Bible College vs. Traditional College: What’s the Difference?

If a student can attend a traditional college and still major in theology or religious studies, what’s the real difference between a Bible college and a traditional college? As you explore colleges, you will quickly discover the difference is quite significant, from the curriculum offered to the very culture and attitude of the student population itself.

Bible colleges tend to integrate biblical studies and Christian living courses into the core curriculum of every major, while traditional colleges will only include biblical studies courses in majors that are directly tied to religion or theology. For example, at a traditional college, a business major would not be required to take any courses in religion unless he or she chose to take them as electives. A business major at a Bible college, on the other hand, may in fact be required to take a few biblical studies courses as part of his or her degree requirements.

In addition, biblical studies courses at a traditional college tend to take a strictly academic approach to the Bible. For example, Bible survey courses at a traditional college would likely emphasize the structure of the Old and New Testaments, the core concepts and themes of the biblical texts in their historical and cultural context, and their influence on western religions and society as a whole. No expectation is placed on students to accept what the Bible says as true and try to order their lives by it; the expectation is simply that students understand the central concepts and themes of the Bible.

At a Bible college, such courses are delivered from a Christian worldview in which the Bible is accepted as the word of God, and the Old and New Testaments are often explored with the expressed intent of understanding one’s relationship to God and the redemptive work of Christ so that the student can better carry out their Christian purpose. While biblical studies courses at Bible colleges and traditional colleges are often equally academic in nature, it is generally accepted at a Bible college that the Bible presents a true and right worldview by which students should live their lives, and students are encouraged to draw close to God through the holy scriptures.

At a traditional college, no expectation is placed on students to attend mass, chapel, or other church services. At a Bible college, church attendance is not only expected in many cases, but may actually be required to complete a degree program or to remain enrolled in the school. Church attendance may not be strictly enforced at a Bible college, but it is almost always encouraged as a means by which students can be built up spiritually as well as academically.

Bible colleges also tend to offer solely Christian extracurricular activities, such as prayer meetings, Christian sororities and fraternities, missions-focused community service and outreach, evangelism, praise and worship teams and choirs, Bible study groups, and even foreign missions. Even academic or athletic clubs at Bible colleges tend to emphasize Christian living. While these may be present on a smaller scale at traditional colleges, you will also see non-Christian religious groups, atheist groups, and secular sororities and fraternities at traditional colleges.

While non-Christians are present at Bible colleges, they tend to be the exception and not the rule. Students typically choose Bible colleges because they are Christians and want to learn more about the Bible, following God, and their Christian purpose. Therefore, if you desire to meet other Christians who share your worldview and interest in God, a Bible college may be a good fit for you, even though you might be able to find similar camaraderie in a Christian fraternity or student group at a secular college.

Bible colleges also tend to be more socially conservative than traditional colleges, with dress codes enforced, men’s and women’s dorms kept separate, and strict curfews. Some Bible colleges place restrictions on drinking, public displays of affection, facial hair, and hair color and length. While there are always students who rock the boat, Bible college students as a whole tend to value modesty in dress and in their interactions with the opposite sex. At a traditional college, while there may be minimal requirements in attire such as requiring students to wear shoes or smoke off campus, students may or may not value modesty, as students come from a variety of cultural, religious, or non-religious backgrounds, and tend to have more diverse opinions about dating and expressing themselves through their clothing.

As you can see, Bible colleges and traditional colleges are different indeed, and offer two vastly different ways of earning a high-quality education. While both offer opportunities for Christian fellowship, Bible colleges are typically steeped in their Christian ideology and theology, from their academic programs to social clubs to worship services to volunteer projects.