Can you teach the bible and not preach the bible? Well the Wood County Board of Education in West Virginia voted 5 to 0 that you can. What they approved was an elective class to study the Christian bible as literature and history.

Alright, I have a number of objections to this. First, history? Not unless they’re going to teach what’s currently known of the actual history of the area in which particular stories read take place, and for that matter, I would hope they introduce geography as well since that too doesn’t quite jive with the stories all the time. I don’t have a problem with showing how the various authors took liberties with facts in order to craft a better work of fiction. That’s certainly a viable topic for a literature course.

My next objection is based on an assumption, and that assumption is that there are no comparable elected classes on say the Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Ghita, the Koran, Rigveda, Zorastrian Avesta, the Diamond Sutra, or even the Epic of Gilgamesh. Now I wonder why that is. Hmmmm, could it be merely an oversight? Could this Christian bible class be a pilot for such comparable electives? I seriously doubt it. I have serious doubts about this being simply about studying history and literature.

Along that same line of doubt, I have to also wonder if there are any classes, mandatory or elective, which use study just one book. I’m not talking about a textbook for a math or science class, but for an English class. Study only one book of literature? That seems highly unusual, doesn’t it? I doubt if there’s even a grade school class on the works of just one author like Shakespeare or Dickens. At best you might find a Brit Lit or American Lit class, encompassing a region or specific era, and this brings me to my next point.

Why isn’t this elective a comparative literature course? You know, where the Christian bible is one of several works studied. Anyone fancy to take a guess why not? Well I’ll take a stab at it. It’s because this is put in place with the hope that it can function as stealth proselytizing and the proverbial foot in the door which believers hope will lead to more intrusions into the school. Now about that proselytizing, I did ask originally can you teach the bible and not preach the bible? I think yes, but it would take a teacher with high integrity, should they be a believer, to present stories as just stories and not facts which you must believe. Ironically, the ideal candidate for teaching such a course might just be an atheist.

But, as always, what about the children? It’s one thing to say it’s tough for the teacher to remain objective and teach, not preach, the Christian bible, but can we expect that from the students? Can we really expect children to behave themselves and cross into Sunday school mode in such a class, speaking out as if this literature is in fact truth? I have serious doubts about that, and what then should the teacher’s response be? Then of course you might have the occasional non-Christian (I know, it’s West Virginia, but humor me) who takes such a class. What’s that going to be like if the teacher and/or students cross that line? Yikes, what a minefield this class might be!

Last but not least I have to ask, which of the many Christian bibles will be taught?

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25 Responses to “Can you teach the bible and not preach the bible?”

  1. At the grade school level, you'd have to think an English teacher, with perhaps a social studies/history/geography teacher popping in as well on occasion.Now I know of private schools which have classes like this along with Eastern philosophy, but those are schools which charge $45,000 a year (that's high school price, perhaps cheaper for middle school and below grades). For that kind of money you can afford to have actual religion and philosophy teachers, but not in public schools, where they're cutting music and art programs and cramming 40+ in a room using old and maybe out of date textbooks in order to make due with meager budgets.Fyi, Delaware has low taxes, meaning public schools suck. Nearly everyone I know who has a kid either is forced to put them in private schools or lie about living in PA and send them to public school there. DE is great if you don't have a kid. Property tax is about 20-25% what it is in PA. ;)

  2. Just a bad idea all around.

    And who are they going to get to teach this class? The math teacher who is also a local sunday school teacher? Hire a teacher just to teach "Biblical History & Literature"?

  3. The Catholic University I attended actually did have a comparative lit course that included the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and a few sections of the Q’ran.

    It was taught by a Jesuit who essentially worshipped knowledge, and it was incredibly interesting.

    I guarantee you that’s not what’s going on in WV.

  4. Do you know what curriculum they’re using? The course description sounds suspiciously like it is based on a curriculum that is intended to proselytize. A guy named Mark Chancey published a study that exposed the non-neutral nature of the curriculum. Go here if you just want a summary of Chancey’s findings.

  5. Yeah, I’d be a lot less suspicious if this were being offered in NY rather than West Virginia and if, as Philly says, it wasn’t just one holy book, but many.

    No high school public education class should be focused on a single holy text. If you are going to do it, it has to be comparative religion.

  6. Certainly, going to the ancient scrolls will help with the credibility of such a course in literature studies. In that respect, it is my understanding that Jews study the Bible in much more logical ways than Christians seem to do, mainly because they don’t look on it as inerrant and they understand the authors and translaters made plenty of mistakes.

    But there will always intrinsically be a bias whenever anything is taught and also whenever anything is learned as well. But, perhaps a Jewish Atheist would have less biases to spread than, say, a Jehova’s Witness. I’d even suppose a Jewish Athiest over, say, an atheist that grew up in a Hindu setting based on biases.

  7. Mano Singham, an atheist with somewhat Hindu biases, at least does a good job using Modern Archeology though:

    The Bible as History

  8. QF – interesting article. Thanks.

  9. As Quantum Flux’s link demonstrates, actually studying the Bible in a historical-archaeological context is both fascinating and very damaging to the faith position – Bart Ehrman’s built a career on it! The likelihood of these kids actually being taught any genuine literary or historical criticism. though, is slim to say the least.

  10. Yes. Of course, it was in college, and the course was “History as Literature” and, as we sat around the table sipping our drink of choice, we discussed the Bible, the Q’uran, Shakespeare, Bede, Josephus, you name it. But we studies it as a literary approach to history and included the biases of the writers and of those who chose which books would go into the final draft. We viewed it as a perfect example (the Old Testament, that is) of creating a history to justify conquests.

    Somehow, I expect they will take a different tack in West-By-God-Virginia.

  11. “… actually studying the Bible in a historical-archaeological context is both fascinating and very damaging to the faith position…”Bruce Lee’s remark is devoid of fact, in that most eastern archaeological finds of significance were found using the Bible as a reference. The locations and even the existence of the ancient cities of Jericho and Ur, for example, defied secular researchers for decades, until they overcame their bias and used scripture as a guide.

    Fact is, the most obscure verse in the Bible contains more truth than any lying infidel ever spouted. And, I agree that religion… ALL religion… should be kept the hell out of schools, and that includes Darwinism, the biggest line of bullshit ever laid down!

    Reading, writing, math, and REAL science, devoid of Darwinism, should be taught.

    Fair is fair.

  12. Fact is, the most obscure verse in the Bible contains more truth than any lying infidel ever spouted.I’m reasonably certain that the word “fact” doesn’t mean what you think it means.

    In what way, praytell is evolution (what I assume you refer to falsely as “Darwinism”) anything like religion?

    What is your definition of “real” science if it doesn’t include evolutionary biology? In what world can you separate that from the rest of science, which is necessarily interconnected and interdependent with our (admittedly incomplete and imperfect) understanding of the evolution of life.

  13. Well, KYjelly, Darwinism (and that’s what all you atheists revere, is the work of Darwin!) by the plain fact that it has a following much like any other cult, and ends in an ‘ism’, is, therefore, a religion, albeit an opposing religion to that of Christianity.

    You must exercise a phenomenal amount of faith to accept that Evolution deals with events that happened long before there were any possible means of observing their occurrence, and yet it’s proponents dogmatically assert that their occurrence is FACT, despite the atheist insistence that Christianity relies on the same dogmatism in it’s perspective on origins. Science, by your own (atheist’s) assertion, is only valid when things can be OBSERVED. Were YOU around to see the first tadpole sprout legs, and run off into the undergrowth to escape the big bad T-Rex?

    Like you say, science is more than just figures, theorems, numbers, equations, etc. The science of salvation incorporates ALL disciplines toward the revelation that there IS a God, and that He is in control of His universe, NOT randomness!

    Like your guru, Richard Dawkins, once stated, there seems to be an inability to comprehend life evolving from NOTHING… and that there might be the possibility of design backing it all.

    However, an open mind is prerequisite for understanding anything. You better work on that.

  14. If you’re actually serious then I feel very, very sorry for you.

    But the convoluted stupidity of your argument strains credulity; I strongly suspect you to be a Poe.

  15. Standard atheist response: “You’re stupid!”

    As arrogant an assertion as any religious fanatic’s I’ve ever heard!

  16. LOL. You really are rather amusing, in a sad sort of way. You clearly have limited-to-no critical reasoning skills, and absolutely no real understanding of what science (or religion) is, so I see no point in furthering this waste of time.

    So continue to think whatever you wish. I’m reasonably certain you’ll do that no matter what I or any other human ever says anyhow.

  17. Also, was calling me “KYJelly” supposed to be an insult? As if sex were something I find distasteful or offensive?

    I wonder if you’re aware of the increased pleasures a good lube can provide during sex.

  18. Things get weird south of Jersey City, and it doesn’t stop till Miami.

    Though I can’t wait for the first person taking that class to really take it as a literature class, and refer to it all as “in Christian mythology, when the Jesus character does” whatever. I’d love to see the final grade they get if they treat the whole thing as clinically as would be expected of them in a true comparative religion class.

    Gideon: Dude, you’re capable of not being an asshat. So why not run with that more? A little civility and baseline respect goes a long way. Not as long as you might like, but it results in fewer “LOL”s.

  19. Gideon “Darwinism (and that’s what all you atheists revere, is the work of Darwin!) by the plain fact that it has a following much like any other cult, and ends in an ‘ism’, is, therefore, a religion, albeit an opposing religion to that of Christianity.”Does that make Christianity the religion of schism?

    “You must exercise a phenomenal amount of faith to accept that Evolution deals with events that happened long before there were any possible means of observing their occurrence…”Um. The stuff that happened left behind evidence of both the stuff and the happening.

    “Science, by your own (atheist’s) assertion, is only valid when things can be OBSERVED.”I’m guessing that you’re using words in ways that they shouldn’t be used, but yes, science runs on evidence. That’s not a bad thing. The only difference between a True Revelation from God™ is that you believe yours and not the others. Others, obviously, are in similar but opposing positions. Praise Allah, etc.

    “Were YOU around to see the first tadpole sprout legs, and run off into the undergrowth to escape the big bad T-Rex?”Unluckily for you, that’s not evolution.

    “The science of salvation incorporates ALL disciplines toward the revelation that there IS a God, and that He is in control of His universe, NOT randomness!”Subatomics appears to be random (at least in the sense of unpredictable at a scale of fine granularity). Subatomic writ large, however, averages out to “normal”. Good thing, too. Sure, I could theoretically pass through the matter of this chair, but it’s a practical impossibility. That’s not random; that’s protecting my tailbone from the cold, cold floor.
    We attribute agency where there is none. It’s a common enough foible. When you hit your thumb while pounding nails, do you blame yourself for not paying close enough attention, or do you blame the hammer?

    “Like your guru, Richard Dawkins, once stated, there seems to be an inability to comprehend life evolving from NOTHING… and that there might be the possibility of design backing it all.”We “see” design everywhere. The gazelle is “designed” to run away from the cheetah, which is “designed” to catch it (the reason for that is because all the gazelles that weren’t good enough got eaten by the cheetahs that were, and the cheetahs that weren’t starved to death. No design necessary. It’s evolution, baby).
    Similarly, this little bugger was “designed” to eat your eyeballs.

    “Standard atheist response: ‘You’re stupid!’”Tu quoque?

    “As arrogant an assertion as any religious fanatic’s I’ve ever heard!”Have you read any of the stuff that you wrote before this?

    Vitamin R “A little civility and baseline respect goes a long way.”An atheist who is a jerk is a “jerk”. A theist who is a jerk is “righteous”. Now don’t you wish that the voice in your head was God?

  20. Thanks for taking the time to respond to that ridiculousness. I didn’t have the energy to tell him all the many, many reasons why he was wrong, Mostly because I knew it wouldn’t get through.

  21. We have to fight ignorance. We don’t want to, but we have to, if only for the children. Oh, woe, won’t somebody think about the children?

    Oh, and Gideon, read:
    Your Inner FishMaking of the FittestEndless Forms Most BeautifulRelics of Eden…then, at the very least, you’ll at least know a bit about what you’re against (if you’re a YEC, and I think we both know that you are, you’re against more than just dear Darwin’s humble theory. You’re up against the totality of the universe).

  22. And is it just me, or are linefeeds disappearing in between preview and post?

  23. Blogger blows

  24. If they’re going to teach a class of Biblical history, then they need to hire the proper professional for that, and not some crackpot wing-nut religious fanatic. I have, at the university level, taken some very interesting Biblical history classes, taught by professors of Biblical history, who could a.) read the ancient languages, and understand the mistranslations and etymology, and who had b.) studied it from a historical, archaeological and secular perspective.

    Indeed, my one professor told us that she expected us to leave our religion at the door, which is what her professors told her, one of them being a Catholic priest of all things. This didn’t sit well with a couple of students, who I think thought the classroom should be church.

    But that will never happen, because if these people actually studied the history and archaeology in conjunction with the Bible, it would, if they had half a critical thought in their head, undermine their belief in the Bible as the “inerrable” word of god.

  25. Assuming they do get someone qualified, I picture an incident like what happened a few years ago with Bill Nye the Science Guy. I think he mentioned some bible passage about the sun and moon being set in the sky to illuminate the Earth and then pointed out that in fact, only the Sun emits light and the Moon is just a reflector of that light.

    Some families stormed away shouting, “we believe in GAWD!”

    Ignorance is bad. Willful ignorance is far worse.

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