Thanks to the benefits of distance learning, you don't need to be in the same city as a school offering a theology degree. Even better, there are programs that offer free distance learning programs and courses, though some of them require a certain level of financial aid eligibility to be truly free.
Discovering Free Distance Learning Theology Programs
While it is nearly impossible to find an accredited seminary that offers 100 percent free degrees, there are accredited schools that offer free certificates or enough financial aid and tuition assistance opportunities to make their online BA or MA programs within reach of being free.
The following schools either offer free online courses and certificates (no financial aid required) or online degrees that could become free if you can qualify for certain aid programs.
Dimensions of Faith
Dimensions of Faith by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary offers a free program that includes ten classes done at your own pace. It grants a student a certificate in theology upon completion. Subjects covered include world missions, New Testament, Old Testament, a two-part course on theology, and the History of the Church. There is no cost of any kind attached to the program, and it is completed online through the Ockenga Institute. Students who earn the certificate qualify for a $1000 scholarship to enroll full-time in the seminary.
Graduate Certificate in Theological Studies
The Graduate Certificate in Theological Studies by Liberty University Online provides an overview of theology and apologetics. It is done at your own pace, but the certificate must be completed within three years. Without financial aid, the total cost of this 12-hour certificate would be about $5,000. However, if your EFC on the FAFSA qualifies you for federal grants (which can be as high as $6,095 for the 2018-2019 year), you can cover the cost. If you are a Virginia resident it's even easier to have this tuition paid by financial aid.
NotreDameX Theology Courses
NotreDameX offers free theology courses online including Introduction to the Quran: The Scripture of Islam and Jesus in Scripture and Tradition. Each course takes about nine weeks to complete with five to seven hours of work a week. At the end of each course you can receive a Certificate of completion verified by Notre Dame (but with a handling fee of $50 to obtain the Certificate).
Dallas Theological Seminary Theology Courses
Dallas Theological Seminary on iTunesU offers 26 free theology-focused or theology-related courses such as Expository Preaching, Trinitarianism, and Intro to Theology. Each course has about 60 to 80 short lectures ranging from 10 to 20 minutes each, and you can complete them at your own pace.
St. Paul Center Online Course
St. Paul Center provides a free online course called Genesis to Jesus, which conducts a six-lesson course through the Old Testament to Jesus from a Catholic point of view. The aim of the course is to provide a big picture overview of the major events and themes of the Bible. It requires online registration, but the registration is free. You can work at your own pace.
Saint Leo University Theology Degrees
Saint Leo University is not free unless you can use a combination of federal financial aid such as the Pell grant, state aid for Florida residents, and its SALT program to cover tuition. If you are a Florida resident or if you know you will have a very low EFC on the FAFSA, your odds of covering the cost with aid are better. The school offers an online BA degree in Religion (120-hour program) and an MA in Theology, which is a 36-hour program. Besides the Florida-based EASE state grant, the school participates in all federal aid provided through the FAFSA, and its innovative SALT program partners with you to find creative financial strategies to cover school costs.
Esoteric Theology Ministry
A unique Internet seminary, this site offers over 600 courses for free to students who pay a one-time fee of $600. They offer Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Theology, and Doctor of Ministry degrees. If you are not already an ordained minister, you may become one for free through the program; however you must be ordained clergy of some level to enter the program. While the program is not accredited as an online institute by any formal accrediting body, the site is one of the more popular on the web for ministry education.
Convenience That's Hard to Beat
Even if you're having trouble finding a degree or learning opportunity that is entirely free for theology, remember that many online programs are already more affordable than a local college. Instead of worrying about traveling to campus or renting a room in an on-campus dormitory, you can learn in the comfort of your home.