Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Opinions in Bible class

I commend to your attention this excellent article by Rick Liggin--I couldn't agree more!

Are our Bible classes supposed to be times for open discussion when anyone and everyone may state his own "opinion" on what some Bible text or verse of Scripture means? Asked a little differently: are Bible class teachers simply discussion facilitators or are they supposed to actually teach the class something?

Obviously, teachers are supposed to teach! They are to "give instruction", since this is what a "teacher" does. And though that may involve engaging his students in some kind of discussion, in the end the teacher is supposed to be leading the class in a definite direction so that real learning takes place. Anyone can stand at the head of a classroom and ask his students for comments--but a teacher must do more than that. He must teach!! He must instruct! He must make sure that real learning--learning that is true to the Word--takes place in the minds and hearts of his students.

But not only must he teach; he must do so with authority. Paul told Timothy: "These things command and teach" (1 Tim. 4:11). He told Titus: "These things speak, exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you" (Tit. 2:15). A faithful Bible teacher does not hand down his own "opinion" of what the Bible says--an "opinion" that others may take or leave, accept or reject. He teaches the Word of God--an authoritative message that must be accepted and obeyed.

Now, I say these things because I fear that some of us have gotten the wrong idea about our Bible class periods. Some of us seem to think that Bible class is a time for us to all get together and share our "opinions" or "what this passage says to me" with one another about some Bible topic or Bible text. But folks, that's not Bible STUDY! It might be one thing if we were sharing with one another the fruit of our own diligent, honest and careful private Bible study. In fact, if that were the case, I'm sure that some real and significant Bible learning would take place in such a class period. But that most often is not the case!

More often than not, these "opinions" we express are not based on any real, personal Bible study; in fact, they're often not even based on having previously read the text before coming to class. More often than not, they are the result of whatever might pop into our heads as we read the text for the first time while already in class. I'll be honest and tell you that, as a Bible class teacher who works hard at preparing to teach Bible classes, I find that insulting. How dare you come to class and challenge a teacher's conclusions by expressing your "opinion" when you haven't even taken the time to read the text (much less study it) before coming to class! We're not saying that error should not be corrected--if a Bible class teacher teaches something wrong, he should be challenged and corrected kindly. But how can we do that if we have not studied the text before coming to class?

Bible class is not about sharing "opinions" (especially unstudied opinions) with one another. It's about helping one another learn correctly what God's Word says, so that we can use it to change our lives. And it is the teacher's place to do that--and do it with authority, so that all feel the need to do what God says. Vision for the future demands that we make our Bible classes periods of real learning, and that requires teachers who are prepared to teach and students who come to class prepared to learn.


ben said...

This is such an excellent summation of the classes I've been a part of - both as a teacher and student. It's so sad when time isn't spent preparing our minds for the study of God's word - even if it's simply spending some time reading the passages to be discussed.

Steven C. Karoly said...

Thanks for that comment, Burk. The big lesson we have to learn as Christians is that it's about our Lord and Savior and not about our opinions and desires. Good point,