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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 to bow in reverence to them. In the IFB church movement, to have a doctorate means you have arrived, that your dick is bigger than that of 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 doctorates. But, here’s the thing: the overwhelming majority of preachers sporting a doctorate didn’t earn the moniker. Most likely, one of their preacher buddies, who just so happens to run an unaccredited Bible 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 at which they are teaching 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 doctorates were either honorary or “earned” through minimal work done at diploma mills. The only person I knew who had an earned doctorate was Tom Malone — the founder and chancellor of Midwestern Baptist College. Dr. Malone had a Ph.D. 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 a licensed, qualified counselor but I did stay 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 Ph.D. 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, right? But, many of these “Doctors” are counseling people with serious mental health problems. A troubled church member goes to their pastor thinking he is qualified to help them. After all, he has a doctorate in counseling, right? He is just as qualified as the psychologist at the local mental health clinic, right? Unbeknownst to the church member, 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?

(Please see The Evangelical Cult of Personality.)

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    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.

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    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.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      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.

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    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.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      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.

    • Avatar

      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.

  4. Avatar

    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)

  5. Avatar

    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.

  6. Avatar
    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.

  7. Avatar
    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.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      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.

    • Avatar
      David Yamarick

      Andersonville continues to survive and improve. I see 7 profs with Dallas degrees now. I inquired and requested a course syllabus and shared it with my friend Gordon, a medical doctor and now graduate of both Liberty and Southern Evangelical (D.Min Apologetics) who said the sample syllabus was what the equivalent to the work required in his classes. So if someone is looking for very low cost, truly self-paced dispensational KJV school, Andersonville might has a lot to offer. I cannot find another school that meet these requirements. I hope to begin studies this fall.

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    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!!!

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

  10. Avatar
    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

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      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.

  11. Avatar
    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

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      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.

  12. Avatar

    The founder of the fundamentalist Christian school I attended was a Bob Jones University graduate, and while I was a student at the school BJU gave him an honorary doctorate. All the students had to call him Dr. B after that. In my not so humble teenage opinion I didn’t think we should have to call him Dr. B because he didn’t earn a doctorate, but what did I know…..

  13. Avatar

    “Can I get a Ph.D. in Go.D.?”
    “Oh, and a side of fries.”
    “The name? Ravi. Ravi Zacharias.”

    Makes me feel silly for having invested 11 years and many thousands of dollars earning a real doctorate in the real sciences from a real university.

  14. Avatar
    Bruce Gerencser

    Andersonville Theological Seminary sent me the following email. Make of it what you will. 🙂

    Andersonville Theological Seminary has making several changes and continuing to make them. They have now added several Scholars and courses as Greek III is taught by Andrew Carr, a Dallas Theological Seminary graduate, and The Olivet Discourse is taught by J.B. Hixson, who earned his Th.M. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. from Baptist Bible Seminary.

    New Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Counseling: Affiliated with Association of Biblical Counselors. NCCA will soon fade away as the revise DMin in Christian Counseling revamps. All programs will be changed.

    The Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Counseling completes the student’s training in biblical counseling through extensive ABC Certification training, including biblical counseling practicum courses. Upon completion of the D.Min. (Biblical Counseling) program, students will have earned Level 3 ABC Certification. If students have previously completed Level 1 and Level 2 ABC Certification, they will not need to retake these courses in the D.Min. program.

    The Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Counseling program requires a D.Min. Project. The D.Min. Project is a supervised project addressing a specific concern in the student’s present ministry context. The project must have measurable objectives, be biblically and theologically informed, be transferable to other ministries in similar contexts, and reflect knowledge and skills gained through the Doctor of Ministry studies. The project must be approved by the ATS faculty appointed to the project. Students will have an advisor to guide them through the Project process. An oral defense is required at the completion of the Project. The defense will be completed via online video conference.

    Epistles of John
    Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
    I & II Thessalonians
    Level 1 ABC Certification
    Level 1 ABC Certification
    Level 2 ABC Certification
    Level 3 ABC Certification
    Biblical Counseling Practicum I
    Biblical Counseling Practicum II
    Advanced Biblical Counseling Practicum
    Biblical Counseling Specialized Research
    Min. Project Proposal
    Min. Project

    ABC-Association of Biblical Counseling

    Andersonville Theological Seminary

    However some of the previous programs were lacking and is currently being developed behind the scenes of Andersonville Theological Seminary. They including dissertations and rigorous programs.

    ATS Fellowship fellowship

  15. Avatar
    Michael Shanlian, Ph.D.

    Hope you and your wife are well! It’s been a long time since I have posted on your page. Didn’t know if was still active.

    Prestigious institutions like Harvard and Yale confer honorary doctorates in rare occasions. The proliferation of honorary doctorates among IBF pastors dilutes the significance of receiving one. D.D. holders should not refer to themselves as Doctor, use the title in correspondence or demand others address them as such.

    Since I posted last, I earned a Ph.D. from Tennessee Temple University (now Carolina University) at age 60. It’s not Harvard, but it did require many years of study, tens of thousands of dollars and was accredited by CHEA.

    Family Update: Tell your wife that Karen (my first wife of 40 years whom she knew), went to Heaven in 2013 at the young age of 57. She suffered with Multiple Sclerosis for 30 years. My current wife Susie and I live in North Augusta SC. We have six grandchildren between us. Carpe diem!

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