Doctor of Divinity

Last updated
Aquatint of a Doctor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, in the scarlet and black academic robes corresponding to his position. (The doctor appears here in his convocation habit, rather than his full ceremonial dress.) Aquatint of a Doctor in divinity at the University of Oxford, shown wearing convocation dress.jpg
Aquatint of a Doctor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, in the scarlet and black academic robes corresponding to his position. (The doctor appears here in his convocation habit, rather than his full ceremonial dress.)

Doctor of Divinity (DD or DDiv; Latin : Doctor Divinitatis) is an advanced or honorary academic degree in divinity.

An academic degree is a qualification awarded to students upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education, usually at a college or university. These institutions commonly offer degrees at various levels, usually including bachelor's, master’s and doctorates, often alongside other academic certificates and professional degrees. The most common undergraduate degree is the bachelor's degree, although in some countries there are lower level higher education qualifications that are also titled degrees.

Divinity is the study of Christian and other theology and ministry at a school, divinity school, university, or seminary. The term is sometimes a synonym for theology as an academic, speculative pursuit, and sometimes is used for the study of applied theology and ministry to make a distinction between that and academic theology. It most often refers to Christian study which is linked with the professional degrees for ordained ministry or related work, though it is also used in an academic setting by other faith traditions.


Contrast with other religious degrees

Doctor of Divinity should not be confused with the Doctor of Theology (ThD) degree, which is a research doctorate in theology awarded by universities and divinity schools, such as Duke Divinity School and others. [1] However, many universities award a PhD rather than a ThD to graduates of higher-level religious studies programs. Another research doctorate in theology is the Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD) which is in particular awarded by Catholic pontifical universities and faculties. The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) is another doctorate-level religious degree, but is a professional doctorate rather than a research doctorate. [2]

Doctor of Theology is a terminal degree in the academic discipline of theology. The ThD is an advanced research degree equivalent to the Doctor of Philosophy.

Duke Divinity School

The Divinity School at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, is one of ten graduate or professional schools within Duke University. It is also one of thirteen seminaries founded and supported by the United Methodist Church. It has 39 regular rank faculty and 15 joint, secondary or adjunct faculty, and, as of 2017, an enrollment of 543 Full-time equivalent students. The current dean of the Divinity School is the Rev. Dr. L. Gregory Jones, who assumed the deanship on Aug. 2, 2018 after previously serving as dean from 1997-2010. Former deans include the prominent New Testament scholar Richard B. Hays, who stepped down in 2015.

Doctor of Philosophy Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. As an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor or, in non-English-speaking countries, variants such as "Dr. phil." with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.

Doctor of Divinity by country or church

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the degree is a higher doctorate conferred by universities upon a religious scholar of standing and distinction for accomplishments beyond the PhD level.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Typically, the candidate will submit a collection of work which has been previously published in a peer-reviewed context and pay an examination fee. [3] The university then assembles a committee of academics both internal and external who review the work submitted and decide on whether the candidate deserves the doctorate based on the submission. Most universities restrict candidacy to graduates or academic staff of several years' standing.

United States

In the United States, the degree is generally conferred honoris causa by a church-related college, seminary, or university to recognize the recipient's ministry-orientated accomplishments. [4] For example, Martin Luther King (who received a PhD in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955) subsequently received honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from the Chicago Theological Seminary (1957), Boston University (1959), Wesleyan College (1964), and Springfield College (1964). [5] Billy Graham (who received honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from The King's College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) was regularly addressed as "Dr. Graham", though his highest earned degree was a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from Wheaton College. [6] [7]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that formulates an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the doctrines of the Christian faith. It addresses issues such as what the Bible teaches about certain topics or what is true about God and his universe. It also builds on biblical disciplines, church history, as well as biblical and historical theology. Systematic theology shares its systematic tasks with other disciplines such as constructive theology, dogmatics, ethics, apologetics, and philosophy of religion.

Boston University private research university in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Boston University (BU) is a private research university in Boston, Massachusetts. The university is nonsectarian, but has been historically affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

Under federal law, a 1974 judgement accepted expert opinion that an "Honorary Doctor of Divinity is a strictly religious title with no academic standing. Such titles may be issued by bona fide churches and religious denominations, such as plaintiff [ Universal Life Church ], so long as their issuance is limited to a course of instruction in the principles of the church or religious denomination". [8] However, under the California Education Code, "an institution owned, controlled, and operated and maintained by a religious organization lawfully operating as a nonprofit religious corporation pursuant to Part 4 (commencing with Section 9110) of Division 2 of Title 1 of the Corporations Code" that offers "instruction... limited to the principles of that religious organization, or to courses offered pursuant to Section 2789 of Business and Professions Code" may confer "degrees and diplomas only in the beliefs and practices of the church, religious denomination, or religious organization" so long as "the diploma or degree is limited to evidence of completion of that education"; institutions "shall not award degrees in any area of physical science", while

Federal law is the body of law created by the federal government of a country. A federal government is formed when a group of political units, such as states or provinces join together in a federation, delegating their individual sovereignty and many powers to the central government while retaining or reserving other limited powers. As a result, two or more levels of government exist within an established geographic territory. The body of law of the common central government is the federal law.

Universal Life Church A religious organization which offers ordination to anyone

The Universal Life Church (ULC) is a non-denominational religious organization founded by Kirby J. Hensley under the doctrine: "Do that which is right". The Universal Life Church advocates for religious freedom, offering legal ordination to become a minister free of charge to anyone who wishes to join. The ULC has ordained ministers from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs, including Christians, atheists, Wiccans and pagans, and people of many other faiths. The ULC's popularity stems in part from a rising interest in having friends or loved ones host weddings, a trend which has attracted a range of celebrities to become ordained including Adele, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen, Conan O’Brien and Steven Tyler, among others. Some jurisdictions do not recognize marriages solemnized by ULC ministers.

any degree or diploma granted under this subdivision shall contain on its face ... a reference to the theological or religious aspect of the degree's subject area ... a degree awarded under this subdivision shall reflect the nature of the degree title, such as "associate of religious studies," "bachelor of religious studies," "master of divinity," or "doctor of divinity." [9]

In a 1976 interview with Morley Safer of the TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes , Universal Life Church founder Kirby J. Hensley professed that the church's honorary Doctor of Divinity degree was "...just a little piece of paper. And it ain't worth anything, you know, under God's mighty green Earth—you know what I mean?—as far as value." [10] In 2006, Universal Life Church minister Kevin Andrews advised potential degree recipients not to misrepresent the title as an educational achievement to employers, recommending instead that it would be appropriate to list such credentials "under the heading of Titles, Awards, or Other Achievements" on curricula vitae. [11]

As of 2009, 20 U.S. states and Puerto Rico had some form of exemption provision under which religious institutions can grant religious degrees without accreditation or government oversight. [12]

Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church, Doctor of Divinity is an honorary degree denoting ordination as bishop.[ citation needed ]

The Doctor and Student

Christopher St. Germain's 1528 book The Doctor and Student describes a dialogue between a Doctor of Divinity and a law student in England containing the grounds of those laws together with questions and cases concerning the equity thereof. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

In the academic study of theology, the Master of Divinity is the first professional degree of the pastoral profession in North America. It is the most common academic degree in seminaries and divinity schools. In many Christian denominations and in some other religions the degree is the standard prerequisite for ordination to the priesthood or pastorship or other appointment, ordination or licensing to professional ministry. At accredited seminaries in the United States this degree requires between 72 and 106 credit hours of study.

A Lambeth degree is an academic degree conferred by the Archbishop of Canterbury under the authority of the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533 (Eng) as successor of the papal legate in England. The degrees conferred most commonly are DD, DCL, DLitt, DMus, DM, BD and MA. The relatively modern degree of MLitt has been conferred in recent years, and the MPhil and PhD are now available. The degrees awarded are dependent on which of the two ancient universities, Oxford or Cambridge, the archbishop chooses as his model. This is also tied with the nature of the academic dress used as well.

Knox College, Toronto University of Toronto postgraduate theological college

Knox College is a postgraduate theological college of the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was founded in 1844 as part of a schism movement in the Church of Scotland following the Disruption of 1843. Knox is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in Canada and confers doctoral degrees as a member school of the Toronto School of Theology.

In Western universities, a Bachelor of Divinity or Baccalaureate in Divinity is an undergraduate or postgraduate academic degree awarded for a course taken in the study of divinity or related disciplines, such as theology or, rarely, religious studies. In most modern universities, the BD as a first degree is essentially equivalent to a Bachelor of Arts degree with a speciality in divinity. Relatively few institutions award undergraduate Bachelor of Divinity degrees today, and the distinction between institutions that do award such degrees and those that award BA degrees for theological subjects is usually one of bureaucracy rather than curriculum.

Luther Seminary United States historic place

Luther Seminary is a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It is the largest seminary of the ELCA. It also accepts and educates students of 41 other denominations and traditions. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the Association of Theological Schools. It also has theological accreditation through the ELCA as well as the United Methodist Church.

Chicago Theological Seminary Christian ecumenical seminary located in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

The Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) is a Christian ecumenical American seminary located in Chicago, Illinois, and is one of several seminaries historically affiliated with the United Church of Christ. It is the oldest institution of higher education in Chicago, originally established in 1855 under the direction of the abolitionist Stephen Peet and the Congregational Church by charter of the Illinois legislature. In addition to being a seminary of the United Church of Christ, CTS offers students coursework necessary to be ordained by both the United Methodist Church and the Metropolitan Community Church denominations.

Martin Luther University College, formerly Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, is a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada federated with the nondenominational Wilfrid Laurier University, located in Waterloo, Ontario.

The Master of Sacred Theology is a graduate-level, North American, academic degree in theology equivalent to Th.M. The Roman Catholic equivalent is the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.). An honorary title of S.T.M. is also awarded within the Dominican Order.

Lexington Theological Seminary Graduate theological institution in Lexington, KY

Lexington Theological Seminary is a graduate theological institution in Lexington, Kentucky. Although the seminary is related to the Christian Church, it is intentionally ecumenical with almost 50 percent of its enrollment coming from other denominations. Lexington Theological Seminary is accredited by Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada to award Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Pastoral Studies, and Doctor of Ministry degrees.

Lutheran Theological Seminary Saskatoon is a degree-granting theological school affiliated with the University of Saskatchewan. The seminary was originally created to prepare candidates for Lutheran ministry in Western Canada. It is supported by the four Western synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. LTS provides training for pastors and diaconal ministers; offers Lutheran formation for leaders and laypeople; and advances the study of rural ministry.

The Doctor of Practical Theology is a professional doctorate developed for those seeking to apply theological principles to their professional practice. It should not be confused with a Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology such as offered by Princeton Theological Seminary.

Dr E. David Cook is a Fellow of Green College, Oxford and the first Holmes Professor of Faith and Learning at Wheaton College. He is also a visiting Professor of Christian Ethics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and is a Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum. He advises the Archbishops and the British Government and is a member of the UK Xenotransplantation Interim Regulatory Authority. He lectures internationally and preaches in a wide variety of denominations.

J. Brent Walker is the former Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, a leading church-state advocacy group. He holds professional designations as a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States and an ordained Baptist minister. After retirement from the BJC, he served as Interim President of the John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Virginia, until the end of 2018.

Douglas W. Oldenburg is a pastor and President Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. He served as themoderator of the 210th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1998.

An ordination mill is a religious organization or denomination in which membership is obtainable by trivial means and all members are qualified for self-ordination as a minister of religion, bishop, priest or deacon without any prerequisite training, work, experience, seminary study or other qualification. In some cases, ordination may be obtained online or by mail merely by submitting an application and a nominal fee.

C. D. Jathanna was the fourth Bishop - in - Karnataka Central Diocese headquartered in Bangalore with the Cathedra of the Bishop placed at St. Mark's Cathedral, Bangalore.

Robert Scheuermeier was the first Principal of the Karnataka Theological College, Mangalore, a Seminary affiliated to the country's first University, the Senate of Serampore College (University), Serampore.

The North American Reformed Seminary is a private online, non-profit, distance educational, Christian, reformed seminary whose mission states is "to educate the body of Christ completely free of charge." Spreading the Gospel and strengthening the church through this school is the goal of this seminary. It should be noted that a degree from this institution will not qualify nor make one eligible for a pastoral position. It’s more of a participation trophy.



  1. "Doctor of Theology". Duke Divinity School. Duke University. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  2. "Doctor of Ministry - Fuller Seminary". Fuller Seminary.
  3., Supported by Eastern Studio. "recently awarded degrees - Faculty Office".
  4. "Doctor of Divinity".
  5. "Biographical Sketch: Martin Luther King, Jr" (PDF). The Northern California Martin Luther King Jr. Community Foundation. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  6. Gibbs, Nancy; Ostling, Richard N. (15 November 1993). "God's Billy Pulpit". Time . Archived from the original on 7 December 2007. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  7. "Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Chronology". Wheaton College. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  8. Universal Life Church, Inc. v. United States, 372F.Supp.770 (E.D. Cal.1 March 1974).
  9. "EDC § 94874". California Code, Education Code.
  10. Jackman 2007.
  11. "ULC Degrees Accredited?". Universal Life Church Online. 2 June 2006. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  12. "Religious Exempt Schools". Oregon Student Assistance Commission Office of Degree Authorization. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  13. St Germain & Muchall 1886.