Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Remarkable Story of Bob Thiel's ThD

The story of Bob's acquisition of a Doctor of Theology degree was a major source of curiosity on AW back in 2009. Bob has since gone on to assert further remarkable personal claims. Perhaps we can gauge how seriously we can take these by Bob's ThD track record. Here's how it unfolded.


25 September: Bob's been busy

Not only in writing books but now articles for examiner.com. Here's the bio:
Dr. Bob Thiel has studied theology and prophecy for decades, and possesses a Ph.D. (UIU) and a Th.D. (TCU). He has also traveled extensively, and has visited sites of religious interest in Rome, Greece, Central Europe, Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Constantinople (Istanbul), Africa, Asia, North America, and Latin America.
Bob has a ThD from Texas Christian University? When did that happen? Bob doesn't mention it in his COGwriter bio.




26 September: Bob's ThD

What do we make of the claim that Bob Thiel holds a ThD from TCU? ... Inquiries have been made by concerned AW readers. Leonardo is one:

...in the endeavor to "prove all things" I called the Registrar's Office (817-257-7825) of Texas Christian University located in Ft. Worth, Texas – and talked to one Kristi Harrison at the Registrar’s Office. She informed me of the following facts: First of all, Texas Christian University does NOT have a doctorate of theology (ThD) program. They do have a Masters of Theological Studies program, a Master of Divinity program, and a Master of Theology program – but not a ThD program. And second, the name of Bob (or Robert) Thiel does NOT show up on ANY student listing the university has. They have a computerized file dating from 1984 forward – and Thiel is NOT on this one. And they have a microfiche file for students who attended before 1984 – and Thiel doesn’t show up on this one either.
I've always found Bob a scrupulously honest person, so it will be intriguing to follow this as it develops.


26 September (2): Bob's ThD... revised edition

Just a few hours ago Bob had this to say on his website:
...I have studied graduate level Early Church History from Fuller Theological Seminary and other schools. A doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree was earned from the Union Institute and University where I studied various biological sciences and research methodologies. I also have other degrees/training, and have studied theology, both formally and informally.
Now there's a new, edited version:
...I have studied graduate level Early Church History from Fuller Theological Seminary and other schools in and out of the USA like T of CU, where a Th.D. in Early Christianity was earned). A doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree was earned from the Union Institute and University where I studied various biological sciences and research methodologies. I also have other degrees/training, and have studied theology, both formally and informally.
Uh... T of CU? Anyone have any idea what this means? TCU seems to know nothing about Bob (see previous posts.) And, accepting what Bob now says on face value, fancy him forgetting to mention his excellent doctorate in theology till now...


11 October: Doctor of Thielology

The Last Great Day has been and gone, and thousands of Feast-goers are toddling their weary way home. The "best Feast ever"? Well, maybe.

I'm looking forward to Bob Thiel at last having time to share the details on his acquisition of the Th.D which suddenly appeared on his resumé, so to speak, just days before the Feast. This may seem a bit obsessive, but I think it's important that we all can feel Bob's honesty is not in question here. We may disagree with Bob, but nobody has had reason to question his sincerity and integrity before.

As late as March last year Bob didn't seem to know about his own Th.D. Here's what he wrote in answer to a critic on another blog (you can read the whole rebuttal here):
I do have a Ph.D. and it is from the Union Institute & University. And Union is regionally accredited (the highest accepted accrediting standard in the United States for universities and colleges). I also have a Master of Science degree from the University of Southern California (which, of course, is also regionally accredited).
I believe Bob unreservedly, and these qualifications are not in question. But note, no mention of a Th.D from TCU (or anywhere else.) Has Bob acquired his prestigious doctorate in theology since then? If so, how? If Bob wants to continue to be regarded as credible, he needs to come clean on this, and sooner rather than later.


23 October: A Case of Beams and Splinters

Over at COGwriter, Bob Thiel is busy nuking some guy called James Malm. It's completely justified, as Malm has been slagging off Thiel. Never a dull moment in the sandpit.

What this clearly demonstrates is that Bob is quite capable of standing up for himself, and assuming a posture of peevish outrage. The current entry is entitled "James Malm Continues to Mislead."
Instead of repenting for being a false accuser of me, James Malm remains an accuser (cf. Revelation 12:10) as he continues to attempt to mislead people about me and my writings... The Apostle Paul faced false accusers as well who could not prove their false accusations (Acts 24:13).
Well, bully for Bob. But isn't it interesting that Bob has still failed to respond to questions about the legitimacy of a claimed Th.D from TCU. These claims are in his bio at Examiner.com, and on his own website. Hardly a good look to accuse someone else of misleading while being unable to provide the most rudimentary documentation for one's own claims. A case of beams and splinters?

The thing is, Bob gets a lot of traffic on his site, but where does it come from? Have a look at this breakdown from Alexa.com.

Sweet mystery of life, nearly 15% of Bob's click-through traffic comes from - gasp! - AW! No other source, search engines Google and Yahoo excluded, sends more visitors through for a dose of Bob's "Th.D" fueled Biblical expertise... Most of those would go directly to the COGwriter "news" page, while most of the search engine hits would go to one of the countless ratbag pages of opinion Bob has up on things like "Catholic prophecies," Mayan calendars, and whether Barack Obama is the Antichrist. If that's the case, most of Bob's upstream traffic would come from curious and confused nutcases outside the COG fold, which means the news blog - the part of Bob's site most of us are familiar with - has been hugely overrated in its influence.

Yes brethren, I'm very tempted to rain on Bob's parade by withdrawing all links to his site... after all he doesn't link here. But that would be boorish and small-minded, so I guess he can continue to hang out in the apologists' section of the side bar.

But there'll be no more direct links from blog entries until Bob explains that alleged Th.D.

Question: Exactly which institution issued the Th.D? Full name required, as the obvious candidate for "TCU" is Texas Christian University, and they don't seem to know anything about it.


24 October: In Search of... Bob's ThD

The mystery of Bob Thiel's Th.D may be solved, and it's a pretty strange tale.

Bob may have acquired a mail order degree from Trinity School of Apologetics & Theology in Kochi.

Kochi?

TRINITY??

Following up on an anonymous tip in the previous comments section, a web search revealed that Trinity is a fundamentalist institution in India which has a Calvinist orientation, and offers "Free Apologetics/Theology Graduate Distance Programs." It's listed in places like Conservapedia and Creationwiki, and is sited next to Cochin University, but from what I can tell is definitely not part of that institution (although to read the Trinity website you might assume it was!) T of CU would then mean Trinity of Cochin University, which seems to be a clear misrepresentation.

Here's what Walston's Guide to Christian Distance Learning has to say about this institution (see graphic).

Not exactly positive.

And lo and behold, there is a Bob Thiel listed under "graduation news" on the Trinity site.

Now let's recap.

(1) If this is the source of Bob's Th.D, one can only wonder at his choice of an institution which wears its trinitarianism on its sleeve.

(2) To all intents and purposes, the accreditation that this institution claims is highly dubious.

(3) Bob has misrepresented it by calling it TCU. The correct acronym is TGSAT. The impression that he has graduated from Texas Christian is highly misleading. The impression that TGSAT is part of Cochin University is also misleading.

It appears that Bob's Th.D - if this is its source - isn't worth the paper it's printed on. No wonder Bob has been less than forthcoming about its provenance: it's a huge embarrassment.

However, on the positive side, Bob was being at least partially truthful. He does have a piece of paper with a recently minted Th.D., the quality of which is fully commensurate with the quality of his scholarship.


16 November: The disappearing ThD

Bob Thiel seems to have expunged mention of any Th.D from his bio page. No explanation given, but I guess it amounts to a concession to his critics. Here then are the three versions of his qualifications that Bob has promoted this year.

Version 1: ...I have studied graduate level Early Church History from Fuller Theological Seminary and other schools. A doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree was earned from the Union Institute and University where I studied various biological sciences and research methodologies. I also have other degrees/training, and have studied theology, both formally and informally.

Version 2: ...I have studied graduate level Early Church History from Fuller Theological Seminary and other schools in and out of the USA like T of CU, where a Th.D. in Early Christianity was earned). A doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree was earned from the Union Institute and University where I studied various biological sciences and research methodologies. I also have other degrees/training, and have studied theology, both formally and informally.

Version 3: ...I have studied graduate level Early Church History from Fuller Theological Seminary and other schools in and out of the USA). A doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree was earned from the Union Institute and University where I studied various biological sciences and research methodologies. I also have other degrees/training, and have studied theology, both formally and informally.

Now you see it, now you don't. It remains to be seen whether Bob has done irreparable damage to his credibility by fudging on this issue.



***

2016 Postscript. Bob's alma mater admits that it is indeed not accredited, no big surprise, so it seems his PhD is indeed only a pretty piece of paper, a vanity qualification. Vanity is one of the seven deadly sins, isn't it?

As late as September last year Bob could write: "And, yes, I have a Ph.D. and Th.D. among other degrees. The Th.D. is in Christian Apologetics, with a speciality of Early Church History." [source] On his website he now states: "I have studied graduate level Early Church History from Fuller Theological Seminary [no details] and other schools in and out of the USA [no details], and after a lot of writing, was granted a foreign Th.D. in early Christianity [no details]." Apparently that's as much a concession as we're likely to get.

Would you buy a used car from this man?

10 comments:

Unknown said...

So if I were to graduate from "Truckmasters School of Trucking" can I claim to be a "Doctor" too?

Pam said...

Nice job of sleuthing, Gavin. Thanks. It is SO much easier to track down this kind of nonsense these days with the Internet than it used to be doing it Old School.

Byker Bob said...

The funny thing is, some of the people who have questionable degrees, or honorary ones, actually think of them as being real. I've known some who wonder why others question their "credentials".

In the case at hand, it is hardly surprising that someone who believes he is a prophet would also hold to other delusionary titles. It is all part and parcel of the same pathology which is produced by the system. Some excuse it by asking, "Well, weren't all of the degrees conferred by Ambassador College fake as well?" It is anti-intellectualism, or pseudo-intellectualism, and spits in the faces of all of those who go to the time and expense of obtaining real degrees from real universities.

BB

Anonymous said...

Perhaps his degree is prophetic and hasn't happened yet.

Anonymous said...

If Thiel wants credibility, he can just post his thesis online as a flipping book.

It would probably be better than a .pdf, since we can all assume it was written as a booklet.

Non_Ecliptic_Orbit said...

Who is Bob Thiel and why should we be concerned about his Th.D? In what sense does he think he is a prophet? In the predictive sense?

Stephen said...

Yes, unfortunately, in the predictive sense. He's been known to lay out several dozen vague statements of things that are pretty likely to happen, especially given they're vague enough to be worthy of a cold-reading "psychic," and then he'll wait a year or so, and blow his own horn because by a stretch of interpretation, a handful of them have "come to pass." No need for a control to establish how well people who don't pretend to be prophets might do just by random chance alone. Yes, these are his bona fides as a "prophet." That and Gaylyn Bonjour. By this standard, I could be a prophet if I wanted to say I am. I think he learned the art of the con with his homeopathics business, and now he's decided to expand...

Non_Ecliptic_Orbit said...

Thanks Stephen. I had a look at his website. I was reluctant because I have seen so much of this kind of stuff before and I get queasy. It is the usual Armstrongite palaver. What stood out to me:

1. How can someone with so much education still be an Armstrongite? Now,that's a miracle.

2. It was odd that his wife in the photo of his family was wearing dreadlocks like a rasta girl. Albeit, neat dreadlocks.

Those are not profound observations but I can only expend so much energy on these kind of guys.

The Skeptic said...

They're all a bunch of liars and con men.

John Bowers said...

I was a member of the Fresno WCG when Bob Thiel moved there circa 1986. It was contempt at first sight--not from me, but from him. You can tell when someone dislikes you and he was brimming with hostility. Why? Oh, I don't know...I was president of the Graduate Club, for one, and he constantly criticized my performance. I was also a computer programmer and he was a CPA, which are natural-born enemies. His arrogance was on display every time I saw him.

I tried to make friends with him (I don't like having enemies), but it was an effort. During one of our tortured conversations, he told me (this was probably 1988 or so) that he had a Th.D. I had never heard of a Th.D., but anyone who gets a degree in anything, if he gets it honestly, deserves at least a modicum of admiration. Doctorates require a lot of hard work.

Like you, I don't question his honesty (truth as he believes it to be), but his arrogance rivals anything I ever saw when I worked at AC in Pasadena. I was not at all surprised when, years later, he became a "prophet".