Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Teaching the Bible at the Universities

A recent article speaks to the issue of the need to have the Bible taught at universities.  Since so much of Western civilization has been profoundly influenced and shaped by the Bible it would seem almost self-evident that the Bible should be read and studied by those seeking to understand our culture.  Here a few selections from the article.
Unfortunately, even teaching Western civilization, of which the Bible is an important part, is in decline as a component of a liberal education. By Western civilization I mean the cultures derived from Europe, including, among other aspects, their ethical values, worldviews, political and economic institutions, and customs.  

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) recently reported that out of a group of 75 U.S. public universities (the top 62 from U.S. News and World Report in 2009 plus thirteen others, to ensure representation from all fifty states) only one school, the University of South Carolina, retained a Western history survey course requirement. Thirty of the schools surveyed by NAS did not even offer such a survey course. The UNC Department of History offers a two-course sequence of Western civilization survey courses, yet neither is required, even for history majors. Ironically, history majors are in fact required to take at least one course in non-Western history.
And then there is this:
To understand and evaluate our historical narrative and how religion fits into it, students need to encounter the primary texts—including the Bible. They need the ability to draw on foundational texts in the same way that later authors did, many of whom are significant in their own right and are studied in those few remaining Western survey courses. 

Most students in a Western history course are only exposed to Paul and Jesus through secondary sources. This is an ironic and unfortunate relegation of two figures who, independent of their status in Christianity as Apostle and Savior, are on every credible list of the ten most influential people in world history. 

A quick glance at the course reader for UNC History 151, Western History to 1650, reveals that students will leave the course having read such important religious authors as Josephus, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin, but not a single page from the Bible. With all due respect to Xenophon, Thucydides, and other less notable Greek historians included in the course, given the constraints of one semester surely students would be better served reading great works of Western religion.