by Gayle L. Gresham
Summit Theological Seminary in Peru, Indiana, has one purpose—Teaching God’s Word to God’s world. Summit recognizes that people with college degrees are not the only people who teach God’s Word in churches and evangelize the lost; therefore, in addition to offering both bachelor’s degree and master’s degree programs in sacred literature or theology, Summit also offers the Diploma of Biblical Studies, a home study program concentrating on the Bible and theology for those who desire in-depth Bible knowledge, but don’t necessarily want to earn a degree.
The program of study for the Diploma of Biblical Studies is the same core required for those who are working toward degrees. It consists of six courses: Pictorial Survey of the Bible, Bible Doctrine Survey, Bible Geography, Elementary Systematic Theology, Bible Geography, and Bible Survey, followed by 13 Comprehensive Bible Exams.
According to George L. Faull, president of Summit Theological University, “The Diploma of Biblical Studies is for those who want to know the Bible. People want to know the will of God, but it hasn’t been offered in a systematic way. The Diploma of Biblical Studies goes through the Bible pictorially, audibly, chronologically, systematically, doctrinally, and geographically.”
Using a variety of methods to teach the Bible leads to greater comprehension by the student resulting in greater accuracy as the student teaches. This is important to Faull.
“I once heard an excellent speaker preach on how Jacob worshiped God in the desert and was afraid because he wasn’t used to meeting God there,” Faull says. “The speaker said that normally Jacob met God in the temple in Jerusalem. I vowed then that my students would know the Bible chronologically.”
Teaching the Bible has been a priority for Faull for 35 years. He started Treaty Institute for Evangelism in 1974, where the Diploma of Biblical Studies was first offered. In four years it grew to 12,000 students, 10,000 of whom were prisoners, thanks to the efforts of Joe Garman of American Rehabilitation Ministries. In 1978, Faull turned Treaty Institute for Evangelism over to Garman (Treaty Institute is now American Bible Academy in Joplin, Missouri) and began working to start another school. It was incorporated in 1984 as Summit Theological Seminary.
Men and women enrolled in the Diploma of Biblical Studies program are encouraged to teach in their church because teaching reinforces what he or she is learning. Faull says, “The school prefers the student to be teaching in some capacity in the local church while attending Summit. Though this is not mandatory, we feel this is advantageous to the student in both his learning and communication skills. We feel this demonstrates that his local congregation has confidence in him as a committed believer, possessing the ability and desire to know and ‘teach God’s Word to God’s world.’ It also weeds out those just seeking a degree. We like to be careful that unhonorable persons do not use our degree for a cloak of righteousness like so many do with diploma mill degrees.”
Revel Vaughn Lewis III found Summit’s Diploma of Biblical Studies to be ideal for his situation of preaching in a remote area of Kentucky while completing his bachelor’s degree. With two years of schooling behind him, Lewis was able to work on the program in his own time without having to leave where he was preaching.
“I was able to take what I was learning and convert it into material for my sermons and lessons,” says Lewis. “Summit’s systematic approach to the Bible is so different from the way I learned in churches and at the other Bible college I attended. It is very helpful. And, it isn’t just an easy way to get a degree; I found the workload at Summit to be even greater than that of other schools I’ve attended.”
He adds, “George Faull requires a student to look at both sides of an issue or a doctrine. You critique material from other points of view. This prepares you to defend your beliefs and convince others of your position.”
Patty Bowling of Indiana completed the Diploma of Biblical Studies 10 years ago. Bowling says, “The course gave me the foundation of biblical truths and an overall picture—the big picture of the Bible. It helped me in home schooling my children and in teaching Sunday school. As I continued in the course, I was able to teach a ladies’ Bible study. After receiving my Diploma in Biblical Studies, I continued my education at Summit and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sacred literature.”
The success of a student enrolled in the Diploma of Biblical Studies is measured by testing. The last course offered is Comprehensive Testing. Students are given 13 tests covering general Bible knowledge. “The average score of our students on these tests is 90 percent,” says Faull. “Students from other colleges entering the master’s program at Summit Theological Seminary are also required to take the tests. So far, only three graduates from other colleges have gotten 90 percent on the tests.”
While most people enroll in the Diploma of Biblical Studies to supplement their Bible knowledge and their teaching in the church, others have discovered a new direction for their life. According to Faull, “Many have taken the Diploma of Biblical Studies and then decided to become ministers. It’s a great recruiting tool!”
The Christian churches and churches of Christ benefit greatly whether a student becomes a minister, graduates with a degree, or simply completes the Diploma of Biblical Studies for personal satisfaction. Recently, a minister told Faull of a man in his congregation who had completed the Diploma of Biblical Studies. The minister said, “People used to come to me with Bible questions. Now the people ask him the Bible questions.”
More information about the Diploma of Biblical Studies is available at www.summit1.edu.
Gayle L. Gresham writes from her home in Elbert, Colorado.