (such as surgery or teach seminary courses) that relate to the degree. One does not need any doctorate to preach and teach the Bible as the Holy Spirit enables.
Colonel Sanders did not try to use his phony title to achieve an advanced standing in the military. As I point out in the article, many people using honorary degrees do so in order to advance their standing in the ministry. Thus, the comparison fails.
Yes, it is true that God has used many ministers in spite of their use of phony titles but that does not mean He endorses the practice. God worked miracles among the Corinthians and the Galatians in spite of their misconduct as well.
The best way to honor a phony title is not to use it in a misleading way just as the best way to honor a gift of a key to the city is not to try to use it to enter private property uninvited.
Accrediting agencies are not part of the secular government. They are accountable to the government as we all are (ever tried not paying your taxes?) but the government does not dictate what is taught in seminaries. Accrediting agencies are private corporations that vouch for the high, academic standards of institutions of higher learning.
God did change Abraham and Sarah’s names (indicating His purposes in their lives) but that does not relate to an earthly institution bestowing an educational degree on someone who has not earned it. The sources are different (one is from God and the other from a university) and the purposes are different (one is to indicate God’s sovereign purpose and the other to to grant academic credentials).
God’s telling Abraham that he would be the father of many nations was not the bestowal of an academic degree on Abraham that he had not earned. It was God’s announcement of what He himself would do.
Yes, God has many titles but they are all deserved!
You accuse us of having “holier than thou, self-righteous attitudes” but you give no evidence or reason for your accusation which seems to be based solely on the fact that I have pointed out some misconduct. It is not wrong to distinguish between right and wrong. Exhortations to repent of disobedience to God are not wrong. The New Testament is filled with such exhortations.
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)
What am I doing exactly? I am exhorting my brothers in Christ to be Christlike in their behavior. This is quite biblical. If you think God treats misleading misrepresentation lightly in His holy house, you should read the account in Acts 5 regarding Ananias and Sapphira. They sold their house and gave to the church (which was not required — it was a voluntary act). Their serious misconduct was in misleading the church with regard to the exact percentage of the sale that they had given. Peter called it “lying to the Holy Spirit” and said Satan had filled their hearts to do this.
Satan is a false accuser who inspires people to mislead the church. I have not said anything false in my article and you have not disputed any of the facts. You, however, have falsely accused me and this website of self-righteous attitudes and you have defended the practice of misleading the church (the practice Peter said was satanically motivated).
I do not plan to repent of siding with God against Satan. Whether or not you repent is your choice.
As a postscript, the person who made the comment I responded to here followed up with several (I believe it is five so far) emails expressing his extreme anger in largely incoherent rants filled with name-calling directed at me and the website. My practice (which may not be the practice of every contributor of this website) is only to approve coherent comments that have at least a bit of politeness and civility (I overlook even apparently bad attitudes — disapproval is reserved for extreme cases or incoherent rants).
I also do not see the comments section as a format for protracted debate or seemingly endless emails. Thus, I only approve one or two comments from any one person on one thread (again I speak only for myself here — not for the whole website). I welcome a comment but not endless tirades. Those who wish to express themselves to that extent can always write an article of their own on a different website.
The revealing thing about this gentleman’s anger was that it showed he really knew the practice I described was wrong. If the practice I related facts about were innocuous or innocent, no one would be angered. Had I written an article speaking of how a certain group of Christians ate a well-balanced meal every evening, no one would fly into rage-filled rants. I have simply related the facts of a practice in which some Christians engage. The fact that someone is angered by my telling those facts shows they really know the practice is wrong and that the public telling of it will be defaming to some minister(s) they follow. They would not react emotionally to my saying a minister they followed drank water on a regular basis, as they would know this fact would be of no embarrassment to the minister.
It’s ridiulous that you have taken the time to even write this article. If people want to go to an unaccredited school they have a right to do that. T is true that there ate a lot of fake diploma mills but all unaccredited Bible Schools are not diploma mills. If you are in school for 10 years of higher education does it matter where your degree comes from? It’s so easy to assume all of these people are trying to get something for nothing. I think in your case it’s better for you to trend lightly. I guess you are not aware that Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University or that ALL colleges and universities start off unaccredited. Either way, stop criticizing things you don’t understand and learn how to walk in love towards your fellow brother and sister in Christ.
I do appreciate that you have taken the time to respond to my article though I must say it seems you did not take time to carefully read it. I believe if you will take the time to do that you will find that your specific criticisms do not apply to the article. I nowhere criticize unaccredited Bible Schools. I only critique the practice of diploma mills giving phony doctorates and the practice of people using honorary doctorates as though they were earned. I am aware that Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University. He was an astute businessman and knew enough to hire educators to run the school since he was not qualified to. I have studied this issue of phony doctorates very carefully and believe that I do understand it quite well. Many educators and Christian leaders have said the same about my understanding of this matter.
You speak of love as though it is something that never corrects those who are doing wrong — yet you have written to me, accusing me of doing wrong. By your standard and definition you have failed to love me as you should since you have sought to correct me. Much of the New Testament contains words of correction, yet these words are not evidence of a lack of love. Instead, they are evidence of a love for God, His truth, His people, and the disobedient people who need to repent before they answer to God for their erroneous teachings and practices.
While most unaccredited Bible Schools are quite honest about the degrees they award (never claiming them to be doctorates, for example), diploma mills that dispense cheap and easy “doctorates” (which do NOT involve 10 years of higher education — often not even one year of “education”) are not honest, and those who use (call themselves by) such degrees dishonestly conferred upon them are not being forthright with the body of Christ — including you. If you really believe this kind of lying to the Holy Spirit is a light matter that is ridiculous to correct I suggest you not read Acts 5:1-11 lest it shake your faith in God’s Word. I appreciate your concern but would suggest that you reread the article to better understand exactly what I do and do not say in it.
This was an excellent read. I too am appauled at how many ministers walk around claiming to have an accerdited degree when they know it was obtained from a Diploma Mill. Why live a lie? Put the work in. I do have one thing to add to this article. Depending on the Doctorate (PH.D or Dmin, etc..) it can be earned in as little as 3.5 to 4 years.
Thanks for your sentiments. As to the time required to get a doctorate, it takes about four years just to get a Bachelors degree that precedes the earning of a Masters degree required to enter a doctoral program. Most secular Ph.D. programs take at least an additional five years to complete when the writing of a dissertation is factored in. D.Min. and D.D. programs typically take longer to complete than do secular, doctoral programs.
I just happen to come across this article because I am presently seeking ordination in the state of Texas. I am
presently ordained in the state of Louisiana. Just thought I would drop a few nuggets to add. In the Word of God, Jesus NEVER SUBJECTED his church to state, local and federal Laws, which was created by man because he (Jesus) knew man and what’s in them (John 2:24-25). The Church and the government’s of the world was always separate, if fact the government’s of the world and state were to pattern themselves after Jesus’s church (wishful thinking!!). This is why i don’t believe in “CHURCH ACCREDITATION because it’s based on the accreditation of men (state/Governments) and by-the-way; the governments of the world belong to SATAN (Matt 4:8, Luke 4:5). As Mr. Kowalski states, ” Dr, It is an indicator that one has undergone the rigorous education and training involved to be considered qualified to act and speak authoritatively with regard to a certain subject”: only the ones who have met this qualification should be allowed to have the title Doctor! I believe when these phony greed motivated organizations and self-appointed ministers are caught,(and they will be exposed-Matt:10:26, Mark 4:22, Luke 8:17, 12:2) their names should be placed in a “fraudulence registry” so others can be warned about them!!
Thank you for your comment, Eugene. I think one thing your comment does is highlight once again something we have had to repeatedly address in this comments thread. Accreditation of schools has nothing to do with the government controlling the church or its education. First, academic, accrediting agencies are not governmental agencies. They are subject to the government just as we all are in some ways. Even as Christians we are bound to obey civil authorities that God has placed over us as long as they do not interfere with our beliefs or our obedience to God (Romans 13:1, 2 Peter 1:13). We obey such things as traffic laws imposed by the state and pay taxes (Romans 13:6).
Though accrediting agencies are accountable to the government as we all are, the government in no manner dictates the content of seminary or Bible college curriculum! Thus, accreditation of a school does not involve any direct government involvement in the church. I do not know to what you refer by “church accreditation” unless by this you mean the 501c3 status churches have as a non-profit entity. The alternative to this status is one in which churches pay taxes to the government on the donations given to them. The issue at stake in this article remains one of personal integrity, not church/state relations. The title of doctorate is bestowed by educational institutions with a generally agreed upon amount of work involved to obtain the degree. It is this level of work that is needed for accreditation and schools are still free to teach their own doctrinal positions without government interference of any kind. The issue of church/state relations is completely irrelevant to this article. The question in view here is whether or not those who use the title “Dr.” have really done the amount of supervised study involved to earn this degree, if they have essentially bought a cheap counterfeit from a diploma mill, or if they are improperly using an honorary title as if it were an earned one.
May I be permitted to correct the erroneous information given in my comment of 22 October 2012 about the apparent spuriousness of Rev Samuel Wainwright’s Doctorate of Divinity, it has since been drawn to my attention to a note in the Islington (London) Gazette of 29 November 1870 to the effect that “the University of the Diocese of Ohio ((presumably meaning Kenyon College, Ohio) had awarded a DD to him in recognition of his “valuable contribution book to Apologetic Literature in the volume Christian Certainty”, published by Hatchards of London in 1865 – a book which is still readily available today in “print-on-demand” format.
The award is also listed on page 97 of the General Catalogue of Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio ( 1826-1899)
My apologies to Dr Wainwright’s descendant and anyone who was misled by my error.
I appreciate your desire to correct any false impressions you believe you might have given in a previous comment. Without meaning any disrespect to Samuel Wainwright, I would say that to me his sounds like what we would call today an honorary doctorate — one given in recognition of some achievement or contribution in spite of the recipient’s not actually completing the course work and other requirements generally required by the bestowing institution for him to receive what we would call an earned doctorate. Nevertheless, this is distinctly better than the practice of the awarding of completely spurious degrees of which you spoke in your first comment, and I am sure that Samuel Wainwright’s descendants will appreciate the correction. Thanks.
Don,t you have anything better to do that attack christian pioneers just because you can? I have just as much intolerence toward winers as you have concerning your issues listed here – I would much rather be around someone doing the business of god than spending time just finding fault, of course that is just my opinion!
I appreciate your comment though I do not know what it has to do with the article above. I do not “attack” anyone and I do not know to whom you are referring by the term “pioneer.” I am just guessing but I suppose by “winers” you are speaking of drunkards — I’m not sure. If that is so, the Bible does speak against drunkenness. It also speaks against lying, however. If you wish to fix your concept of morality on one issue alone that is your prerogative, but I believe biblical Christians will seek to obey all of God’s commands — including the command to be honest. I find it ironic that you find fault with me for finding fault! That, of course, is a self-defeating criticism. If you believe finding fault is wrong you have defined your finding fault with me to be wrong. I am in favor of obeying all of God’s commands and find it strange that anyone would find fault with me for desiring this.
Was there not a time when the accrediting bodies had no governmental oversight or accountability?
Are there currently accrediting bodies for trade schools or schools which provide continuing education units that operate without a USDOE relationship?
If so, why couldn’t a denomination accredit its own school for training ministers?
What does this say regarding degrees which were earned prior to the accreditation of accreditors?
There has never been a time in which any official body or organization has not been subject in some regard to governmental authority. This concept in itself is scriptural: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1 ESV). The point at which this could be problematic or unscriptural for an accrediting agency is if the government dictated educational content that they expected the agencies to mandate prior to accrediting an institution of higher learning. Thus, if the government somehow meddled in the actual teaching of a school this would be something intolerable for Christian seminaries that grant legitimate doctorates.
The organization that accredits the school from which I graduated is the ATS (see http://www.ats.edu/about/overview) and they never meddled in teaching content. They merely acknowledged educational standards. The ATS is an organization recognized and respected by most institutes of higher learning for the degree of excellence it requires before acknowledging a school’s degree to be a real one and not a phony one.
Accrediting agencies do not dictate to any denomination what content its schools must teach. They simply recognize that the professors are educated and that the standards are sufficient to justify the label of higher learning. The only problem with your suggestion that denominations accredit their own schools is that the moniker “denomination” is a very loose one and can be used by any group that wants to describe itself in this way. Thus, I could start my own “denomination” and open a diploma mill that by cousin Ted and friend Bob “accredit” for me. Third party accreditation that does not dictate teaching content ensures an objective standard for the quality (again, not the content) of the education given.
Trade schools that seek to be recognized as legitimate places of quality training do generally seek accreditation with organizations such as the ASSCS, and such agencies are generally recognized by the USDOE (see http://www.accsc.org/About-Us/index.aspx). If there are trade schools that operate without such accreditation that would not be a matter pertinent to the article above, since such schools do not award doctorates and the article is about the awarding of phony doctorates.
There has always been some manner in which universities have verified the standards upheld by their schools. The concept of accreditation is not entirely new and the fact is that we do have such agencies in existence now. If a school wants to operate without such accreditation it is free to do so but the degree of excellence upheld by the school is, therefore, suspect and one must, at least, ask why the school avoids any aspiration to the educational standards recognized for the awarding of a degree that they call a doctorate. It is this refusal of third party verification of standards that, as a rule, most prominently marks businesses that take in money and award degrees (such as “doctorate”) that do not mean what the rest of the educational world means by the term.
I again state what it seems I have had to say many times in this comments thread — accreditation does not involve governmental meddling in teaching content. Accreditation is simply a means of verifying that the degrees awarded by a school meet with recognized standards of educational excellence. That is why “seminaries” such as those that award a “doctorate” to high school graduates who pay them $50 and read two or three books will never be able to receive accreditation. They are not legitimate places of higher learning and the so-called “doctorates” they award do not indicate that the recipient has received a real education deserving of such a degree. Such schools are essentially scams and the degrees they award are phony ones.
In the Church, we should seek to avoid participation in such scams and be honest and forthright in all of our dealings. We do not bend the knee to the government with regard to what we teach but we do recognize the standards of excellence our society expects when a doctoral degree is awarded to someone. As I have said before, doctorates are not required of ministers, but if in the Church we are to use the term “doctorate” we should do so in a legitimate and honest way.
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