PhD in Systematic Theology
PhD in Systematic Theology
The Systematic Theology track is a highly anticipated program led by Dr. Joel R. Beeke and Dr. Stephen G. Myers, which commenced August 2020. The PhD at PRTS is a fully funded program allowing for eight (8) to ten (10) students per year. Accepted PhD students do not need not to apply for scholarships. Certain fees will still apply (see fees section).
Program Vision & Mission
Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary desires to establish a doctoral program in systematic theology that trains students to root doctrine in biblical exegesis, understand it in light of our confessional inheritance, and apply it to the lives of God’s people today. We believe that this approach to systematic theology – exegetical, confessional, and experiential – is greatly needed in the worldwide church and academy today. Foundationally, we want to train men to teach and write theology that is rooted in the Scriptures rather than in tradition or philosophical reasoning, both of which are ascendant in contemporary systematic theology. Second, we want to train men to understand theology in a confessional context, recognizing how our doctrinal understanding has been shaped by two millennia of the Spirit working to bring clarity to the Church. Finally, we want to train men to frame theology experientially so that exegetical, confessional truth changes hearts and lives in our own day.
While there are other institutions in the United States that offer a doctorate in systematic theology, we envision a program that is unique in its emphasis on exegetical theology, its commitment to confessional awareness, and its determination to employ rigorous doctrine in the changing of hearts. Our prayerful expectation is that after receiving this training, men will be equipped to meet a pronounced need for biblical, Reformed theological education around the world.
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 either Historical Theology or Biblical Studies. 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.
A second graduate degree in theology, such as an accredited ThM, MTh, or STM, is preferred for admission to the program. Exceptionally gifted students may be accepted into the program having an accredited MDiv, or first graduate degree in theology, such as an MA or MTS. Comparable degrees from institutions within or outside North America may be accepted provided schools can demonstrate that they meet the standards of the ATS Board-approved degrees for admission. Students with a first graduate degree in theology may also apply for the ThM (Master of Theology) program, and then apply for the PhD program after successful completion of three (3) ThM-level courses with a minimum GPA of 3.50.
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.
- preferably 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 a minimum of six (6) credits of Hebrew, and a minimum of six (6) credits of Greek. An entrance proficiency test for Greek and Hebrew language is part of the admission process for doctoral students in the Biblical Studies emphasis, and includes a translation of a minimum of 500 words in two (2) hours with a minimum of eighty (80) percent accuracy. This requirement is only for the Biblical Studies PhD program. For additional language requirements during the PhD program, please see the doctoral handbook.
- 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).
- demonstrate biblical piety and character.
It is recommended that applications for admission to the doctoral program be submitted no later than April 30 (for a fall-semester start) or October 30 (for a spring-semester start). The applicant will be informed about the decision of the Admissions Committee by the Director of Admissions shortly after a decision has been made. The Admissions Committee meets on a rolling basis approximately every two months. Applications are considered at the next available meeting only when all application components have been received.
The applicant must:
- have had an interview with the President, Program Director, or 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 158 or higher in the Verbal and Quantitative sections, and 5.0 or higher in the Analytical Writing component.
- 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.
Because PRTS endeavors to create a community of learners within the doctoral program, each doctoral student is required to be on campus during the month of August at least once per year for the first three years of the student’s program, or until the student has completed the comprehensive examination. Apart from the modular courses that will occur during the month of August, special PhD seminars and dinners may be arranged. Furthermore, the PhD student is encouraged to attend the annual PRTS conference; this conference is always held near the end of August.
Required Coursework and Credits
A total of twelve courses are required for the PhD program (including 2 external courses). PhD students in the Systematic Theology program must take the following courses:
- ST900 Research Methodology – 3 credits
- BS/CH/ST902 Introduction to Reformed Spirituality and Piety – 3 credits
- BS/CH/ST991 Dissertation Proposal – 3 credits
- BS/CH/ST992 Teaching/Preaching Practicum – 3 credits
Apart from the two required external courses, six additional courses are required. These six can be selected from the systematic theology curriculum which will center upon core courses that address each of the seven systematic loci at an advanced level. These core courses will be offered on a regular three-year cycle, making it possible for each student to take each loci during the three years of course work. This emphasis on core, loci-focused courses is different than other doctoral programs in systematics where coursework is heavily weighted toward very narrow, specialized topics. By featuring a more loci-focused curriculum, we aim to equip students to return to their home countries able to teach broadly and effectively in systematic theology. In summary, the systematic theology program will consist of 4 mandatory courses, two external courses in systematic theology at the PhD level, and any 6 courses from the loci-focused offerings or other shared ST/HT courses in the PhD program at PRTS.
The following guidelines pertain to the PhD dissertation:
- Students must have an approved dissertation proposal.
- Students must offer in the dissertation an original research contribution that serves the academy and the church.
- 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 length of a dissertation is customarily between 80,000 and 100,000 words. This word limit includes footnotes, but excludes appendices and reference list / bibliography.
- 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 March 1 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.
- publish the dissertation in such a form as to be of service to the church at large.
- Application for admission (non-refundable): $50.00
- Late registration fee: $50.00 per course
- Distance Education fee: $75.00 per course that is taken from a distance
- Graduation fee: $250.00