A few months ago I pushed the pause button on this website to pursue an impromptu Master of Theological Studies at a nationally accredited online Seminary.
Well, I have finished. I completed the remaining 3 courses I needed for the degree requirements and also passed the surprise Comprehensive Exam with an 89% (surprised because they failed to tell me there was one until I was almost finished with the rest of the course work).
But now I’ve got a dilemma and I need your advice. Now that I’m going to graduate in December with a Master’s degree, I have the opportunity to go on and get a PhD at Liberty University (or should I go to another school)?
What does this all mean for my Unschooled Master of Theology program?
Read on and see if any of you can help me with this decision….
The Options Available
The plan has gone through several iterations at this point. First, I planned to get an MA in History at Liberty and then possibly go on to their PhD in Bible Exposition program. Well, I got hung up with the military tuition discount (wouldn’t accept my DD214 and had to order another one). While waiting for that government document my previous seminary extended an invitation to finish a Master’s degree with them which would save me $5000 (actually $7000 since Liberty would not accept my previous graduate credits from APUS stating they were too old).
So I took the offer (which would cost me $500 all in to finish) and spent the last two months finishing three courses and a Comp Exam and Essay Exam and now will graduate with an MTS from a nationally accredited school in December.
With a month to sit and do nothing, I started looking back on my uThM and contemplating the wisdom of getting a PhD from Liberty that might not yield the position I “think” I want. Too many I know who are already in academia state it is hell to work in and its only getting worse. No security. No benefits. Little pay. Demon students. It all sounds just lovely, doesn’t it?
So, while I wait to graduate, I take back to the internet. After all, my aspirations have changed a little bit. Do I really want to teach history? To be honest, I don’t even know how I landed on history to begin with. It was my major in undergrad, but not sure how I selected it. I was undeclared for the first two years.
But now I’m pretty sure I don’t want to teach history, but instead I want to teach Bible courses online. Is that even feasible? Realistic? Am I about to spend $14k for a degree that is less than useless? Will I end up in my basement pumping out blog posts, regretting the degree I got, and $14k poorer? If people are graduating with PhD’s in Biblical Studies from top Seminaries like Fuller and Biola can’t find jobs, what makes me think I can find one with a PhD from Liberty?
During this exploration, I stumbled onto a private, unaccredited seminary that I just love. Redemption Seminary. They have a competency based program which I prefer over the standard model. Their tuition is reasonable, and their professor/mentors can have an unaccredited Doctorate and work as much or as little as they desire. They are assigned one-on-one with each student so no “classrooms” per se. Individuals work at their own pace, doing their own work. If they had a PhD program I would choose them, but they only have a Master’s program at the moment. But I would love to work there part-time and keep my current part-time job simultaneously.
Do I need an accredited degree?
There are actually several schools that are distance based and are not accredited with any agency. So I started looking for unaccredited PhD programs and settled on two of them.
Columbia Evangelical Seminary is an online school with a ThD program in Theology. I really like their student-designed curriculum (we select our own books, materials, lectures, etc) and are assigned a mentor. We work at our own pace, submit documents by email, and then do a dissertation at the end. It costs $6000 for the entire program. It is unaccredited.
Master’s International University of Divinity is a school that is very similar to CES, though it has a prescribed curriculum (this can be augmented to some extent to align with my current research interests). It has no tests (for the courses I would want to take they have just writing assignments) and aligns pretty closely with the curriculum offered by Liberty (I compared the syllabi for each course in both programs). It has a dissertation at the end with a defense before a committee.
Liberty of course has the most portability. CES has come under fire the last few years due to James White getting his ThD there and the questions about his dissertation and the committee members (if there were any). Because of the questions brought up by this controversy and because of the price, I’ve pretty much disqualified CES from the running. It might be a great school and I love the curriculum design features, but it’s just not worth it for the price. If it were nationally accredited, yes I would select them. If it were cheaper I would probably select them. If they had a PhD program I would probably select them. But, those are a lot of problems for a school, so they’re out.
That leaves Liberty and Master’s International University of Divinity. I love the program of this school (though I wish it were a little more adaptive for my research interests), and I REALLY love the price. Basically, it’s $180 per credit, but they have a $200 down, $105 / month payment plan (no interest), and once you are finished with the requirements any outstanding tuition is forgiven. After looking at the syllabi, I could reasonably finish the program in 6-12 months if I really apply myself. That would end up costing $1380, all in.
Now, before anyone freaks out about finishing a PhD in 6 months, I would say the same thing about Liberty’s program if I were allowed to progress in the curriculum at my own pace, rather than be limited by the arbitrary semester system. Yes, there are diploma mills that you pay a fee and they hand over the degree with no study. This is not that kind of school. In fact, upon comparison, the two programs (Liberty and MIUD are virtually identical. Where Liberty is heavy on quizzes and exams, Master’s is heavy on more writing assignments. The type of writing assignments are similar in both topic and length, and both have Dissertations which require the same length (and both require an oral defense before a committee).
If Liberty would offer individual pace format and a similar payment plan I could finish their program in about 6 months with a cost of about $6000.
What do I Really Want to Do with My Life?
But, in the end, I have to decide what it is I really want. What do I want to do with my life? What do I want to do for employment? Do I even need to work in the future? What happens if I lose my job (always possible)? What about Eden? What about my fiction books?
Because of the socio/political climate we are experiencing at the moment, I’ve recently turned my attention toward the persecuted church. How do they do it? How do they die for Christ? How do they suffer for Christ at the hands of their government, the people? This is something Western Christianity has never experienced before and it is the perfect kind of ministry for me to pursue.
It is possible Christ will return before persecution ever comes to America. Then again, this country is not mentioned in the prophetic passages that deal with the end. Will we become the future third world? Will civil war ravage our nation, our people, and leave us destitute and despondent? Will our democracy (translated oligarchy) be taken over by a nazi like centralized government hell bent on smashing the Christian community?
We have no way of knowing. But, I do know, the state of the Christian Church as we know it today will not survive any kind of genuine persecution. It will fold. Simply because it has become like the world. It is weak. It is vulnerable out in the open.
A Theology of Persecution is needed in this country and it is a newly added subject of interest to my research. I know of no degrees in academia, no undergraduate, no Master’s, and no PhD programs that focus on this kind of training.
How can the church in America ever hope to endure the greater price of Christ if they continue to ignore and obfuscate?
So, if I intend to pursue developing a curriculum around the Theology of Persecution, with the hope of equipping the Western/American Church for possible future persecution to come, then do I need anything more than my MTS degree? Do I even need that? Couldn’t I – Shouldn’t I instead just jump in and start my own research?
How do I know, though, what opportunities await for me in the future? How do I know a PhD in Biblical Studies with a dissertation written on the Theology of Persecution won’t open doors in the future that would not otherwise open? Maybe God has planned for me to step into missions work in America for America. Maybe there is a Civil War coming and he has me positioned behind enemy lines, where Christians are persecuted by a new atheistic government and my training will help people cope with the suffering they must choose to endure. Maybe God wants me to get my PhD and become an instructor in a foreign land to learn about the persecuted church first hand. Anything is possible with God and I am open to anything. If he has taught me anything the last few years, my life is not mine. It belongs to him. He does with it whatever he wills.
So there is an argument to be made to pursue a PhD. Since the decision is pretty much between Liberty and Master’s International, where do they differ? Liberty would open doors to people and groups that consider regional and national accreditation as a sign of legitimacy. As I already stated, a comparison of the coursework reviews the curriculum is pretty much the same for both programs.
I have to ask: is it prudent to pay $14k in tuition when I could get the same instruction, same degree for $2000? A search on the internet reveals, though regionally accredited academia may not consider Master’s International degrees as legit, the Church does. There are a multiple of pastors and para-church workers who are employed in their respective fields with degress from MIUD. By and large, the Church does accept MIUD. Do I want to work outside of the church? Do I really want to be employed in secular academia?
I first want to pursue research in areas of interest. 1. Persecution Theology. 2. Biblical Anthropology (Consciousness, Soul, Body, Spirit), 3. Eschatology (Death, Intermediate State, Afterlife), 4. Christian Philosophy (Metaphysics, Ontology, Theology).
Then I want to focus on a ministry that develops persecution theology materials that will hopefully be of use to those in this country who are ill-equipped for the suffering that is to come for being a believer.
After that, I am a broken vessel for Christ. He can do with me as he wishes. I suppose at that point I can die or I can focus on spreading the persecution curriculum throughout the world (for free). I am perfectly equipped for this task. I have no family. No children. No friends. No hobbies other than my research. I have no attachments. I have no aspirations other than to serve Christ and to die. May God use me as he will.
Does God need me to have a PhD? No.
Is God limited on what he can do if I don’t have a PhD. No.
But Jesus also didn’t need to get baptized by John the Baptist either. There was nothing in that baptism that was of a benefit to his mortality or his divinity. It was simply done to “fulfill all righteousness.” Maybe there are those within the Church that would not otherwise hear from me if I didn’t have a credential. Maybe it’s not for me but for them.
Do I want to pursue a PhD in Biblical Studies. Yes. Do I need to, of course not. Should I spend 14K given my requirements and future utility of such a degree? I don’t know. Will getting a degree from an unaccredited school diminish my credibility? Of course. In the eyes of the secular, non-beliving world, absolutely. But, if I am to pursue an equipping ministry of persecution training, my focus is not on the secular, non-believing world. It is on the Church. MIUD seems to have an almost universal acceptance among the Christian community. I’ve even found an adjunct teacher with a Master’s degree from MIUD teaching at a regionally accredited college (they did have other degrees, but the MIUD degree was listed on the college’s website)! Other regionally and nationally accredited schools work with and affiliate with MIUD.
At this point, I’m leaning toward the PhD in MIUD (if you couldn’t tell). But, I still have some reservations.
What About the uThM?
What does all this mean for my current uThM program? Well, it actually doesn’t affect it at all. Just like the MTS degree, my uThM program will be on pause or slow moving for the next year or so. But, unlike the MTS (which I was under enormous time constraints to keep the costs down), I would like to incorporate the PhD studies into this blog and even on a podcast (if I can get over the sound of my own voice).
Long term, my uThM will remain active for my own self-directed research. This might be different if I were pursuing a program like CES, where I were allowed to design my curriculum. But with MIUD I have to follow their prescribed coursework, with only a modicum of variation to include my own topics of interest. I will be focusing most likely on the Persecution Theology in my dissertation.
At this point, though, I remain undecided. I still have the rest of November before the MTS degree is conferred. Once I get that degree, I will need to make a decision. I can apply to Liberty’s PhD program and see if I can even get accepted (stranger things have happened). For it to be affordable, I need to not only get the MTS degree approved for admissions, but 12 of those credits need to qualify as transfer credits (a Liberty feature of the degree). If those credits do not transfer in, then it will add either another semester to my program or will add four additional classes to my workload, carrying 15 credits for three semesters straight – a full year. I think it would be entirely possible that I would burn out before I ever reached my Dissertation courses.
One positive development at Liberty recently, I received word back from the adviser that the last course Dissertation Defense is a 0 credit course and so it would not cost me anything that semester. This is highly suspicious. I don’t trust them at all on this. I’m betting they would either say this was an error and charge me for 5 credits anyway or at least charge me the $200 tech fee. Maybe not. But, if they are accurate, this reduced my ticket price at Liberty to $14k, saving me about $2000 (which I technically could use to get the 3 remaining courses I need in History and then could teach history courses at regionally accredited schools – wait, didn’t I already conclude I don’t want to do that).
What do You Think?
So, what do you think about all this? If you’ve read this far it means you are at least mildly interested in either my story or these two schools or the issue of accreditation.
Do you think I should go to Liberty? MIUD instead?
Maybe you think I should skip it all, sell everything I own and join a traveling circus?
Please let me know your thoughts and advise in the comments below or send me an email. I really could use a diverse opinion. Especially send me your experiences if you have attended Liberty or Master’s International.
I would really appreciate it…
Please consider supporting my writing, my unschooled studies, and my hermitic lifestyle by purchasing one or more of my books. I’m not supported by academia or have a lucrative corporate job – I’m just a mystical modern-day hermit trying to live out the life I believe God has called me to. So, any support you choose to provide is GREATLY appreciated.
Excerpt from The Light Aurora:
The door’s lock released and Dr. Lewis looked around at each of them.
“Stay close, and be ready for anything. I’m not sure if they’re all in the Command Center or if they are trying to secure Level 4. Hell, they could all be evacuating.”
He stared at Scott as he came up onto the landing.
“Let’s go,” Scott said.
Dr. Lewis pushed the door open and walked out into the hall, followed by the others – in ones and twos.
Level 2 was similar to the other level, with a long corridor, doors on either side, all with security displays recessed into the wall next to them.
But, as they entered the corridor, Scott’s breath caught in his throat.
As he stood there with the others, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
In front of them, probably no more than a few yards away, were three bodies lying on the floor. One was sitting up against the wall, the side of his face melted, exposing his right eyeball and a good portion of his right skull.
Another one was laying face down, his entire back opened up at the spine, as if his spinal cord had been ripped out of him from behind.
The last one was a few more feet away from the others, on his back, his eyes seared from his head, black, burnt flesh where his eyes used to be.
The intercom came back to crackling life.
Derrick said over the intercom.
“Don’t worry. You can answer,” he said. “I can hear you.”
Scott looked up, then fixed his gaze on the security camera at the end of the corridor.
“Yes?” Scott finally asked.
There was a pause, static.
“What are you doing, Derrick?” he asked. “Did you do this?”
“Indeed,” Derrick said, coming back on.
“They refused to help me.”
“What are you trying to do, Derrick?” Scott asked.
There was another pause.
“I want to go home, Professor,” the boy said.
“Yes,” Derrick said, his tone soaked with some other-worldly confidence that did not belong in an innocent, ten year old boy.
“I want to go home, Professor,” he said again. “Would you be interested in coming home with me?”
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