Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Jesus is Not the Father Redux: A Response to Clayton Killion

I linked to an article entitled A Look at Three Passages Oneness Pentecostals Use to DemonstrateJesus is the Father in the “Worldwide Godhead Symposium” debate group. Clayton Killion, a Oneness Pentecostal, took the time to respond at his Lectionary blog. While I appreciate his willingness to write a cordial response, his effort divulges significant logical, exegetical, and theological problems.

The purpose of my article was, as the title states, to address the main texts Oneness Pentecostals appeal to in order to justify their claim that Jesus is the Father in human flesh. While other aspects of Oneness theology and Christology depend on other texts (I address dozens in my book, Against Oneness Pentecostalism: An Exegetical-Theological Critique, 2nd Edition), these three texts are the main passages marshaled specifically to prove Jesus is the Father. Not recognizing this, Killion began his article with a mischaracterization: “According to Burgos, we Oneness Pentecostals appeal to only a handful of texts—no more than six—in order to build our Christology.” This statement is a straw-man as I clearly do not believe (nor have I ever written or said) that Oneness Pentecostals build their entire Christology on a handful of texts. Rather, my contention in the article was that the three texts in question are those predominantly utilized in order to demonstrate that Jesus is the Father. Killion went on to write,
Anyone who has read David Bernard, Nathaniel Wilson, David Norris, Daniel Segraves, Jerry Lynn Hayes, or Jason Weatherly can attest to this fact. I find Burgos’ above statement astounding—given that he has written multiple books in response to our doctrine, engaging all of the aforementioned authors.
The only thing astounding here is the mischaracterization he put forth from the outset. Moreover, unless Killion believes that the statement “Jesus is the Father” is a comprehensive summary of Oneness Christology en toto, there is absolutely no basis for his mischaracterization of my article.

Killion wrote, “Every Biblical passage that you have studied with respect to trinitarianism, we have studied vis-à-vis Oneness dogma. We build our teaching on the whole of scripture—just as you claim to do.” Really? Exactly where is the Oneness Pentecostal systematic theology? You can find a systematics text that reflects what I believe in virtually every Christian bookstore. Precisely where is this comprehensive Oneness Pentecostal theology found? Even those Oneness works which attempt to address more than the doctrine of God don’t even come close to attempting a systematic treatment of biblical doctrine. I assert the reason why there is no Oneness systematics text, is because Oneness Pentecostalism is incapable of theological consistency as it is built upon the misguided use of prooftexts.1

Killion then addressed what he characterized as my “exegesis of Isaiah 9:6.” This is confusing since I didn’t provide an exegesis of this text in the relevant article. Rather, I appealed to pp. 98-101 in my book which does provide an exegesis. What I did provide was a few sentences which explain why I don’t believe the phrase “father of eternity” to mean that Jesus is God the Father. If Killion does desire to interact with my exegesis, it has been in print for three years. He responded to my summary by asserting that I have adopted the “EXACTLY [sic] the same logic that Jehovah’s Witnesses use in order to prove Jesus is not God at all.” Essentially, Killion has argued that in the same way that the Watchtower explains away Immanuel on sematic grounds, I too have explained away the phrase “father of eternity.” He concluded, “If Jesus’ name Abiad/”Everlasting Father” does not literally mean he is the Father, then Jesus’ name Immanuel/”God with us” does not literally mean that he was God.” This statement, however, divulges a logical fallacy that is at the root of Killion’s quant claim. First, the claim that I am engaging in the same hermeneutic as a suborndinationist cult is mildly amusing and totally unfounded.2 His argument erroneously presupposes the univocality of the words "God" and "father." Second, it is a bald assumption to suppose that “father of eternity” necessarily identifies Jesus as God the Father. Without any justification or rationale whatsoever, Killion equates the phrase “father of eternity” with God the Father. Third, I do believe with abject consistency that both “father of eternity” and “Immanuel” are titles of deity. However, my contention is that within the context of a title, the “father of…” construction is a Semitic linguistic convention that is designed to characterize a subject and not identify a subject. Thus, to call the Son of God “father of eternity” is to attribute eternality to him, and not to characterize him as God the Father.

Killion went on to write,

Your own logic defeats you, sir. Just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are using the names of mere humans (Abigail, Abijam, Elihu) to exegete a prophetic statement about the incarnate God! If you are logically consistent, you must conclude not only that Jesus is not God the Father, but also that Jesus is not God at all!

The irony here is thick. First, the prophet says that these titles (“Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace”) are characterizations of his name, and not his name specifically. Isaiah wrote, “And his name shall be called…” and therefore these titles are designed to be a commentary on the Messiah's name. Second, it is special pleading to divorce "father of eternity" from the many other "father of..." constructions in the OT. Third, recognizing the manner in which the Tanakh utilizes language in order to understand the Bible in a consistent manner is a standard means of exegesis. I understand “Mighty God” to refer to the Messiah’s absolute deity because of the way that term and its derivatives are used elsewhere in Scripture.3 To do so is standard exegetical practice. Killion, it appears, either doesn’t understand that or must use faux outrage as a stand-in for an argument. Fourth, my argument is that “father of eternity” is a title for deity, namely, the divine attribute of eternality. Hence, Killion’s argument at this point is absurd.

Killion wrote,
I don’t know why it is so heinous to say that the divinity of Jesus is God the Father. If Jesus is God, he must be the Father. John 17:1-3 tells us that the “Father” is “the only true God;” 1 Corinthians 8:6 says that “there is but one God, the Father;” Malachi 2:10 says that the “one God who created us” is the “one Father.” Even the Nicene Creed says that the divinity of the Son is “of one substance with the Father,” and forbids us from saying that his divinity is “of another ousia or hypostasis” from the Father. If Jesus is God, his divinity must be the Father; conversely, if his divine nature is anything other than the Father, he is not completely God.
The above comments divulge a considerable lack of clarity regarding historic Christianity and biblical exegesis. Trinitarians have never rejected the notion that the Father and Son share the same deity (i.e., consubstantiality). For instance, the Nicene Creed eloquently states, the Son is "God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God." So too, I have addressed the texts Killion mentions in my books (esp. 1st Cor. 8:6), and therefore I won’t bother to rehash that here. Suffice it to write, Killion assumes unitarian monotheism from the outset when he wrote “If Jesus is God, his divinity must be the Father.” At issue between Oneness adherents and Christians is the question of unitarianism, and therefore it is ultimately unhelpful and unproductive to merely reaffirm a unitarian presupposition and wonder why the historic Christian faith comprehensively rejects it.

Killion wrote,
Lastly with respect to this verse, Burgos claims that Oneness Pentecostals deny the eternal existence of the Son. This is an oversimplification of our doctrine, and not quite right. Oneness Pentecostals teach that the genuine human being Jesus Christ was literally begotten by the virgin Mary (Galatians 4:4, Luke 1:35, John 1:1-14); prior to his birth by Mary, this genuine human being did not exist. Just like Burgos, we believe that the incarnation literally took place in history; unless he is suggesting that the human flesh of Jesus preexisted his birth, and that his human body was in heaven prior to being begotten by Mary.
That Oneness adherents deny the eternality of the Son of God is not an “oversimplification,” but an obvious and central aspect of Oneness Christology. If one believes that “Jesus is the one Father incarnate,”4 and if one believes the Son of God began to exist at Bethlehem, then clearly the Son of God, on that view, didn’t have an actual personal preexistence. Surely Killion knows there are numerous quotes available from the aforementioned authors which all unambiguously state that the Son began to exist at Bethlehem. Killion and other Oneness adherents believe that the Son of God is the incarnation of a unitarian God and subsequent to that incarnation, the human existence of that unitarian God prayed to, obeyed, honored, and worshiped his transcendent self. The Son, on that view, began to exist, and according to some Oneness adherents, will eventually cease to exist.5 Does Killion disagree with Bernard, when he claims that “The Son of God is not a distinct person in the Godhead but the physical expression of the one God”?6 If the Son is merely the physical expression of a unitarian God, then he certainly did not have eternality of preexistence. Instead, the best Oneness Pentecostals can affirm is that the Son had an idealized existence and that the deity that dwelt in him had an actual preexistence.

In response to my comments regarding John 14 in the aforementioned article, Killion claims that I haven’t taken the time to learn what Oneness Pentecostals teach. My library and bibliographies tell another story. Rather Killion, in attempting to utilize a personal distinction between the Father and Son that is predicated upon the incarnation, has given away the farm. The problems with this view are so extensive, a volume could be produced on that subject alone. For example, if the relationship between the Father and Son is one that is predicated upon the difference between God and his incarnate self as Killion has claimed, then the relational dynamic between the Father and Son is rooted in the ontological superiority of the Father and the inferiority of the Son. However, because we are told, “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God,”7 Killion’s theology would, therefore, demand the ontological superiority of husbands and the inferiority of wives. Much more could be said (and has been written) about turning the personal distinction between the Father and Son into a convention of the incarnation. However, I won’t bother to repeat the other theological and exegetically problems with this viewpoint here.

In conclusion, I like Clayton Killion. I’m sure we’d agree on much if we sat down over a turmeric latte.

1 See my evaluation of the history and origin of Oneness Pentecostalism in Counterfeit Religion: A Biblical Analysis of Cults, Sects, & False Religious Movements (Torrington: Church Militant Pub., 2019), 73-91.
2 I have responded to the claims of subordinationists in two texts: Michael R. Burgos ed., Our God is Triune: Essays in Biblical Theology (Torrington: Church Militant Pub., 2018) and Counterfeit Religion: A Biblical Analysis of Cults, Sects, and False Religious Movements (Torrington: Church Militant Pub., 2019).
3e.g., Isa. 10:21.
4D. K. Bernard, Pentecostal Theology Volume 1: The Oneness of God (Hazelwood: Word Aflame Press, 2007), Kindle, loc. 1170.
5Bernard wrote, “When the reasons for the Sonship cease to exist, God will cease acting in His role as Son, and the Sonship will be submerged back into the greatness of God, who will return to His original role as Father, Creator, and Ruler of all.” ibid., loc. 975.
6ibid., loc. 894.
71 Cor. 11:3.

Monday, October 7, 2019

What is the Bible?: The Patristic Doctrine of Scripture [Review]

What is the Bible?: The Patristic Doctrine of Scripture.ed. Matthew Baker & Mark Mourachian.(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016), 224 pp.

With the contemporary shift away from modernist/Enlightenment-influenced exegetical and hermeneutical practices,1 contemporary theologians are revisiting the works of their theological forebears. Studies on the exegetical and hermeneutical practices of the church fathers are numerous, but a definitive look at patristic bibliology is lacking. What is the Bible?: The Patristic Doctrine of Scripture aims to supply substantive information in this area by carefully examining the writings of several eastern patristic authors. What is more, however, the book aims to show the effect that these writers have had on recent theologians. Thus, the book is divided into two parts. The first covers “Approaches [to Bibliology] in the Christ East” dealing with the doctrine of Scripture as it appears in the writings of Origen of Alexandria, the so-called “Desert Fathers,” Ephraim the Syrian, John Chrysostom, Saint Maximus the Confessor, and others. The second part covers “Modern Approaches [to Bibliology] Inspired by the Fathers,” detailing the work of George Florovsky, Justin Popovic, and T.F. Torrance, ending with a brief history of modern biblical criticism.

One of the things that is helpful about this book is the several needed corrections it brings to discussions about the interpretive methods of Origen and Chrysostom, men who are typically set in diametrical opposition to one another as regards their understanding of the nature of Scripture and how it is to be read. Origen is typically painted as a wild-eyed allegorist who has no regard for grammatical-historical exegesis, who sees the Scripture as putty to be made into whatever the interpreter desires. However, this is not the case. Origen did engage in fanciful exegesis, if allegorical interpretation of his kind can justly be called exegesis, but this was only part of his interpretive process. For Origen, the Scriptures were tripartite, mirroring the composition of man and, by implication, the Trinity, being comprised of a body (the grammatical-historical meaning of the text), soul (the ethical/moral meaning of the text), and spirit (the anagogical meaning of the text). Just as the body and the soul and the spirit of man are intended to be in harmony with one another, so too the body and soul and spirit of the Scriptures are to be in harmony with one another.

In contrast to Origen, Chrysostom is often painted as a forerunner to more contemporary methods of grammatical-historical exegesis. However, this is not the case, given that Chrysostom allows for typological, allegorical, and speculative interpretations of the Bible. For Chrysostom, the Scriptures employ the gamut of available literary forms and techniques, being a divinely inspired but historically-humanly written set of texts, to convey their “literal” meaning. Rather than being devoted to a woodenly literal interpretation of the Scripture, in other words, Chrysostom believed that the “literal” interpretation of a text was the meaning which a text was conveying by whatever literary devices it employed.

In addition to clarifying the thinking of such historically important figures in church history, What is the Bible? also grants us insight into how the other patristic authors viewed Scripture. Whereas Origen’s doctrine of Scripture viewed it almost as a tiered ladder from the physical realm into the heavenly throne room where God dwells in unapproachable light, and Chrysostom’s doctrine of Scripture viewed it less mystically and more practically, the desert fathers understood the Scriptures to be an immeasurably deep pool of divine wisdom only the seriously minded devotee could properly draw from. Scripture was not an object to study like any other, but an infinitely meaningful revelation from God that must be approached with ever increasing degrees of reverence.   This understanding stands in contrast to that of Ephraim the Syrian’s view which centers around the two natures of the Scripture, divine and human, which correspond to the two natures in Christ. Just as the two natures in Christ are distinct but inseparably united in the hypostatic union, so too the two natures of the Scripture are inseparably united. Scripture is to be interpreted, therefore, in light of the union and intercommunication of its two natures. For Maximus the Confessor, the Scriptures are to be understood as the transfiguration of Christ is to be understood – namely, as a simultaneous unveiling and veiling of the glory of God in Christ. And for the Philokalia, a collection of mystical reflections on Christian spirituality, the Scriptures are an ineffable Divine Mystery.

Although these various bibliological approaches differ in many respects, they all agree that Scripture is fully divine and full human and, therefore, should be interpreted in that manner. In a post-postmodern setting as our own, this strikes a loud note of discord. The Scriptures are not to be viewed as inescapably bound up with ideologies seeking to establish or demolish institutions of power. The Scriptures are the communication of God to man, whose center is the Eternal Son of God. Scripture is given a high place of reverence in all matters of human life, to the end that human life reflects the person and work of Christ. These views come as a breath of fresh air in an academic context that is stifled by years of irreverent critical scholarship intent on destroying the divinity, humanity, and the unity between the divinity and humanity of the Scriptures.

Because of the book’s valorization of Eastern orthodoxy, however, it has several problems. Firstly, it praises the mysticism of the so-called desert fathers, a mysticism that has in the past decade or so been resurrected by none other than the evangelical late-comers to postmodernism called the Emergent Church. The nascent anti-intellectualism of the desert fathers only served to exacerbate the growing trend of anti-intellectualism found among a younger generation of professing Christians. Not only this, but What is the Bible? fails to correctly assess and address Protestant bibliogies which actually have much in common with that of the early Eastern and Western fathers. The book misrepresents Protestants as rationalistic interpreters of Scripture, when this is precisely what Luther and his Reformed progeny sought to fight against. Protestantism is neither rationalistic nor mystical, it is Scriptural. Scripture is not a book like any other, but a divine and human book whose content reveals historical and theological, mundane and supernatural, and utterly transcendent and utterly concrete realities to its readers, all of which center around the person and work of the second person of the Holy Trinity.

Although the interested reader can glean a lot of good historical information from What is the Bible?, and scholarly researchers of the church’s view of Scripture over time would do well to consult its entries on Origen, Chrysostom, and Maximus the Confessor, the average reader may not find this book to be very profitable. Given its narrow range of materials (i.e. dealing only with Eastern authors), its treatment of all of the authors it deals with as if they shared an identical set of theological presuppositions and doctrinal dispositions (a problem one encounters in the works of Romanist authors as well, given as they are committed to their understanding of authoritative church “tradition”), and its valorization of Eastern orthodoxy (which teaches a false Gospel of salvation by faith and works, and denies the foundational doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement), this book is more problematic than it is useful. Beyond scholarly and purely research related reading it is not recommended by the present writer.

1 For an informative introductory look at this developing trend, see Smith, Brandon D. “Church Grammar.” Podcast audio. Craig Carter on the Church Fathers, Premodern Exegesis, and Platonism.
B&H Academic, Christian Standard Bible. June 14, 2019. https://media.blubrry.com/churchgrammar/s/ministrysites.s3.amazonaws.com/podcasts/churchgrammar/EP17_CHURCHGRAMMAR.mp3.

Friday, September 27, 2019

On the Logic of the Biblical Counseling Movement & the Question of Accreditation

by Michael R. Burgos

A Holy Insurgency

An insurgent movement seeks to invalidate and dethrone an established occupier. Insurgencies are almost always grassroots; a rebellion by everyday visionaries against systemic wrongdoing. From its inception, the biblical counseling movement has been a theological insurgency. It has sought to restore the church’s understanding of counseling as an intrinsically theological task for which the Scripture is sufficient. The biblical counseling movement has simultaneously sought to refute the psychotherapeutic establishment and integrationist counterinsurgency.

Key to the success of any insurgent movement is the establishment of new institutions which serve to herald and pursue the cause. In the case of the biblical counseling movement, many new institutions have been formed. These include accrediting bodies which have set ethical and theological standards for the practice of biblical counseling. Chief among these accrediting institutions is The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). By design, the certification ACBC offers is not recognized by any governmental agency. There is no sanctioning body which has granted validity to ACBC. Rather, ACBC looks to local churches and other Christian ministries to recognize its credibility. In so doing, ACBC has intentionally bucked the bureaucratic expectations of our culture. It has, upon the basis of the Lordship of King Jesus, set up shop on biblical terms. Whereas Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed Mental Health Counselors depend upon the state to approve their labor, ACBC and the biblical counseling movement has sought the approval of heaven.

The logic of ACBC (or any other biblical counseling certifying body) as an institution is clear. ACBC has effectively repudiated secular counseling accreditation as even relevant.1 Just as the Lord’s Supper and the public exposition of the Word of God resides within the jurisdiction of the local church, so does the cure of souls. There is neither a need nor a basis for governmental oversight or approval in these matters. Rather, the authority for ministry is bound up in the charter given by Christ to his people.2

Honor the Lord Your FAFSA…

Inasmuch as counseling is the prerogative of God’s people, so is theological education and ministerial training. In our day, most who desire to enter into vocational ministry first attend either a Bible college or seminary (or both). This formalized training comes at a price, as the average MDiv costs upwards of $45,000.3 Fortunately, most conservative seminaries accept federal student loans such that seminarians may become enslaved4 to the federal government just prior to entering the ministry.

Truly, the vast majority of conservative Protestant seminaries would not exist were it not for federal money. Those seminaries who reject Caesar’s cash derive much of their funding from tax exempt local churches—as it should be.5 In order for a Bible college or seminary to lay claim to federal money, that school must become accredited by either a regional or national accreditor that is recognized by either the U. S. Department of Education (DOE) or Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).6 So too, there are other reasons institutions seek accreditation. For example, recognized accreditation is a form of statist approval, without which, an institution is generally considered illegitimate at best. Jamin Hübner has observed, “Higher-education in the ‘developed’ world, whether religious or not, tends to be arranged to favor education that is validated by a government.”7 Subsequently, “Accreditors generally function as an arm of the state.”8

Accreditation says almost nothing about academic rigor, let alone an institution’s fidelity to Scripture.9 Consider Union Theological Seminary (UTS) in New York City. UTS has regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, as well as national accreditation from The Association of Theological Schools. While UTS has the most prestigious accreditation possible, the education it affords is a morass of unbelief.

While most equate “accredited” with “legitimate,” achieving accreditation merely reveals a school’s conformity to the administrative and financial expectations of the accreditor, and by extension, the federal government. Recognized accreditation cannot answer the questions most students might ask of a Bible college or seminary: “Is the faculty faithful unto God?,” “Is the curricula effective and God-honoring?,” “Will I receive the best training here?,” or “Will an education at this school prepare me for the mission field?”

Any doubt about government control through recognized accreditors should have evaporated when the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) implied that Gordon College’s policy on homosexual practice was out of step with its accreditation standards.10 A similar example can be seen in the treatment of the Master’s University by one of its accreditors, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). WASC has sought to enforce ethical standards and practices upon Master’s,11 just as with NEASC and Gordon College. One would expect a Christian institution to form its ethical practices upon the basis of a Christian worldview rather than the transient mores of a regional accreditor.


In the same way that biblical counseling movement usurped the status quo for its certification, rejecting state approval, Bible colleges and seminaries ought to do the same when it comes to the issue of accreditation. To jettison accreditation is, admittedly, to destroy an institution’s credibility in the sight of the secular world. But, our loyalties were never with this world. Not only would renouncing recognized accreditation vastly reduce the costs of operation for most schools, it would also emphasize evaluation upon a different criteria: The education itself. Shouldn’t our desire be for local churches to validate an institution?

There are signs within conservative Protestantism that the stigma associated with an education from an unaccredited seminary or Bible college is fading, especially among Reformed evangelicals. This is due in part to a number of highly regarded teachers and authors who have emerged with training from unaccredited institutions. For example, the late R. C. Sproul, while possessing a variety of degrees from accredited schools, also possessed an earned Ph.D. from Whitefield Theological Seminary.12 George Scipione, one of the founding fathers of the biblical counseling movement, also possesses a Ph.D. from Whitefield.13 James R. White possesses several degrees from conventionally accredited institutions, as well as several advanced degrees from Columbia Evangelical Seminary.14 Elyse Fitzpatrick, known for her work within the biblical counseling movement, has an M.A. in biblical counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary.15 Mark Shaw, an authority on addiction and biblical counseling, possesses a D.Min. from Birmingham Theological Seminary.16 Aside from the institutions mentioned above, there are a variety of other credible and faithful unaccredited seminaries have already been well established. These include Reformation Bible College, Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Forge Theological Seminary, Master’s International School of Divinity, Reformed Baptist Seminary, Reformation International Theological Seminary, and The North American Reformed Seminary.17

Both Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Birmingham Theological Seminary claim accreditation from an unrecognized accreditor, namely, the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries (ARTS). While there are many unrecognized accreditors and accreditation mills which have engage in some obviously spurious practices,18 ARTS is not an accreditation mill. It is a genuine and thought through attempt at a distinctly Christian non-governmental accreditation.

Some have argued that all unrecognized accreditors are necessarily illegitimate, or even “worthless,” as in the case of Rick Walston.19 Walston has argued that if accreditation isn’t recognized, it isn’t real. Such a view gives away the store—subjugating theological institutions to the approval of the state by implication. If through recognized accreditation, the government is the only entity that can genuinely vouch for the credibility and legitimacy of an institution, then the government serves as the gatekeeper of higher education.20 Walston’s view is the statist view: unaccredited seminaries and Bible colleges must be satisfied with no external validation of their education and any attempt to form a Christian accreditor which de-legitimizes the role of the state is immoral. By contrast, if we recognize the division of labor between state and church, there exists no good reason to trust the government to validate theological education and any accreditation should come from the body of Christ. This is the logic of ACBC, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and it is the logic behind ARTS.

Insurgency: A Way Forward

Just as ACBC blazed a trail and established its own certification using biblical parameters, Christian colleges and universities ought to do the same. Key to the de-stigmatization of legitimate Christian Bible colleges and seminaries which lack recognized accreditation is transparency. Unaccredited Christian schools should always reveal their faculty, method of education, and they should clearly and unapologetically reveal their syllabi from the outset. Schools should also make all theses and dissertations available to the public. Unaccredited institutions should not hide the fact that they reject recognized accreditation. Rather, schools should treat their lack of accreditation as a badge of honor. A great way to divulge an institution’s commitment to biblical fidelity is to say, “We reject approval from governmental accreditors and are seeking the approval of Christ through his church.” Further, reciprocity agreements between institutions which share a theological vision will further serve to grant prospective students a real means of evaluation.

See “Statement on Licensure,” Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, (2019): https://biblicalcounseling.com/statement-on-licensure/.
Matt. 28:19.
3According to the Association of Theological Schools, the preeminent national accreditor for seminaries, the average tuition cost for MDiv students per year was $15,442 in 2018-19. Conventional MDiv programs are three years of graduate study (i.e., 90 credit hours). Association of Theological Schools Commission on Accrediting, “2018 - 2019 Annual Data Tables,” (2019): 4.1. https://www.ats.edu/uploads/resources/institutional-data/annual-data-tables/2018-2019-annual-data-tables.pdf.
Prov. 22:7.
e.g., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
There are other reasons institutions seek recognized accreditation, including the illegality in some states of operating an unaccredited institution of post-secondary education. For instance, in my home state of CT, there is not a religious exemption clause for a degree-granting non-accredited Bible institute or seminary.
Jamin Hübner, “Obstacles to Change: Overcoming Hurdles of the State Apparatus in Higher Education,” in Journal of Religious Leadership, 16.1, (2017): 21. Walston wrote similarly, “Quite simply, accreditation is validation.” Rick Walston, Walston’s Guide to Christian Distance Learning, 5th Ed. (Maitland, FL: Xulon Press, 2007), 64. See also Susan D. Phillips, Kevin Kinser eds., Accreditation on the Edge: Challenging Quality Assurance in Higher Education (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2018), 233-4.
Hübner, “Obstacles to Change,” 22.
This is true even of what is arguably the most evangelical of recognized accreditors, the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.
10 David French, “Gordon College Keeps Its Faith and Its Accreditation,” National Review, (2015): 

12 “Dr. R. C. Sproul,” Ligonier Ministries, 
13 “Dr. George Scipione,” Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, https://gpts.edu/about/faculty-staff/scipione/.
14 “James R. White,” Columbia Evangelical Seminary,
15 “About,” Elyse Fitzpatrick, https://www.elysefitzpatrick.com/.
16 “Mark E. Shaw,” Truth in Love Ministries, 
17 Two of the listed institutions, namely, the North American Reformed Seminary and Forge Theological Seminary do not charge for tuition. 
18 e.g., the Accrediting Commission International (ACI), which is the recapitulation of the now defunct International Accrediting Commission, which was shut down for fraud by the Attorney General of Missouri in 1989. See Walson, 87. ACI “accredits” Bible colleges and seminaries even if they teach cultic doctrine. For example, ACI accredits Atlanta Bible College, the undergraduate institution of a non-trinitarian restorationist cult. 
19 Walston, 66.
20 See Blumenstyk’s statement, “Accreditors are hugely powerful gatekeepers,” in Hübner, “Obstacles to Change,” 22.