Bible colleges are many and mixed, over 1200 strong and counting. With Christian colleges and universities added in, the number of schools for studying the Bible expands still further.
Steering through such a large field of schools to find the right one for studying the Bible can be formidable. Below are 15 outstanding schools for prospective college students whose main interest is to study the Bible.
Bible-intensive schools serve a vital role in faith and learning in America. Historically, such schools grew out of the spiritual void left when traditionally Christian colleges—like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and William and Mary—left their Christian roots.
The following schools appear in this ranking for their commitment to sound Christian education, their vital campus life, outstanding faculty, academic excellence, and above all, their impressive Bible curriculum.
1. Apologetics and Bible: Biola University (Los Angeles, CA)
Anchoring conservative Christian academia on the west coast, Los Angeles-based Biola is an established top-tier school.
Biola has made several “Best School” lists as a standout for Christian worldview and apologetics training. It has several noted faculty who travel the world and teach biblical worldview and Christian apologetics, including Craig Hazen, William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Greg Koukl, and Doug Geivett.
Collegiates in the Torrey Honors Institute feast on a Great Books Curriculum, while graduate students enjoy, among other degree options, a Master of Arts in Philosophy, or in Apologetics, or in the combined field of Religion and Science.
Biola offers no fewer than 36 courses in its Bible department alone. Honors students pursuing a biblical studies major have a total course load of 147 hours, including 12 hours each in Biblical Greek and Hebrew (six hours more than a typical Master of Divinity Degree!). Factor in Biola’s apologetics prowess, and students are assured an impressive biblical education.
Biola’s emphasis on the Bible and a Biblical worldview, however, is not restricted to their Bible department. The university is one of the world’s best at framing all of its departments within a biblical-Christian worldview. For example, across their science fields, Biola emphasizes Intelligent Design and Christian philosophy of science. Literature students should expect study opportunities in great works of Christian literature, as well as apologetic critiques of non-Christian literature. Art and film students can expect Christian values and virtues at work within the department’s shows and displays.
As for Christian missions, Biola offers an array of extra-curricular apologetics and mission activities, including the largest annual missions conference in the world. Moreover, the adjoining Talbot Theological Seminary carries on that apologetics prowess with ministry degrees for the church-minded Bible student (MDiv, MA, and DMin).
Biola is one of the more expensive on this list, at $42,271, and its enrollment of 5,942 students might be too large for some. Also, the Los Angeles locale, and its traffic, is a bit intimidating for students looking for a low-profile or small-town atmosphere.
2. Seminary for Undergraduates: Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL)
Chicago-based Moody Bible Institute is perhaps the clearest example of a pure Bible school at the undergraduate level. Think “seminary” for undergraduates.
Moody locates itself within the long, but thinning, tradition of university-level education focused on ministry preparation. Few schools have a history or recognition comparable to Moody’s, while maintaining roots within the soil of conservative, evangelical ministry training.
Originally started in the late 19th century by revivalist Dwight L. Moody, this Society for Bible Study has since blossomed into one of the most widely recognized Christian schools in the world. Eschewing the terms “college” and “university,” Moody dons the title of “Institute” strategically, avoiding the misnomer of “liberal arts college,” since it is not focused on broad-based humanities education. Nor is it a “university” in the sense of offering more than half of its degrees outside of the humanities.
Moody is a well-accredited (for a ministry school) collegiate institute unique for its simple and direct focus. For example, entering students must sign a letter of “intent to enter the ministry.” Besides focusing the school’s aim on the ministry, this prerequisite also shapes the campus culture around Christian service, preaching, and teaching. Students can also study apologetics and philosophy within the theology department, to bolster their bible- and mission-intensive course load.
Moody sports an enrollment of over 4,000 students, with more than two dozen degreed fields of study, and three online degrees. The costs is only about $20,000 per year. Attending students can expect unapologetically biblical, conservative training, ranging from abstract theology to practical vocational training in ministry. Church-ministry minded students will not be disappointed.
3. Flexible Education with a Baptist Heritage: Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)
Planted in the middle of Virginia, is Lynchburg-based Southern Baptist powerhouse, Liberty University. This school is very denominational, but with Southern Baptists being the largest evangelical denomination in the United States, that will suit many collegiates just fine.
Liberty is the largest school on the list, and also the youngest. Founded in 1971, Liberty has 12,000 resident students and over 70,000 non-resident. The school’s protestant, evangelical, and Baptist lineage plant it deep within the soil of “Scripture-Alone” doctrine (AKA: sola scriptura). For this reason, Catholics might find the school uncomfortable and narrow in its emphasis on the sole authority of Scripture.
Liberty is easily one of the best schools to “just learn some Bible.” Still, Liberty is culturally conscious, having impressive philosophy and apologetics programs. Liberty’s online and distance education program is impressive in scope, as well—second only to the University of Phoenix.
With its size and variety of options, Liberty offers degrees in all five of the “most marketable degrees” according to MSN News: nursing; information/computer technology; engineering; economics; and education.
Liberty is a great school to attend for Bible majors, and “undecided” prospective students, since Liberty has far more degree tracks to offer than most. Liberty has options, but without sacrificing its 19:1 student-professor ratio, or its cost of $27,018 per year.
Liberty has earned the reputation, under its founder Jerry Falwell, of being a major player within the politically powerful “Moral Majority.” Conservatives, Southern Baptists, and Christian educators for decades have called upon Liberty for direction.
Liberty will strike some prospects as too partisan and denominational. But the school’s size and range of faculty enable some diversity of views, along with other hard-to-find options like degrees in law, cinema, and aeronautics. If the size of this school is overwhelming, students can utilize the distance and online programs. As such, Liberty is one of the most flexible and accessible options for Bible students.
4. Visionary Education: Houston Baptist University (Houston, TX)
Previously unknown beyond Texas, Houston Baptist University (HBU) has vaulted onto the map with its “10 Pillars” initiative. This driving initiative meets biblical preparedness with worldview and apologetics training, all within a Great Books classical curriculum.
The pillars include:
- Build on the Classics
- Bring Athens and Jerusalem Together [integrate philosophy and Christianity]
- Increase Cultural Impact
- Expand on the Creative Arts
- Create a Strong Global Focus; and more
To fill out this goal, HBU has had a major hiring surge, taking on acclaimed Christian scholars John Mark Reynolds, Michael Licona, Nancy Pearcey, Bruce Gordon, Richard Martinez, Louis Markos, Mary Joe Sharp, and Holly Ordway. Also added is the Department of Apologetics, to work in tandem with the Philosophy Department.
The ambitious 10 Pillars program is the brainchild of its president Robert Sloan. Formerly the president of Baylor University, Sloan attempted a similar 10 Pillars program years earlier at Baylor, only to find that when he began shaking things up, the establishment was too far removed from its Baptist roots, too entrenched in evolutionary science, and too intolerant of the various applications of apologetics to endure the Christian vision.
However, HBU looks much more promising. HBU looks to outpace Baylor in its holistically Christian approach. For example, HBU’s Honors College is designed on a Classics model similar to the Torrey Institute at Biola (no surprise there, since John Mark Reynolds formerly headed the Torrey program). And the school’s plethora of ministry clubs are a wishbook of options for incoming Christian students.
The departments are organized in a university liberal arts format, rather than a Bible college format, having a Department of Theology rather than a separate Bible Department. In the Theology Department are four options for Bible-oriented majors (undergraduate and graduate): Biblical Languages (BA); Christianity (BA); Master of Arts in Biblical Languages (MABL); and Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS).
However, time will tell whether HBU lives up to the ambitious goals of its president. In the meantime, HBU costs (overall) $38,000 a year, and enrolls 2,200—mid-sized, compared to other entries on this list.
5. Christian Worldview Training: Bryan College (Dayton, TN)
Springing from the mind of its namesake, William Jennings Bryan (the famous lawyer of the “Scopes Monkey Trial”) is Bryan College. Founded in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1930 expressly to teach a Christian worldview, Bryan has stayed true to its cause, having the reputation of not just teaching the Bible, but teaching students how to think Christianity and work out a biblical-Christian worldview.
To fill out this reputation, Bryan requires core competencies in Christian worldview and spiritual formation, while offering an array of ministry and Bible options, including majors in Biblical Studies, Christian Leadership, Pastoral Ministry, Worship Arts, Youth Ministry, and Christian Thought, as well as minors in biblical languages, Bible, christian leadership, Greek, missions, and philosophy.
Among its acclaimed staff is worldview and culture guru John Stonestreet, who also serves as the executive director of the apologetics parachurch, Summit Ministries.
Bryan sports a 14:1 student-to-professor ratio, and an enrollment of 1,400 (including graduate and postgraduate students), making it a medium-to-small school. Students need not feel like a statistic. Tuition costs are as inexpensive as any on the list at $272 per credit hour. With normal fees and the low cost of living in the area, students can complete their education for about $23,000 per year, or roughly half the cost of Biola. Moreover, the school offers an extensive online program, as well as evening and weekend courses, for their adult and non-traditional students, and even offers a dual-credit program so high schoolers can earn credit while taking college-level courses in high school.
Bryan is keeping pace with the changing profile of today’s students. Like many schools on the list, Bryan has regional accreditations and the conservative theological accreditations like ACSI and CCCU, but not the less conservative, and more widely recognized, accreditations like ATS and SACS, which have much looser theological guidelines. While this fact takes away from the school’s broader academic “prestige,” it can speak positively about the school’s theological integrity. Still, students should be aware of that trade-off.
6. Bible-Based Conservative Economics: Grove City College (Grove City, PA)
Independence is a burden and a privilege for colleges. Grove City College (GCC) has shouldered that burden and exercised its privilege to great effect. GCC is rare for refusing federal funding, a move which keeps GCC in the throes of the free market, but allows it a high level of academic freedom.
With its Presbyterian background and acclaimed school of Austrian (free-market) economics, GCC has a rich but affordable tradition dating back to 1897. GCC is a true “Bible college,” offering only undergraduate degrees. This status allows it to specialize in bachelor’s degrees, without dividing its energies and interests into associate’s or master’s programs.
The degrees offered are prestigious. Widely regarded for its humanities degrees in economics, law, politics, and culture, GCC retains and frames those strengths inside an authentic Christian environment. Being a “confessional school,” the professors sign a broadly evangelical doctrinal statements though students are not required to do so. Students are, however, required to attend 16 chapels per semester. Students also must complete a three-year humanities program taught from a biblical-Christian worldview, including such core competencies as “Biblical Revelation.”
GCC is award-winning too, earning high honors from Readers Digest, International Studies Institute, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and many others. GCC faculty work within a number of national and international conservative think tanks. This school not only teaches conservative principles, it shapes international conservative policy.
Because of GCC’s financial independence, it consistently receives “best value” awards, giving an excellent education for half the cost of competing schools. As of June 2012, its per-year cost is about $22,000 total (not just tuition!). The school is medium in size at 2,530 students (in 2011), so incoming students should not feel swamped.
Besides its strengths in the humanities, GCC also has a reputation for rigorous computer science and electrical engineering departments.
Overall, GCC offers an impressive biblical education, specializing in economics, politics, and culture. However, it is not in the highest tier of Bible colleges, since the school’s strengths are not in the Bible per se, but rather in a biblically consistent humanities program.
7. Mandatory Bible: Cedarville University (Cedarville, OH)
Tucked away in Cedarville, Ohio, lies a thriving Christian school over 100 years young, Cedarville University (CU). This reformed Baptist school has theological roots in Presbyterianism and the Regular Baptists.
Degree options cover the spectrum of humanities and science degrees, wider and more specialized than most schools on this list. There are over 100 accredited degree programs in all. The variety of programs is only rivaled by their depth of study. But what vaults this school onto the list is its mandatory Bible component. All undergraduates have to complete a 16-hour Bible minor, or go further towards a Bible or theology major.
This feature not only declares CU’s commitment to Scripture, it also shapes the campus culture. Having a mandatory Bible component tends to attract students interested in Scripture and to “scare off” students with an aversion to it. Accordingly, Cedarville has earned a reputation for espousing strong Christian conservative values. Besides the Bible component, Cedarville has mandatory daily chapels, a strong ethics code, and ministry-intensive campus life.
Cedarville is a medium-to-large sized school, enrolling 3,200, with 60 of these being graduate students. The cost is about $31,000 a year.
The school may strike some as “fundamentalist,” but is a far cry from, say, Bob Jones University. Also, there is no apologetics or philosophy program to speak of. There is a Center for Bioethics, as well as a spate of degree options like pharmacology, social work, engineering, art design, and theater. But most of all, students who go here should expect intentional biblical worldview integration within a Bible-intensive course load.
8. John MacArthur Presiding: The Master’s College (Santa Clarita, CA)
A few miles north of Biola, under the impressive auspices of Pastor and Doctor John Macarthur, lies the Santa Clarita, California, school: The Master’s College (MC).
The 1,200-strong student enrollment places this school in the “medium-to-small” range. As a liberal arts school, MC offers an array of baccalaureate and graduate degrees in the usual fields, like nursing, education, computer science, and business, as well as such Bible-intensive degrees tracks as general Bible studies, Bible exposition, biblical counseling, biblical languages, Christian education, intercultural studies, theology, and apologetics.
MC also is home to a small graduate school/seminary, should ministry-minded students want to crown their BA in Bible with an MDiv or an MA.
The Master’s College is clearly a Bible-focused, ministry prep college. Students can expect an affordable tuition rate ($425 per credit hour) in a night-school intensive class schedule, making it a great fit for adult and non-traditional students. Their online options likewise enable today’s student to keep up with college. And with the gravitas of Macarthur presiding over this school, the Master’s College shows great promise for future students who might be entering the ministry.
9. An International Experience: Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL)
One of two Illinois schools to make the list is Trinity Evangelical University (TIU), in Deerfield. This campus is an all-in-one institution with a renowned undergraduate program, graduate program, adjoining law school, and a divinity school (seminary), offering most research degrees and many professional degrees therein.
TIU boasts four full campuses and eight extensional sites, ranging as far as California, Pennsylvania, Florida, and into Ohio—not to mention an online program for any potential students out of range from one of the extensions.
TIU traces its roots back to 1897, but came into its own in 1940 with the merger of two other schools into it under the new name, Trinity International University. TIU continues that Evangelical Free church tradition today.
TIU is a medium-sized school, with about 100 faculty and 3,000 students. Biblical Studies students can expect a 72-hour course load, not counting core classes. And these can overlap with apologetics or bioethics courses, as needed. The cost is about $26,000 tuition per year, putting it somewhere upwards of $38,000 with living expenses included—not terrible, but not great, compared to other schools on this list.
The student body and professoriate are intentionally diverse, allowing for an international flavor, and a heightened sense of “global missions.” The school sports an impressive Bible and theology faculty, including D.A. Carson, John Feinberg, and Kevin Vanhoozer. Moreover, the school has such recognized alumni as Dr. Ravi Zacharias and Willowcreek pastor Bill Hybels.
Some students will find the political leanings of the school to be too liberal, with notable tones of “social justice” and “globalism.” Still, the school represents a balancing contrast to the likes of Grove City College.
10. Worldview & Leadership Training: Dallas Baptist University (Dallas, TX)
Providing genuinely “Christ-centered” education, Dallas Baptist University (DBU) is a worthy entry on this list. Founded in 1898 as Decatur Baptist College, she was relocated to Dallas in 1965, and 20 years later took on the name Dallas Baptist University.
Now affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and possessing SACS accreditation (and relevant accreditations for its business and music schools), DBU enrolls more than 5,500 (undergraduate and graduate), in 92 different degree programs, covering a wide range of Christian studies, and sporting an array of on-campus Christian organizations—all within a thriving Christian community in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Despite its fairly large enrollment, the campus is cozy and simple, elegantly situated overlooking Mountain Creek Lake. It feels homey and clean. Classes average a 15:1 student-to-professor ratio. And tuition costs right, at $21,000.
Besides its wide array of degree offerings, DBU’s unique contribution is its combination of leadership training and philosophy. Students can major in Biblical Studies and complement that with a second major in philosophy, under the tutelage of seminal author, Dr. David Naugle, then continue on to a master’s in Christian Education or Global Leadership.
Of course, DBU also offers state-certifying degrees in nursing and education (K–12), or other vocational fields like finance, marketing, music, broadcasting, criminal justice, etc.
Anchoring its biblical principles, DBU requires all students to take classes in Old Testament, New Testament, “The Christian Mind,” and two electives in religion. This core amounts to 15 hours, enough for a minor in most schools. Students can further complement their academic biblical training through participation in the Honors program, or students missions, or involvement in the various events in the School of Leadership.
11. Biblical Education in a Catholic Setting: University of Dallas (Dallas, TX)
The only Catholic school to make the list is just down the road from DBU—it is the University of Dallas (UD). This school approaches the Bible through the framework of its Catholic distinctiveness.
Located 10 miles outside of Dallas, this school has a heritage in both Franciscan and Dominican monastics—thus merging the ecumenical and the scholastic strengths of both. It offers 12 strictly biblical courses (such as “Module 4: Mark and Luke”), at two credit hours each, spread across a four-year schedule. The format is conducive to undergraduate, graduate, and adult education. However, there is no basic BA degree in Bible. The Bible degrees work in supplement with other named degrees such as a BA in Pastoral Ministry, or Biblical Languages.
While the Bible school is strong, what has really earned a reputation for UD is their Great Books curriculum. This use of the great texts of Western Civilization explores, critiques, and celebrates the benefits of the Western cultural tradition while at the same time fostering it. DU’s Great Books curriculum does not stop with old books, but leads into modern works, as well.
Most undergraduate students are confessing Catholics (82%). But the school’s appeal reaches beyond Catholic circles with its strong Christian emphasis. Students are not required to sign any Catholic confessional statement.
UD has one of the strongest study abroad programs in the nation, with 80% of students studying in partner universities overseas, primarily in Rome, Italy. UD is also noted for its art department and its doctoral concentration in politics.
UD enrolls 1356 undergraduate students and about the same number in their graduate program. It consistently ranks among the top-100 lists of national universities (or higher) compiled by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and Princeton Review. Evangelical Protestants may have a hard time finding their Protestant distinctiveness nurtured on campus, but they are still in the Bible belt with plenty of good churches and a supportive off-campus culture. And they may find more familial support among Catholic peers than in theologically liberal “Christian” school like Baylor, TCU, or Furman. Nevertheless, the lack of on-campus Protestant activities is a detriment, as is the cost, about $39,000 a year.
The degree options are also limited. Students can get a biblical languages degree, a continuing education certificate in Bible, or can have concentrations in Bible within other degree tracks like pastoral ministry. There is no “Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies” or anything comparable.
Still, UD’s elite philosophy department and its Great Books curriculum establish it as a top-tier liberal arts school, and its 24-credit Bible program makes it a great option for adults and non-traditional students who are friendly to Catholicism.
12. Distinguished Christian Education: Gordon College (Wenham, MA)
Birthed out of a Boston church basement in 1889, Gordon College has grown into one of the premiere Christian universities in the nation. One of the most distinguished colleges on the list, Gordon has commendations from Forbes, Princeton Review, and U.S. News and World Report.
Founded by evangelist and pastor A.J. Gordon as a missionary training center, Gordon College’s motto is, “Freedom within a framework of faith.” Besides her 36 academic departments, including Biblical Studies, Christian Ministries, and Philosophy, Gordon sports institutes and centers for “Faith and Inquiry,” “Christians in the Visual Arts,” “Nonprofit Studies and Philanthropy,” and the “Christian Vocational Institute.” Gordon’s seminary now operates independently, having merged with another school to make Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
There are many distinguished Christian colleges that did not make this list, but what includes Gordon College here is its required confessional statement signed by all students and faculty, a conservative Christian statement of faith, its affiliation with Gordon-Conwell Seminary, its substantial Biblical Studies Major, its twice-weekly chapel services, and its wide range of ministry opportunities on campus and off.
Common courses to all majors include Old and New Testament, Christian Theology, and Gordon distinctives “The Great Conversation,” and “The Examined Life,” as well as unspecified required electives in Civic Responsibility, Global Understanding, and the Human Person.
Students can find all the amenities suitable to this medium-sized liberal arts university: 38 undergraduate majors, three graduate degree options (including education and music), and a 13-to-1 student-faculty ratio. Gordon has study abroad partnerships in France, Italy, Austria, and Romania.
This kind of education does not come cheap: at almost $41,000 a year, Gordon is the among the most expensive on this list. But students will get here a quality education in a confessional Christian environment, with some academic distinction to boot.
13. Charismatic Bible Study: Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, OK)
The most charismatic entry on the list is Oral Roberts University. Founded in 1963 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by Pentacostal word-faith evangelist Oral Roberts, this institution has a checkered history from its founder and subsequent presidents. However, since its new presidency under Mark Rutland in 2009, ORU reached debt-free status and has earned high marks as the largest and one of the most respected charismatic universities in the world.
ORU is unabashedly ministry-minded, aimed at life-application more than biblical abstraction—the school seeks to live out the Bible. But this ministry is not without recognition. ORU is acclaimed as a Steinway School (as of 2011), a “Best in the West” regional school in the Princeton Review (2011–2012), a U.S. News “Top Tier” school, and even a top “Military Friendly School” according to Victory Media (2013).
These commendations fit ORU well. Among its features, the school competes in eight NCAA Division 1 sports. Class size runs about 15 students per professor. And the roughly 3,400 undergraduate and graduate students can major or minor in any of 15 Theology and Ministry degrees. All told, there are 6 colleges (departments), a whopping 60 majors, 13 graduate programs, two doctoral programs, and a bevy of minors to choose from.
ORU retains a distinctly Christian curriculum, with core classes including Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, Christian Worldview and Culture, and some ORU distinctives, “Whole-Person Assessment” (a character-formation portfolio) and “Spirit-Empowered Living” (charismatic Christian living). Students can have all of that for around $32,000 a year (undergrad) or $25,000 (grad).
14. Independent Baptist Education: Baptist Bible College and Seminary (Clarks Summit, PA)
One of the smallest schools on this list, is Pennsylvania-based Baptist Bible College and Seminary (BBC&S). Not to be confused with the more fundamentalist Baptist Bible College in Missouri, BBC&S is in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, and enrolls just under 700 undergrads and fewer than 400 graduate students (in graduate school and seminary).
BBC&S springs from Baptist Bible College of Johnson City, New York, in 1932. She relocated in 1968 to her current location, opening a seminary in 1972 and a graduate school in 1989. BBC&S is independent Baptist and may strike some students as “fundamentalist,” but the school has earned a modest reputation for biblical conservatism and genuine Christian scholarship.
BBC&S is fully accredited and offers 44 resident degree tracks and five online. Bible-related majors include: Chaplaincy, General Missions, Intercultural Youth Ministries, Nursing Missions, Pastoral, Outreach Pastor, Worship Pastor, Sports Ministry, Camping Ministries, Women’s Ministry, Pre-seminary, Counseling, and many others. General studies courses, required of all students, include Old Testament, New Testament, Bible Study, Biblical Lifestyle, Bible Exposition, four theology courses, and a Bible-related Senior Seminar.
BBC&S costs about $25,000 a year.
15. Bible in Middle America: Northwestern College (Orange City, IA)
The lone Iowa school on the list is Northwestern College (not to be confused with several similarly named schools in other states). Located in Orange City, Northwestern College (NC) has been an educational gem for over 100 years.
Commended by Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review, the word is out about NC. Such commendation often accompanies theological compromise, but NC stays true to its Reformed theological roots by maintaining weekly chapel services, an enduring statement of faith, and a visionary commitment to biblical authority, Reformation theology, and creedal Christian ecumenism (multi-denominational unity). Also a plus is the weekly student-led Sunday night praise and worship service.
NC enrolls about 1200 students, sports a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and offers over 40 majors. Keeping this school fairly low on this list is its lack of integration between education and ministry. Students can major in Christian Education and Youth Ministry, or Religion, but those are the only two distinctly religious options for ministry-minded majors. There is also a minor in Christian missions, but these degree restrictions keep this Iowa school from rising about the status of “Education in a Christian setting,” as opposed to a thoroughly integrated “Christian education.” Also, the general studies requirements only comprise eight hours (two classes) of “Biblical and Theological Studies”—roughly half the course load of a minor.
The cost? $33,510 per year.