Why are some TV preachers called "Doctor"?

Question: I've noticed that nearly every television preacher is called "Doctor." Does this mean they graduated from a Bible school or seminary?

Answer: Only a few television & radio personalities have an earned doctorate degree. However, most TV evangelists have an honorary doctorate, which means they did not earn the title through years of study. There's nothing wrong with having an honorary degree, but some TV ministers promote themselves as doctor to make a television audience believe they graduated with a doctoral degree in theology.

Does it make any difference? Yes, it does. If a student has graduated from an evangelical seminary, he has spent several years learning how to translate the scriptures from Greek and Hebrew, Biblical backgrounds, in-depth studies of each book of the Bible, and has studied the errors of cults. This training keeps him from falling into error and false teaching.

It takes approximately 10-12 years of higher education to earn a doctor's degree from an accredited seminary. First, you must graduate from college (4-5 years), then to earn a master's degree requires an additional 3 years of study. A Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) or Ph.D. requires another 5 years. A Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) takes about 3 years after the master's degree. An accredited doctor's degree is earned through many years of study and great financial expense.

However, many TV preachers have no theological training, don't know how to translate Scriptures, and often know very little about the Bible-which leads to error in their teaching. An honorary doctor's degree requires no study, no time, and costs them nothing. It's merely a piece of paper that's handed to them (sometimes from unaccredited institutions). The TV preacher then uses the "Doctor" title to make his audience believe he is a Bible scholar.

How can you know if someone has an earned degree or an honorary degree? Look at the abbreviations behind their name.

Examples of earned degrees are: Ed.D. (Doctor of Education), Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), D.Min. (Doctor of Ministry), Th.D. (Doctor of Theology). Charles Stanley, James Kennedy, Chuck Swindoll, James Dobson, Richard Roberts, Adrian Rogers, Michael Youssef, Tony Evans, and Ed Young, Sr. all have earned doctorates from accredited institutions.

Examples of honorary degrees are: D.D. (Doctor of Divinity), Litt.D or Lit.D.(Doctor of Letters or Doctor of Literature), LHD (Doctor of Human Letters), L.L.D or LL.D. (Doctor of Laws). TV preachers who have honorary degrees are Creflo Dollar, Frederick K.C. Price, Mike Murdock, Oral Roberts, John Hagee, Rod Parsley, and Jesse Duplantis.

The issue here is one of integrity. God equips people for ministry through His spiritual gifts. Being a teacher of God's Word also requires study. We are to "study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Jesus said, "A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40). Many of the TV preachers with honorary doctorates have never been fully trained by anyone, and often get off into doctrinal error.

We are not saying that a seminary degree is required before someone can teach effectively. Several well-known pastors, teachers, and authors have never been to Bible school or seminary, but are extremely gifted by God, have done years of personal in-depth Bible study, and have valid ministries. Yet, none of them call themselves "Doctor." Billy Graham has an honorary doctorate, yet has never implied that it was earned. He has earned respect from the evangelical church through his ministry and integrity, not through a title.

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