What Is the Difference Between a Liberal Arts Christian College and a Bible College?

Potential students searching for a faith-based education, religious training, or a conservative environment often choose a Christian college. While researching programs, however, many students discover that more than one type of Christian institution exists, including liberal arts and Bible colleges. If you are in the process of applying to schools, understanding the difference between these two traditions will help you make an informed decision.

What Is a Liberal Arts Christian College?

Like their secular counterparts, liberal arts Christian colleges emphasize broad academic knowledge rather than specific vocational training. The liberal arts typically include math, the sciences, composition and rhetoric, and the humanities, and a liberal arts education aims to teach logic, critical thinking, and ingenuity in addition to practical information.

A religious-affiliated liberal arts college will provide a comprehensive educational foundation but in the context of a biblical worldview. Faculty will usually subscribe to the institution’s statement of faith, and all courses from biology to psychology to business will integrate Christian principles. In addition to customary STEM and humanities degree programs, Christian colleges may offer majors in religion, theology, church history, worship, and missions. They may also require general education classes in Bible and theology regardless of major.

Many Christian institutes that focus on the liberal arts have the same level of accreditation as private secular schools. Campus life often promotes a spiritual environment, and sometimes students may be required to attend chapel or a church service. At the same time, Christian schools can have many non-religious extracurricular activities like sports teams, clubs, and fraternities and sororities.

What Is a Bible College?

While Bible colleges may offer some science and humanities classes, the main emphasis falls on biblical studies. Students who attend a Bible college usually expect to enter the ministry as pastors, teachers, or missionaries, and many graduates go on to seminary. Most Bible colleges offer degrees in religious areas only, and although some might include other majors, typically these programs of study merely complement a required Bible or theology major.

Bible colleges are often affiliated with a specific church or denomination, usually evangelical or Protestant. Unlike liberal arts Christian colleges, these colleges train students for a specific religious vocation rather than offer a broad, foundational education. Furthermore, in contrast to secular universities, Bible institutes approach theology as true and personally relevant rather than strictly academic, and students typically must agree with the school’s core doctrinal positions and take classes on Christian living.

Bible colleges can be fully accredited or have special accreditation such as the Association for Biblical Higher Education, and some might have no traditional accreditation. Campus life enforces Christian-based behavioral standards, which may include a dress code and ban on alcohol. Extracurricular activities usually focus on Christian interests like worship teams and ministries.

Which One Is Right For You?

Potential undergraduates who want a Christian education should remember the key differences between a Bible college and a liberal arts Christian college when researching schools. Students who want a general education, a non-religious major, or a more diverse campus should consider a liberal arts program, and students who want a strong spiritual environment, comprehensive and personal study of scripture, and a degree that will help them enter the ministry would do well to consider a Bible college.