New THD Program Integrates Research and Practice

April 27, 2020

Over the past few weeks, we have been talking about a new future that creates a first-of-its kind system of theological education in North America, an affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful undergraduate degree that is responding to the needs of others, and a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy that is the only COAMFTE accredited program in the United States that integrates psychology and theology.  Today, we describe an exciting new Doctor of Theology (ThD) that is now available through the Kairos Project.

Let’s begin with a quick overview of the ThD.  Originally, the ThD was the sister to and equivalent of the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).  Both are research-oriented degrees, with the ThD being focused on the theological disciplines (although some ThD programs, like some PhD programs, direct research toward practice). The Association of Theological Schools still considers these degrees equivalents, even though they are each targeting different doctoral outcomes.

So why do I share all of this?  Well, mainly because I can’t describe what makes the exciting new ThD program different without taking some time to describe the norm.

Traditional approaches to doctoral-level study have been understood as an opportunity to 1) acquire superior proficiency of a field of study, 2) be devoted to specialization within a discipline, 3) focus on pure research, 4) produce a dissertation as the primary evidence of proficiency, 5) see graduates who regard themselves as qualified to teach or lead because of content expertise, and 6) engage in face-to-face learning with content experts.  We believe more is possible. In fact, we believe more is required!

What if, instead of those seven points, we affirmed that 1) there are other means of achieving proficiency, 2) much new knowledge is being generated in conversations between disciplines, professions, and fields of study, 3) the intersection between research and practice is what offers the best potential for transformation, 4) the traditional approach to a dissertation is only one of a myriad of ways to demonstrate proficiency, 5) content expertise alone is insufficient for spiritual leadership, and 6) face-to-face learning is one of multiple learning environments that can foster the development of a high-quality learning community.

In short, what if a ThD was built for people who loved Jesus and wanted to walk closer with God as they engaged in deep theological reflection – for the purpose of improving their practice?  What if the ThD was for reflective practitioners?  The PhD is research-oriented; the DMin is practice-oriented. The ThD through Kairos sits between them.  It is research-oriented with an eye toward the improvement of practice.

That’s what we are doing.  It is made possible through the Kairos Project and our new partnership with Evangelical Seminary. To get started, click here!

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