Master of Theology (ThM)
The ThM provides MDiv and MATS graduates the opportunity to pursue research in biblical and theological studies to enhance their ministries and/or provide a foundation for PhD studies. Students will choose a major area, either biblical studies (Old Testament or New Testament) or theological/historical studies (Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, or Church History). The ThM is excellent preparation for a PhD program and has a more academic focus than the DMin (see ThM Manual for details).
The Seminary seeks to develop students in this degree program in the following ways:
- Concepts. Graduates will interpret the Bible and draw on the church’s theological and historical heritage as they apply the Bible’s message to faith, life, and ministry in contemporary contexts.
- Calling. Graduates will identify, develop, and use their abilities and spiritual gifts to advance the church’s mission to worship and serve Jesus Christ.
- Character. Graduates will serve the church with evident Christian character and integrity in their personal and professional lives.
- Competence. Graduates will serve the church effectively using skills required for planning and conducting research closely related to the larger context of theological study.
- Writing. Graduates will research and write on theological subjects pertaining to their field of ministry.
Student Learning Outcomes
- Make appropriate use of relevant (a) Bible passages and (b) confessional standards, as they integrate their course material to their (c) ministry contexts. (ST 801)
- Identify, develop, and use personal abilities, gifts, and gained knowledge to strengthen their church’s worship of and service to Jesus Christ. (BI 801)
- Demonstrate growing Christ-like character through writing and practice of ministry. (TH 097)
- Demonstrate skills for planning and conducting research that is closely related to the larger context of theology. (TH 809)
- Demonstrate strong writing and research skills. (TH 809)
Applicants must have an MDiv, an appropriate MA degree, or the equivalent in a relevant field, from an accredited institution, ordinarily with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. (See “Admissions” for details.)
Students must complete 24 semester hours of coursework as outlined below with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 to remain in good standing and maintain eligibility for financial aid. The program may be completed in as little as two years of part-time study. Students must normally complete the program within four years.
In order to graduate, each ThM student must submit final copies of the ThM thesis according to the specifications listed in the ThM Manual. The final copies of the thesis must be submitted by April 15 of a given year to qualify for graduation in May of that year, when Erskine Seminary’s annual commencement ceremony is held. In addition to the May conferral, the ThM degree can also be conferred in September or January. For a September conferral, all degree requirements and the finished copies of the thesis must be submitted by August 15. For a January conferral, the deadline is December 15. The defense of the thesis will be held before the appropriate department after the finalized copies have been received. Students with September and January conferrals will be invited to participate in the following May graduation ceremony.
Students may transfer up to six hours into Erskine’s ThM program from another accredited ThM, DMin, or PhD program. Only courses with grades of B (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) or higher may be transferred.
Students will be assigned an advisor by the ThM program director and will, from the very beginning, negotiate coursework and a potential thesis topic with their advisors.
Students must complete the program requirements as outlined below:
- Take the non-credit TH 090 Research Methodologies during one of the first two (2) semesters of studies, whenever offered first.
- At least one ThM seminar and three electives in the students’ major field (biblical or theological/historical studies).
- At least one-half of their coursework in 800-level courses or 900-level DMin Norms courses, with the remaining work selected from 700-level courses in biblical or theological studies (with additional requirements), or fourth-semester biblical Greek or Hebrew.
- Demonstrate competence in two relevant ancient or modern languages (see below).
- A comprehensive examination after the completion of coursework. (TH 097)
- A thesis of 25,000-35,000 words or two additional courses approved by the ThM director.
A thesis defense, during the semester in which they expect to graduate.
Students may demonstrate language competence either by completing three semesters of a language at college or seminary level, or by passing a reading comprehension exam. Students may, in consultation with their theses advisors, choose from Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, or German, depending on their interests and intended research topics. Students planning to teach in the church often choose Greek and Hebrew. Students planning on doctoral studies ordinarily select one ancient language (Hebrew for Old Testament, Greek for New Testament and systematic theology, and Greek or Latin for historical theology or church history) and one modern language for research (usually German for biblical studies or systematic theology, French for historical theology). Other languages may be substituted if the student can demonstrate the relevance of those languages for the intended thesis.
Before beginning the thesis, students must be approved for candidacy by presenting the ThM director a 3-5 pages statement of the thesis topic and the expected (or possible) findings, along with a preliminary bibliography. With the written approval of the program director, the student will write a 25,000-35,000 words thesis. The research for the Thesis will include substantial work in both primary and secondary sources and is to involve the use of the student’s two research languages as well as English.
Once the thesis has been approved by both the advisor and the reviewer, students must submit to the ThM director at least four copies of the final, corrected, approved, and unbound thesis, as well as an electronic copy of the thesis in PDF format (submitted by email). The thesis must conform to the Seminary’s specifications for theses/dissertations and must be submitted by the appropriate deadline (see the Academic Calendar for specific dates). The thesis defense will be held after the finalized copies have been received. The thesis will be graded and will count as two courses (six hours). The defense will be pass/fail with two levels of achievement: successfully passing and passing with distinction.
Students in advanced degree programs must remain continuously enrolled. ThM students are required to register each fall and spring semester without interruption (unless granted a temporary withdrawal). Students who fail to do so will automatically be suspended from the program and will lose access to library materials and the services of their advisors. Students who have not yet begun their theses must either register for a credit course or for TH 081 Continuation of the ThM Program (non-credit) each semester. Students who have been approved to begin work on their theses must normally register for TH 808/809 ThM Thesis in two consecutive semesters; students who do not complete their theses in two semesters must register for TH 086 Continuation of the ThM Thesis each semester until the thesis is completed.
Students receiving financial aid should be aware that some program requirements (such as TH 081 Continuation of the ThM Program, TH 086 Continuation of the ThM Thesis) carry no academic credit and hence no eligibility for financial aid. Students receiving financial aid should plan their schedules to ensure that they are enrolled in at least three credit hours each semester.
Students may request a temporary withdrawal from the program for a period of up to one year per request (and not more than two years total) by writing to the Post-Graduate Committee through the ThM director. During a temporary withdrawal, students do not have to remain continuously enrolled. Students who wish to return to the program must request reinstatement by writing the Post-Graduate Committee through the ThM director.
Students who fail to maintain continuous enrollment without receiving permission for a temporary withdrawal will be suspended from the program. Students who wish to return to the program must send a written request to the Post-Graduate Committee through the ThM director and pay any applicable fees. The Post-Graduate Committee reserves the right to require a full application from those seeking readmission, especially if they have been out of the program for a long period of time.
Students who fail to complete the program within four years (excluding the time of temporary withdrawal) will be suspended unless they have requested and received an extension of time from the Post-Graduate Committee. Any student who is suspended will receive grades of “F” for any outstanding work (including the thesis). If subsequently readmitted, the student must register again for any such outstanding work and pay the appropriate readmission fees and tuition at current rates.
Students may request a one-year extension to complete the degree by writing a letter to the Post-Graduate Committee through the ThM director explaining the circumstances that have prevented them from completing the degree and outlining their plan and timeframe for completing all requirements. If the Committee approves the extension, the student must pay a fee for the extension. If necessary, students may apply for a second one-year extension. Under no circumstances will more than two such extensions be granted. If the Committee denies the request, the student will be permanently suspended from the program.