PhD in Historical Theology
PhD in Historical Theology
Foundational for the doctoral program at PRTS is the emphasis on both the academic and spiritual formation of the student. There is a growing demand for a comprehensive doctoral program that captures academic rigor and combines this with biblical piety (de pietate cum scientia conjungenda). It is furthermore necessary that a doctoral program serve the ministry of both the academy and church (teaching and preaching). Doctoral programs offered by public and private universities have historically focused on academics; indeed, many schools of the Reformed or evangelical persuasion have transitioned in recent decades from scholarship that demonstrates a vested interest in serving the church, to a program that is merely academically satisfactory. Furthermore, a perceived and sometimes forced dichotomy of the scientia (academics) and pietate (biblical piety) resulted in doctoral programs emphasizing the one over the other, often at the expense of pietate. The growing demand to reunite academic excellence and biblical piety is not only identified in North America, but also throughout the world by those who appreciate the biblical and Reformed doctrines, and desire experiential preaching and teaching.
PRTS seeks to adhere to the Reformed and Puritan tradition of blending learning with piety as exemplified by John Calvin, William Perkins, William Ames, Gisbertus Voetius, Archibald Alexander, and many others. We aim to do so by offering a doctoral program that is distinctive in its academics and biblical piety; this will be evident in the admissions requirements, as well as the program’s academic rigor and spiritual formation components.
The Historical Theology doctoral program offers focused areas of research, including but not limited to:
- Calvin and other Reformers such as Bullinger, Musculus, and Viret
- English Reformation
- Luther and other Lutheran Reformers such as Melanchthon
- Biblical exegesis
- Confessions & Catechisms: Thirty-nine Articles, Belgic Confession of Faith, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort, Westminster, and London Baptist Confession
- English and New England Puritans
- Confessional Anglicanism
- Confessional Baptists
- History of Homiletics
- Lutheran orthodoxy and Pietism
- Protestant scholasticism
- Reformed orthodoxy and piety
In preparing students to serve Christ and His church through biblical, experiential, and practical ministry, the doctoral program of PRTS prepares students to serve in the academy and church through:
- Piety, Preaching, and Publications: Throughout the program students are challenged to grow in their spirituality, and seek a healthy balance between academics and spiritual life; students called to a preaching ministry participate in a homiletics practicum to foster biblical and experiential preaching; and students are encouraged to engage in writing ministry during and upon completion of their studies. This writing ministry unfolds in three ways: publications in scholarly peer-reviewed journals, publications for the edification of the church, and publications designed to instruct the unsaved in a skeptical world. Moreover, the writing of a doctoral thesis keeps in mind a potential monograph for publication.
- Research and Reformed: Students demonstrate an advanced competency in theology—in particular Reformed theology—and mastery of relevant primary and secondary sources in one of the following disciplines: Historical Theology, Biblical Studies, or Homiletics. Students must demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of Reformed intellectual trajectories and traditions.
- Technology and Teaching: Students demonstrate an advanced level use of digital sources, deployment of writing tools, and a God-honoring use of technology, internet, and social media for the dissemination of biblical, experiential, and practical thoughts. Students called to a teaching ministry participate in a teaching practicum.
- Scholarship (academics) and Scholarships (financial): Students are able to engage in international scholarly discourse that demonstrates independent inquiry, primary source research, critical reflection, analysis, and articulation of academic research. Students are also supported as much as possible through available financial scholarships.
Admission to the program shall require a second graduate degree in theology, such as an ATS Board of Commissioners-approved ThM, MTh, or STM. Exceptionally gifted students may be accepted into the program having an ATS Board of Commissioners-approved MDiv, or first graduate degree in theology, such as an MA or MTS. Accepted students with only one graduate degree in theology must demonstrate an equivalent theological background, or its educational equivalent, from an institution of higher education accredited by a US agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or approved by a Canadian quality assurance agency. Comparable degrees from institutions outside North America may be accepted provided schools can demonstrate that they meet the standards of the ATS Board-approved degrees for admission.
To be eligible for admission to the doctoral program, the applicant must:
- be called to the ministry of teaching and/or preaching.
- demonstrate high potential for local and regional influence through future ministry of teaching and preaching after completion of studies.
- posses a second master’s degree in theology from an accredited institute of higher learning, or in exceptional cases, a first master’s degree in theology from an accredited institute of higher learning.
- have teaching and / or preaching experience.
- adhere to the Three Forms of Unity and/or Westminster Standards (apart from a position on paedo- or credobaptism).
Applications for admission to the doctoral program must be submitted no later than April 30 (fall semester start) or October 30 (spring semester start). The applicant will be informed about the decision of the Admissions Committee by the Director of Admissions no later than 8 weeks after the closing date of applications.
The applicant must:
- have had an interview with the President, Program Director, and Director of Admissions.
- submit official and certified transcripts of all post-secondary education (demonstrating the possession of an undergraduate degree and at least a first master’s degree in theology).
- have an academic record with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.50 or higher (or its equivalent).
- submit a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score of 575 or higher in the Verbal and Quantitative sections, and 5.0 or higher in the Analytical Writing component (for tests taken prior to August 1, 2011), or a score of 158 or higher in the Verbal and Quantitative sections, and 5.0 or higher in the Analytical Writing component (for tests taken after August 1, 2011).
- submit a recent CV (curriculum vitae).
- submit a copy of a completed master’s degree thesis or major research paper.
- submit a three-page preliminary dissertation proposal.
- submit two academic references and one ecclesiastical references.
Students are required to be in residence for one-half of the coursework; other required coursework, research, and dissertation writing may be completed off campus. Thus, given that the PhD concentrations each require twelve (12) courses, at least six (6) courses must be taken on campus.
This does not mean, however, that the accepted PhD student must relocate to Grand Rapids for these six (6) classes; rather, the majority of the PhD courses will be offered in modular or intensive (i.e., week-long) format, thus allowing the accepted student to travel back and forth to Grand Rapids, and still fulfill the residency requirement.
Required Coursework and Credits
PhD students in the Historical Theology (Reformation, Post-Reformation) program must take the following courses:
- CH900 Research Methodology – 3 credits
- CH901 Introduction to Reformation and Post-Reformation Studies – 3 credits
- BS/CH/HOM902 Introduction to Reformed Spirituality and Piety – 3 credits
- BS/CH/HOM991 Dissertation Proposal – 3 credits
- BS/CH/HOM992 Teaching/Preaching Practicum – 3 credits
Students must take an additional seven courses for credit of which at least four courses must be from the area of concentration (designated by the prefix CH), one course from another doctoral concentration (either Biblical Studies or Homiletics), and two courses related to the student’s concentration must be taken from an external higher-education institution (an approved course partner of PRTS).
For a full listing of the PhD courses in Historical Theology, see the PhD Handbook.
The following guidelines pertain to the PhD dissertation:
- Students must have an approved dissertation proposal.
- Students will be assigned a supervisor and co-advisor; the student may recommend an external co-advisor to the supervisor and doctoral program committee. The recommendation may or may not be followed by the supervisor and doctoral program committee.
- The dissertation must follow the format provided.
- It is strongly recommended that the dissertation be edited by a professional editor.
- A completed dissertation shall be submitted in electronic format (both Word and PDF), as well as two bound print copies. The electronic and hard copies must be submitted to the registrar for distribution to the supervisor, co-advisor, and examiners.
- Upon acceptance of the dissertation by a three-fourths majority of the supervisor, co-advisor, and examiners, a public defense will be scheduled.
A final edited copy of the dissertation that incorporates suggestions of the supervisor, co-advisor, members of faculty, and examiners will be submitted no later than two months after acceptance of the doctoral work to the library of PRTS in electronic and paper format.
Students are expected to:
- publish the dissertation with an internationally recognized academic publisher within one year after the public defense. The student will choose a publisher in consultation with the supervisor or,
- publish three articles as a result of the doctoral work in internationally recognized and peer-reviewed journals. The student will choose journals in consultation with the supervisor.
The following guidelines pertain to the dissertation defense:
- The public defense will take place at the main campus of PRTS. The defense will be chaired by the President, who will open with prayer.
- The President will invite the student to summarize the reason, findings, and contribution of the study (approximately 10 minutes). The President will then invite members of the faculty (with the exception of the supervisor) and other members of the panel to question the candidate on the dissertation.
- Special permission may be granted by the President and doctoral program committee for elders or ministers of churches to ask the candidate a question concerning the doctoral studies.
- Upon completion of the defense, the President and members of the panel will leave the room to deliberate and subsequently render an assessment of the defense.
- The student is informed of the results of the deliberation by the President. The supervisor will then offer an oratio laudatio that incorporates the results of the external examiners.
- The President or designated person will confer the degree to the candidate and close the ceremony with prayer.