This is my graduate student review of New York Theological Seminary (NYTS) based on my three years of experience in the Masters of Divinity (MDiv) degree program.
I completed all degree requirements at the end of 2016. The purpose of this review is to give those curious about NYTS an honest assessment of what they can expect from a graduate education at the seminary. For those curious to read about reviews of individual courses, click here (password: niebuhr).
The bottom line is that I would not enroll at NYTS again, nor would I recommend it to anyone else less a few select classes from a few select professors. After three years and more than $40,000 dollars in tuition, I derived little bang for my buck and am still craving for more theological instruction. What follows will elaborate on these sentiments.
First, the good. NYTS makes working toward an MDiv relatively easy if you are bi-vocational or already serving full-time in ministry. (This is the primary reason why I applied to NYTS in the first place.) That is, for the most part, classes can be taken online so there is no need to travel into upper Manhattan 1-3 times a week for classes. Classes that do mandate a physical presence are only given during the evenings (6-9pm). Even for those courses that on paper give no option to be taken online, most professors are willing to accommodate you if you contact them in advance. And, for those who already have obtained another graduate degree, some of your prior coursework can be transferred for elective credit. The MDiv is the “standard” graduate degree for professional ministry, so NYTS does well in accommodating those working full-time and yet still desire to obtain the customary theological degree that will equip you for a broad range of positions. Financially speaking (at least when I did my initial research three years ago) the cost of obtaining an MDiv is lower at NYTS compared to most other seminaries in the Northeast. If you want to be really aggressive, you can even finish the MDiv in two years by taking summer classes and taking more than the “standard” of two courses per semester.
The quality of courses and instructors varies but generally speaking, any course taught by Drs. Alfaro, Han or Irvin is well worth your time and effort. These are brilliant men rich in wisdom and readily willing to impart upon you deep reservoirs of theological understanding.
Supervised ministry (years three and four) actually puts you in a real church or other ministerial setting that is not your own. Here, you will be able to execute on what you have learned whether that means preaching, teaching, pastoral care, etc.
Next, the bad. If you look at NYTS’s vision and mission statement on their website, it says they are “multifaith” and that they affirm “both the centrality of Bible and the diversity of its interpretation and application.” What this means in practice is that the seminary is not dedicated to the exclusive truth of the Christian faith. To validate this point, consider that in the past year NYTS launched a two-year certificate program in Islamic studies. What this also means in practice is that the instruction at the seminary is not concerned with Truth with a capital T. In the swirling pool of relativism, any hint of objective truth falls down the drain. Hence, buzzwords like “urban,” “inclusive,” and “multicultural” translate to mean that after completing the MDiv program, no one would have ever earnestly scrutinized what you believe and why because you are free to believe in whatever you would like—as long as you can express it in a “theological” way and draw upon a standard reservoir of ideas. This relativism is the ultimate downfall of NYTS and has its most palpable ramification in how the school teaches theology. Subsequently, large emphasis is given to more niche ideologies—like womanist theology and black theology—while core doctrines of the Christian faith (like the Trinity, the dual deity and humanity of Christ, penal substitutionary atonement, and justification by faith alone) are ignored altogether or glossed over. In fact, after three years, sin was almost never mentioned in the process of discourse. The curriculum at NYTS is weak when it comes to systematic theology, and apologetics and spiritual warfare are non-existent.
When I began seminary three years ago, my expectations and standards were lower because I lacked the proper sense of the high standards by which Bible teachers and pastoral leaders must adhere. Expectations should be high because when training individuals who will impart the truth of God’s Word, there is no room for the ill-prepared and indolent.
Still, when I look back on my time at NYTS, I am thankful for my experiences because had it not been, I would lack my current appreciation for the Word, ministry, and church leadership.