In some circles, particularly Reformed circles, Bible colleges have a bad reputation. There are a number of reasons for this, and some of these reasons are quite understandable. In the first place, Bible colleges in North America developed from the Bible institute movement of the late nineteenth century. While the Bible institutes were largely conservative and evangelical, they were dominated by dispensationalist theology. Even today, virtually all Bible colleges in North America are dispensationalist. Second, many of the early Bible institutes/colleges became negatively influenced by a strand of anti-intellectualism that downplayed the importance of high academic standards. This was accompanied by a “dumbing down” of the curriculum in some Bible colleges. Third, and more recently, the church in the late twentieth century was plagued by diploma mills using the words “Bible college” in their names. These operations sent worthless “degrees” to anyone who sent them money.
Reformation Bible College (RBC) is striving to redefine what a Bible college is and can be. Unlike most Bible colleges, RBC is inspired by the model of John Calvin’s Academy in sixteenth-century Geneva. This means that RBC focuses on teaching the content of the Bible, but we do not combine that with dispensationalist theology. RBC is self-consciously Reformed. The historical confessions of the Reformed faith (for example, the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dordt, and the Westminster Standards) express our theology.
Reformation Bible College also rejects anti-intellectualism and the minimal academic expectations that usually accompany it. The administration and faculty of RBC believe that the command to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind impacts the way we approach every aspect of education. This is reflected in our curriculum, in our faculty, and in the specific requirements of individual courses. Our curriculum is demanding. All students in the four-year program are required to take core courses that include eight semesters of English Bible covering every book of Scripture, eight semesters of systematic theology covering every theological topic, and eight semesters of Great Works covering the most important works of Western literature. Students in the biblical studies track are expected to take two years of Greek and two years of Hebrew and advanced classes in biblical theology and biblical history. Students in the theological studies track are required to take one year of ecclesiastical Latin and to use that Latin in advanced historical theology courses. Students in the theological studies track also take advanced courses in philosophy, apologetics, and ethics.
The requirements of the individual courses are also demanding and reflect our commitment to high academic standards. Students read, on average, approximately 1,000 pages per course, and this reading includes primary sources as well as some of the most important secondary sources. By reading these classic works, students are encouraged to enter into the conversation with the greatest theological minds in church history. Students are thus expected to know not only what they believe but why they believe it, and they are expected to learn how to express their own ideas clearly in writing. To this end, research papers and essays are a major component of many classes.
The academic and spiritual reputation of a college is only as good as that of its faculty, and Reformation Bible College is working toward the end of building a faculty consisting of men who love the Lord, who love to teach, and who love to contribute to the ongoing scholarly research in their fields. Professor of Old Testament and RBC Provost, Dr. Michael Morales, earned his PhD from Trinity College in the UK under the supervision of Dr. Gordon Wenham and is doing ongoing research and writing on the Pentateuch. Professor of New Testament, Dr. Ben Dunson, earned his PhD from the University of Durham under the supervision of Dr. Francis Watson and has recently published his dissertation on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Dr. Aaron Denlinger, professor of historical and systematic theology, earned his PhD from the University of Aberdeen under the supervision of Dr. Nicholas Thompson and recently published his dissertation on covenant theology. He continues to do in-depth research and publishing. Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. continues to research and write in the fields of theology, apologetics, and ethics, and I continue my research into topics such as Christology, eschatology, and the theology and practice of the Lord’s Supper. Our visiting faculty has included Dr. Duncan Rankin and Dr. Stephen Nichols.
Each individual faculty member is committed to the highest academic standards, but each faculty member also understands that knowledge alone is insufficient. It is for this reason that RBC also places a strong emphasis on discipleship. We do not believe that our obligations to the students end when the bell rings. The faculty desires to spend time with the students in conversation, in prayer, in fellowship, and in worship. We wish to model a love for God that includes the heart and the mind.
Reformation Bible College is committed to helping our students understand the content of the Bible, historic Reformed theology, and how we are to apply what we learn in today’s world. The high standards John Calvin set for the Academy in Geneva attracted students from all over Europe. Those students returned home to teach others what they had learned, and in the process they reshaped Western culture. At RBC, we pray that God would use this school to train up a new generation of Christian leaders who will ignite a new Reformation.
Dr. Keith Mathison is Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College.