Grace Bible College
|Grace Bible College|
|Type||Private Undergraduate College|
|President||Kenneth B. Kemper|
|Location||Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States
|Campus||Suburban, 23 acres|
|Colors||Blue and gold|
Grace Gospel Fellowship
Grace Bible College is a fundamentalist Christian college in the premillennial, Mid-Acts Dispensational tradition located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The school is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the Association for Biblical Higher Education to award Associate and Bachelor degrees.
Grace Bible College is affiliated with the Grace Gospel Fellowship, which is the denominational organization for "Grace" churches (though all churches can choose to affiliate or not affiliate with the organization), Grace Ministries International, the largest missionary arm of the Grace Movement, and a few other parachurch Grace ministries.
In the late 1800s, there were renewal conferences in Britain and in the United States. In 1865 there was the rise of the Faith Mission Movement. And in 1880, the rise of the Bible Institute Movement began.
Grace Bible College began as an evening Bible institute in 1939, training lay church members and Sunday School teachers in the Fundamental Bible Church of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The program was expanded in 1941 to a day program and named Milwaukee Bible Institute, then renamed following broader curriculum options in 1953 to Milwaukee Bible College. In 1961 the college was moved to suburban Grand Rapids, Michigan, and renamed Grace Bible College.
The first president of the college was Charles F. Baker (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) (1960-1965). Baker Chapel is named after him. He was an associate pastor with Pastor J.C. O'Hair at North Shore Church in Chicago. In the early 1930s Charles Baker became pastor of Fundamental Bible Church which began as a Bible class led by Pastor O'Hair. Pastor Baker felt the need for a Bible training school. So in 1939 he opened Milwaukee Bible Institute as an evening school in his church.
In 1943, the pastors who held to the grace theological position met and formed the Grace Gospel Fellowship. One important item on their agenda was the need for a training institute. Pastor Charles Baker was approached about making his evening class into a day school. A board was set up and the day school began in 1945 as a three-year Bible Institute with Pastor Charles Baker as president, the position he held until his retirement in 1967.
The second president, Jack Dean (Ph.D., Michigan State University), has held the longest presidency to date (1965-1985). Other presidents have been Sam Vinton, Jr., Bruce Kemper, and Ken Kemper, who is the current president.
Grace Bible College's constituents differ from most other dispensationalists in their understanding of the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Whereas most fundamentalists and dispensationalists regard the ministry of Paul to be an outgrowth of the ministry of Christ and Peter, the college interprets the Pauline mission as a distinct break from the past. In the view of the college and others in the "Grace Movement," Christ and Peter's mission was solely directed to the nation of Israel and sought to fulfill Old Testament promises of a messianic kingdom to Israel. Paul's mission is distinct in that it is directed to the entire world, with no nation or peoples occupying a privileged position, and has as its realization a spiritual and universal "Church, the Body of Christ," which consists of all Christians in the current dispensation (as opposed to the "Kingdom Church" of Christ and Peter). Christ is the "head" of the Church, the Body of Christ, not the "king," as he is for the Kingdom Church.
The College teaches that prior to Paul, a mission to the world, with the unification of Jews and Gentiles into one Body, was a "mystery" that had no antecedents in Biblical revelation. As such, the epistles of Paul are of particular importance for the Church, the Body of Christ. All scripture is "for" members of the Body of Christ, but only the Pauline epistles are "to" the Body of Christ. Accordingly, even Christ's and Peter's teachings and practices may not be strictly normative for Christians today, especially if they are not consistent with the teaching of Paul. For example, Christ worshipped on the Sabbath and, prior to the ministry of Paul, Peter continued to regard Jewish dietary regulations as Christian virtues. Instead, Paul rejected the mandatory observance of the Sabbath and Jewish dietary regulations. Particularly important is the sacrament or ordinance of water baptism. The College maintains that Paul never regarded water baptism as necessary for full participation in the Christian community and that, as he continued to receive revelation from Christ, it became obsolete. Instead, "baptism by the Spirit," which brings Christians into the Body of Christ, is the only baptism that is now in effect for this dispensation (though transitional elements are found in Paul's ministry, when Paul still practiced water baptism early in his ministry to the complete cessation of baptism by the end of his ministry). On the other hand, the College still regards the Lord's Supper as a Church ordinance.
Other Dispensational Issues
Grace Bible College has some notable disagreements among those who subscribe to its doctrinal statement: whether the Church, the Body of Christ, began with the conversion of the Apostle Paul in Acts 9 or with the beginning of his formal ministry in Acts 13; whether or not good works were necessary for salvation in the Kingdom dispensation of Christ and Peter; and whether the other apostles (and all other Christians) were brought into the Body of Christ after the beginning of the present dispensation or instead remained in the Kingdom Church. This last point is important because it has implications for one's position on the normativeness of the general epistles for today (those who are "12-out" regard the general epistles as promulgating "Kingdom truth" whereas those who are "12-in" tend to see the general epistles as dispensing revelation for the Church, the Body of Christ, though they do not reveal Paul's distinctive message of the "mystery"). Another more extreme dispensational position is the "Acts 28" view, which maintains that the beginning of the Church, the Body of Christ, did not occur until the end of the Book of Acts and only regards the prison and pastoral epistles of Paul to be "to" the Church, the Body of Christ. Mainstream dispensationalists believe the Church began in Acts 2 and consider the Grace Bible College view as a moderate form of ultradispensationalism and the Acts 28 view to be an extreme form of ultradispensationalism.
In the mid-1960s, the College experienced a break with one of its early supporters, Cornelius R. Stam. Stam was an early leader of the Grace Movement, an ardent fundamentalist, and the president of the Berean Bible Society, which to this day promotes Grace teaching and Bible study. He came into conflict with the president, Jack Dean, and one of its new faculty members, Dale DeWitt. Dean and DeWitt both had advanced degrees whereas Stam was in the Bible institute tradition. Stam accused Dean and DeWitt of "neo-evangelicalism" and of not giving the Grace distinctives their proper emphasis. Tensions between strong fundamentalists and more moderate elements of the College have persisted for decades, and other schools have sprung up as alternatives to the College. These schools are uniformly more fundamental and focused on "Grace" teaching than the College. Some of these other schools are the Berean Bible Institute and St. Louis Theological Seminary.
Students and faculty
- 90% Caucasian
- 4% African American
- 0.6% Asian American or Pacific Islander
- 2% Hispanic American
- 1% Native American
Almost 60% of the faculty hold terminal degrees in their fields. There is an 11:1 student-faculty ratio.
Athletics, clubs, and traditions
Grace Bible College fields teams in men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's soccer, and women's volleyball in intercollegiate competition. The college is affiliated with the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) and the Association of Christian College Athletics(ACCA). The college has a Taekwondo club, licensed by the American Taekwondo Association. Basketball, bowling, golf, handball, racquetball, skiing, indoor soccer, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, and wallyball are available at the intramural level. Computer Club is available for students each week throughout the year and there is also a Go club on campus.
- 1994 - Men's Basketball - NCCAA Division 2A
- 1995 - Men's Basketball - NCCAA Division 2A
- 2006 - Men's Basketball - NCCAA Division 2
- 2009 - Men's Basketball - NCCAA Division 2
- 2010 - Men's Basketball - NCCAA Division 2
- 2011- Men's Basketball - NCCAA Division 2
- 2012 - Men's Basketball - NCCAA Division 2
- 2006 - Men's Basketball - ACCA Division 1
- 2007 - Women's Basketball - ACCA Division 1
Student groups include drama/theater group, choral group, Ambassador Fellowship, Student Activities Committee, Student Council, Ambassador Staff, and Campus Ministry Team.
Grace Bible College is a small, close-knit community with relationships fostered by "Ministry Labs," twice-weekly chapel services, and small groups that meet within the dorms. They have a strict no-tolerance policy towards illegal drugs, alcohol, and sexual promiscuity. Students who wish to attend must sign a covenant saying they will not indulge in such behaviors. Counseling is provided for students who struggle with those behaviors and still wish to attend. Staff and faculty are friendly and accessible, attending community events and eating meals with the students. Students are expected to participate in ministry every semester, either in a church, the community, or at the college itself. Church attendance is expected but not monitored.
- USNews.com: America's Best Colleges 2007: Grace Bible College: At a glance
- Grace Bible College - Facts & Figures. Peterson's.