Master of Theology (ThM)

Master of Theology (ThM)

This course of study expands and deepens a student’s abilities in ministry. It is designed for students who possess a Master of Divinity degree (or its equivalent) to help them take their learning to a higher level.

It can be used as a terminal degree (especially the classes-only track), or as a transitional degree (especially the classes-plus-thesis track) for those wishing to pursue additional graduate studies, particularly a PhD program in religion or theology.

Objectives

You will learn to:

  • Exegete individual passages of Scripture accurately, employing understanding of the original languages, historical circumstances, and literary and theological relationships
  • Articulate the major issues of faith and life that the church has confronted throughout its history
  • Articulate confessional Reformed theology on exegetical, biblical, and theological grounds
  • Systematize exegetical, historical and theological data into a consistent and coherent theology, and explain how theology applies to personal and church beliefs and actions.
  • Demonstrate leadership abilities in ecclesiastical and academic environments, especially in relating these truths to the church today.
  • Respond with biblical discernment to contemporary trends in biblical interpretation and apply a sound Christian worldview to contemporary cultural issues that impact the church today.
  • Understand, analyze and respond to current trends and crises in specialized disciplines and contribute new vistas of thought to these issues.
  • Demonstrate an ability to apply biblical and theological studies to ministry, whether pastoral or academic.
  • Demonstrate academic competence in the chosen field of study, including proficiency in the methods and tools of theological research and writing by conducting graduate level research and evidencing skills of critical analysis.

Admission Requirements

It is recommended that applications for admission to the ThM degree program at PRTS be received by the Admission Office by May 1 for the fall semester and by September 1 for the spring semester. Applications received after either of these dates may be considered, but we cannot ensure that immigration forms for international students will be satisfactorily processed should the applicant be admitted after these dates.

Application requirements for the ThM program include:

  • A completed online application form.
  • Two letters of recommendation: an ecclesiastical letter of recommendation from the pastor or consistory (i.e., session or council) of the church of which the applicant is a member, and an academic letter of recommendation from a professor (preferably in the area specified as the major for the ThM degree), under whose guidance the applicant has pursued studies.
  • Evidence of the possession of a Master of Divinity Degree or its equivalent (evidenced by official transcripts). If, at the time of application, the applicant has not completed his previous degree work, any admission to PRTS would be conditional on the completion of the degree. Evidence of this degree should be presented prior to enrolling in any ThM coursework. Official transcripts of all academic work beyond high school must be sent directly to the seminary; they are not to come from the applicant unless supplied in sealed envelopes. If more than one college or institution was attended, transcripts from each institution must be sent.
  • Application essay. All applicants must submit a short essay (250–500 words) explaining why they are applying to PRTS.
  • An academic writing sample, preferably a research paper previously submitted in a graduate-level course. This sample may be a previously written paper, article, or essay that demonstrates proper citation methods and ability to construct, in English, a graduate-level paper.
  • TOEFL or IELTS results. All ESL (English as a Second Language) students are required to submit their TOEFL or IELTS score. PRTS requires a minimum of 85 on the internet-based TOEFL. The IELTS equivalent required is 6.5. The PRTS reporting code is 0368.
  • Application fee of $50. The application fee will be applied as a credit towards tuition if the applicant is accepted.

Each applicant:

  • is subject to all the admission and registration regulations of the institution;
  • is responsible to determine whether a current institution will accept credit earned at PRTS, if desired;
  • must understand that falsification of any part of an application may result in cancellation of admission and/or registration at the institution;
  • if transferring from another seminary, must include with the application form an official transcript of their current seminary work, syllabi of courses requesting to be transferred, and an academic catalog from that institution.

Residency Requirement

At least one-half of the coursework towards the ThM must be completed through on-campus classes (modular or intensive-style courses qualify as on-campus courses). As many of the ThM courses are offered via modular format (usually intensive week-long courses), this means the accepted ThM student does not have to relocate to complete the ThM program. Completion of the program will require, however, a number of week-long trips back and forth to Grand Rapids.

Up to one-half of the coursework may be completed through a combination of: 1) live-streamed courses (i.e., courses that virtually “meet” synchronously with on-campus classes);2) independent studies (a maximum of two courses can be taken as independent study); or 3) transfer of credit from another institution.

Areas of Concentration

ThM students will choose a concentration in one of three areas:

  • Biblical Studies
  • Reformation and Post-Reformation Theology
  • Systematic Theology.

 

Each of these concentrations is designed for either pastors desiring advanced training beyond the MDiv, or students desiring to pursue further graduate studies. Students choosing a ThM in Biblical Studies must demonstrate competency in Hebrew and Greek, having completed a minimum of one year of biblical Hebrew and one year of biblical Greek. It is particularly the purpose of this concentration to sharpen exegetical skills, to learn to employ effectively the discipline of Biblical Theology for scriptural study and exposition, and to be able to defend the integrity and authority of Scripture.

ThM Requirements and Time-frame of Completion

All credit hours for the ThM program must be completed within six (6) years of matriculation; any exception must be approved by the president and academic dean.

The ThM degree can be earned following one of two tracks: either the classes-only track, or the classes-plus-thesis track. The first is designed for those intending the degree to be terminal; the second for those intending the degree to be transitional to further graduate study (such as a PhD).

Both tracks of the ThM require a total of 30 credits; the requirements for each track are as follows:

Classes-only Track (30 Credits)

The classes-only track of the ThM requires the following for completion:

  • Research Methodology course (either BS900 or CH900) – 3 credits
  • At least 18 credits of coursework (six courses) selected from courses offered in chosen concentration
  • Up to 9 credits of coursework (three courses) selected from courses offered outside of chosen concentration
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Successful completion and passing of comprehensive exam at end of program.
  • Completion of program within six years of matriculation.

Classes-plus-thesis Track (30 Credits)

The classes-plus-thesis track of the ThM requires the following for completion:

  • Research Methodology course (either BS900 or CH900) – 3 credits
  • At least 15 credits of coursework (five courses) selected from courses offered in chosen concentration
  • Up to 6 credits of coursework (two courses) selected from courses offered outside of chosen concentration
  • Completion of six-credit thesis (enrolled in final semester of program)
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Successful completion and passing of comprehensive exam at end of program.
  • Completion of program within six years of matriculation.

 

NB: All accepted ThM students are first admitted to the classes-only track of the ThM. If the student desires during the program to pursue a ThM by the  thesis-plus-classes track, the student may apply to the faculty for permission to do so providing the successful completion of the Research Methodology course and at least one other three-credit ThM course. See the “Thesis Requirements” section below for more information.

Qualifying Credits toward the ThM

ThM credits can be earned as follows:

  • Completion of paired ThM and MA/MDiv courses. ThM students choosing paired courses will follow separate syllabus requirements than the MA/MDiv student. These courses are listed under the ThM courses section of the catalog.
  • Completion of ThM-specific courses, or courses paired with the PhD program. ThM-level classes (or ThM/PhD classes) will be offered in the above-mentioned concentrations (see course descriptions below). Usually these classes will be administered as modular courses, and will typically meet
    for an intensive week of classes.
  • The thesis: Students accepted by the faculty into the ThM by classes and thesis track will write a 100–200 page thesis on a topic related to the student’s concentration, and approved by the appropriate faculty supervisor. The thesis is valued at 6 credits.

In order to maximize benefit to resident ThM students attending PRTS on scholarships, all such students are expected to audit one MDiv course a semester, the course to be chosen in consultation with the registrar. They are also encouraged to attend at least one practice preaching session a week and
participate in the subsequent discussion. There will be no charge for auditing these courses.

Thesis Requirements

The fol­low­ing steps out­line the require­ments for those matric­u­lat­ing in the thesis-track pro­gram as of the fall semes­ter of the 2013–14 aca­d­e­mic year:

  1. All students accepted into the ThM program are accepted into the course-based track of the ThM. In order to enter the thesis-based track of the ThM, the student, after successfully completing the Research Methodology course and at least one other course with a grade of “B” or higher, must make application to the academic dean by presenting a 2-page pro­posal of the the­sis topic. The aca­d­e­mic dean will then bring this initial proposal to the entire fac­ulty for consideration.
  2. If the initial pro­posal is accepted by the faculty, the reg­is­trar will be informed and the stu­dent will then be enrolled in the 6-credit the­sis and be assigned a the­sis advi­sor; in most cases this enrollment in the 6-credit thesis will occur in the student’s final semester. Finan­cial oblig­a­tions for enroll­ment in the the­sis will be treated as enroll­ment in any other course.
  3. The stu­dent will next present to the thesis advisor a 10-page prospec­tus of the the­sis which must include: jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the the­sis, delim­i­ta­tions, review of lit­er­a­ture rel­e­vant to topic, a syn­op­sis of chap­ter devel­op­ment detail­ing the over­all method­ol­ogy, and out­line of the­sis. Much of this can serve as intro­duc­tory mate­r­ial for the final draft.
  4. The stu­dent must present his or her thoughts and research in an accept­able style and for­mat. The for­mat­ting is accord­ing to Kate L. Tura­bian: A Man­ual for Writ­ers of Term Papers, The­ses, and Dis­ser­ta­tions (8th ed.).
  5. The stu­dent should sub­mit chap­ters to his or her advi­sor as they are com­pleted for input and pos­si­ble revisions.
  6. Dead­lines for graduation or conferral of degree:
    1. The stu­dent must sub­mit the 100–200 page the­sis to his or her faculty advisor by the last Monday in September (for a December conferral of the degree) or by the first Mon­day in Feb­ru­ary (for a May graduation); at this time a sec­ond reader will be assigned.
    2. The final copy (in elec­tronic for­mat – MS Word) must be pre­sented to the reg­is­trar and head librar­ian no later than the last Monday in November (for a December conferral of the degree) or the first Mon­day in April (for a May grad­u­a­tion). This will allow time for the library staff to check for for­mat­ting vio­la­tions and for any final cor­rec­tions to be made. Be sure to read the guidelines for submitting theses to the librarian.
    3. Fail­ure to reach either of the above two dead­lines will result in a delay of the student’s degree conferral or graduation.

Comprehensive Exam

Each ThM student, matriculating in the program as of the fall semester of the 2013–14 academic year, must take a comprehensive examination at the end of the program. This comprehensive exam will focus primarily on the student’s particular concentration. Deadlines for passing the comprehensive examination are stipulated in the academic calendar.

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