James White and Eric Svendsen like to pretend they are doctors. They even have these certificates from third rate institutions which say they are. Eric Svendsen has attempted to use his overblown credentials to brow beat his opponents so many times that his eyebrows now permanently cover his eyes. White, on the other hand, recently referred to our director, John Pacheco (a.k.a. the "Jack Chick of Catholic Apologetics"), as "a radical, tremendously shallow-researching Roman Catholic apologist" in reference to John's work in defense of Our Lady's perpetual virginity. [Click here to read all about it.]
Since these gentlemen have placed so much emphasis on their vaulted degrees of higher learning, The Catholic Legate saw fit to commission an investigative report on just how scholarly these two individuals are. As the facts make evident, White and Svendsen should be more properly addressed with the prefix "Mr."
Readers will certainly notice that many Catholic Apologists never acknowledge that Eric Svendsen or James White have valid doctorates and therefore we address them as Mr. Svendsen and Mr. White. The reason is simple. In the case of Svendsen, for instance, the institution from which he claims a doctorate requires only two requirements: a payment of 5000 £ (at the time of this writing) and an approved doctoral thesis. As writers for The Catholic Legate have clearly demonstrated in the past months, the pretence that Svendsen's thesis represents a careful and legitimate piece of scholarship is quite literally a joke. The only possible area in which Svendsen could have claimed to make any original contribution to the world of scholarship is in his analysis of heõs hou. And we have seen as this discussion has played out that his research on that issue is hopelessly tendentious, incomplete, inaccurate, and that his conclusions are erroneous. If Svendsen will kindly provide a list of the readers who approved his work as a doctoral dissertation, we will gladly ask them some very pointed questions about how such shabby work came to be approved.
The long and the short of it is that Svendsen paid his money, but he did not write a valid doctoral dissertation. Therefore, at most, one can say that he has the best doctorate that money can buy. I hope that those who still believe in the integrity of academic credentials will refuse to acknowledge such shabby work as the basis of a valid doctorate.
But I think it's worth delving a little deeper into Mr. Svendsen's credentials. Svendsen uses his alleged Ph.D. as a club with which to beat his opponents and as a talisman to dazzle his followers. I am sure that I'm not the only one to notice that men of short physical stature sometimes compensate for their lack of height by being cocky, forceful, and brash. Taller men rarely need to overcompensate in such ways. In the academic realm, I've noticed that men who have earned genuine academic credentials almost never wear them on their sleeve, let alone brandish them like weapons. So it got me wondering: what is it about Svendsen's academic stature that has him constantly strutting and flaring like a little bantam rooster?
Svendsen claims two doctorates, a Th.D. from the unaccredited Columbia Evangelical Seminary (CES) and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Potchefstroom University, South Africa (PU), while James White is the proud holder of three post graduate degrees from Columbia Evangelical Seminary: Th.M. Apologetics, Faraston Seminary (now known as CES), 1995; Th.D., Apologetics, Columbia Evangelical Seminary, 1998; and D.Min, Apologetics, Columbia Evangelical Seminary, 2002.
I was curious to see who comprised the New Testament faculty at PU and what their own academic credentials look like. Here's the line up (see www.puk.ac.za/theology/sbb.html):
Fika J. van Rensburg is listed on the New Testament faculty but is also the Director of the Biblical Studies department. Van Rensburg claims a Th.D. from Potchefstroom University as well as a D. Litt. (Honoris causa) from Columbia Evangelical Seminary. An honorary doctorate from an unaccredited institution. Interesting.
Next is Gert J. C. (Jorrie) Jordaan who is the head of the New Testament department and claims as his highest degree a D.Litt, received from Potchefstroom University. It is worth noting that a D.Litt. is an antiquated degree, most often given these days honoris causa, and is essentially worthless as a credential in biblical studies.
The next on the NT faculty is Christopher Rabali. Rabali has a Th.D. from Potchefstroom University.
Finally we have Francois P. Viljoen who sports a Th.D.(New Testament) from.....you guessed it.....Potchefstroom University.
So the entire New Testament department claims doctorates from the very institution in which they teach. The Old Testament faculty of Potchefstroom University does not have much greater diversity; only one of five instructors has a degree from an institution other than PU. For now I will simply say that this is problematic; I will flesh that out more later.
Columbia Evangelical Seminary
Now, let's turn to Columbia Evangelical Seminary (CES).
Rick "Josh" Walston is the founder and president of the school. He sports a Ph.D. from Potchefstroom University.
The board of regents runs as follows:
So, every single one of the principles in CES-including all of the "mentors" (Walston, Fernandes, Weiss, and Young)- claim their doctoral degrees either from CES itself or from Potchefstroom University.
There is a phrase that describes this phenomenon very nicely; it's called academic incest.
This is precisely why, at most institutions of higher learning, your chances of getting hired back as a professor at the same institution from which you got your doctorate are very slim. Schools want to avoid such an obvious conflict of interest. Obviously this isn't considered a problem at CES. In fact, I have never seen such a flagrant example of academic incest. PU indeed!
Twenty eight "faculty members" are listed on the CES Web site. Of these, seven claim their highest degrees from CES/Greenwich/PU (including Eric Svendsen and James White). Two others claim their "doctorates" from highly questionable schools (one from the unaccredited "American Christian College and Seminary" [correction: lost accreditation April, 2004]) and one from the now-discredited "Columbia Pacific University" (see http://www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/News/cpu.html). Five of the faculty members have as their highest degree a D.Min. or D.Miss.; these are not academic degrees. Five more claim no doctorate at all. I must confess that I question the academic value of the "S.T.D. from Bethany Theological Seminary, Dothen, AL" claimed by one instructor and the "Doctor of Strategic Leadership from Regent University" claimed by another. But I have no more detailed information on those degrees or institutions. Out of twenty eight individuals, only eight have a Ph.D. from an institution that one would call credible.
Let's just say that it is not exactly a stellar line-up for a school that claims to be able to bestow degrees all the way up to, and including, the Ph.D. level.
So next time Eric Svendsen and James White twaddle on about their academic prowess and showcase their credentials of higher learning, don't take them too seriously. Competent and honorable academics do not.
March 26, 2004
Updated: August 30, 2004