When you look at what people need to learn for a degree in theology, like an Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies you will notice that most of what you learn is not related to the Bible or Theology at all. Is this bad or not? And what you will also notice is the huge amount of money you’ll need to pay.. Is there a way to obtain an Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies for Free?
An Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies requires a total of 60 credit hours for graduation in most cases. The Core Requirements however are, in many cases, only around 18-20 credit hours! The other credits are General Education and elective requirements.
Isn’t it weird that in order to obtain an Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies you will need to spend thousands of dollars or euro (mostly somewhere around US$18,000+ or even a lot more) on subjects like Business Fundamentals, Introduction to Economics, Biological Diversity, Mathematics and so on? Even the online seminaries are charging ridiculous amounts of money.
I looked up the Core Requirements for the Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies at several colleges and universities because I was interested in the demands for the program. Since that’s the one to start with if you want to study theology in most cases.
When comparing them I noticed there’s a huge variety in what you learn about the Scripture when studying for an Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies.
From the Colorado Christian University website:
- Old Testament Introduction (3)
— an overview of the historical development and fulfillment of God’s sovereign plan for both the people and the land of Israel.
- New Testament Introduction (3)
— background, content, unity and progression of the New Testament Scriptures. The student will capture an understanding of the life and ministry of Christ, the development of the Church and the unfolding of the New Covenant.
- Biblical Tools (3)
— overview of biblical languages including basics of OT Hebrew and NT Greek (alphabet, morphology, syntax). Additionally, a major focus will be to develop a familiarity with research tools available for studying the biblical text, including lexicons, concordances, workbooks, etc.
- Teaching the Bible (3)
— the ways to teach others basic truths of Christianity using the Bible as the primary source. Audiences will include children, adolescents, and adults.
- Introduction to Systematic Theology (3)
— basic issues, themes, and categories of Christian theology.
- Christian Doctrine (3)
— basic doctrines of the Christian faith. The Apostles’ Creed provides an overview of the basic tenets of Christian beliefs, including revelation, the Trinity, creation, reconciliation and the church.
Only a meager total of 18 credit hours is related to scripture and theology. At Moody’s it’s totally different:
- Reading the Old Testament (4)
- The Story and Structure of the Bible (3)
- Old Testament and Theology (3)
- Self & Social Identity in Christianity (4)
- Second Temple Jewish Background (3)
- Reading the New Testament (4)
- Interpreting Scripture (3)
- New Testament and Theology (3)
- Historical Geog. Of Ancient Israel (3)
- Ancient Near Eastern Backgrounds (3)
A total of 33 credit hours directly related to the scripture! At Liberty University the (theological/bible) core is 24 credit hours, at Spurgeon College again a meager total of 18 credit hours, and so on.
Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies for free?
What I noticed is that the accredited colleges and universities will (need to) add a lot to the program that is not related to the Bible, Christianity and religion at all. The core of an unaccredited institute however, like Calvary Chapel Bible College and many others, is .. Almost 100% related to the Bible, Christianity, preaching, teaching, ..
Isn’t that weird? All these differences in the program’s core while the degree has the same name? Suggesting to people the diploma represents the same? And the fact that unaccredited institutes teach their students so much more about the Bible, Christianity, theology, hermeneutical principles?
Accreditation, in the USA and other countries, is the review of the quality of education offered by an institution or program. In the United States, accreditation is the primary way that students, families, the public, and government officials know that an institution provides a quality education. (DEAC).
In Europe there isn’t such a thing like the Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies, there are ‘certificate programs’ here that can be compared to them though. And there’s at least one Associate Degree in Pastoral Work I know of. Most Bible College’s in Europe aren’t accredited, only if you go to a state funded HBO or University you can obtain a BA in Theology. At the university, the program is completely religion centered (example: RUG, Groningen). The rules are clear and well-arranged for students.
Made me wonder. So many churches these days demand that their pastors have studied at an accredited University or College. While these pastors are very educated, they might have learned a lot less about the Scriptures than those who studied at a (good) unaccredited institute!
Now that you know what core is included you also know what you need to study to achieve the same level. If you will google for “Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies for free” you will probably not find it.
However there’s a lot of free training available! Like Christian Leaders Institute, Birmingham Theological Seminary, WVBS Online Bible School, MINTS International Seminary and many more like AMES, offering a program worth 87 credit hours(*).
There are also many other online bible school courses that are offered for free! Several universities also offer free courses like Dallas Theological Seminary and BTS. And, if you look at the core studies at, for example, Moody it’s also possible to find these studies at Udemy for a small fee.
Christian Leaders Institute
At the moment I am studying at Christian Leaders Institute. So far I’ve earned 33 credits and received the Christian Ministry Certificate. I am now studying for the “Christian Ministry Diploma” (62 credits). This is, in fact, the same level as an Associate Degree.
The CLI has two different programs: the unaccredited Christian Leaders Institute and the Christian Leaders College. Christian Leaders College holds applicant status with the Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation (ABHE).
BBN Bible Institute
An interesting option might also be the BBN Bible Institute. They offer free online audio courses (classes). If you take all the courses and tests you can receive a Diploma in Biblical Studies from BBN Bible Institute.
I really like the idea of this online Bible Institute since they are offering the same type of course as the “Bijbel College”. I would really love to see more of these institutes online!
Bijbel College (Dutch)
Last but not least: I am the chairman of the Yarah Foundation (Dutch: Stichting Yarah), offering a certificate and diploma program, in Dutch, for free. Yes, completely free! Bijbel College only charges you a small fee if you wish to receive a printed certificate or Diploma. See https://bijbelcollege.nl/ for details.
The Bijbel College is working on a new, international, program that will offer a Diploma of Biblical Studies at the moment.
But this way I won’t get a “Preaching Job”!
Do you feel called to become a preacher, or religion teacher at a school? Well, some churches have no issue at all if you studied at and institute like Christian Leaders Institute, Birmingham Theological Seminary or others like the Online Bible Institute (Vineyard).
The low cost Andersonville Theological Seminary (who has various well known alumni like Jim West, and many other pastors, counselors and so on) and Third Mill Seminary might also be a good option.
To become a teacher at a school, yes.. I’m sorry. There doesn’t seem to be a free ride. However, if you believe God is calling you to ministry and you need to know more about the Word, He will most certainly guide you to the right place for training!
If you want to obtain knowledge about the Bible and are on a tight budget or simply cannot afford it because you need to take care for your family: there are so many free resources available!
Ryan Lytton, who holds a MA degree from Gordon-Conwell theological seminary, even took it upon him a few years ago to show what one could do if one wanted something like the information from an MA in Biblical Studies without the physical, paper credential and obtain the same level of education for free.
If you do need or seek an accredited yet affordable degree granting institute, there’s alway Nations University. They seem to have a good reputation and are accredited by The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).
(*) I have some doubts about the “accredited program” AMES is offering. They have a free program available.
Last update: March 16, 2023