Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Program
The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree equips students for advanced scholarship, independent research, effective teaching and preaching, and service in church-related ministries that benefit from advanced Christian scholarship. The Doctor of Philosophy program involves a minimum of two years of study beyond the Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent. Students entering the program should be aware that three or more years are frequently needed for completion of the degree requirements, depending upon individual circumstances.
The Doctor of Philosophy program consists of doctoral seminars, an examination covering each seminar as it is completed, comprehensive written examinations, directed reading and research, teaching under faculty supervision, the writing of a dissertation, and an oral examination covering the dissertation and related fields. The program is specifically oriented toward preparing students for teaching in universities and seminaries; for specialized church, missions, and denominational leadership; and for scholarly writing.
All PhDs are offered through a residential or synchronous classroom.
Fields of Academic Study
The Doctor of Philosophy degree may be granted in the following fields:
- Old Testament (including Hebrew) and/or other Semitic languages
- New Testament (including Greek)
- Church History
- Practical Theology
- Biblical Counseling
This degree is available online
Educational Objectives of the Doctor of Philosophy Program
In addition to the program objectives set forth in connection with the Master of Divinity program, the Doctor of Philosophy program is designed to provide opportunity for students to develop in the following advanced disciplines:
The Doctor of Philosophy program seeks to guide students to develop the capacity for critical evaluation and quality in research which produce creative scholarship and contribute to the field of theological knowledge and literature.
Independent Research and Writing
The Doctor of Philosophy program seeks to guide students to develop competence in principles of independent research and to achieve a proficiency in the techniques of scholarly writing.
The Doctor of Philosophy program seeks to guide students in advanced studies in a specialized field and to help them develop skills which qualify them for teaching at the graduate level in a college, university, or theological seminary.
The Doctor of Philosophy program seeks to prepare students for the assumption of specialized pastoral leadership in the church, in missions, and/or in administrative leadership in the denomination.
Admission Requirements and Procedure for the Doctor of Philosophy Program
The Doctor of Philosophy is the highest academic degree offered by the Seminary. The program is reserved for students of exceptional academic ability and promise. Students must demonstrate an understanding of the basic techniques of scholarly research and writing, as well as an ability to communicate through effective teaching. They must be committed to the program and demonstrate they are willing to fulfill the time requirements and the disciplinary standards that are required for distinguished scholarly achievement. Students’ health, finances, and outside responsibilities must be within such a level of tolerance that they are not unduly distracted from reasonable pursuit of the demands of the program. Read the Regulations Regarding Female Students section in the Catalog.
Undergraduate Degree Requirements
Applicants must have a Bachelor of Arts degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university, including 60 semester hours of liberal arts content. Any exception must be approved by the doctoral programs committee.
Seminary Degree Requirements
Applicants must have a Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent from this Seminary or from another accredited seminary which has comparable language requirements. Students must have maintained a 3.0 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) or better in their Master of Divinity work or its equivalent. Any exception must be approved by the doctoral programs committee.
Biblical Language Requirements
All applicants must have completed a minimum of six semester hours of Greek and six semester hours of Hebrew. However, if the major field of study is to be in New Testament, the student is required to have completed an additional nine semester hours of advanced Greek. If the major field of study is to be Old Testament, the student is required to have completed an additional nine semester hours of advanced Hebrew courses. The doctoral programs committee reserves the right to administer preliminary language exams and/or require language instruction in any case in which it is deemed expedient.
Doctoral Research & Writing Course (DR 9910)
Either before or during the first year of Doctor of Philosophy study, candidates for the Doctor of Philosophy degree must complete for credit the course designated Graduate Research & Writing (DR 9910) in order to demonstrate proficiency in research and writing. Equivalent work from another recognized institution may be accepted in fulfillment of this requirement at the discretion of the doctoral programs committee. A prospective PhD student who is a last year MDiv student may be allowed, with permission from the doctoral programs committee, to enroll in this course.
Graduate Teaching Course (DR 9920)
Candidates for the Doctor of Philosophy degree must complete for credit the course designated Graduate Teaching (DR 9920) which is designed to aid students in their proficiency in teaching. Equivalent work from another recognized institution may be accepted in fulfillment of this requirement at the discretion of the doctoral programs committee. A prospective PhD student who is a Master of Divinity (in biblical counseling, Christian ministries, missiology, and intercultural studies, or pastoral ministry); last year MDiv students may be allowed, with permission from the doctoral programs committee, to enroll in this course.
Research Methodology (DR 9921)
Candidates for the Doctor of Philosophy in Education degree must complete for credit the course designated Graduate Research Methodology (DR 9921) which is designed to aid students in their proficiency in social science methodology. Equivalent work from another recognized institution may be accepted in fulfillment of this requirement at the discretion of the doctoral programs committee. A prospective PhD student who is a last-year MDiv student may be allowed, with permission from the doctoral programs committee, to enroll in this course. This course may be used as a substitute for one classical or modern language requirement.
Students from an international seminary offering the Master of Divinity or its equivalent may be admitted to the Doctor of Philosophy program on the same basis as students from national seminaries if they meet all requirements and pass the qualifying examinations. Refer to Admission Procedures for International Students in the Catalog.
The Procedure for Admission to the Doctor of Philosophy Program
An application for admission into the Doctor of Philosophy program is processed through the doctoral programs committee. Applications may be obtained through the admissions office. A non-refundable admission fee of $50.00 must accompany the application form. The application must be submitted by May 15 in order to begin seminar work in August and by September 15 to begin seminar work in January. Students are not fully admitted into the Doctor of Philosophy program until written acceptance is issued by the associate dean of doctoral programs.
Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
Test Applicants must perform satisfactorily on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to demonstrate competency to function at the doctoral level. This test can be taken at any of the regional testing centers in the United States. The results of the test are to be in the admissions office by May 15 for August enrollment and September 15 for January enrollment. Evaluation of test results at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary is consistent with the practice of similar educational institutions and is in conformity to performance scales published in the GRE scores interpretation resources and corroborating research reports. With the approval of the doctoral programs committee, the GRE may be waived for an applicant who has already taken the Miller Analogies Test and made an acceptable score (scores may be no older than five years). The MABTS code number, 2234, must be used to report GRE scores. GRE scores will be valid for five years.
English Language Requirement
Applicants to the Doctor of Philosophy degree program whose indigenous language is not English must score at least 600 on the paper-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL. This examination must be completed not more than two years before admission to the Seminary. Exceptions to this requirement must be approved by the doctoral programs committee. International students are not required to take the Graduate Record Examination.
Major Field Research Paper
Applicants are required to write a 10-page research paper on a departmentally selected subject from their major field. The paper is designed to probe the student’s general theological or educational background in their area of study and to test their ability to organize their thoughts and express themselves logically, clearly, and in good English form. Applicants will write their papers in conformity to the form and style guidelines set forth in A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 9th ed., by Kate L. Turabian (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press). The major field research paper is due in the admissions office by May 15 for August enrollment and September 15 for January enrollment. Approved paper topics can be obtained through the admission office.
Written Major Field Essay Examination
Applicants must take a written essay examination covering the general scope of their major field. This examination occupies one day of no more than four hours and is designed to test the student’s overall comprehension of the major issues in his designated field. Examination given by appointment.
Major Department Interview
Applicants are required to have an interview with the faculty members who comprise their major department to discuss their previous academic preparation and future goals in the context of their declared field of concentration in the doctoral program. Arrangements for this interview are made through the doctoral programs office. Interviews will be conducted by appointment only.
Doctoral Programs Committee Interview
Applicants who are not graduates of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary must have an interview with the doctoral programs committee. In special circumstances, a Mid-America graduate may also be required to have an interview with the committee. The interview discusses the applicant’s prior academic training and practical experience, his or her purpose for pursuing the Doctor of Philosophy degree, and his or her intended utilization of the degree in future vocational commitment. Interviews will be conducted by appointment only. Appointments should be confirmed with the doctoral program office.
Remedial Work in the Major Field
The doctoral programs committee reserves the right to require any student to supplement deficiencies in preparation in their major field of study by taking for-credit courses from the Master of Divinity curriculum in addition to their required doctoral seminars. A student may be required to audit certain Master of Divinity courses as a means of maintaining awareness of current developments in their field. Doctor of Philosophy students who audit or take for credit Master of Divinity courses are required to follow the procedure for proper registration each term.
At the discretion of the doctoral programs committee, an applicant may be admitted on a conditional basis for the first year of study in the doctoral program. The associate dean of doctoral programs provides written notification to advise the student of the reasons for the conditional status, to specify any requirements which he or she must fulfill, and to state any limitations to be imposed upon his projected course load. The student is reevaluated at the conclusion of his or her first year of study, and the student’s major department makes recommendation with regard to the conditions governing his or her continuance in the program. Any exception to the published admission requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy program must be approved by the faculty upon the recommendation of the doctoral programs committee.
Approval by the Doctoral Programs Committee
Applicants are considered on the basis of: (1) application form for admission to the program, (2) previous academic record, (3) performance on the Miller Analogies Test, (4) demonstration of writing skills on the major field research paper, (5) performance on the written comprehensive entrance examination, and (6) personal interview with the faculty. Although no single criterion is necessarily determinative by itself, the above stated criteria are scrutinized by the doctoral programs committee to determine the applicant’s competency and motivation to undertake doctoral study. Only those applicants who are approved by the doctoral programs committee may be admitted into the program.
When an applicant is declined admission to the program, the student may choose to submit another application. One opportunity to reapply may be granted with the permission of the doctoral programs committee. Materials relative to the application are considered confidential, and the doctoral programs committee has no obligation to disclose information regarding an applicant’s being declined admission into the program.
Time Limit for Approved
If an applicant for the Doctor of Philosophy program does not begin advanced studies within one year from the date of approval, a new application must be submitted.
Assignment of a Major Professor
Upon admission to the Doctor of Philosophy program, the student can request a major professor in their major department. The major department must approve this choice or assign another professor from the department. The major advisor assists the student in planning a comprehensive program of study. Once the student’s dissertation topic is approved by the doctoral programs committee, the major advisor supervises the student’s work in the writing of the dissertation. The student should initiate a meeting with their major professor at least once each term for advisement in every phase of their academic program while they are taking seminars. Upon completion of seminars, the student is expected to maintain monthly contact with their advisor.
Completion Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Program
Continuous Enrollment Requirement/Fee
The candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy degree must be registered for each semester of the regular academic year during the period of time taken to earn this degree. Continuous enrollment includes both the time spent in seminar study and the time spent in the writing of the dissertation, whether or not the student is actually on-campus. Students (including those on the mission field) may request to take a leave with the approval of the doctoral programs committee but must register each semester and pay the Interrupted Status Fee. Failure to register for any semester is automatically considered a withdrawal from the program.
Study at Other Institutions
With the approval of the doctoral programs committee, two seminars may be taken at other institutions. No credit toward this degree is given for work done in other institutions unless it has first been approved by the doctoral programs committee.
Classical and Modern Language Requirements
Candidates for the Doctor of Philosophy degree must have a working knowledge of two languages (in addition to the normal requirements of Greek and Hebrew) suited to their academic interests. The student and the major department will negotiate the best combination of languages for the specific student’s program. The languages will be Latin, German, or French. Completion of the language requirement may be certified: (1) by completing a minimum of six semester hours of study of the language at an accredited college or university, (2) by passing a standardized test administered by an accredited college or university, or (3) by passing a language examination administered by the doctoral programs committee. The language requirements may be met within five years prior to admission to the Doctor of Philosophy program. Language examinations are administered by the doctoral programs committee as scheduled during the academic year. If the candidate fails to make an acceptable score on a language examination, he or she may be permitted one additional opportunity to qualify at the descretion of the doctoral programs committee. Both language examinations must be successfully completed prior to the beginning of the second year of doctoral study. Students are expected to complete research languages within the first years unless permission for an extension is received from the doctoral committee. Students pursuing a degree in the field of education must take Research Methodology (DR 9921) to fulfill one language requirement.
Research Methodology Requirement
Candidates for the Doctor of Philosophy in Education degree must have a working knowledge of empirical research methodologies. Completion of the research methodology requirements may be certified: (1) by completing a minimum of six semester hours of study of empirical research methodology at an accredited college or university, (2) by passing a standardized test administered by an accredited college or university, or (3) by passing an empirical research methodology examination administered by the doctoral programs committee. This requirement may be used as a substitute for one classical or modern language requirement for PhD in Education students only.
Fields of Academic Study
Doctoral seminars are offered in church history, education, missions, New Testament (including Greek), Old Testament (including Hebrew and/or Semitic languages), practical theology (pastoral track and counseling track), and theology. The Doctor of Philosophy degree may be granted in the following fields: (1) Old Testament (including Hebrew and/or Semitic languages), (2) New Testament (including Greek), (3) church history, (4) missions, (5) theology, (6) practical theology, (7) biblical counseling, and (8) education.
Modified Residency Format MABTS offers PhD seminars in a modified residency format, which allows students to complete their degree without having to leave their current place of ministry. Excellent faculty teach PhD courses and maintain high standards for academic excellence in these intensive classes. Students come to campus for one-week seminars, usually twice per semester. Exact dates for registration and classes can be found on the PhD calendar. Prior to each seminar, students will complete pre-seminar work that typically consists of extensive reading and intensive writing assignments. The student’s major professor (see Assignment of a Major Professor) will guide them through the program. After completing seminars during the initial stage of the program, students take comprehensive exams that assess their learning in their areas of study. The program then culminates in the research phase as students write and defend their dissertation.
Eight doctoral seminars are required in the Doctor of Philosophy program. Four of the seminars are to be in a given field of discipline and shall constitute the major field. The other four seminars are usually in two fields other than that of the major and shall constitute the two minor fields. In lieu of a second minor, students also have the option of taking two additional seminars in their major field or electives. The normal academic load for a PhD student is two seminars per semester. Requests to exceed the normal load must be approved by the doctoral programs committee. Major and Minor fields available to female students are church history, education, biblical counseling, and missions. Note: Logos Bible Research Software (Silver edition or above) is recommended for all MABTS students.
Each student enrolled in Doctor of Philosophy seminars is required to attend the doctoral colloquium each academic year. The colloquium is program-wide and held in conjunction with the annual Forum of Contemporary Theological Issues. Doctor of Philosophy students with candidacy status are encouraged to attend the colloquia.
After the completion of seminars, doctoral students who have completed their seminar work will take comprehensive written examinations. These must be taken within a 12-month period of one of the scheduled dates for comprehensive examinations. Each day the examination will be a minimum of four hours and a maximum of eight hours. Major Field exams will typically be on the first day and the other exams will extend throughout the week. A minimum grade of B is required to pass an examination. A student must pass at least five of these examinations on the first attempt. In cases of failure, the student may retake a maximum of four of the examinations. If the student fails the second attempt, he or she must retake the seminar; but no additional time in the program is allowed.
At the completion of seminar work, students are expected to qualify for candidacy status. Candidacy status means students may officially work on their dissertations. Students are declared candidates for the degree if they complete the following: (1) successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, (2) completion of the colloquia requirements, (3) good standing in Witness One:Seven, (4) exemplary conduct, (5) dissertation subject approved by the doctoral programs committee, and (6) major department recommendation. Any exceptions to this procedure must be approved by the doctoral programs committee.
Teaching Experience (Supervised Instruction DR 9940)
After a minimum of four doctoral seminars and completion of the Doctoral Research & Writing course and the Graduate Teaching course (22 hours), students are required to teach in their major field under the guidance of their advisors. With the approval of their major department and the doctoral programs committee, students may teach in another department if they have received credit for two semester-long Doctor of Philosophy seminars in that field. With approval, females can teach in education, Biblical Counseling, Missions, or Church History. Students will work under the direct supervision of their major advisors in assisting in the development of a course syllabus, a teaching plan, and the assignment of course grades. A minimum of three days classroom teaching under the supervision of a professor is required. At the discretion of the doctoral programs committee, other arrangements may be made to fulfill this requirement, especially for those students whose second language is English.
Supervised Departmental Reading (DR 9945)
Each department offers a directed study which consists of intensive reading to provide students with a comprehensive exposure to the literature in their major area of study. At the discretion of the department, this work may be done during the summer.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree is a research and teaching degree. Because MidAmerica is committed to preparing persons to train others for effective ministry, it is important for those who teach to have significant ministry experience. The completion of the Doctor of Philosophy degree, therefore, requires two years of pastoral ministry, significant church staff service, missionary service, or significant denominational service. Final evaluation of the completed practical experience is made by the doctoral programs committee.
Each candidate must write a dissertation in their major field of study in accordance with directions specified by the doctoral programs committee. Candidates must demonstrate the ability to research a thesis in relative independence and present their research in a clear and logical manner. The dissertation must make a contribution to the scholarly literature in its field. The dissertation should consist of 150-200 pages in the main body. Variations from these numbers must receive prior approval from the doctoral programs committee.
Each Doctor of Philosophy student is required to attend a dissertation orientation meeting, normally at the time of the oral defense of the prospectus. Students will follow the guidelines in A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (latest edition), by Kate L. Turabian (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013). The doctoral programs committee provides The Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary Form and Style Guide, which supersedes the manual by Turabian where the latter is not precise and which provides sample pages illustrating requirements for academic writing. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2003) is another required resource.
The topic of the dissertation must be approved by the doctoral programs committee with the prior recommendation of the student’s major advisor and his or her major department. A prospectus of the dissertation must be submitted to the PhD office to be forwarded to the major department for its approval no later than April 1 (for students anticipating graduation in December) or no later than September 15 (for students anticipating graduation in May).
Within two weeks, the major department must submit the prospectus with its written approval to the PhD office for consideration by the doctoral programs committee. The prospectus includes the title of the proposed dissertation, the thesis to be investigated, the methodology to be employed, the outline by which the research is to be organized, and a bibliography. The outline and the bibliography should correspond to the same standards of style and form as the dissertation. Any subsequent changes in the outline must be approved by the doctoral programs committee.
The dissertation must contain the following parts in sequence: blank page; abstract (not to exceed two pages); title page; blank page; approval sheet; table of contents; introductory chapter; the body or text of the paper consisting of two or more chapters; concluding or summary chapter; selected bibliography; and a blank page. The parts mentioned in Turabian A.2.1.7–A.2.1.11 may be included (all after the table of contents and before the introductory chapter along with appendix or appendices (between the concluding chapter and the bibliography).
Students are encouraged to work carefully with their advisor and their major department at each stage in the preparation of his dissertation. The completed dissertation on standard bond paper must be presented to the PhD office to forward to the advisor no later than July 15 for December graduation or January 5 for May graduation. The advisor will read and evaluate it with regard to content and form prior to forwarding it with his approval to the PhD office for distribution to the major department. Should the advisor find that the dissertation is not acceptable with regard to content or form, it is his prerogative to return it to the student without submission to the department.
After the advisor approves the dissertation with regard to content and form, he or she will forward it along with his or her recommendation to the PhD office for distribution to the major department no later than August 1 (for students anticipating graduation in December) or no later than January 18 (for students anticipating graduation in May). Suggested corrections and/or changes may be made during the six weeks after submission to the department.
The dissertation must be submitted to the doctoral programs committee along with the written approval of the major department before September 1 or February 1, respectively. A student who submits a dissertation to his or her major department is allowed no more than two opportunities for the dissertation to be approved. Upon receipt of the dissertation from the major department, the associate dean of doctoral programs assigns an external reader (from outside the department) to evaluate the dissertation along with the major department. The advisor of doctoral programs will analyze all of the evaluation forms from the major department and the external readers and will notify the student of changes or corrections that need to be made. It is the prerogative of the doctoral programs committee to assign additional readers if the situation warrants it. In each case, there will be a minimum of three primary readers, including external readers. A dissertation is acceptable in form if it contains 150 or fewer errors in form, style, grammar and spelling. If errors number more than 150, advisors may return dissertations to students for correction. Students may then resubmit their dissertation after correcting these errors. If advisors find more than 100 new errors or uncorrected errors in the second edition, students will be notified that they cannot resubmit until the next graduation date. If the dissertation is acceptable, it will be returned to the student for final corrections. If the doctoral programs committee determines that the dissertation is not acceptable, the document is then returned to the student with no more than one additional opportunity to resubmit his or her dissertation. If the dissertation is rejected as unsatisfactory for any cause, the doctoral programs committee may, at its discretion, authorize the candidate to revise, correct, and resubmit the document after a period of at least three months but not later than one year from the time of the extension. No dissertation may be submitted twice for the same prospective graduation date.
A one-hour oral examination is conducted during the last academic term prior to the commencement service in which the student expects to graduate. The oral examination covers the dissertation and relevant areas of cognate academic disciplines which are necessary for a full evaluation of the research. The oral examination over the dissertation is directed by the major professor who supervised the research, other faculty members who comprise the major department, and the external readers. Questions may be submitted by any authorized person who participates in the oral examination. The Oral Examination Committee is composed of all faculty members in the major field department, faculty members under whom the student has taken a seminar in the major field, and the external reader of the dissertation. The Oral Examination Committee makes the final decision as to whether the student passes his oral examination.
Summary of Requirements
|Doctoral Research and Writing||4 hours|
|Graduate Teaching||3 hours|
|Four Seminars (Major)||16 hours|
|Two Seminars (First Minor)||8 hours|
|Two Seminars (Second Minor)*||8 hours|
|Supervised Departmental Reading||1 hour|
|Supervised Instruction||0 hours|
|Comprehensive Program Exams||4 hours|
|Dissertation Writing and Defense||16 hours|
|TOTAL HOURS||60 HOURS|
their major or minor fields.
Application for Graduation
The candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy degree must make application to the doctoral programs committee for graduation no later than April 1 (for students anticipating graduation in December) or no later than August 15 (for students anticipating graduation in May). Application for graduation must be submitted through the office of the associate dean of doctoral programs.
Time Limit for Completion of the Doctor of Philosophy Program
Students are allowed seven years to complete the Doctor of Philosophy program. This time is calculated from the first semester of enrollment and terminates at the end of the 14th consecutive semester. Normally, graduation is to take place within two years after the student is approved as a doctoral candidate. Special consideration is given to missionaries.
No grade below B is counted toward the PhD degree. A student who makes a grade of C or below must take an additional seminar to remove the deficiency. Grades are issued to doctoral students upon completion of seminars. A Doctor of Philosophy student who makes a lower grade than a B in a seminar is placed on probation, then dropped from the program if a subsequent grade lower than a B is achieved. Appropriate student records are maintained in the PhD office and the registrar’s office. Student inquiries should be directed to the associate dean of doctoral programs.