Parent Category: Academics
Doctor of Philosophy in Religion (PhD)
Program Director: Ricardo Gonzalez
Associate Program Directors: Aivars Ozolins (Applied Theology Concentrations), Carlos Mora (Biblical Studies Concentrations); and, Kyungho Song (Theological Historical Studies Concentrations)
The Phd in Religion is an advanced academic degree and its main purpose is to prepare teacher, scholars and researchers for institutions of higher learning, particularly related to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The PhD program is designed to develop individuals capable of doing careful research and teaching religious studies up to the postgraduate level. The degree is conferred only upon those who clearly demonstrate the ability to do independent research, and who have reached a high level of expertise in their field of study. The program is offered both as in-residence and in-ministry tracks.
The PhD in Religion program aims:
- To develop teachers and researchers with a high degree of competency in the areas of religion.
- To develop the spirit of inquiry, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis within the context of Adventist self-understanding and mission.
- To understand and appreciate a variety of viewpoints, while at the same time maintaining sound reason for one’s faith and belief in the reliability of the Bible.
- To become significant contributors to the purpose and praxis of the Church.
- To conduct original and responsible research that result in a significant contribution to the body of religious knowledge.
Outcomes and Competencies
The PhD in Religion degree is the highest research degree offered at AIIAS Theological Seminary. This degree is not earned by the mere accumulation of credits but is conferred in recognition of outstanding standards of scholarship and level of expertise in a student’s main area of study and cognate, as demonstrated by written and oral independent research based on in-depth analysis, mature synthesis and interpretation of evidence, and responsible application.
PhD in Religion specialists should possess the following competencies, and demonstrate the outcomes:
Faithfulness to God and Scripture
· Candidates should be able to clearly describe the theological, philosophical, epistemological, and cultural assumptions on which their theology is based.
Comprehensive understanding of the chosen area of concentration
· Ability to deal with philosophical underpinnings of different theories or positions in their concentration area, as well as a thorough knowledge of their cognate.
Advanced research and writing capability in the chosen concentration
· A logical, clearly written dissertation, following accepted written standards, based on original ideas and objective research that contribute to the field of study.
Expertise in teaching and other forms of communication, as well as networking with other professionals
· Candidates are expected to publish and present at scholarly meetings, as well as demonstrate teaching skills and cultural sensitivity in the classroom and pulpit.
Areas of Concentration
Each PhD in Religion candidate will choose one area of concentration from the following:
Old Testament Studies
New Testament Studies
Intercultural Studies and World Mission
Church Ministry and Leadership
Each area of concentration should be complemented with a cognate from a different field of study, preferably one that will contribute to the writing of the dissertation. Possible options for the cognate are as follows:
Church Leadership and Administration
Students may also choose a different graduate level cognate area of study approved by the PhD Program Committee.
Timeline and Limits
All application materials must be submitted to the Office of Admissions and Records no later than six months before the intended beginning of the program. The time to begin the PhD in Religion is June (the first semester of the school year) for in-residence PhD students, and March for In-Ministry PhD students. The number of students who may enter the PhD program in any given year is limited. Late applications may be considered for the following year.
The minimum time to complete a PhD in Religion program is 4 years if no remedial or pre-requisite courses are needed. Regular course work must be completed and comprehensive examinations passed within 4 years from the date of initial registration to the program. All degree requirements have to be completed within eight years of initial registration. The dissertation, including the defense and subsequent revisions, must be completed in four years or less from the time the comprehensive examinations are passed. The two time limits (coursework + comprehensives, and dissertation + defense) apply independently, so that shortening one does not lengthen the other.
In-Ministry PhD Track
Candidates should clear prerequisites before being allowed to enter this track:
Biblical languages profciency
Prerequisite credits in their concentration area
MA Thesis (or equivalent)
Candidates and their employers should sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) making sure that students will be able to come to AIIAS one term (2 months) per year during each Session of their program, for 12 months during Session 3 (see table), and be able to spend at least 10 quality hours a week to complete assignments during the rest of each year while in the program. Candidates should also have an adequate Internet connection, and access to suitable academic libraries online and offline while studying at home. The Seminary will contact and evaluate, and may even visit the proposed libraries in the student's country.
In-Ministry PhD Students will spend term during each of their first two years at AIIAS taking classes, attending doctoral seminars, and completing Directed Readings/Research during the rest of the year. This way, the student will register for up to 18 units a year. At the end of Session 2 on campus, the students will take the first comprehensive examination and be evaluated for pre-candidacy. For Session 3, students will come for the term and continue to stay on campus for one more year finishing the rest of the course credits, developing the full dissertation proposal, and preparing for comprehensive examinations. Session 4 on campus will be reserved for taking the rest of the comprehensive examinations and for defending the dissertation proposal. Upon returning home, the student will register for and write a chapter per semester, coming back on campus during the fifth year's Session to consult with the dissertation chair and committee and to use the campus resources. The remaining time will be used for writing the rest of the dissertation chapters and do the necessary corrections. During or at the end of the fifth year the defense of the dissertation may be scheduled, including possible corrections or revisions required by the defense panel. This schedule requires good time management and planning.
It is recommended that the student comes alone to take courses at AIIAS during the shortest session on campus, but may bring the family, if possible, for the one year period during Session 3.
The Seminary will provide the necessary doctoral seminars when In-Ministry PhD students are on campus. Before going home every year the student should propose topics and sign a number of contracts for Directed Readings/Research in order to fulfill the planned credits for the yearly session, make the necessary arrangements with professors, examiners, advisors, editor, or committees, and to renew their library research. All other program requirements specified in the PhD description of the AIIAS Bulletin apply to the In-Ministry PhD track as well.
||Rest of the Year
||Aim to Complete
||9 credits (AIIAS)
||9 credits (home)
||9 credits, Pre-candidacy examination, submit preliminary proposal (AIIAS)
||9 credits (home)
18 credits, Pre-candidacy
||9 credits (incl. teaching practicum - AIIAS)
||3 credits, develop full dissertation proposal, preparation for Comprehensive examinations (AIIAS)
||Ready to take comprehensive examination, defend Dissertation proposal
||Take comprehensive examinations, defend Dissertation proposal, advancement to candidacy
||Writing chapters 2 and 3 (home)
||Candidacy, Dissertation writing
||Consulting with Dissertation committee, writing chapter 4
||Writing chapter 5 and Conclusions, editing, preparation for defense (home)
||Ready for Dissertation defense
||Dissertation defense revisions
||PhD degree awarded
- An MA in Religion (MA-R), MDiv, or equivalent from approved Seminary or University.
- A minimum GPA of 3.50 on a four-point scale or equivalent.
- A minimum of two years of full-time church ministry experience.
- The following additional documents and data must be submitted to the Admissions and Records Office:
- Recommendations from the following, using the forms provided: an academic administrative officer or leader of the applicant’s employing organization in the last five years, and the school from which the applicant received the graduate degree, if other than AIIAS.
- Personal statement of approximately 600 words explaining the student’s purpose for seeking the PhD in Religion degree, and his/her philosophical perspective and professional goals.
- Demonstrated proficiency in English.
- A Research Paper with an original (20-page minimum), publishable-quality, academic article (or thesis summary) in the area of interest, which is to be reviewed and approved by the major department and program director. Detailed guidelines will be made available to the applicant as part of the enrollment package. In case the paper is not written in English, the original and a translated version need to be submitted.
- An interview with the candidate.
1. At least 15 graduate semester hours in the proposed concentration of study.
2. A pass (B or above) in a research writing course equivalent to GSEM 630 Documentary Research and Writing.
3. Those applying for an Applied Theology concentration should have a pass (B or above) in each GSEM/RESM 615 Statistics and GSEM/RESM 610 Research Methods or ___ 603 Applied Theology Research Seminar.
4. A pass (B or above) in OTST/NTST 612 Biblical Hermeneutics.
5. PhD applicants must demonstrate proficiency in both Greek and Hebrew (Grammar and/or Reading) before entrance into the program, by a proficiency exam. Students whose concentration is OT or NT should demonstrate proficiency in both Hebrew and Greek Readings level (B, 83%). Students with other concentrations should choose the language in which to demonstrate Reading proficiency (B, 83%) while the other will require Grammar proficiency (C, 73%).
- Applicants who do not fulfill this requirement may be admitted on provisional status and fulfill it by taking remedial course(s) concurrently with their PhD coursework, but not later than pre-candidacy (50% of coursework). Students who fail to meet this deadline will not be further registered for regular course work until biblical language proficiency is met.
- Those applying for an Applied Theology concentration should have at least three credits each in Statistics and Applied Theology Research Methods.
- GSEM 608 Advanced Methods of Teaching Bible is a prerequisite for Course Development and Teaching Practicum. This prerequisite can alternatively be fulfilled by providing evidence of three years of full-time undergraduate teaching at an accredited institution.
- OTST/NTST Biblical Hermeneutics
6. GSEM 608 Advanced Methods of Teaching Bible is a prerequisite for Course Development and Teaching Practicum. This prerequisite can alternatively be fulfilled by providing evidence of three years of full-time undergraduate teaching at an accredited institution.
In order to complete the PhD in Religion program, the following requirements must be met:
1. Complete a curriculum of 48 semester hours of coursework: 30 in the concentration, 12 in a cognate area, and 6 credits in required courses (GSEM 890 PhD Dissertation Proposal – 3 credits, and GSEM 894 Course Development Teaching Practicum – 3 credits). A dissertation (12 semester hours) is also required, bringing the total to 60 semester hours.
TOTAL Program Credits
- The student needs to develop a study plan under the guidance of the PhD director in consultation with the respective Department Chair.
- Courses numbered 800 and above may be taken for doctoral credit. Some specialized courses numbered 600-700 may also be taken, provided they do not make up more than a third of coursework (18 credits).
- A minimum of three doctoral-level seminars must be completed to afford the opportunity for research in preparation for dissertation writing. At least two doctoral-level seminars should be in the student’s chosen concentration. A maximum of six directed courses may be taken (GSEM 893 Directed Readings or GSEM 895 Directed Research). Only S/U grades will be administered.
- The regular full-time coursework load for in-residence students is 9-12 units per semester, and 6 units during the Intersemester. Sponsored students are expected to take a full load of 12 units per semester. In-Ministry PhD students may take nine units during the Intersemester. On-campus students who are registered for comprehensive preparation or examination and dissertation writing are considered full-time students.
2. Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.50 or above. Only grades of B- or above (or S) can apply toward the degree program. The matriculation of students who accumulate three grades below B- (including U) is normally terminated.
3. Language Requirements. In addition to biblical languages proficiency, students with a concentration in Old Testament are required to take OTST 658 Biblical Aramaic and OTST 852 Advanced Hebrew. Students with a concentration in New Testament are required to take NTST 852 Advanced Greek. If they have taken these advanced courses or equivalents in another context (graduate level) they may choose to replace them with other courses.
4. Students with a concentration in Biblical Studies are required to take OTST/NTST 809 Seminar in Biblical Methods or OTST/NTST 813 Seminar in Biblical Interpretation as part of their studies.
5. Choose a tentative dissertation topic during the Dissertation proposal seminar and submit a preliminary or tentative proposal before completing 24 credits of the program (pre-candidacy). After the preliminary or tentative proposal has been accepted, an advisor and a dissertation committee will be appointed to give further guidance as needed.
6. Register for GSEM 894 Course Development and Teaching Practicum and teach a course under the instruction of the department of the concentration. This will give the student experience in teaching in the concentration at graduate level, after pre-candidacy is granted. If the student has had a record of 3 years teaching at graduate level, this requirement is waived, and the student will register for another course.
7. Students with an Applied Theology concentration are required to take at least one three credit, doctoral-level, research methods course based on the approach proposed for their dissertation. In consultation with the program director the student may choose: RESM 715 Advanced Statistics; RESM 740 Qualitative Research Methods; RESM 751 Applied Qualitative Research Methods; MSSN 795 Approaches in Applied Theology Research in Mission.
8. Demonstrate, by a proficiency exam, a working knowledge of one or more modern and/or ancient language(s) (other than English, Biblical Hebrew, or Greek), and/or a research tool needed for dissertation writing as determined in consultation with the student’s program director and approved by the Program Committee. This requirement must be completed before taking the comprehensive examinations.
9. Pass the comprehensive examinations.
10. Write and successfully defend the doctoral dissertation.
11. Submit five approved copies of the bound dissertation to the Dean’s Office at least one week before graduation (one is for the research advisor). Submit an electronic copy to the Library.
Advancement to Pre-candidacy
The department will evaluate all students in the program upon completion of their first 24 credits of PhD program. The evaluation will be based on grades, research skills, and general aptitude for the proposed program of study. Approved students will be advanced to pre-candidacy for the PhD degree by the Program Committee. The following aspects must be noted:
1.. If a student is denied advancement to pre-candidacy, he/she may drop from the program or apply for pre-candidacy under a reduced load status.
2. The application for a reduced load status must be approved by sponsors, where applicable, and must be reviewed by the department every semester.
3. A student with a reduced load must register accordingly or drop the agreed courses, and may request a deferred grade in order to allow for additional time to complete the required work.
The student’s dissertation committee is appointed by the Program Committee following pre-candidacy, after submission of a topic proposal by the student. The committee consists of a chairperson, who becomes the student’s advisor, and two other members.
Comprehensive Examination Preparation and Examinations
If the last courses remaining to be taken in the course work of a doctoral student amount to 6 units or less, a PhD in Religion student may enroll them together with Preparation for the Comprehensives (no credit) which is counted for study load purposes as equivalent to 6 units. The comprehensive examination (also no credit) has a load value of another 6 units. Preparation for Comprehensives and the examination itself may be enrolled together, or in different semesters, as long as the preparation represents between 3 and 5 months of study for the examinations.
Upon completion of coursework and an appropriate period of intensive study and research, five comprehensive examinations will be taken. Four 6-hour examinations will be taken in the area of concentration, and one 4-hour examination in the cognate. These examinations are normally given one each week over four weeks. The focus for comprehensive examinations within the fields of study are as follows:
Text, Literature, and Interpretation
History and Backgrounds
Exegesis and Theology
General Christian Studies
Distinctive Seventh-day Adventist Doctrines
Christian Philosophy and Ethics
Theology of Ministry and Mission
Culture and Context
Church Leadership and Administration
1. The comprehensive examinations not only test the student’s command of his/her coursework, but primarily demonstrate broad proficiency in the concentration and cognate areas, determine the student’s familiarity with the pertinent literature relating to the fields of study, and the student’s skills of analysis, synthesis, and critical thinking.
2. The Programs Committee appoints the examiners for the student’s comprehensive examinations.
3. It is expected that a student’s examinations should demonstrate greater proficiency in his/her concentration of study than in the cognate.
4. Each comprehensive examination is graded by the person preparing it. If an examination is failed, a second examiner will be by the program director to verify the initial evaluation.
5. A student may be required to sit for an oral examination (not to exceed two hours) at the request of the respective examiner(s) as part of his/her comprehensive examination or if the result is a conditional pass. The program director, or someone appointed by him, arranges for and chairs the oral examination. An oral examination will normally be conducted within 14 days after the last written examination is administered. The program director informs the student of the results of the comprehensive examinations.
6. A score of less than 75% on a comprehensive examination will be considered a failing grade. A score between 75% and 79% will be considered a conditional pass. A score between 80% and 89% is considered a pass. A score of 90% and above is considered a high pass.
7. A student who fails no more than two comprehensive examinations must retake the failed examinations as scheduled by the Programs Committee, usually within one to three months.
8. A student who fails three or more comprehensive examinations must repeat all examinations at a time determined by the Programs Committee, not later than four months from the time the initial results have been announced.
9. A student who receives more than one conditional pass on the comprehensive examinations must repeat all the examinations for which a conditional pass was received except one, which will normally be the one for which the highest grade was received.
10. An examination may be retaken only once. No oral examination is offered during the retake. Students who fail any examinations during the retake will be dropped from the program.
Advancement to Candidacy
When a student submits a formal application to take comprehensive examinations, he/she should also apply for advancement to candidacy. The form for making this application is available from the PhD Program Director. Upon the student’s successful completion of all comprehensive examinations, the Program Committee will advance the student to candidacy for the PhD degree upon recommendation of the respective department.
After successful completion of comprehensive examination, the student must complete the following steps of dissertation preparation:
- Register for ____ 898 PhD Dissertation (12 sem. hrs.), 6 units per semester and 3 units per intersemester.
- A full dissertation proposal should be submitted to the student’s dissertation committee for approval as soon as possible, including an outline and bibliography. Upon approval, a proposal approval form is to be signed by the dissertation advisor and committee members, with copies given to the student, the advisor, and the program director.
- After registering for 12 dissertation credits must continue to register for GSEM 898 Continuation of Dissertation Writing (no credit) and pay a continuation fee until the dissertation is defended. Failure to register each semester may result in termination from the program.
- The dissertation will normally be approximately 200-250 pages in length. It should demonstrate the student’s familiarity with the primary and secondary literature related to the topic, give evidence of clarity of thought and of the ability of the student to research a specific topic and report the results, following a careful and appropriate methodology, at the same time making a significant contribution to the thought in the field of study.
- The candidate must submit five copies of the dissertation, approved by the dissertation editor, to the program director four weeks before the oral defense.
The oral defense of the student’s dissertation must adhere to the following stipulations:
- The oral defense of the student’s dissertation normally cannot take place earlier than 12 months after he/she has passed his/her comprehensive examinations.
- The Dissertation Defense Committee is composed of the student’s committee and two examiners appointed by the Programs Committee. Usually at least one of these appointees will be a person from outside the AIIAS Theological Seminary.
- The oral defense is to be held no later than four weeks before the degree is to be conferred.
- At least four of the five examiners must vote for acceptance of the dissertation and the defense in order for the candidate to pass the oral defense. The vote of the committee falls into one of the following categories:
- Acceptance of the dissertation as presented.
- Acceptance of the dissertation subject to revisions.
- Any minor revisions voted by the defense committee must be made under the supervision of the chairperson of the student’s committee, who then recommends the dissertation to the director of the program for conferral of the degree. Major revisions in the dissertation or defense must be reviewed and approved by the full defense committee. The Programs Committee recommends the candidate to the Seminary faculty for graduation.
- If the dissertation is rejected, the Programs Committee decides whether or not another dissertation can be written and submitted. If the second dissertation is also rejected, the candidate forfeits any possibility to finalize a PhD degree.
Transfer of Credits
MTh program Credits accrued at AIIAS are fully transferable toward a PhD in Religion at AIIAS, conditional to meeting the PhD program requirements, and the MTh degree not being awarded.