Kevin’s Conversations: “Christian” Charlatans

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105 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    Kevin, thank you.

    This has been a target of my contempt for a very long time…and unfortunately I’ve found what Warren is finding out now.

    Very few care.

    The work (and money) it takes to get accredited theological degrees is tremendous…and we have many running around claiming degrees that they did not work for.

  2. Michael says:

    The other scam is for big time, wealthy, preachers to get academic credits for time and influence in the ministry…there are some guys with “doctorates” whose “dissertations” wouldn’t make good magazine articles…

  3. OCDan says:

    I recall reading something about bearing false witness, but maybe that’s just me.

    Oh well, people have to do due diligence. Don’t believe everything you hear, read, and see. Sad we live in this type of environment. I know, I know, nothing new to see here. However, the magnitude of fake news, fraud, lying, perjury, etc. is of a scope I don’t think our ancestors could ever imagined. Add to that the fact that people don’t care and get book deals and end up on Jerry Springer, well that is just an even sadder state of affairs.

  4. Dan from Georgia says:


    About a year or so ago I was thinking about this issues (may have had something to do with Mike Warnke), and I remembered back in the 1990s going twice to see a man named Tom Papania, who claimed to be a former member of the mob/mafia. Church’s were packed to see this man who claimed to be the only member of the mob to get out of the mob alive. I plopped down a few bucks to purchase the man’s testimony cassette. I am sure many others did also.

    Well, when I remembered this, I did a simple google search and easily, EASILY, found out that this man too, testimony and all, was a fraud.

    I think I still own a comedy tape cassette by Mike Warnke. My faith was never shaken by the likes of Warnke and “Papania”, but made me more suspect of those with fantastic, far out testimonies (never mind Barton, who’s material I was thankfully never exposed to – and all those IFB Pastors and their “Doctorates”).

    Anyways, yes, today with the internet and google, it SEEMS as though we would be all the more wiser, but even with those tools at our side, the old adage still stands: “there’s a sucker born every minute” – fake news, fake advertisements (saw the one on my Yahoo! feed with a picture of an indentation in a persons leg from a tight sock, with the headline “sings of an impending heart attack”). May we not be the sucker.

  5. Josh the Baptist says:

    I’m not so concerned about the diploma mills.

    I think the bigger scam right now is the big preacher circuits where 10 or so mega church pastors serve on each others boards and decide each others salaries. Then, they all speak at each others church for around 10 grand a pop, and when they release a book, each of the churches buys 10s of thousands of copies. It’s kinda like a pyramid scheme if you think about it.

  6. Michael says:


    That doesn’t just happen on the big preacher circuit…it may with book sales, but I know of many little groups that sit on each others boards and set ridiculous salaries for each other…

  7. Josh the Baptist says:

    “Tom Papania”

    I remember listening tho that tape on a band trip to Florida. It was great storytelling. I was totally enraptured.

  8. Dan from Georgia says:

    Josh, yes it was good storytelling. I think the tape was called “In Search of a Father” or something like that.

  9. Kevin H says:

    “I was totally enraptured.”

    C’mon, Josh. Keep that dispensational stuff off this thread. 😉

  10. Alex says:

    I disagree with the Boykin and Barton examples as akin to the guy claimed he played in the NFL.

    The degree that Boykin got is legal and, yes, while it was earned due to his life’s work, already written books, life experience etc, that is not that uncommon even in the secular world in the form of honorary degrees. Boykin’s degree, per the horse’s mouth aka the Phoenix entity that gave him the degree (yes, I called them and had a long talk with them)…said they took what Boykin submitted…books, projects, career experiences, speeches etc and applied those real-life credentials to their classes and the checked off the list and fulfilled the requirements for the degree he received, which if memory serves, is Religious Marketing.

    In a discussion with Warren on Facebook, Warren used the analogy that it was akin to Warren paying for and getting a degree in Military Science or something similar. I disagreed.

    I said that was a False Analogy, and it is. Boykin has tons of experience in Religious Marketing.

    An appropriate analogy would be if I applied for a degree in Cake Baking….and I’ve never baked a cake in my life and have no idea how to do so, have zero experience in doing so, no books, no speeches nada. If I paid for a degree in Cake Baking with zilch experience in that genre, then I’m on board and will grab my pitchfork, light my torch and join you.

    In Boykin’s case, he’s very experienced in Religious Marketing and is a prolific and unique example of someone who could qualify for what is essentially an honorary degree in that field.

    The difference between a fake diploma and this…what I’ll call an “honorary diploma” is that there is REAL LEGIT experience, books, speeches, projects etc that back up the degree.

    If it was truly a paid-for bogus degree….with ZERO application of Real Life experiences/career, then that is a critical criteria of “Diploma Mill” in my research.

    I think it is fair to say “well it’s a weaker degree than say a PhD from Harvard!” but to say it is completely bogus and using legal and criminal words like “fraud” is not only risky, but also morally wrong in my opinion, because it is not “fraud”.

    BTW, Harvard accepted a guy’s Rap Album as akin to a Thesis in earning his Harvard degree…”fraudulent” Harvard degree?

    I think there are much bigger fish to fry and this is a mole hill and not a mountain. Boykin is an extremely experienced Lt. General who served our country well and who has done more for the Gospel and for our Nation than all of us on this blog combined. I think it is petty and irresponsible to use the word “fraud” in the same sentence as Boykin.

    I hope you will consider all of that.

  11. Josh the Baptist says:

    Michael, probably so. The big money, though is in the speaking fees. Think about it. You’ve got ten guys on your board that will bring you in once a year guaranteed. That’s $100,000 for ten days work. Then, hey, why don’t 5 of us do a conference on the east coast together. another $20,000. You could do 3-5 of those a year. Its a brilliant racket.

  12. Josh the Baptist says:

    “C’mon, Josh. Keep that dispensational stuff off this thread. ?”

    HAhah! Yep, so excited, God just sucked me up outta the sun roof. 🙂

  13. Kevin H says:


    Now as to your concern of pastors sitting on each others boards and setting salaries and buying each others books, that’s certainly a big problem, too. Maybe even bigger than the diploma mills. It does smack of having some attributes of a pyramid scheme.

    Maybe you can write an article about it next week to take my place and give me an extra week to think up what to write about next. 🙂

  14. Alex says:

    some typos above, I typed fast and didn’t edit, I’m working the pawn/gun counter LOL and speed is necessary LOL.

    Another thing the Phoenix folks said, Boykin was a unique situation b/c of his prolific career and vast experience, they claimed 90% of their students have had to do course work and submit thesis papers etc to get their degrees. They said they are in line with all the laws of the State of Arizona and that while they are not officially “accredited” by a secular entity, they are working on developing their own accreditation and that they do have real course work and require real papers etc, but that they do use legitimate life experiences, published books and other legitimate examples from an individual’s Career to apply to the requirements and expectations of knowledge of their course work. In Boykin’s case, he checked all the boxes.

  15. Michael says:


    I have lots of life experience.

    In an accredited school, that counts for a few credits.

    In an accredited seminary, it may not even merit that.

    Academics has been devalued in Christian circles to the point that we award degrees to people that we agree with politically or have made a name for themselves in drawing a crowd.

    That’s academic fraud.


  16. Josh the Baptist says:

    Thanks for the info, Alex, but with due respect, what you described should have been awarded an honorary degree. There is no shame in having an honorary degree. It’s a real thing. But it is different from an earned degree, which by your description, Boykin does not have.

  17. Josh the Baptist says:

    “Maybe you can write an article about it next week”

    NOPE!!! And paint that target on my back? Been there once before, was wise enough to use a fake blogger name. Can’t afford the side-track at this point in my life. 🙂

  18. Alex says:

    It’s not “fraud” and it’s not “charlatan”.

    It’s about like calling a blogger a “Journalist” etc.

    It might not have near the weight of a degree from another entity, but it’s not the Polemic and Hyperbole you guys are ascribing.

  19. Alex says:

    Josh, I agree with you, I think it should be viewed and expressed more as an honorary degree, similar to the honorary degree Bill Clinton, Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Colbert and many others in the Secular world have as “degrees” from noteworthy secular institutions.

    But calling it “fraud” and “charlatan”? Over-the-top and not intellectually honest in my opinion.

  20. Josh the Baptist says:

    “developing their own accreditation”

    That should tell you all you need to know about the school.

    Listen, accreditation for a Christian school isn’t everything. There are some fine unaccredited Christian schools, who for cost and conviction choose not to be accredited. They are reputable and know that their only value is the integrity of the education they provide. (BTW – I only know of good unaccredited Bible colleges, not seminaries)

    However, accreditation means absolutely nothing outside the Govt recognized accrediting agencies. For Seminaries, there are 5 recognized by USDE. Anyone in education knows that accreditation other than those agencies does absolutely nothing for the school. (There is regional accreditation, but that is more rigorous, and more concerned with Lib Arts colleges and universities.).

  21. Michael says:


    I’m studying for the Anglican priesthood.

    My head sometimes feels like it’s about to explode.
    Now, those darn Anglicans could just be nice and recognize my experience and acquired knowledge and ordain me because I’m “anointed’.

    I would be a fraud.

    I’m studying and writing and working my tail off…and I have no guarantee of success.
    If I can pass the historical, theological, and liturgical tests I will have earned my place.

    Otherwise…my title is a fraud.

    I’ll do the work, thank you, and I will talk about those who don’t.

  22. Alex says:

    But I won’t argue it any further. I think it’s a fair discussion to have. I think the dudes at Phoenix who did all the coursework and wrote papers etc that were evaluated are being called “frauds” and “charlatans” as well and that’s certainly not fair.

    Phoenix says those guys did the coursework, and while it’s not officially accredited by a secular entity, it’s pretty straightforward Christian College stuff, probably not a lot different than Biola or Master’s or Calvin College or other bible schools.

    Calvary Chapel issue degrees and certificates, is that “fraud” and “charlatan”, too? No, I don’t think it is. I think you can have a degree that isn’t accredited and it isn’t “fraud” or “charlatan”…it’s a legit degree but not perceived as prestigious or legitimate by most others, but it is viewed as legitimate within a Calvary Chapel Group and circle and that’s OK.

  23. Alex says:

    Michael, I’ve made a local friend, he’s a Vietnam vet, was in Military Intelligence, great guy….and a conservative Anglican. We’ve had some great discussions about Christianity as well as of course guns and politics LOL. He LOVES J.I. Packer as you do (and I do).

    Smart guy, very steeped in Church History as Anglicans tend to be. Valuable friendship for me.

    Made me think of you.

  24. Michael says:

    Sometimes I don’t know if I’m being steeped or drowned…thank God I love church history. 🙂

  25. Duane Arnold says:

    OK, put your things in storage, put everything at risk, fly to the UK with your wife; for three years struggle for every penny, apply for every scholarship, spend most holidays on your own, struggle with your topic, prove every word through research, write up your dissertation, sweat your final defense with three experts in the field, and be told you’ve been awarded your doctorate.

    Then return to the US and meet up with an old Assemblies of God friend, who now calls himself “Dr.” with letters behind his name from a non-existent school….

    My forehead is still sore from beating it against a brick wall… and that was 30 years ago…

  26. Michael says:


    I was hoping our earned doctorate would chime in here… 🙂

  27. Josh the Baptist says:

    I think Phoenix fibbed a little. Looking at their website, they don’t even list course that can be taken. From their about us:

    “God will teach us what we need to know. The Lord is our teacher. Many qualified men and women in full – time ministry find out that they don’t have the time or the money to complete college. That is why Phoenix University of Theology is such a critical part of God’s work, a revelation, if you will. To provide a way for those gifted and qualified men and women to receive the credentials they deserve because of their self – motivated study and revelation education. We do this through the evaluation of their “lifelong learning”.”

    They basically just hand out Honorary degrees to those who pay, and call them earned degrees. It’s dishonest at the very best.

  28. Kevin H says:


    I get that Boykin and Barton and others get these honorary degrees based on life work and experiences. However, the problem is when they then claim to have the degrees or the title of “doctor” with no acknowledgement that they are honorary degrees from unaccredited schools. They leave the impression to their listeners that they put in all the hard school and class work to gain their degrees because that is the common understanding when someone says they have a doctorate. The degrees themselves are not fraudulent because they are honorary or come from an unaccredited school. The bottom line is that this type of behavior by Boykin and Barton and others is misleading and deceptive because in many cases it leads people to believe something that is different than what it really is. And this is where the problem is.

    And I’m not going to partake in guilt game of Boykin having done so much more for the Gospel and the nation than I and everyone else here. This isn’t about the accomplishments of myself or anyone else here. When a Christian leader publicly disseminates information about themselves, then it is fair game for the public to call out the information if it is found to be less than forthright.

  29. Alex says:

    I do agree that there are certainly “degrees” of Degrees LOL.

    Not all are the same.

    A hard-fought Degree from Oxford University is going to be extremely more prestigious and valuable than a “Degree” from Kaplan University or other online program or from a Phoenix or similar.

    I would apply the “fraud” label to a true Diploma Mill where you paid or a degree in something you have zero experience and history or knowledge at doing and do zero work for it and it’s purely money for a bogus degree.

    If you’re an expert at Religious Marketing….and excel at it….and get a degree in that after your life’s history has been evaluated and applied to the coursework and requirements for such a degree…then I think that is something different. It’s not that prestigious and probably not that valuable, but it’s not “fraud” or “charlatan”. Now I’m done LOL

    Anyways, love you guys and I think it’s a valid discussion to have. I’m not trying to be a jerk, just interjecting my 2.5 cents.

    Michael, your degree will be hard-fought and well-earned and I’m proud of you for doing it. You will make a great Anglican, but truth-be-told, the degree doesn’t make you who you are and is just formal validation of the man you already are.

  30. Josh the Baptist says:

    I understand your point, Alex, it’s just noth the legal definition.

    If someone pays for a degree and doesn’t have to do any course work…there is no honest way to call that an earned degree. You are only allowed a certain ammount ofr transfer hours between accredited schools! You are arguing for 100% transfer hours, with zero actual hours complete. And then, claiming its an earned degree.

    Not in this universe.

  31. Josh the Baptist says:

    I agree too, that the degree doesn’t make you…

    But then one must ask why Boykin felt the need to pay $4,800 for one? If he wanted the degree, I’m sure he COULD have earned it. It would be hard and more expensive, but he is capable.

  32. em... again says:

    i think we’re called out in Scripture for giving standing (within the Church) to people that we see as having worldly “status” – so some of the onus is on us… but even some earned Phd.s in my view don’t deserve very much honor or respect…
    why can’t we have something like the British do to honor their celebrities… a Christian version of knighthood?… LOL Sir William Graham does sound better than Dr. Billy Graham IMV

    just sayin…

  33. Alex says:

    Josh, I agree that in Boykin’s case it is more akin to an honorary degree. But, “earned” is a relative term. Did he earn it through life experience? All the books he wrote? All the projects he’s headed?

    yes, in some context, he has. and to his Group, he has. To another Group, probably not.

  34. Josh the Baptist says:

    Em, I agree, and I think the Highest title one could place before my name is “Brother”.

  35. Josh the Baptist says:

    ” But, “earned” is a relative term.”

    No, not in the academic world. It actually means something that he has not done.

  36. Duane Arnold says:

    #32 Em

    When the Brits give an honorary degree it is listed behind their name as – (Hon.) DD

  37. Josh the Baptist says:

    Alex, you are smart, and I appreciate that you respect this guy. Maybe he’s older and ignorant of how all this works?

    But look at the schools website. Phoenix School of Theology, NOT University of Phoenix.

    There are no classes. He doesn’t deserve to be called Doctor on the basis of a piece of paper they gave him.

  38. Josh the Baptist says:

    “When the Brits give an honorary degree it is listed behind their name as – (Hon.) DD”

    And that’s really the only honest way to do it. I mean, if he was claiming an MD based on life experience, we’d throw him in jail.

  39. Duane Arnold says:

    #33 Alex

    Steve Jobs, a college dropout, I think we would all agree, was remarkable in design, tech, marketing, finance, etc. He was given multiple honorary degrees.

    He never called himself, “Dr. Jobs”. Sometimes the children of this generation are wiser than the children of light…

  40. em... again says:

    #10 – is a good ponder – valid points… IMHO – many a higher degree has been earned meeting absolutely useless requirements demanded by the education demagogue in charge

  41. Josh the Baptist says:

    No, em. If you are going to claim the titles from the academic world, you have to play by their rules. It is dishonest otherwise.

  42. em... again says:

    this thread reminds me of a conversation/introduction i once overheard:
    person 1 -“Let me introduce myself – I am Dr. so and so.”
    person 2 – “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dr. what is your specialty?”
    person 1 – “College Administration.”
    person 2 (with academic credentials of his own) – “Oh, then you’re not a real doctor?”
    true story

  43. Michael says:

    I’ve seen the finished products of just some of Duane’s degrees.

    The work that had to into it is mind boggling.

    My friend pstrmike has earned two Masters degrees and is working on his doctorate…and the time, money, and study, he’s investing is exhausting just to watch.

    Let me say again how proud I am and how much respect I have for Josh…may his tribe increase…

  44. JM says:

    When I finished my bachelor’s degree (as an adult) I was able to “challenge” any course the school offered. In doing so, I had to meet the requirements of the school in proving that I knew the coursework. I challenged 5 classes and got credit for them all, but it was a very rigorous activity. One professor called me and gave me a final exam on the phone for the course. Another one required a 50 page paper on the subject matter which was outlined for me. I forget what the others required. So, I got 25 credits by doing this, but I still had to complete the rest of the credits in order to graduate.

    I do believe there’s a difference between just giving credit for what you know and proving that you know the material in a college course. Seems more legit to me.

  45. em... again says:

    #36 – now that you mention it – an honest and great approach BTW – i think, at one time here in the U.S. we did the same… ? … a good person would be proud to hold that designation, i’d think … dunno

  46. Michael says:

    JM @ 44… exactly.

  47. Josh the Baptist says:

    I’ve been in ministry 20 years. I could get a “life experience” Mdiv. (Not from any of the seminaries I’d be interested in having a degree from, but still.)

    I told you all about my nightmares with Hebrew last semester (I got an A! Lucky me summer semester starts Tuesday!)

    For most of my schooling I’ve made a point to not let it interrupt my time with my kids. Last semester was doozy, and with deadlines looming, and other non-school issues taking up time, I sat in my office all day one Saturday translating Hebrew. My 9 year old son stood at the door with a ball in his hand.
    “I don’t even understand why you are doing this, just for a doctor’s degree. It’s not even the kind of doctor that works on sick people.”
    I didn’t have the heart to tell him that this wasn’t even for a “doctor’s degree”,and that degree would be much worse than this.

    No. Not much respect for the life-experience Phd.

  48. Josh the Baptist says:

    JM – That is legitimate and completely different than what is being described here.

  49. Duane Arnold says:

    #47 Josh

    Congrats! Let’s petition Michael for Hebrew font for the comments… you can translate!
    That is fantastic…

  50. Josh the Baptist says:

    Why do you and Kevin want to torture me so? 🙂

  51. em... again says:

    #41 – Josh, i wasn’t belittling the person getting the degree through hard work – i was speaking to the fact that many, not all, colleges require course work that has no value to person earning the degree, but serves the interests of the college, itself… life can be narrow, however it is not straight in this world, or so it seems to me 🙂

  52. Xenia says:

    Even those earned degrees…. I always wonder how much of the work is done by the church secretary.

  53. Michael says:


    If I introduced a Hebrew font, we might not see Josh for a long time… 🙂

  54. Josh the Baptist says:

    @ 52 – I don’t personally know of any cases like that.

  55. Michael says:


    “Even those earned degrees…. I always wonder how much of the work is done by the church secretary.”

    I could name names…seriously…

  56. Kevin H says:

    “Why do you and Kevin want to torture me so?”

    You’re the one who brought up the Rapture. 🙂

  57. Duane Arnold says:

    #52 Xenia

    As this was in the old days, my dear wife helped me lay out the 400+ 3×5 cards for the bibliography in alphabetical order… got to give credit where credit id due…

  58. Josh the Baptist says:

    I hope when I get raptured, God isn’t speaking Hebrew. 🙂

  59. em... again says:

    FWIW – i think folk like Dr. Duane and Josh and Michael ought to have a degree designation that they did it the hard way 🙂 EXDD for extreme doctor of divinity? lol

  60. Kevin H says:


    Maybe God will give us a break and will speak plain old American to us at the Rapture. But maybe he’ll rapture you and MLD into the same cloud – should make for some fun conversation. 🙂

  61. Josh the Baptist says:

    Em, I agree 🙂

    Kev – If I get raptured with MLD, I will laugh harder than I ever laughed on earth. That will be perfect!

  62. em... again says:

    #52 – i won’t name names, but i do know a highly placed executive who bragged that his work was done by the person that he partnered with for his dissertation and that was from a major institution

  63. em... again says:

    #58 – ahem, i hate to bring this up for those who have worked to learn other languages, but God can have us all speaking whatever language He wants then – remember the tower of babel?

  64. Xenia says:

    I don’t know of any actual stories but it’s easy to imagine a
    pastor saying to the church secretary, “Hey Barbara, in your spare time could type up a few things for me…. Here’s the MLA handbook.”

  65. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I thought at the rapture all you hear is the dog whistle? 😉

  66. Josh the Baptist says:

    Is that from the Kirk Cameron version of Left Behind, or the Nic Cage? I’ll have to rewatch to know for sure.

  67. Steve Wright says:

    Just a note that there are some serious challenges in securing and maintaining accreditation that in many ways have zero to do with the quality of academic effort taking place. The Dean of my seminary was the main guy who went to those meetings and updates and he shared some interesting requirements with me from time to time.

    Sort of a pain since the seminary was certainly committed to keeping its accreditation, but sometimes scratching its head as to the academic “need” for some of the requirements. But hey, such is any bureaucracy. The people who get a paycheck from these agencies have to mix it up from time to time I am sure.

    Now, all that being said, the institution that is serious about the level of education they give their students, in my opinion, should make every effort to secure accreditation as it is the best FOR THE STUDENT when it comes to opening the most doors for their future. I have no doubt that my Psalms class I taught would pass muster with any accreditation agency for the undergraduate program for which I taught.

    I lived this myself when I pursued a calling to chaplain ministry in the Army (which was then given up to help out at Elsinore). The Army had specific requirements on the institutions it would recognize in terms of the Masters degrees offered.

  68. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, LOL – it comes up when you discuss with people the “secret” rapture – all of the noise that is described in the text (which is one of my reasons for these being descriptions of the resurrection) – but they will say only the Christians will hear because it is like a dog whistle – others can’t hear as it is on a special christian wave length.

    Or so the story goes. 😉

  69. Kevin H says:


    You are right in pointing out that just because a school may lack accreditation does not automatically mean that it is a bad quality school. Certainly there are schools out there that provide solid programs and a solid education who may lack accreditation for varying circumstantial reasons. So we shouldn’t just assume a bad or weak school with the lack of accreditation.

    The schools that Boykin and Barton got their “degrees” from, upon some investigation, would not seem to fit the category of “solid” schools.

  70. Kevin H says:


    So are you saying that Christian dogs will be the only ones able to hear and respond to the Rapture whistle?

  71. Kevin H says:

    What about the cats? If they’re Left Behind, that might make Michael upset? 🙂

  72. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    No worries – they will be cared for.

  73. Duane Arnold says:

    Almost (note, I say almost) all reputable theological schools are accredited by The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) which you can find out about here:

    In the UK, only schools under Royal Charter can grant degrees and are evaluated by a Royal Commission at stated intervals. The quality of theology departments in these universities tends to vary according the leadership attracted at any given time.

  74. Steve Wright says:

    Duane, I hear your point, but I think there is a difference between speaking of what may be described as the gold standard of accreditation versus talking about “reputable” (I saw the qualifier). If a school is not “reputable” by definition, what would one be saying about that school?

    There are various accrediting agencies that have to pass muster with the US Dept. of Education and member institutions therefore should certainly pass whatever is thought of as “reputable”. For example, a quick search of the DOE website will not show any accreditation for the Phoenix diploma mill mentioned in this article.

    Likewise the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

    My seminary (as one might guess) was/is not an ATS member, but nonetheless was considered reputable enough for the US Military to train its future chaplains who are serving our troops.

    In an article about diploma mills, I would hesitate to call most (if not all) non ATS schools less than “reputable”.

  75. JD says:

    I earned my PhD when I was 15 years old. (Post hole Digger). Much more to be desired than those other high-falutin’ theological PhDs. (Piled higher & Deeper).

  76. Jean says:

    To me, a theological school would only be reputable if it taught true doctrine. It is not the mission of ATS to police doctrine, so I grant an ATS accreditation of zero use. We’ve also seen that so-called prominent seminaries are teaching false doctrine.

    If I were searching or advising a future student, I would direct them to their denomination or a few trusted and respected theologians for advice on which schools to look at. I’m afraid that when it comes to theological studies, word of mouth may be the best due diligence one can do.

  77. Josh the Baptist says:

    ATS is the oldest of the theological accrediting agencies, and perhaps the “Gold Standard”, but TRACS, ABHE, DEAC are the only four that are recognized by the USDE. All of these are national accreditation, which does not hold the weight of regional accreditation. (Most schools accredited by ATS are also regionally accredited.)

    But, in the eyes of the govt, those 4 are equal. One is eligible for federal loans if the seminary has any of those 4. Accepting credits and getting jobs are up to the receiving institutions.

    Jean does have a point, that ATS, TRACS, or whatever does not make a good Biblical school. These are more about financial accountability, rigor, and which degrees professors have than content of classes.

  78. Jean says:


    Can I quote you: “Jean does have a point”?

    Please? 🙂

  79. Josh the Baptist says:

    Did I say that?!? 🙂

    Sorry for the diatribe on accreditation. I did some serious study on it several years ago when deciding where to go. Obviously, what you are planning to do has something to do with where you choose. If you hope to teach religion at a State University, definitely get a phd from a regionally accredited school. If you’d like to teach in a Bible college or seminary, there are other options. If you want to be a SBC pastor…etc.

    If you just want to be called doctor, I guess Phoenix will do. 🙂

  80. Jean says:


    “If you just want to be called doctor, I guess Phoenix will do.”

    I don’t know what degrees Young MC might have, but he has a practical perspective:

    “I’m a jack of all trades, and a master of three:
    Rockin’ the tables, rockin’ the mics, and rockin’ the young ladies”

  81. Steve Wright says:

    Josh, 4 factors for me were (in no particular order),
    1. Doctrinal Statement
    2. Approved by military for chaplaincy (of course this was a must so I guess it was number one)
    3. Distance as I still was raising and supporting a family, working fulltime. (Settled for a 3 hour round trip drive each school night, getting home around midnight)
    4. Tuition (This eliminated the ATS approved Biola which was much closer in distance. Paid my way through with no debt)

    All that sort of was thrown in the mix.

  82. Duane Arnold says:

    #76 Jean

    Concordia is ATS accredited…

  83. Duane Arnold says:

    #74 Steve

    I did a “qualifier” with intention. I recognize the issues involved, and I am not casting aspersions. I’m just indicating that there are accepted standards, as you yourself state. The gap between any accredited institution and those which are not accredited is huge.

    All this being said, I’m still ready to hear someone with no formal education whatsoever speak the truth from a pulpit and recognize it as truth… but in doing that, he will not need to claim something that is not true with regard to his education or training.

  84. Steve Wright says:

    Duane, fully agree on the gap issue. I am arguing the gap between ATS accreditation and a different accreditation like Josh mentioned is reduced (if it exists at all, depending on the school). Certainly as to “reputable”

    And yeah, as you might guess from my CC roots, the truth is the thing to me also, not the pastoral credentials. That said, I rejoice at the many CC pastors that are pursuing higher education to better serve God’s people.

  85. Duane Arnold says:


    Check the other thread… would appreciate your prayers…

  86. Josh the Baptist says:

    But Young MC could also bust a move…

    Yeah, don’t know where that is going 🙂

    There is no standard to be a SBC pastor. No education, no ordination necessary.

    Being called myself, I can’t imagine not wanting to learn more and be more prepared, but I can accept that maybe God isn’t leading everyone in that direction.

  87. Duane Arnold says:

    #86 Josh

    You’re doing the right thing… persevere.

  88. Josh the Baptist says:

    Thanks Duane. I know I am for me, and I have great support from my wife and my church. Of course, one my best pastor friends has no degree at all, and is doing well. I talk to him about it, but he just doesn’t feel led in that direction. Were I choosing a church, that would certainly be a factor in my choice. But again, God uses different ways to reach different people.

  89. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I like accreditation – it shows that somebody else from the outside has looked.

    We went through the accreditation process 2 years ago when I was the congregation president. Both our preschool and elementary school. At the end, sitting down with the accreditation team, discussing their findings was fascinating.

    The 6 person accreditation team came from 4 states – and they did not know each other.

    I remember with CC they used to brag about not being accredited and vowed not to – not sure why other than the state is the great whore and they could not be bound with the state.

  90. Descended says:

    Did Drucker ever get an honorary degree in religious marketing? He should have…

    Diploma Mills are akin to plagiarism. Awful, synthetic, hollow, and nobody in Christendom cares because because they care not where they get their nourishment nor who is mixing it for them.

    Theology at Phoenix University…

    Where do I sign up?

  91. Xenia says:

    For a time, I was involved in getting our local CC high school accredited. At first the CC pastor was resistant, being of the “We don’t need the approval of man” mindset. The process brought to light many irregularities that would never have been corrected if an outside organization hadn’t insisted on it. For example, there was no system to insure student records would be preserved for more than a few years or that the teachers were actually qualified to teach their subjects. It was amateur-ville for the first few years and would have stayed that way if some of us hadn’t pushed for accreditation.

    That church used to sponsor a campus for the CC Bible College and one day they threw away all the student records. That would not have been allowed if the Bible school had been accredited. Now, if any former student wanted to finish up the program at the main campus or elsewhere he would have to start from scratch as there are no record of the classes he took.

    My own beloved Orthodox Institute went on a one year hiatus and is just getting back to business next month.

    One thing accreditation does is insure continuity. You can pay your tuition with some kind of expectation that the school will be around long enough to grant the diploma or degree and that other people will recognize your diploma or degree as valid.

  92. David H says:

    If I had asked for my Grad Avisor to give me credit for “life experience,” he would have laughed hysterically, and shown me the door. As he said, “you will earn your degree when you are have mastered Russian history, at the same level that a surgeon has has mastered the human body.” I didn’t finish my dissertation, so I am not the holder of a doctorate. I am not going to pretend I’m close by the acrostic ABD. I know history and social science theory, but shall not practice it because in that profession, I am not a master. If I presented myself as as PhD I would be a fraud and a charlatan.

    But, I still teach. I love my at risk high school kids.

  93. Duane Arnold says:

    Of course, you could always attend “Swag Seminary”….

  94. Kevin H says:

    Yes, Duane, but are they accredited? 🙂

  95. Josh the Baptist says:

    They are working on their own accreditation.

  96. Josh the Baptist says:

    basically, they’ll appoint some of their swag friends to their accreditation committee…and we’re full circle on the conversation 🙂

  97. Steve Wright says:


    Here’s the interesting thing in my story. I had been teaching in a variety of ministries for 8 years, had been ordained for over 5 years, was pastoring a small church we planted from a home Bible study, when I felt the calling to chaplain ministry.

    I am a big education guy anyway (as to its value), and had often looked into pursuing the MDiv but it is awful hard to make that commitment of time and money (and family sacrifice) when one does not “HAVE” to do so. The military of course required a Masters degree before I could sign up (it did not have to be the MDiv but I figured if I was going in this direction I would spend the extra year to get the MDiv). Thus, I now did HAVE to, if I was going to pursue the call of God on my life.

    Of course, God knows the end from the beginning, and knows that He would later use me to step in at Elsinore in their need (assuming I heard His call right on that score). So why “trick” me (for lack of a better word) about the chaplaincy? Well…it forced me to get the MDiv, didn’t it?

    And that is a decision I will never regret. The value in a variety of aspects is tremendous and you are doing the right thing – especially since you have the support of your family.

  98. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh and Kevin…

    Funny and, (not funny) probably true!

    Just to agree with Steve Wright (alert the media!) it is worth it. The hardest part are those who don’t see the value and ask, “Why are you doing this?” That, however, passes with time.The other thing is, (this to Josh) enjoy it while you are in the process. Later on in your ministry you’ll think back on current days with nostalgia and fondness.

  99. Steve Wright says:

    Here’s a value not probably thought of immediately.

    The teaching of humility.

    1. To be exposed to scholarly professors who probably forgot more theology than you know. Not to mention fellow students who are pursuing the same degree as you and yet are quite knowledgeable.

    2. To be exposed to criticism. To be told (by the above) that your arguments have (Biblical) holes, or your presentation of your beliefs is arrogant and uncharitable.

    3. To be judged. As in graded. Including being told, “you are wrong” – because sometimes not all interpretations are possible, especially when the original languages say something you never knew from your English-only background.

    4. To be forced to submit to assignments and requirements you personally feel are at best, meaningless to your particular call for ministry, or at worse, quite stupid and a waste of time. But to do this as unto the Lord.

    There is a reason that the typical pastoral bullies out there have never gone through such an experience. They plant their churches, the churches grow, and they have nobody in their ministry life who has ever told them, “no” – but HAVE had hundreds if not thousands of people compliment their “great teaching” and “knowledge of the Bible” over years and years of time.

  100. Josh the Baptist says:

    I do love the learning. I get overwhelmed at times, generally the end of semesters, but I love the material. Languages, theology, history, textual criticism, hermeneutics…all of it. I have thoroughly enjoyed.

    “1. To be exposed to scholarly professors who probably forgot more theology than you know. Not to mention fellow students who are pursuing the same degree as you and yet are quite knowledgeable.”

    That is so true. One thing to be an adept facebook apologist. Another to take your weak stuff to a guy (like Duane) who says, “Well, I’ve studied papyrus fragment R22, and I can tell you”…(fictitious fragment to magnify my ignorance), and then you’re just like, yeah, I’m pretty much done here.

  101. John 20:29 says:

    in my long life i have seen academics that were full of facts and that was it – no discernment, no awareness of reality just facts – myopic might be the word, dunno
    without the degrees, they would be like other folk who can barely function in the adult world

    then there are academics that can take all those facts necessary to claim to be an academic and turn them into a sometimes stunning perspective on life… i think that these scholars are made of the same basic stuff that other people, without exposure to the demands of higher education, develop competency and common sense from life’s experiences

    how much credence should be given to both categories? all God’s creation, yes… but …

    just passing thru and … sayin … again 🙂

  102. Duane Arnold says:

    Steve and Josh,

    Ok, record the day… agreeing with Steve Wright twice in one day!

    The first time I was exposed to the British tutorial system was revelatory. Five doctoral candidates seated around a table with the Prof. at the end. I thought I was pretty good, well prepped in seminary and seminars at Notre Dame, etc….. Boy, did I get smacked down! Guys (and girls) from Oxford and Cambridge with First class degrees in theology already engaged with primary source materials. I realized that I wasn’t the smartest kid on the block… and that was good!

    Part of the journey is knowing how much you don’t know. If you’re wise, you can use that revelation to realize that education is really about “learning to learn”… and there’s always more to learn out there…

  103. John 20:29 says:

    “Part of the journey is knowing how much you don’t know. If you’re wise, you can use that revelation to realize that education is really about “learning to learn”… and there’s always more to learn out there…”

    i wish we could tattoo that on everyone in the United States who likes to call themselves “educators…” sometimes i think that our modern system has borrowed from the military the concept that you salute the uniform whether the wearer of same deserves it or not…

    i love what you’re describing around the table WITH that qualified professor …

    maybe there’s hope for both the Church and this nation, if what’s presented here by you folks can become the standard again…

  104. David H says:

    Steve Wright – “Part of the journey is knowing how much you don’t know. If you’re wise, you can use that revelation to realize that education is really about ‘learning to learn’… and there’s always more to learn out there…”

    Absolutely right. Even today, I keep learning things. Learning opens doors to so much. I hope that someday I can go back to a university and finish that doctorate.

    My dad was a huge advocate of learning, and education. He once said, “An education is something they cannot take away from you.”

  105. Josh the Baptist says:

    I’m also seeing it as an issue of stewardship. I’m always telling my kids that it is honoring to God to do your best. In whatever you are doing, God has given you certain skills or abilities, and is is a testimony to Him to use those to the fullest. That’s part of my thing. Trying to keep the ole gray stuff from turning to mush.

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