IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor

ifb preachers importance

I know a lot of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers who love being called Doctor.  They expect church members to call them Doctor and their undoctored colleagues bow in reverence to them. In the IFB church movement, to have a doctorate means you have arrived, that your dick is bigger than your fellow pastors.  Having a doctorate gives one an air of importance and respectability. Go to any of the big IFB conferences and you’ll find the scheduled speakers list littered with the names of men who have a doctorate. But, here’s the thing, the majority of preachers sporting a doctorate didn’t earn it. Most likely, one of their preacher buddies, who just so happens to run an unaccredited college, gave them their doctorate. Or, they did minimal coursework at one of many IFB diploma mills. Either way, their doctorate is nothing more than the plume of a peacock. Look, look, look at me, I am special, I am important, I am a Doctor.

Even at the IFB college, university, and seminary level, many of the professors have doctorates that were granted to them by the institution they are teaching at or some other unaccredited college. I spent 25 years in the ministry and I came in contact with a lot of Doctors. In every case but one, the doctorate was either honorary or “earned” through minimal work done at a diploma mill.  The only person I knew that had an earned doctorate was Tom Malone. Dr. Malone had a PhD in education from Wayne State University.

Christian Bible College is a good example of an IFB diploma mill:

costs christian bible college

Course Costs Christian Bible College

course requirements for christian bible college

Course Requirements for Christian Bible College

Andersonville Theological Seminary is another good example of a diploma mill:

doctor of theology andersonville

Course Requirement for Andersonville Theological Seminary

costs andersonville

Costs Andersonville Theological Seminary

I know several IFB preachers who advertise that they have a doctorate in counseling. Andersonville offers a doctorate in counseling, complete with licensure from the National Christian Counselors Association. (NCCA) Here’s what Andersonville has to say about their counseling doctorate and NCCA licensure:

counseling doctorate andersonville

Counseling Doctorate Andersonville Theological Seminary

This has all the making of a Holiday Inn commercial: I’m not be a licensed, qualified counselor but I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.

I suspect that most IFB church members don’t have a clue about how their pastor got his doctorate. They naïvely assume their pastor is just like their medical doctor or a professor at the local college. They likely think their pastor went through the rigors of a PhD program and is eminently qualified to teach them the Bible. Little do they know that their pastor’s doctorate is nothing more than a high-five from a friend who operates a college or a piece of paper given to him after paying a fee and doing minimal course work.

On one level, who cares? But, many of these “Doctors” are counseling people with serious mental health problems. A troubled church members goes to their pastor thinking he is qualified to help them. After all, they have a doctorate in counseling, right? They are just as qualified as the psychologist at the local clinic, right? Unbeknownst to the church member is that their pastor’s doctorate is little more than words scrawled on used toilet paper.

As Paul Harvey used to say, now you know the rest of the story.

Doctorate sporting IFB preachers are like Diotrephes in III John: they love to have the preeminence. Go to an IFB church or conference and watch how Dr. Bob or Dr. Jack or Dr. Paul are fawned over and treated like gods.  I wonder when these Doctors last preached on James 2:

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

(see The Evangelical Cult of Personality)

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26 Comments

  1. Crystal Evans

    These degrees are a joke. My niece has a Master’s in Psychology, she is currently working on the 3000 hours of experience before she can take the exam to become a Licensed Professional Counselor. She is scheduled to take the exam sometime this year.

    Reply
  2. Excom

    They love their titles and greetings in the marketplace. They love the highest seats in the synagogues/churches.

    Reply
  3. Friend

    I know this sounds naive, but how does the worship of doctorates square with the tradition of anti-intellectualism?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Good question. These guys preach anti-intellectualism, but they want to be thought of as the smartest person in the room. A room of toddlers, that is. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Heather

    Every spring at Pensacola Christian College graduation they give out an honorary doctorate to some “esteemed” pastor based on his years of service and experience. Nauseating.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      That’s what Midwestern did too. They were a reward for supporting the school, being loyal to Dr Malone, or having a large/growing church. It was a dog and pony show. I remember how excited I was the one year when Dr Malone asked me to pick up at the airport that year’s honoree.

      Reply
  5. Tige Gibson

    I have several individual books for individual courses that cost more than the whole-year book fee. As well, the whole-year tuition is lower than the tuition for a single semester course. If these “Schools” are really trying to get money, they’re doing it wrong.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Well it is a ministry. 🙂

      Make it cheap enough and you’ll attract more lazy preachers wanting to buy, I mean earn, a doctorate.

      These type of schools pride themselves in not being accredited, state approved. The real reason is that they’d have to drastically change their curriculum and faculty if they were.

      Reply
    2. Angiep

      Right? I thought I was misunderstanding the fee schedule. It seems more like the cost of a certification program, such as to learn how to calibrate pumps for a manufacturing plant.

      Reply
  6. Troy

    Recently Thinking Atheist Seth Andrews had a show about contemporary Christian music (he used to be a Christian radio D.J. in the 80s-90s) He made a remark that Christian music at the time was basically a sanitized alternative to secular pop music at the time. Looking over the schedule for acquiring one of these degrees I see it is very similar as an alternative to secular academics.
    I’m wondering if it is possible to contact the schools for copies of the doctoral thesis. In particular if you know of any questionable characters in particular, it might be interesting to inquire, and dissect such a thesis, if it is supplied by the Bible schools (and if they don’t supply it, that too is an indictment of their business.) As a thesis is an academic paper which at the doctorate level purports to explore a new line of research and findings. That should be available to all.
    I also wonder what is the dropout rate, and how does that compare to a secular doctorate. After all, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Though I suspect it is more like buy your degree, what you learn is up to you)

    Reply
  7. Geoff

    What’s sickening is that all the real ‘doctors’ (medical and PhD) have no way of dissociating themselves from these charlatans. The challenges of obtaining doctorates via the traditional route are immense; I considered it once and realised I just wasn’t able to dedicate so much of my life to it, even assuming I actually had the ability. It would be nice to think there were some central accreditation system that could expose the ‘fake’ doctorates, so they could be distinguished from the genuine article.

    Reply
  8. Jackson Waller

    Well, whaddaya know… Andersonville Theological Seminary has (as of 1/1/17) increased the requirements and course load for their degree programs. It is my understanding that this is due to the schools pursuit of AHBE accrediting. But I am sure (at least I hope) that exposure such as this blog had at least a small part in bringing to light the school’s shortcomings. So, for what it is worth, at least one school has made changes for the better. Perhaps others will follow suit.

    Reply
  9. SG Rindahl

    I have seen this trend as well. it is truly terrible that those who are entrusted to be vanguards of the truth are so willing to deceive. There are many well-educated clergy out there (looking at the church as a whole not any specific denomination) who spend years of hard work to learn how to best serve the people they are entrusted to shepherd. Sadly, there are as many or more who are fakes.

    Reply
  10. C P

    Thoughts about LuderWycliffe Theological Seminary

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Looks like a diploma mill to me, or at the very least a substandard institution. Their “accreditation” is a joke/scam. The accrediting group uses a Gmail address as their contact.

      Reply
  11. C P

    Thank you

    Reply
  12. C P

    Is Andersonville Theological Seminary legitimate

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I guess it would depend on how you define the word legitimate.

      Reply
      1. c p

        thanks for your candidness

        Reply
  13. Charles

    Bruce. I recall that you have written a couple of other blog articles about the poor quality, lack of accreditation, easy work load, and academic travesties (like social promotion because you are not very smart but have been “called to preach”) that go on at evangelical colleges. Can you please provide me hyperlinks to those other articles of yours? Thanks!!!

    Reply
  14. Pingback: The Lousy Education of Many Christian Fundamentalist Pastors: “Is There a Doctor in the House?” | Flee from Christian Fundamentalism

  15. C P

    Now that Andersonville Theological Seminary has upgraded their courses for ABHE accreditation ,am I wasting my time to take courses there for a masters or a doctorate? Thank you

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I did not find them listed on the candidates for accreditation list. You have to decide why you want the training and degree. You also have to decide whether credit transfer is essential for you. Andersonville, if I remember right, is King James Only, so you have to decide if that comports well with your beliefs.

      Reply
  16. C P

    Would I be embarrassed to say I have a masters or doctorate from Andersonville Theological Seminary ? I am not a minister. I just want further insight into the Bible Thanks

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      It depends. In mainline and middle of the road Evangelical churches, having degrees from Andersonville will be looked down upon or ridiculed. Compare Andersonville’s curriculum to say Harvard, UNC, or Westminster Theological Seminary, to name three, and you will quickly see Andersonville’s programs are lacking academically. In more Fundamentalist churches, I suspect your degrees would be accepted and respected.

      Reply
  17. CP

    Thank you

    Reply

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