“Genesis is simply a book of poetry.”
“First and Second Samuel are historical fiction.”
Where do you think you might expect to hear the above statements? In a discussion with another individual about the authenticity of the Bible? During a debate on the same subject? On a college campus?
Probably all of the above. But, in this case, it was on a college campus.
How about a Christian college campus? What if I told you it was not just any class on campus, but a Bible class that is a required component of the curriculum?
Recently, I visited my daughter in college, and asked her about her classes. The above statements were actually made by the professor in my daughter’s Bible class, at a medium-sized Christian college (about 4,000 students).
If 1 and 2 Samuel are historical fiction, well then, is David really an ancestor of Jesus (if David even existed)? If Genesis is merely poetry, are Adam and Eve simply mythical characters, and are heaven and hell real, or simply fictional constructs?
It was surprising to my daughter, and to me, to hear some of the claims being made. In a class that should be strengthening students’ faith, they are instead being fed statements that are casting doubt on all that they might have been taught. Why go to a Christian college to be fed the same information that all the other secular colleges are teaching? At so many campuses across the country, the Christian worldview is dismissed, mocked, or just flatly denied and not even allowed a voice. What happened here?
I expected more from a Christian institution. It’s frustrating and disappointing, both for her and for me.
I asked her how the students seem to be responding. Basically, they either blindly believe what they are taught, or if they believe differently, they aren’t challenging the viewpoints by speaking up in class or asking questions. I guess they, like my daughter, are simply biding their time, responding the way they think the professor wants, and that’s it.
Isn’t that sad? I hope and pray these students don’t leave disillusioned or walk away from their faith as a result of what they are hearing.
I searched Amazon for the textbook they are using. One reviewer says the book is written as if the writer doesn’t believe in the Bible. My daughter has also expressed concern over the text. There aren’t too many reviews, but surely there is something more solid out there to use.
I’m ok with them reading viewpoints from others who don’t believe in the Bible. Go ahead and challenge them with the information that portions of the Bible are historical fiction and with the other opinions that colleges out there are also teaching; they should be challenged. Sadly, there is a general viewpoint the Bible is an ancient text that doesn’t apply today, and they should know it and discuss it and learn how to respond.
But, they need to hear the other side, too. It isn’t helping to give them just one view and present it as a fact. Give them the different views and discuss them in class. Encourage a lively debate. This should be happening everywhere, but if anywhere at all, at a Christian college!
If a person REALLY believed the Bible were true, class could be conducted differently. I don’t envision blocking dissenting views; they’d be welcomed and invited. I think that’s what would happen in a true and open Bible class. They’d be discussing the Bible- yes- discussing it as truth, but also being open about the hostility against it, talking about it, and sharing how to respond to it. College students need to be challenged and given tools to respond; it is such an opportune for them to grow in their faith.
But, the way it’s being done is the opposite: presenting the Bible not as truth, and that those who do believe it as written are the ones who are in the wrong.
I’m not sure I’m articulating this whole issue very well, but anyway, my daughter is coming away with the belief that she in the minority, and she feels as if she is part of a VERY small minority in believing the Bible. Yes, people of the Christian faith are in the minority in our culture, and that is a quite different scenario than just 200 years ago. But here, these are people of faith, even at a Christian college, feeling as if they are in a minority. Yep, that is what I was told.
I do need to mention that good things are happening at this college. There are genuine people of faith. She’s in a Bible study. She has friends who are believers. She’s found a church to attend. And overall, the environment seems to be a good one. The university does seem to have a desire for Christ-centeredness in their literature and their focus. (But what we’ve learned is that although faculty are required to attend a specific denomination (CRC), apparently, beliefs vary widely greatly in the CRC. I suppose it’s no different from other denominations.)
However, if this is what is being taught in a core religion class that is required for all students… that requires some attention.
Here is the cover of the book:
And- what about the cover picture? Is it supposed to be Jesus? Jesus looks like he’s miserable, doesn’t he?! I think he’s even skeptical about the book, haha! After what I’ve written above, that picture just strikes me funny. Oh, I know it’s not funny, but really- couldn’t they have picked a better picture for the cover? Right?!
Another viewpoint being challenged is the “young earth” theory; the professor thinks it’s crazy to believe that. I know opinions vary on this among strong believers, and I’m not at all trying to advocate for this point of view or any specific point of view.
What bothers me is that those in class who might happen to believe in a “young earth” aren’t feeling free to express that view. When that viewpoint is marginalized, how do those students feel? What is happening to their freedom to hold that view in a Christian college, no less? That bugs me. I suppose my expectations at this campus were different from the secular universities where true discussion on varying viewpoints is most definitely snuffed out. I did have higher expectations at a “Christian” institution. Where is the respect among believers on this issue? What about a person of authority, a professor, who holds a different view, presenting this view as fact-and students listening and believing what that person says?
In so many schools, public and private, and even in Christian schools, students aren’t taught alternative worldviews and given the tools to respond. They aren’t taught how to solidly defend their faith, and they aren’t taught apologetics. So when they get to college, they aren’t prepared to challenge an intellectual, articulate professor who sounds convincing and smart – someone who is an authority figure and someone they want to believe, someone they won’t want to necessarily disagree with, or are reluctant to disagree with. I think many of these students are taken by surprise, and wonder why no one told them any different; they become disillusioned and disregard what they grew up with… if there was Biblical teaching to begin with (which I think is also minimal and dwindling. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic. I just think it’s reality.)
My daughter began taking Apologetics in high school and now my other kids are doing the same. In my next post, I’ll explain more about what they learn.
It was wonderful to take the time to visit my daughter recently for the weekend. She had mentioned this Bible class before, and there are still more details I’d like to know. But, the visit didn’t center around this class or this subject, as there were other things to do and talk about. We visited church with her, met the roommates she’ll be sharing an apartment with next year, went to a nearby state park and just enjoyed her company. It is such a joy to watch her life unfold and see her grow up. I do love the person she is and is becoming.
Talk to your kids about your beliefs, no matter their age. :)