For some time I’ve noticed a trend within the Charismatic world that is troubling. For some reason, the title of “Dr.” has been cropping up. Folks who have typically prided themselves on never “setting foot in cemetery, er…seminary” are suddenly being introduced as Dr. So-and-so, a great General of God.
I grew up in the Southern Baptist world, and if the pastor advertised himself as Dr. Smith, you could bet that there was a diploma on the wall from an accredited institution awarding a Ph.D., Th.D., or the like. I know how much work goes in to any degree, and I respect anyone who has education.
I’ve been digging around a bit and have discovered that places like Oral Roberts University award quite a few Honorary Doctorates to various pastors. Typically, when an honorary degree is given, it’s just that – honorary. You didn’t earn it – somebody was just being nice.
Why is it that these “super preachers”, who typically gleefully disdain education from the pulpit (see the cemetery comment above – I’ve heard that more than twice), suddenly start advertising themselves as having a higher education? Jesse Duplantis, a well known evangelist from the New Orleans area, was a rock singer when he got saved. He started preaching not long after. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Oral Roberts University in 1999. In 1999 he started being introduced as “Dr. Jesse Duplantis”. Interesting, since this is the only “education” has has on any bio… Here’s the information on the ORU site from 1999.
I’m not picking only on Bro. Duplantis – this is widespread. The pastor at our former church would be “Dr.” at random times, and has often mentioned that he “has more letters behind his name than most.” Odd, since he became an evangelist at 17 and has never actually attended college…
Here’s an interesting quote from William Alnor:
A second problem within the church is the astonishing number of people who have been given “honorary” doctoral degrees, who then turn around and call themselves “doctor,” thus quietly implying they have earned degrees. This is deceptive and goes against academic protocol. In reality, although many institutions of higher learning give honorary doctorates, the secularists — those outside Christianity receiving them know better than to take them seriously. Thus they don’t refer to themselves as “doctor” at all, since it would be a joke to do so.
Among the institutions most responsible for contributing to the confusion is Oral Roberts University of Tulsa that seemingly doles out honorary doctorates like candy at Halloween to children. ORU has even presented honorary doctorates to some of the most questionable figures imaginable, even con men and known purveyors of false doctrine and at least one accused sexual predator. After some of these people are awarded an ORU honorary doctorate, sometimes without serving any time in higher education, a good number of these men and women have gone on to publicly call themselves doctors in their books and in teaching materials.
ORU has doled out honorary doctorates to the late Kathryn Kuhlman and Rex Humbard, both accused of multiple imporprieties; the late plagiarist and false teacher Kenneth E. Hagin; prosperity teachers Frederick Price, Creflo Dollar, Marilyn Hickey, Joyce Meyer, Jesse Duplantis, Paul (David) Yonggi Cho, his wife, and Kenneth Copeland; former NFL player Roosevelt Greer; the late entertainer, Bob Hope; false teachers and founders of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Paul and Jan Crouch. But most egregious was ORU’s awarding of honorary degrees to the following teachers who were exposed in international scandals for various instances of crookedness: Bishop Earl Paulk (who has faced a slew of sustained sexual misconduct accusations over the years); disgraced television preachers Robert Tilton and Larry Lea (who were both targets of PrimeTime television exposes by Diane Sawyer); and faith healer Benny Hinn, who has faced dozens of major scandals during the past 15 years. And there are many other lesser known false teachers given honorary doctoral degrees since ORU began the practice in 1972.
Honorary doctorates were given to Memphis pastor James Netters, Peniel College founder Dr. Michael Reid, and Patricia Salem White, a devoted “prayer warrior” (and First Lady Lindsay Roberts’ mother) who was cured of cancer after reading a book by Oral Roberts in the 1950s.
Is it deceptive to use this honorary degree as though it were real? Yes. How ’bout we call it what it really is? It’s a LIE. There have been some well-known cases in which individuals in secular jobs have been fired for “stretching the truth” about their education. Why is it not only allowed in the church, but seemingly encouraged?