An educated perspective on Bible study

August 2, 2013

My family recently vacationed in lovely Rehoboth Beach. What a delightful community!

During an afternoon stroll, my eye caught an above-the-fold headline of the Cape Gazette (July 30-August 1 edition): “Bible class fails as Cape board votes 3-3.”

The subsequent article indicates that the Cape Region of Delaware is engaging in the same vigorous - and necessary - discussion unfolding in boardrooms, classrooms and newsrooms throughout Western culture. The discussion? Namely, what do we do with our history?

The best historians - and teachers - remind us that history is not facts and dates, but a story capable of being told from many credible perspectives. But none of those perspectives would eliminate a set of facts so overwhelmingly foundational to history, and modernity, as the Judeo-Christian Bible has been, and is, to Western civilization.

And neither would they confuse - as did, perhaps, some participants in the July 25 Cape school board meeting - information with formation. In centuries of classical education, students have learned, for example, of the Bible’s towering influence on Shakespeare, without necessarily being formed by either; they have discovered the Bible’s shaping of all major European languages, without being forced to memorize a psalm in Old Saxon. And modern students have studied the Bible’s inarguable contribution to social movements from the Magna Carta to the Civil Rights Era, without a classroom instructor extending an invitation to accept, as their personal savior, Jesus Christ, Edward Coke or Martin Luther King Jr.

The great eras of education - from antiquity’s great school of Alexandria to Europe’s medieval universities to America’s New England institutions - welcomed, and scrutinized, many points of view in their attempts to educate their young. Any curriculum that neglects - and as an elective - so foundational a document to Western civilization as the Bible may be called many things: a program, a structure, an agenda, perhaps.

Some pro-Bible class voices in Cape seem to be suggesting, however, that what it cannot be called is an education.

John W. Oliver
Murfreesboro, Tenn.

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