Doctor of Theology


Same-old, same-old isn’t working anymore.

The Church needs leaders who want to think more deeply, see more clearly, and be formed more fully, if we wish to leave a legacy of a vibrant, culture-engaging Church for the next century. That’s why we’ve created the Evangelical Seminary Doctor of Theology program! This program is for reflective practitioners of ministry, taught by experienced and wise scholar-practitioners, with the intent that fresh forms and expressions of ministry will emerge through this collaborative learning process.

The program includes traditional components (a series of core courses, taken as a cohort, as well as a dissertation) and nontraditional aspects (a series of specialized readings-and-research courses, supervised by a track mentor, in a fashion similar to the British doctoral system). It requires roughly the same number of credits and time frame as a typical Doctor of Ministry but with richer theological reflection and greater academic credibility. Its hybrid delivery provides both accessibility from a distance and the opportunity to utilize local resources for knowledge discovery.

Please note the seven tracks that are available:

  • C/church and Change* (Missional theology)Read track descriptionNew for Fall 2019
    How leadership is understood and practiced in congregations has evolved over the centuries in response to cultural pressures, often without the benefit of clear theological thinking or missional intentionality. The result is an increasingly untenable and unbiblical model of the pastorate that often does more harm than good to practitioners and those they intend to serve. Therefore, the purpose of this track is to reimagine leadership roles and activities within both Church and church* (hence the big “C” and small “C” in the description title), and in the process, help heal the clergy/laity split. It is to create and implement fresh, Spirit inspired ways of being and doing church in this generation and beyond.
    Do you have any questions for the track mentor? Click here to email Mike Dittman.
  • Semiotics and Spirit (Pneumatic theology)Read track description
    Jesus said, “You know how to read the signs of the sky; Learn to read the signs of the times” [Matthew 16:3]. The Greek word for “signs” is semeion, and semiotics is the study of signs and the art of making connections, seeing the relationships between things and reading the meaning of those relationships. Disciples of Jesus must learn to read the sign-language of the Spirit so we can join Jesus in his continuing mission in this world, particularly in these challenging but exciting days for the Church.
    Do you have any questions for the program director? Click here to email Tony Blair.
  • Trauma and Transformation (Restorative theology)Read track description
    “All real living is meeting,” claims Martin Buber, and from the very beginning of the biblical narrative we see this to be true. The “Trauma and Transformation” track will reside at the dynamic meeting space between theology and psychology in order to lead churches, families, and communities in creating restorative meeting spaces of their own– spaces of engagement between each other and God that can heal and transform the pain of a traumatized world, which is “the mission field of the 21st century”.
    Do you have any questions for the track mentor? Click here to email Janet Stauffer.
  • Revelation and Redemption (Biblical theology)Read track description
    With the Bible as the divine wellspring of God’s revelation of himself and his redemptive plan, this track immerses the student in a rigorous and generative study of theology as packaged in the Bible (Old and New Testaments). Students will engage biblical theology as contained in its own cultural context, historical setting, and patterns of thought as well as grapple with the profound reality that biblical theology is the study of God who has appeared in history and that the redemptive significance of this historical revelation mandates that their work has fresh and impacting relevance to the church and its mission.
    Do you have any questions for the track mentor? Click here to email Doug Buckwalter.
  • Mission and Movements (Contextual theology)Read track description
    Contextual theology refers to theology which has responded to the dynamics of a particular context. In this track, the student will discover the wonders of God’s work within contexts while anchoring that diversity in the constants which undergird all settings. The student will then examine (and maybe even develop) a theology of mission and movement for a context which interests her or him– one that honors historical and normative theology while staying in close conversation with a particular cultural expression.
    Do you have any questions for the track mentor? Click here to email Jim Ehrman.
  • Roots and Rhythms (Historical theology)Read track description
    According to G.K. Chesterton, “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” The Roots and Rhythms track explores historical theology and will train students to listen to the saints from the past as a means of providing grounding and framework for moving the church into the future.
    Do you have any questions for the track mentor? Click here to email Mark Draper.
  • Leadership and Liminality (Organizational theology)Read track description
    The “Leadership and Liminality” track explores models, behaviors, and assumptions of transformational leadership, particularly the kind of leadership that occurs in liminal spaces. “Liminality” refers to a threshold experience–in transition between stages of a community’s growth, or leading the margins to see and speak from a prophetic stance. A student in this track will explore the richness of a counter-cultural approach to ministry leadership and collaborate in the development of a vibrant new theology of organizations.
    Do you have any questions for the track mentor? Click here to email Tony Blair.

Program highlights:

  • 39 credits that can be completed in as few as 3 years
  • Online with three 3-day residencies per year
  • Choose from 7 cutting-edge research tracks
  • Designed for reflective practitioners
  • Supportive faculty mentor and cohort approach
  • Fully-accredited with no GRE or MAT required
  • Featuring Dr. Leonard Sweet as scholar-in-residence

Be sure to check out our requirements and opportunities page to see more details about the program and answers to common questions.

View our admissions page to learn more about the admissions process for the Th.D. program.

Please also be aware of our application deadlines for a fall start.

22 Questions You Should Be Asking

What is a Doctor of Theology degree?

Originally, the ThD was the sister and equivalent of the PhD. Both are research-oriented degrees, with the ThD being focused on the theological disciplines (although some ThD programs, like some PhD programs, direct research toward practice). The Association of Theological Schools still considers these degrees as equivalents, even though they are each targeting different doctoral outcomes.

What’s the difference between a ThD, DMin, and PhD degree?

Although the ThD and PhD were once regarded as equivalent degrees, the ThD is largely regarded now as a middle ground between the PhD and DMin, drawing on the strengths of both. The PhD is research-oriented and intensive; the DMin is practice-oriented and less intensive. The ThD sits between them– research-oriented toward improvement of practice.

What kind of student is right for a ThD program?

An experienced practitioner who wants to reflect more fully on the theological foundations of ministry and/or to innovate and lead significant improvement in practice in the next generation. Some ThD students are in or seek positions of denominational, academic, or other organizational leadership.

What are the prerequisites for a Doctor of Theology program?

Prerequisites are very institution-specific. Here at Evangelical, the main qualifier is an accredited master’s degree in theology or a related discipline. Unlike the DMin (and some PhD programs in theology), an MDiv is not required.

Do I need to know Greek or Hebrew to apply?

It depends on the institution and the field of study. Most ThD programs would assume that incoming students possess a master’s degree in theology that would have acquainted them with biblical or other languages, that it is not true across the board. (At Evangelical this is only a requirement for the Biblical track within the ThD program).

Do I need a Masters in Theology to apply?

It depends on the institution. Most would prefer to see a master’s in a theological discipline or something closely related.

What can you do with a Doctor of Theology after you graduate?

Some want to teach. It is more difficult to attain a tenure-track, full-time teaching position with a ThD than with a PhD, although some seminaries and Bible colleges would be open to a candidate with a ThD. Those who wish to teach part-time in other contexts usually find it a helpful credential, as do those in administrative positions in higher education or denominations. Many simply want to improve ministry practice and/or establish credibility for having done so.

Can I teach at a seminary or university with a ThD degree?

It is more difficult to attain a tenure-track, full-time teaching position with a ThD than with a PhD, although some seminaries and Bible colleges would be open to a candidate with a ThD. Those who wish to teach part-time in other contexts usually find it a helpful credential.

How long does it take to get a Doctor of Theology?

It depends on the institution. Those that still regard it as a sister to the PhD may require several years of full-time coursework and several years for the completion of a dissertation. Institutions that situate it between a PhD and a DMin may provide a 3- or 4-year plan. (At Evangelical, our 78-credit ThD program is designed to completed in as few as 3 years.)

What are the most important accreditations for a Doctor of Theology program?

The Commission on Accrediting of the Association for Theological Schools (ATS) is the primary and premier accreditor for theological education in North America. Other accreditors, such as the Association of Biblical Higher Education, have been focused primarily on undergraduate biblical education and have therefore not yet developed quality standards at the doctoral level. (At Evangelical, all of our programs are ATS-accredited, including those our hybrid and fully-online offerings).

Should I choose a ThD program based on my denomination?

If seeking assignment, advancement, or leadership roles within a particular denomination it is always wise to ascertain if there are particular institutions that are formally approved or even informally preferred. Otherwise, since there are very few ThD programs in North America, one might choose depending on other factors (theological affinity, delivery method, learning philosophy, cost, etc.).

How can I afford a ThD program?

There are four basic funding models for Christian doctoral programs in the US:

1) High tuition programs that offset the cost by offering teaching or research fellowships to elite students. These programs usually require students to be full-time in the program and accessible geographically.

2) High tuition programs that offset the cost somewhat by providing tuition discounts (in the form of scholarships and other aid) somewhat across the board. Each student ends up with his/her own unique financial aid package.

3) High tuition programs that are intended to generate revenue for the rest of the institution. Students are expected to find their own funding.

4) Low tuition programs intended for working professionals. A low, flat fee for tuition is established, without fellowships, scholarships, or the need for the student to find offsetting tuition assistance.

What financial aid is available for ThD students at Evangelical Seminary?

Evangelical uses the fourth funding model identified above (low tuition programs intended for working professionals). Its tuition is kept quite low, compared to other PhD and ThD programs, and the course load qualifies the student for federal loans. Students are informed of additional opportunities for financial assistance and some are able to secure funding from other sources.

What does “evangelical” mean at Evangelical Seminary?

The word “evangelical” has many connotations, depending on who is using it. Our name is derived not from the current cultural/political movement of evangelicalism but from our founding denomination, which was established over 200 years ago as the Evangelical Association. Then and now, it means to us an approach to life in which our faith in Christ is pervasive and holistic–our faith is integrated into “head, heart, and hands.” We therefore speak of being “boldly, broadly, and beautifully Evangelical”–bold in things that matter (like the lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture), but broad in our embrace of those who share those common foundations, and beautiful in how we live out the kingdom of God in this world.

What does the dissertation process look like at Evangelical?

We regard the dissertation less as a burden to write a very long paper and more as an invitation to become one of the world’s experts on a particular topic about which a student is passionate. Students identify a dissertation topic early in the program (or even before they arrive), present a proposal before their second year is complete and, if approved, can complete the dissertation in two terms in their third year. Longer timeframes are also possible, and there is opportunity to apply for an exception that would allow for a more creative delivery/presentation than the traditional dissertation.

Which ThD track should I choose?

First, answer the “why?” question as comprehensively as possible. That is, why would I do this program? Why am I called to richly reflect on practice? Why do I think I might have something to contribute to the Church? When you answer the “why” question we can help you discern which of our tracks might best support you in that… or even whether there is another program elsewhere that would serve you better.

How many credits is the ThD program at Evangelical?

The Evangelical ThD consist of 39 credits, as follows: 15 core credits (5 core courses that all students take) + 15 track credits (5 readings-and-research courses that you take with other members of your track) + 9 credits of dissertation.

What does your ThD curriculum look like?

There are three components of the Evangelical ThD, as follows:

1) Core Courses–All students take these courses, and take them with a cohort of students who start at the same time. There are 5 of these, and each one provides a broad context for each student’s more focused study on ministry practice.

2) Track Courses–All students take 5 more courses with others in their track. Each of these is a readings-and-research course under the direction or supervision of a track mentor. Students take one core course and one track course each term for the first five terms.

3) Dissertation–Following the fifth term students take their comprehensive exams and then enter the dissertation phase, which can be completed in as little as one year.

Can you earn a Doctor of Theology online at Evangelical?

Most of the coursework for the Evangelical ThD program is done online, and therefore the program can be completed from anywhere in the world. However, three times a year, once each term, students gather for a residency. That residency is two and a half days while during coursework and one day while in dissertation phase.

How much does a ThD degree cost at Evangelical?

The current cost is $28,881– which includes a 10% discount for students who stay enrolled and on track with the program schedule, including the dissertation phase. Check this page for the most up-to-date tuition rates.

What is a residency and is it required part of the program?

There is a residency each term, in which all students come together for joint learning with their core instructor and track mentors, and to build supportive relationships with each other. One residency will be held off-site, probably in an overseas location; such to be decided by the track mentor with his/her students.

Who are the ThD faculty at Evangelical and what are their areas of expertise?

Follow this link to meet the track mentors of the program, who constitute the majority of the instructors. They are supported by others within the Evangelical network of faculty. Our faculty include both visiting professors, such as Leonard Sweet, who has an international reputation as a scholar and semiotician, and local faculty with long and extensive expertise in the fields in which they teach, as both academics and practitioners.

Doctor of Theology


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