What’s the Difference between a Master of Arts in Theology and a Master of Divinity?

Aug 15, 2019

Dr. Stephen J. Loughlin

Any training we take up should be informed ideally by a clear understanding of its purpose and nature. Consider an apprentice who has no idea of politics’ purpose or nature but who wishes to take up a training in the political art under the guidance of a masterful politician. To many, this lacking in the apprentice’s knowledge would seem imprudent and perhaps even foolish. This, however, may not necessarily be the case. For when properly considered, this situation may indeed reveal God’s grace at work.

At the heart of theology is found the revelation of the mind and the heart of our Creator, a personal communication of His person to all people of the most important realities of our lives. As with many disciplines within the Humanities, the best reason to pursue these is simply for the intrinsic worth of the material itself. In this regard, what (one might rhetorically ask) exceeds the wisdom that is God!? So, with the Master of Theology, one finds an invitation into that most loving and oldest of inquiries into the Trinitarian life, an inquiry pursued simply for the sake of coming to know the life, the person, and the activities of the one true God. While a few people pursue this degree for the sake of becoming theologians themselves (the Master of Theology being the first of many steps to the Doctorate in Theology), most pursue this degree simply in response to God’s call to know and to love Him better in anticipation of the heavenly beatitude when one will behold and commune with God for all eternity.

In having received the greatest of the divine things from this study, there wells up in our souls a joy so powerful that we simply cannot keep it to ourselves, but desire fervently to share it with others, sometimes with the gift of our very lives. We cry out, as the Scriptures say, like a woman in labor. Again, this is not a light that can be hidden but must itself illumine the lives of all upon which it shines. Thus, it is often the case that one, having gained so much from the Master of Theology so described, seeks to apply it to a particular area of life that stands in great need of the formation that one has received through this encounter with God. With the Master of Divinity (M.Div.), the student of theology seeks the educational and formational components necessary for full-time professional ministry in the Church. These ministries include hospital and prison chaplaincy, pastoral administration, and priesthood. The curriculum in both cases aims at an integration of human, intellectual, pastoral and spiritual aspects, and these as fully informed by and faithful to authentic Catholic teaching.

As our Lord reminds us, of those to whom much has been gifted, much is expected. Please join then with the community of people that comprise the gift that St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry is for the Church and Her people so that together we might explore through our courses and degree programs the greatness of our Creator and in great joy discern the many and diverse ways we can make a return to the Lord for all the good that He has showered upon us.

Dr. Stephen J. Loughlin is President and Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry in Rochester, NY. Dr. Loughlin earned his Master's and Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Toronto. Before coming to St. Bernard’s last year, Dr. Loughlin was an Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at DeSales University in Center Valley, PA., a position he held for almost 20 years. Dr. Loughlin’s academic work has appeared in The Thomist, Nova et Vetera, Pro Ecclesia, and Josephinum, and his areas of research interest include Medieval philosophy, and Thomistic anthropology. Dr. Loughlin deeply loves teaching, having engaged in the profession for 25 years. Dr. Loughlin has been married for the past 30 years to his lovely wife Carol who just recently retired as a NICU nurse.