Online PhD in Theology and Apologetics

A doctoral degree in Theology and Apologetics equips students with the knowledge, skills and experience to properly defend and effectively teach Christian theological beliefs and doctrines. Through relevant courses and seminars, continuous training, mentoring and collaboration with accomplished divinity leaders, students of online PhD programs in Theology and Apologetics will gain the ability to defend their faith in a concrete and influential manner. Most online PhD programs require a master's degree in Divinity, Ministry or Theology, or in a related field such as: Liturgical Studies; Pastoral Counseling; Pastoral Care and Counseling; Thanatology; Ministry Leadership; or Religion. Individuals who seek an online doctoral degree in Theology and Apologetics may have experience in a variety of related fields such as social services, philosophy, world religious studies, counseling, or church leadership roles. Online PhD programs in Theology and Apologetics typically take about three to seven years to complete. During the course of study, students will be expected to present detailed analyses of existing theoretical thoughts and proposals of original philosophical studies and social concepts. Some online doctoral programs offer specializations and concentrations such as Pastoral Counseling, Liturgical Studies, Sacramental Theology, Religion and Culture, Comparative and Social Ethics, or Law and Religion.

About Online PhD Programs in Theology and Apologetics

Online doctoral programs in Theology & Apologetics are usually more interactive than traditional courses. Doctoral candidates are expected to participate in weekly discussion boards, group projects, study scholarly readings, and write lengthy papers. In addition to course work, Theology and Apologetics PhD candidates must conduct in-depth research within their area of interest and write a dissertation reporting the findings and discussing future implications. Doctoral candidates are expected to complete a research and language competency as well as comprehensive examinations in coursework. Some schools, such as Liberty University Online, require that the PhD in Theology and Apologetics be completed within 7 years.

Year One:

  • Research Methods and Teaching in Christian Higher Education. At this course offered by Liberty University Online, students become familiarized with research strategies, dissertation topic selection and form and style for research papers. Students are also encouraged to learn about syllabus development, lesson planning, and evaluation of student progress for both live instruction and distance learning.
  • Apologetic Method. This course involves a detailed study of major Christian apologetic methodologies and an emphasis on the structure and defense of a personal apologetic strategy.
  • Miracles. In this seminar, also offered by Liberty University Online, students examine classic and modern arguments against miraculous occurrences, particularly the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Seminar in Theological Method. This course asks students to analyze theological methods in different traditions and persuasions and scrutinize the various kinds of biblical, systematic and contemporary theologies.

Year Two:

  • Bibliology. This course examines the doctrine of scripture, its inerrancy and inspiration.
  • The Problem of Evil, Pain and Suffering. This seminar examines the problem of evil in classical apologetics and the serious challenges to Christian theism from both philosophy and apologetics.
  • Reading Seminar in Systematic Theology. In this course, students are expected to read up to thirty books and treatises and evaluate, critique and write critical reviews of assigned works.

Year Three:

  • Modern Apologetic Issues. This course examines current issues in apologetics including pluralism, open theism, biblical documents and the validity of religious truth claims.
  • Directed Research in Apologetics. For advanced doctoral candidates in good academic standing, this independent research course allows students to work one on one with an advisor in developing a proposal for guided Apologetics research.
  • Seminar in Modern Theologies and Theologians. The subject matter of this seminar course may vary from semester to semester, but students generally focus on the work of a select theologian or theological movement.

Doctoral candidates in most online PhD programs in Theology and Apologetics are expected to fulfill a language competency requirement by passing a German language test as well as a French or Latin examination. Students must also complete a research competency in addition to core theology and apologetics courses, six seminar courses in Apologetics, Biblical Studies, Church History, or Theology. Once the course component is completed, students must take two examinations: one in Theology and Apologetics and the other on the completed seminar courses. Finally, students are required to take 9 hours in dissertation courses, with 6 hours being in dissertation proposal and research and the final three credits being based on dissertation defense.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Theology and Apologetics

A doctoral degree in Theology and Apologetics is the highest level of education one can pursue in a classically revered and well-respected profession. Because a master's degree in a theology-related field is required for admission into most online doctoral programs in Theology and Apologetics, the student not only has the benefit of increasing his or her knowledge of religious studies, but is also able to defend his or her faith and effectively teach its doctrines to others in an academic environment. Earning a doctoral degree online also shows a willingness to adapt and possibly develop church organizations and institutions into a more contemporary mindset. While this is valuable in some circles, it is important to note that more traditional theologists may frown upon earning a degree through distance learning. Similarly, there are a number of unaccredited theological schools and seminaries offering degrees over the internet. For this reason, it is especially important to research online PhD programs before you decide on one. One way to make sure a program is legitimate is by making sure the institution is accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.

Application & Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission into most online PhD programs, such as Liberty University Online's Theology and Apologetics program, applicants must submit a completed application, a $50 application fee and official post secondary transcripts. They must possess a bachelor's and master's degree (Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, or Master of Arts) from an accredited institution and have maintained a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.25. Applicants must also submit GRE and Miller's Analogies Test (MAT) scores. Also to be submitted to be considered for acceptance in the program are three recommendation letters, two from graduate school instructors and one from someone within the ministry; a personal statement; a 30-page writing sample which may be a chapter from the applicant's master's thesis, and a professional vita.

Career Options & Job Market

An online PhD in Theology and Apologetics can lead to career advancements and higher earnings upon graduation. Doctoral graduates can use their expertise in effectively teaching their faith to others in an academic, congregational or community environment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for clergy professionals is expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations by 2018. Career opportunities include:

  • Senior Pastor. The Senior Pastor preaches, teaches, officiates over special services, and supervises the administration and management of all areas of the congregation’s ministry. The average salary is $48, 141.
  • Church Administrator. The church administrator generally oversees the church office staff, as well as financial, personnel, and property management. The average salary is $35,000.
  • University Professor. Professors instruct and mentor students on a wide range of post secondary divinity courses. Economists predict that jobs for post secondary teachers will grow faster than the average for all careers through 2018. The average salary for full-time faculty is $79, 439.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Part-time online tuition for the doctoral program at Liberty University is currently $508. For full-time online students, current tuition is $455 per credit hour. Different rates apply for different semesters, and there are technology fees as well. Liberty University students are eligible for grants and scholarships that are exclusive to online students. Theological organizations, such as The Fund for Theological Education as well as churches are another avenue to explore when looking for divinity school funding. There are also divinity scholarships for various ethnic groups, scholarships for students with disabilities, scholarships based on religious affiliations, as well as scholarships for students in the military.

Essential Advice

  • Weigh your options and do the research. You'll need to know for sure whether an additional degree will increase your earning potential more than a bachelor's or master's degree in a similar field would.
  • Try to obtain a scholarship, fellowship or grant. Studying at a PhD level is costly, and you may not be able to predict how many years it will take you to complete it.
  • Talk to current doctoral candidates and graduates about course load, time management, what admission materials they submitted, and so on. This is the best way to learn if the program is right for you.
  • Check the school's credentials. Once you find a program, make sure it is accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.