November 08, 2004
Biblical literature in the curriculum (#52)
I urge the strengthening of the biblical literature component in our
current curriculum or any new curriculum arrangement being considered.
I believe we should have a separate, distinct course required of all
students, that would engage bibical texts in a serious academic
fashion. My reasons are as follows:
Posted by love at November 8, 2004 03:20 PM
- Cultural need for basic biblical literacy—The Bible is THE
most important text (collection of texts) in the western tradition. I
would assume that any educated individual in the Islamic world would be
conversant with the Koran. There are similar pivotal texts in other
cultures. We should not side step this opportunity to lead our students
through a mature, challenging, and academic experience with this text
which is so basic to our culture.
- The Bible is the text most often handled by our
students.—Taken as a whole, our students have, and will have,
more contact with biblical texts than any other single literary
document. They need to be introduced to an academic approach to these
documents. It is my assumption that such an experience will broaden and
deepen their appreciation of how these texts came into being. That in
turn should assist them in identifying ways in which these texts are
misused. I can think of few endeavors more important for an academic
- Ethical education: To argue that we at Furman are concerned about
values and to then fail to engage with the most significant ethical
texts in our cultural heritage seems quite odd.
- Contemporary relevance: The Bible, or interpretations of biblical
texts, must have been the most consistently referenced ideas during the
recent national political campaign. I see no reason to think that this
will cease to be the case in the foreseeable future—a future for
which we claim we are preparing our students. For this reason alone,
seem to call for our preferencing this text in our construction of
Furman’ curriculum. Furman needs to be engaged with contemporary
American culture—particularly the cultural conversations fueled
by ideas. The Bible is at the center of those conversations. We must
not abdicate our responsibility to be involved.
- Furman’s heritage: Edmund Burke’s admonition that we
should form a “bridge with the past” is advice we should
consider carefully. Furman has played a serious role in biblical
education over the years. We split from the South Carolina Baptist
Convention in order to protect our Religion
Department and its academic approach to biblical education. It was this
very aspect of our educational program that was most at risk. It would
be quite ironic if that break, made to protect the serious academic
integrity of biblical study in our community, would now cease to be
considered a relevant part of Furman’s educational mission.
Discuss this proposal in the forum,
or leave a comment below!
I am not quite sure I agree with this proposal. Point 1) seems to
suggest that students do not know the Bible (need for basic biblical
literacy), whereas point 2) suggests that students are most familiar
with it (the text most often handled by our students)?
The bigger problem with many of our students, as I perceive it, is
their ignorance of religions other than some type of Protestant
Christianity. Max Mueller's observation that those who only know one
religion know none very much applies to our students.
Instead of more exposure to Biblical literature, which potentially
could reify in students' minds "westocentric" notions of religion, a
religion GER (if we are to keep one in the curriculum-) in my view
aught to challenge such thinking, and expose students to non-Christian
religions. I would argue that a comparative course that studies
different religions of the world, including Christianity, would do a
much better job to address ethical issues. Likewise, such a course
would be relevant to contemporary concerns, and also speak to Furman's
statement of mission and scope, according to which Furman "aspires to
be a divers community ... of different races, religions ...."
Finally, if we are to retain a Religion requirement, it might be best
to leave the decision as to the precise nature of the course to the