Those who aspire to “easy” degrees hurt themselves and others.

Jesus made it clear that faith, not education, is necessary for salvation. Fortunately for most of us, he doesn’t require his followers to hold Ph.D.’s from Harvard or to spend three grueling years at a highly acclaimed seminary. When he came to earth, he chose fishermen, not ichthyologists, to be his companions.

Yet scholarship has advanced the Christian faith in indispensable ways. Had it not been for the scholars who spent those grueling years learning and translating Hebrew and Greek into English, we would know much less about Jesus and the fishermen he found so special. Scholars labor to form clear doctrinal statements so the masses can have the luxury of making simple proclamations of faith.

Today, as in other ages, the contributions of good scholarship go largely unappreciated. Theologian R. C. Sproul has observed that the church is in the most anti-intellectual era of its history. Related to this anti-intellectualism is a pseudo-intellectual trend exemplified by the abundance of unaccredited theological schools that offer degrees by mail.

Some 250 religious correspondence schools operate in this country, according to John Bear, a specialist in nontraditional higher education. One of the largest is the International Bible Institute and Seminary (IBIS), in Plymouth, Florida, near Orlando. At IBIS and similar schools, a person does not have to learn Hebrew or Greek—or delve deeply into scholarly research—to get an impressive list of degrees placed by his name.

It is not only the degree-hungry who find these schools attractive. Correspondence schools can be tempting to busy laymen or pastors who want to increase their knowledge, ...

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