Independent versus Denominational Bible College: Pros and Cons

Does it matter what type of Bible College I go to (Independent or Denominational)?

 

There are pros and cons to choosing a Bible college affiliated with a denomination.  The discerning prospective student will gather as much information as possible before making a final decision.

What are the benefits of a Denominational Bible college?

Denominational Bible colleges provide a known quantity with little major aspects to research.  In general, denominational Bible colleges will adequately represent their denomination’s core doctrine throughout the structure of the school.  This covers administration, code of conduct, screening of faculty and audit of all curriculum to ensure that they are in line with the particular denomination.  If curriculum, programs or events fall outside the core doctrine of the denomination, they are either removed/avoided or come with disclaimers that they present viewpoints that fall outside the denominational doctrine.  Additionally, there is a security in the structure of the denomination.  The Bible college will fall under the jurisdiction of the denomination’s governing oversight body; this provides assurance for the student that there is recourse for disputes (a higher authority to appeal to than just the local administration) and guidance for the school in matters relating to the denomination’s core values and particular tenets.  Overall, you can expect a denominational Bible college to adhere to and submit to the core tenets of the particular denomination.

What are the concerns associated with a Denominational Bible college?

As with churches within a denomination, there will be varied interpretations and applications of various “secondary” tenets.  Generally, these will fall upon the ‘liberal – conservative’ scale.  Examples of these ideas as manifested on campus include dress code, permitted interaction between genders and worship music style to name just a few.  More important is the understanding of Scripture – how literal interpretation is or what translations are endorsed.  Some variances may not be overt and will only be revealed through deeper research and/or a visit to the campus to speak with students, faculty and administrators.  Often, the variances involved are not “deal breakers,” but it is good to know as much as possible about the student environment before you have committed to a particular school.

What are the benefits of an Independent Bible college?

Independent Bible colleges create their own structure as they see fit; it is up to the local administration to build, remove or adjust any component of policy of the school.  They are guided by their own sensitivity to God’s guidance (as well as market forces) to put forth or endorse the best programs, curriculums and opportunities possible.  Freedom from having to remain in lock-step with a denominational governing body can be refreshing.  The idea that everyone completely agrees with every policy and direction of a denomination’s oversight board is far-fetched; the Independent Bible college is not required to submit to third-party doctrine.

What are the concerns associated with an Independent Bible college?

Obviously, certain tenets of faith are universal (divinity of Jesus Christ, bodily resurrection, faith-based salvation and two primary sacraments), but there are peripheral issues that may arise in an Independent Bible college.  Also, the aforementioned sliding scale of liberal – conservative is important to research.  The lack of a governing oversight board or committee means that the local administration will have the last word on every issue: both new implementations and settling disputes.  If you agree with all of their decisions, there is no problem.  Otherwise, the opportunity for broken fellowship and bitterness can become real.  This is not to say that independence brings fascism; rather that the buck stops with the local highest office or board.  Similar to local independent churches, independent Bible colleges call their own shots.

Final thought to ease the dilemma

Remember that a reputable Bible college wants accreditation.  A listing of the best Bible colleges includes their accreditation status.  This submission to an evaluation to confirm that the educational content and environment meet a certain standard will keep any type of school “in check.”  While Bible colleges are a faith-based community, they are also in the business of education and equipping students to reach desired goals.