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Teaching Religion in a Secular Environment

This little diversion of a thread was going to be a simply one-post on the talk I’ll be giving today to my undergraduate Introduction to the New Testament class, where I spill the beans about what I personally believe and why.  But it’s turned into a four-post mini-thread on my views of the separation of church and state. So far it’s been all background – how my twelve years of higher education were all done in Christian confessional contexts, not in secular schools, even though all of my teaching has been in research universities.  Go figure. As I indicated in my previous post, as a PhD student I tried to broaden my range significantly so it would not look like I could do nothing except for textual criticism, the study of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament with the ultimate goal of figuring out what the biblical authors actually wrote.  My intention all along was to find a teaching position either in a divinity school/seminary (for the training of pastors) or in a Christian [...]

Back to School: Graduate Studies

Another couple of posts on teaching. As I indicated, I teach one undergraduate and one graduate course a semester. Teaching undergraduates is a passion of mine. I love doing it. These are nineteen year olds who are inquisitive, interested, and interesting. I enjoy lecturing to a crowd like that, figuring out what can make complicated material intriguing and compelling, keeping them attentive, helping them understand such important topics Some of my colleagues find teaching undergraduates a real chore; others find it very difficult. I find it to be a pleasure and it comes naturally to me. So I’m very lucky about that. What is really HARD, though I enjoy it intensely too, is teaching graduate students. The graduate student seminar is a very focused experience. A seminar usually last three hours (meeting once a week) and it involves an intense pouring over texts in the original ancient languages (Greek, for my classes), discussion of heavy-hitting scholarship, critique of students’ work, and so on. FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. Click [...]

2020-04-03T18:34:22-04:00April 24th, 2013|Reflections and Ruminations, Teaching Christianity|

My Start in Teaching

I’ve mentioned briefly what it’s like to teach at a major research university, with large undergraduate classes. I’ll have more to say about that soon. For now, I should get to the point of why I raised it in the first place. But it’ll take a couple of posts; my starting and ending point for these posts was / will be to contrast my teaching situation with others that I could have found myself in, but didn’t. And to get to that I need to provide more background. When I was doing my PhD at Princeton Theological Seminary, my one and only goal was to teach (and, of course, do research). I had three kinds of schools in mind that I might want to teach at, in this order: a Christian seminary, a Christian college, a secular school. I had been trained my entire academic career (all twelve years of it after high school! Five years in college; three in a Masters of Divinity program; and four in my PhD) in Christian schools: Moody Bible [...]

Being on Leave

As I may have mentioned on the blog already, I am on academic leave this entire year. Most places call that a sabbatical, but in North Carolina sabbatical is a four-letter word. The idea here is that since we are state-employees and, well, other state-employees don’t get time off from their day job to do their research – so why should professors? Interesting point. But of course for professors at research universities, it is all about the research. When I was in my PhD program, my plan was to teach in a Christian seminary or divinity school, hopefully one like Princeton Theological Seminary, where in addition to training future ministers, faculty have a chance to train PhD students – who will themselves go out to teach and train future ministers. I got into the Bible business as a seventeen-year old eager to learn all I could about the Bible since I believed it was the word of God (more about that, possibly, in a future post); I eventually changed my views about the Bible (as, [...]

2020-04-03T19:01:24-04:00January 29th, 2013|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

The Work of a Professional Scholar 4: Undergraduate Courses

The principal work of a professor, of course, is to teach! Different colleges and universities have different requirements and expectations for their faculty. At many small colleges, professors teach four or even five courses a semester. Rarely can a person teach that much and still produce substantial (or much of any!) research, so that professors in those contexts are usually handicapped when it comes to publishing scholarship in the form of books and articles. Research universities, on the other hand, expect their professors to be at the cutting edge of scholarship, and so the teaching requirements are lighter (since the research demands are so much heavier). Faculty in research schools can never get tenure or promotion (or raises!) if they do not regularly and extensively publish in their fields of expertise. (That is becoming increasingly true in all colleges and universities, even ones with heavier teaching requirements, which scarcely seems fair, and is probably not good for scholarship or teaching). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a “Research 1” university, which [...]

2020-04-03T19:44:05-04:00May 5th, 2012|Bart's Critics, Teaching Christianity|
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