Most colleges offer undergraduate degree programs in religion or theology. However an undergraduate looking to earn a “Christian degree” may find that they have to narrow their focus before they are able to find a program which meets their specific needs. A “Christian degree,” or a degree which relates specifically to Christian ministry, is usually something which must be pursued at an institution that has an association with or an orientation towards a particular Christian group or denomination.
Degrees in Religious Studies
What is implied by the term “Christian degree”? Many colleges have histories as Christian institutions aimed at educating ministers – Harvard, Princeton, and Yale were originally founded to train Congregationalist, Unitarian, and Presbyterian clergy. However, these colleges, and many others with Christian roots, have long since ceased to require any particular religious commitment from their students. Studying religion at a school like this usually means earning a degree in the comparative study of religion, religious studies, or some other approach that involves the objective study of diverse religious traditions. Of course, some colleges that have no particular religious affiliation do have divinity schools associated with them, and these institutions will offer a graduate education that is usually focused on preparation for Christian ministry.
Christian Liberal Arts Colleges
There are some colleges that might require some sort of distinctly Christian affiliation from their students, but who offer a curriculum which is very broad in scope. Schools like Wheaton College in Illinois (a school in the tradition of evangelical Christianity) or Calvin College in Michigan (associated with the Christian Reformed Church) offer a Christian liberal arts education. This means that they offer degrees in the humanities and sciences that are informed and oriented by a Christian perspective. Therefore, while degrees from these schools offer a distinctly Christian approach to a particular discipline, they may not necessarily offer a “Christian degree.” This article from Christianity Today investigates the unique contributions that Christian universities of this sort have to offer.
Bible Colleges and Denominational Schools
In most cases, the term “Christian degree” will refer to a degree which concentrates on preparing a student for some kind of Christian ministry through theological, biblical, or ministry training from the viewpoint of a particular Christian tradition. Institutions which offer these sorts of degree programs are often referred to as Bible colleges because their focus is on biblical content and equipping students with the tools to apply the Bible in the practical context of ministry in churches or para-church organizations. The curriculum will often include courses in the history of the Old and New Testaments, biblical hermeneutics (or interpretation of of the Bible), and Christina history. Some of these courses will have a practical focus, like counseling or youth ministry. These colleges are often associated with a particular group or denomination, whether it is Baptist, Methodist, Mennonite, or even non-denominational. However, there are colleges which do not have any particular denominational affiliation and which are not necessarily identified as “Christian” colleges at all, but which still have established degree programs that offer the option of an education in Christian ministry to their students.
There are many options for college students who want to receive an education in religious studies or to earn a liberal arts degree from a Christian college. However, the student looking for an undergraduate degree in Christian ministry may best be served by investigating Bible colleges.