The Master of Theology Degree Program

OFFERED ON THE PORTLAND CAMPUS

Program Overview

The Master of Theology (Th.M.), Western’s highest purely academic degree, facilitates the development of advanced competencies beyond that which is cultivated in other graduate level programs. The program is designed to serve current and prospective pastors, teachers, scholars, and others who may benefit from advanced training in biblical and theological studies. Aims that accord with the purpose of the program include preparation for Ph.D. studies, acquisition of proficiencies for teaching, sharpening for continued effective ministry, and focused research in a particular area of study.

At Western, the Master of Theology program is shaped by a commitment to rigorous and integrative Christian scholarship done in service of the church. This is evident in the following items that distinguish the Th.M. program at Western:

  • Academic Excellence. At every phase of the program, Th.M. students develop skills necessary to achieve a high level of academic success. To that end, our Th.M. program provides many opportunities for students to sharpen their critical thinking, researching, and writing skills through both coursework and research.
  • Spiritual Vitality. Recognizing that biblical and theological research should take place primarily in the service of the church and its ministry in the world, the program continually challenges students to address the spiritual significance of their academic pursuits.
  • Theological Integration. We understand the value of each of the various biblical and theological disciplines and, consequently, we encourage students to draw on the resources that each provides in their research and coursework. The Th.M. thesis is expected to reflect this commitment to interdisciplinary integration.

Along with the above items, the Th.M. program is unique in terms of its flexibility. The modular, intensive design of Th.M. seminars allows students to complete much of their coursework during occasional on-campus visits. In addition to this, the Western Th.M. allows students to customize the program to meet their specific academic and ministerial goals. This includes identifying two biblical/theological disciplines to focus upon in their coursework and research, and then selecting seminars, electives, and individualized studies that accord with this specialization. The Th.M. program includes five main areas of concentration:

  • Systematic and biblical theology
  • Historical theology
  • Pastoral Theology
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament

Many other components contribute to the strength of Western’s Th.M. Program:

  • Participation at national and regional meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) is encouraged. Our Th.M. students regularly read papers at regional ETS meetings, and some have done so at national ETS meetings.
  • Th.M. students may also have the opportunity to publish selected portions of their work on Western’s faculty blog, Transformed.
  • Graduate fellowships are available at Western, linking Th.M. students and professors in close relationships and providing opportunities for students to teach, grade papers and exams, and carry out research.
  • Western has a working relationship with the Jerusalem University College (JUC) in Israel that provides interested students with the opportunity for a cooperative degree program in the biblical studies major.
  • Th.M. seminars are designed to maximize participation through paper presentations, critique, and content discussion, all of which will prepare the student for doctoral seminars.
  • Th.M. Colloquia help to sharpen critical reading skills in the context of a learning community where relationships with professors and other like-minded students are cultivated.
  • The writing of the Th.M. thesis joins a student with two faculty readers who advise and mentor throughout this research phase of the program.
  • At the completion of the program, students are required to successfully defend their thesis/guided research reports and pass comprehensive oral exams before a faculty committee.

Program Goals and Learning Outcomes

The program goals include:

  • Academic Excellence
    • Conceptual Comprehension: The student demonstrates mastery of course material and basic methodologies in the chosen area(s) of study, and exhibits mature, critical, independent thinking.
    • Rigorous Scholarship: The student develops good research plans, and analyzes and critically evaluates research data that has been efficiently located and adequately documented. Communicates ideas logically, clearly, concisely, and compellingly in both written and oral forms.
  • Spiritual Vitality
    • Personal Integrity: The student engages academics as a whole person, embracing the synergy between scholarship and piety, without which credibility and viability are compromised
    • Ministerial Intentionality The student completes coursework and develops research with the implications for spiritual formation and ministry practice in view.
  • Theological Integration
    • Interdisciplinary Interaction: The student applies information and insight from multiple theological disciplines, as appropriate, to particular problems and research projects.
    • Engaged Evangelicalism The student articulates a clear understanding of and commitment to evangelical theology, in open dialog with other perspectives. Recognizes that biblical and theological studies are appropriately undertaken in, with, and for the church.

Admission Requirements

All students should exhibit evidence of a vital and growing spiritual life, teachability, and growing Christian integrity, especially with regard to academic and scholarly honesty. Students should also be able to provide goals and motivation to match the Th.M. program's outcomes. A prospective Master of Theology student must hold either a three-year Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree or, in some instances, an academic Master of Arts (M.A.) degree. The specific requirements for each are the following:

Master of Divinity (M.Div.)

A prospective Master of Theology student may hold a three-year Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree or a comparable graduate theological degree from a graduate-level institution accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States and Canada, with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) is required. In addition, the successful applicant must be able to demonstrate an ability to work in any language considered necessary for the chosen field of study. Proficiency in English composition is also required. This latter requirement shall be determined by submitting, along with the application, a research paper written during previous studies which reflects grammatical and compositional competency.

The M.Div. degree should include at least the equivalent of the following academic courses:

  • Biblical studies—10 credits
  • Hermeneutics—2 credits
  • Church History—4 credits
  • Greek—6 credits
  • Hebrew—6 credits
  • Systematic Theology—12 credits

Should the Th.M. director consider the prospective student to be deficient in these areas and yet sense potential for growth, provisional acceptance into the program will be granted and further preparation assigned. Thus, the student will be admitted with a pre-Th.M. status. In some cases, a course or courses may be taken to remove the deficiency. In other cases, a practicum could be devised which would provide supervision and accountability so as to gain the necessary competency. In either case, these prerequisites must be completed before full acceptance into the program is granted.

Master of Arts (M.A.)

A prospective Master of Theology student may hold a two-year Master of Arts (M.A.) degree or a comparable graduate theological degree. Such a degree must provide equivalent theological background with evidence of aptitude for advanced theological study from a graduate-level institution accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States and Canada.

A cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) is required. In addition, the successful applicant must be able to demonstrate an ability to work in any language considered necessary for the chosen field of study. Proficiency in English composition is also required. This latter requirement shall be determined by submitting, along with the application, a research paper written during previous studies which reflects grammatical and compositional competency.

The academic M.A. degree should be at least 56 semester credit hours and should include the equivalent of the following academic courses:

  • Biblical studies—10 credits
  • Hermeneutics—2 credits
  • Church History—4 credits
  • Greek—6 credits*
  • Hebrew—6 credits*
  • Systematic Theology—12 credits

*Those students wishing to specialize in New Testament will be required to have an additional 2 credits of Greek including exegesis; those specializing in Old Testament need an additional 2 credits of Hebrew including exegesis. [For Western Seminary M.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) students: In addition to the normal core requirements, students are required to take CH501, or take CH502 plus a CH elective. Those wishing to specialize in New Testament are required to take NT513; those specializing in Old Testament must take OT513.]

A student seeking entrance into the Th.M. program with an academic M.A. degree must also demonstrate competency in the areas of communication, interpersonal relationships, intercultural awareness, and practical ministry. In accordance with this, the Th.M. director will work with the prospective student to give him/her opportunity to demonstrate competency in these areas. Although this is not an exhaustive listing and is not intended to be a checklist, some of the areas that will be investigated include:

  • Significant ministry experience
  • Pastoral/ministerial/communication preparation
  • Intercultural awareness
  • Demonstrated ability to develop significant interpersonal relationships
  • Teaching/counseling/leading experience indicating competency in communication

Should the Th.M. director consider the prospective student to be deficient in these areas and yet sense potential for growth, provisional acceptance into the program will be granted and further preparation assigned. Thus, the student will be admitted with a pre-Th.M. status. In some cases, a course or courses may be taken to remove the deficiency. In other cases, a practicum could be devised which would provide supervision and accountability so as to gain the necessary competency. In either case, these prerequisites must be completed before full acceptance into the program is granted.

Transfer Credit and Residence Requirements

Upon approval by the Registrar, transfer of up to 6 credit hours coursework is allowed toward the Th.M. program from Th.M. programs accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Students must have earned a grade of B or better for a course to be considered for transfer and coursework must have completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary. Any proposed transfer credit must fit the nature of the program. No advanced standing is allowed toward the program. Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution. Consult the Registrar’s Office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Students may complete up to 6 hours of elective credit through the Jerusalem University College (formerly the Institute of Holy Land Studies) in Jerusalem, Israel. These hours may be selected from among approved master’s level courses at the Institute. The selection of such courses should be under the guidance of the director of the Th.M. program.

Of the 25 credit hours required for the Th.M. program, a minimum of 13 credit hours must be completed through coursework in resident study at Western Seminary’s Portland Campus. All work leading to the Master of Theology must be completed within four years from the time of matriculation. Permission to extend the four year statute of limitation must be granted through submission of an academic petition. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requiREAdmissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree. All credits applied toward the degree requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree.

Degree Requirements

The Th.M. Program includes a total of 25 credits, and consists of Research Seminars (12 credits), Advanced Electives (8 credits), Research and Writing Methods (2 credits), Th.M. Colloquia (no credits), Th.M. thesis (3 credits), and Comprehensive Examination (no credits).

  • Research Seminars. Students participate in four research seminars (twelve credits). Two of these must accord with the student’s selected areas of concentration.
  • Advanced Electives. Students select eight credits from advanced masters level electives suitable for their program focus (with program director approval). A student may count additional research seminars (above and beyond the minimum requirement of four seminars) toward the eight advanced elective credits.
  • Master of Theology Colloquia (RE604). Students participate in two semesters of Th.M. Colloquia during their program. The Colloquia are taken for non-credit with a Pass/No-Pass mark from the program director for participation.
  • Research and Writing Methods (RE600). This course helps to develop the skills needed to satisfy the thesis requirement, as well as to prepare the student for future research and scholarly writing endeavors.
  • Master of Theology Thesis (RE602). Students complete a three credit-hour thesis guided by two faculty mentors.
  • Comprehensive Examination. The examination includes both an oral defense of a student’s Th.M. thesis and an oral investigation of a student’s competency in his/her concentration courses.

Master of Theology Curriculum Plan: 25 credits

RE600 Graduate Research and Writing 2
RE602 Thesis 3
RE604 Colloquia (P/F graded; must be completed twice) 0
Th.M. Seminars 12
Advanced electives 8

2017-2018 Academic Catalog