Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Like many other DTS alumni, I got the ThM.

When starting seminary, I was under the impression that any and every pastor on the planet had a ThM. There were times (no foolin') that I even found myself looking down my nose at the poor MABS or MACE folks while in seminary.

Over time I realized that most seminaries have the MDiv as the pastoral degree, an option that DTS doesn't offer.

Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church destroyed for me the myth that a MABS is not adequate for pastoral training, but I've often long thought DTS should offer the MDiv as another option.

My questions for you?

  • What degree did you get?
  • Would you have opted for the MDiv had it been available to you?

4 years is a long time for a masters degree and I wonder how many went the MABS or MACE to "get 'er done" more quickly. Might they have gone MDiv and thereby been *qualified for pastoral ministry* in the eyes of the school?

But if the MDiv was offered, would anyone pursue the ThM anymore, the seminary's flagship degree?

Just something I've wondered about since my second year in seminary.


Chris said...

I got an MDiv at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary - - some of my classmates did go on for a ThM.

I chose to go on for a DMin at GCTS because I could focus on the area of preaching.

I think an MDiv was adequate - - but, I wouldn't want any less.

Chris Freeland said...

I got the ThM.

Somewhere around year 2 1/2, I was cursing DTS for not offering the MDiv. Now that I'm done, I'm glad they didn't offer it.

There's no substitute for doing study in every book of the Bible, and being proficient in the original languages.

Sure, you could be a good pastor with only an MDiv. I know great pastors who have no formal training. But if you're going to put yourself through the rigors of seminary life for 3 years, why not make it 4? After all, in the big picture of things, what's the harm in spending an extra year studying the Scriptures?

Darren said...

Not pursing pastoral ministry, I received the CGS and am now pursing an MA in History. I was wondering though for those that cannot commit to four years, how about adding a language element to the MA(BS) such as a class on using technology to study the original languages for preaching. While I am not suggesting the MA(BS) is designed for preparation for pastoral ministry, it is excellent for those that lead bible studies or who might do some pastoral work in missions. If one can learn to read French or German in a 2 hour class, a three hour class might equip you to understand basic grammar in Greek and Hebrew while giving you the tools to translate. Please correct me if I way off. That being said, most people I know with the Th.M. don't know which classes they could have done without.

GUNNY said...

One of our pastoral interns sent me a comparison chart of the ThM (DTS) vs the MDiv (at SWBTS, SBTS, and WTS-Dallas).

120 hours - DTS, ThM
100 hours - SWBTS, MDiv
94 hours - SBTS, MDiv
111 hours - WTS-Dallas, MDiv

Clearly, not all MDiv's are created equal.

There's not a great disparity among those schools with regard to emphasis.

For example, NT (including Greek):
27 hours - DTS, ThM
21 hours - SWBTS, MDiv
21 hours - SBTS, MDiv
27 hours - WTS-Dallas, MDiv

I wonder about getting a MDiv and beefing up on languages as electives.

Or, even doing the same with the MABS?

I know the goal is preparation and NOT how to get done as quickly as possible, but there's a sweet spot in there too that studying past can really beat you down.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I got my MDiv at The Master's Seminary (3 yrs), which was the general degree. The ThM was 2 more years, aimed at future teaching ministry, and required a specialized field. I like the MDiv concept.

jon2911 said...

During my first year in '03, my dorm had a dinner with Dr. Bailey and asked him this. He replied that they definitely should have a three-year option, and will in the future, but it always becomes a faculty fight. This would mean dropping one out of every four classes from the Th.M. to make an M.Div. Which would be dropped? These are very godly men, he said but you wouldn’t know that from sitting in on one of these meetings. They’re all fiercely loyal to their subject.

So, there you have it, and I admire Dr. Bailey's candidness. At most seminaries, Th.M. is the academic degree, M.Div. is for pastors. In my situation, one less year would have been much better, especially financially, but I didn’t want just two years and no languages. Clearly, there’s a need for a third option, and I’m glad the President sees that.

Chermone said...

I received an MA in Christian Ministry from Wayland Baptist Univeristy. When I took the classes, it was in a new setting away from my home church at the time, with a good sized family in the house, while I had a full-time job in the military. It did not require the amount of hours many of you went through to pursue your varying degrees. I knew I was going to Iraq and with the thought of moving around from base to base, I decided to go for the one I knew I could finish while I was there. Now in retrospect, I do wish I would have tried to go for the MDiv. Partly because many folk (and churches) who look at seminary type training give more prestige and credence to it (something I didn't know at the time). Nevertheless, I appreciate what I have and I don't think I am any less for it. Sure there are things that I am studying on my own in order to be the man Christ has called me to be, but I am thankful that he did not allow me to remain the ignorant man I once was!

John Harris said...

I have an MDiv (96 hours) and I'm finishing up my ThM (24 hours) and will be walking May 9th. So, I was able to get a general pastoral degree, and then get a degree focusing on Biblical Studies (NT) on top of that. So, rather than having a general degree that focuses on the whole Bible generally, I was able to get a general degree and then focus deeper on the area I was more interested in (NT).

For any pastor, if the extent of their study is while they are in school, then shame on them.

Seminary is not where you learn what the Bible teaches, it's where you learn how to study the Bible.

Sadly, most people go to seminary to be indoctrinated and will say something like "just tell me what it says..." then "presto" Dispensationalism survives ;-)

Caleb Kaltenbach said...

I got a Bible college degree and 75% of the degree was focused on Bible, theology, and ministry. I took CE classes, pastoral counseling, 3 preaching classes, 2 years of undergrad Greek, 1 full year of interpretation, 2 church history classes, etc. I thought that the Th.M. and M.Div. was a big repeat. I got an M.A. from Talbot School of Theology, and am a lead pastor at a church plant. We are growing... and I can't stand the concept that those with an M.A. aren't as equipped as M.Div's or Th.M's... to me, that is arrogance... and there are many seminary guys that I knew who were in their final years of the M.Div. and Th.M., and I could still out-preach them and knew more Bible... the paper doesnt prepare you for ministry. It is the study and mentorship you recieve in seminary or Bible college and from other pastors...

Besides, the M.Div. rate is dropping, because more people are attending Bible college, and they are not wanting a repeat of already studied curriculum... so they go for the M.A. in Theology, preaching, NT, OT, etc.

Shaw said...

One thing not mentioned, at least not directly, is the increasing importance of finances in determining grad school decisions. Increasingly even main-line, large denominations are not providing as much assistance to aspirants as formerly, and many have a significant number of ministers who are non-stipendary.

Very few can afford $40-60K and three years to complete a degree when there is little or no financial backing, and when that degree won't get them a paying job.

As a result the M.Div. is becoming something of a dinosaur in actual practice, and that's unfortunate. The standards for what is acceptable in terms of accreditation and degree type are both being reduced in the main, and I suspect that before long the MA or some similar one or two year degree will become quite commonplace; the new standard as it were.

Indicators of this are the fact that even many old, established schools are now offering 'abbreviated' options for ministerial degrees - they're not only shorter in duration and lighter in content, but oftentimes include a distance or online component. Also, the standard asumptions about credential abbreviations seem to be falling by the wayside - some offer an MA or MTh in a year, some two; Pick an acronym and you don't know what kind of degree was accomplished, what its content was or how long it took to complete.

While I agree that the degree doesn't make the preacher - it doesn't hurt either. When talking about generalized standards for the mass of folk, more is indeed better, to a point. In final analysis, the primary cogitation would seem to be contextual - individual goals, denominational standards, ability, time and financial resources.

Rich said...

What about those that want to teach at the undergraduate level. Do most instructors have an mDiv or a Masters in Theology?

Mike said...

I know this blog is rather dated and many of you may not read this, but I thought I would chime in. I agree in part with Caleb regarding your undergrad degree. I find it particularly interesting that many people don’t even take a persons undergrad into consideration while looking for pastors. It seems that the M.Div is looked upon as the primary degree for Pastoral ministry and those with a Biblical undergrad and an MA are not. I think a person’s undergrad needs more weight when thinking about educational qualifications. If a person had a BA in underwater basket weaving and took the M.Div, many would think they are “more” prepared then a guy who has a BSBS and an MA. My undergrad is in Bible and have decided to go the MA path. If I was to take the M.Div, I would literally repeat 50% of my undergrad utilizing a lot of the same books. Off course there is some repeating within the MA, but only 25% compared to 50%.