Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teaching All Things Christ Commanded Us

How do we teach the truth of God? Scripture does not prescribe a specific method of teaching, though it gives many examples. I would take it that God leaves open the use of different methods, based on the personality of the teacher, the nature of audience, and the nature of the subject. It does, however, prescribe the content: all things Jesus commanded us (Matthew 28:20), the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), all of Scripture, which is stated to be profitable (2 Timothy 3:16,17). We are therefore presented with a wide freedom of method and a very definite requirement regarding substance. Herein lies a problem.

There is a modern tendency to prescribe what methods should be used for teaching. Further, these conclusions are based not on the Bible, but on current educational theory. This would mean God left His church to stumble along, only to discover recently from secular sources the right way to teach . Also, the current trends in secular education, far from inspiring confidence, give one pause as to why we would want to imitate them. Many of these techniques seem to come from the psychological theory of behaviorism. This theory claims human thinking and human responsibility are an illusion; we do what we are conditioned to do by past experience. (It should be noted that not all psychological theories would go this far.) Now if thinking is an illusion, then behaviorism, which is the result of thinking, is also an illusion.

This approach abandons presenting the truth and the reasons for believing it and then leaving it to the student to think it through and apply it. Instead, it tries to find methods that manipulate people into applying it. We are told people are not able to apply Scripture for themselves. (If they cannot apply it, it is unclear how the teacher is supposed to know how to apply it.) If people cannot apply Scripture, it is normally because they do not understand the concepts involved. But all this is beside the point; the real purpose of this type of methodology is not to help people know how to apply Scripture, but to get people to apply Scripture. The idea is that in wanting to please the teacher or the group, they will be gently pressured into doing what the lesson requires, for the wrong reasons (see Matthew 6:1-18). This can be very awkward if you do not happen to agree with what the teacher is teaching. To avoid this and because it fits in better with the method, those who use it generally stick to simple obvious applications that it is hard to disagree with on principle. This ignores the vast areas of Biblical knowledge that cannot be taught in this way.

I am very much in favor of making Bible study interesting and making Bible study practical. But I am opposed to confining people to a simplified message in order to try to force them to change their behavior.

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