In the spring of 1974, fresh out of graduate school and barely moved into the office that came with my first faculty appointment, I accepted my department chair’s invitation to begin teaching an undergraduate course in the Bible as literature. Over the ensuing 36 years I have learnt a great deal about the approaches that contemporary students take to religious issues.
Like all great literature, the Bible elicits complex, multidimensional and highly individualistic responses; nevertheless, through decades of observation, I have come to understand some of the hurdles these young people face, to recognise a number of biblical themes that do and do not resonate with them, and to identify those texts that elicit great discussions as well as some that simply flop.
One of the most persistent misconceptions about this course is that the majority of enrolled students are devout Christians, fully immersed in the inerrant authority of God’s Word and living out the imperatives found in the Gospels. Unless students are church-going and Bible-believing, so the mythology runs, they will be at an academic disadvantage.
In fact, the opposite is true. Each semester about two-thirds of my class of 40 or more are drawn to the Scriptures for reasons other than pious belief, and they bring with them a stunning array of attitudes towards the Bible and the world that produced it.
Read the full story in Times Higher Education.