Since my conference in Chicago last weekend I’ve been thinking a lot about the theologically conservative folk who really believe there can be no mistakes in the Bible. And just now browsing through some posts five years ago, I see someone raised a very interesting question about it, in relationship to my teaching at UNC. Here’s the question and my response. I would still answer the same way today!
Do you ever get a student in your class who doggedly insists upon the inerrancy of the Bible? If so, and if they write their term papers in support of Biblical inerrancy, is it possible for them to get a passing grade in your class?
HA! That’s a great question!
So, part of the deal of teaching in the Bible Belt is that lots of my students – most of them? – have very conservative views about the Bible as the Word of God. A few years ago I used to start my class on the New Testament, with something like 300 students in it, by asking the students a series of questions, just for information. I would ask:
- How many of you in here would agree with the proposition that the Bible is the inspired Word of God? (PHOOM! Almost everyone raises their hands)
- OK, great: Now, how many of you have read the Harry Potter series? (PHOOM! Again, almost everyone raises their hand).
- And now, how many of you have read the entire Bible? (This time: scattered hands, here and there, throughout the auditorium)
Then I’d laugh for a minute and say, “OK, so I’m not telling *you* that *I* think the Bible is the inspired Word of God; you’re telling *me* that *you* think it is. I can see why you might want to read a book by J. K. Rowling. But if God wrote a book – wouldn’t you want to see what he had to say???”
What I have found over the years, consistently, is that my students have a much higher reverence for the Bible than knowledge about it. Most of them would say, at the beginning of the course, that there can be no mistakes in the Bible. But of course they haven’t actually read the Bible in order to *see* if there are any mistakes in it. They’ve just learned, from childhood, that it’s a perfect, flawless book.
The goal of my class is NOT to …
It is very easy to see the rest of these reflections: be a blog member? If you’re not already, join up. It doesn’t cost much, and every thin dime you pay goes to charities helping the needy. It’s good all around, everyone gains, no one loses!