Category: Faith Life in the Classroom

Context: A Required Fundamental for Hermeneutics and Analysis

by Jon Pirtle, Full-Time Instructor, Atlanta

Recently I was invited to speak at a local church gathering on the biblical worldview with regard to some hot button issues in our culture. That’s a pretty common request, so I did not expect anything unusual to come of it. Boy, was I going to be surprised. About forty adults, forty to eighty-year-olds, assembled monthly to discuss current events. I knew several people in the class on a casual level. We shared a passion for history, so I was excited about being with them in their current events class. The evening arrived. I entered the church, greeted folks, engaged in small talk, and then the class leader introduced me and asked me to pray. After that, we distributed printed agendas so the class would have a road map of topics for the evening’s discussion.

We were in a political season in GA. The primary elections for governor and other state offices had been held just days before. Arguably, like much of our nation, the class divided when it came to social issues and politics. The atmosphere had been cordial, respectful, and dignified when I entered. But when the topics of politicians’ stances with regard to illegal immigration, special “rights” for the LGBTQ demographic, liberation theology, and “social justice” engagement came up, the atmosphere changed. Some of the men’s voices grew louder. I watched three of the women’s faces grimace. Several wives squeezed their husbands’ hands as if to say, “Patience.” I was hearing Solomon’s admonition in my mind (ESV): “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29). In short, I sensed things were going south … quickly, and I had not even spoken yet. What was I going to do?

Then something happened that made me realize I had an opportunity to hopefully bring calm to the room and draw the focus to the biblical worldview. One man cleared his throat and said loudly enough we were all sure to hear, “You know, it’s not our place to judge! Jesus told us to ‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’” He then sat back in his chair as if he’d settled every issue for the night.

What shocked me was this: the class as a whole seemed knocked off their positions due to one man’s quotation from part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Suddenly I felt like Esther. Was I here for such a time as this? I believe I was, so I raised my hand. The class leader looked at me and said, “Jon, you have something?” “Yes, I do. May I ask a few questions and then just make a comment or two?” I asked. “Sure,” he said.

“I heard someone say that we are not to judge. Is that right?” I asked.

“Yes,” came a wave of affirmations from the class.

“Do you know what the Lord says in the following verses?”

Silence filled the room.

“Jesus tells his followers to not throw pearls before pigs. Isn’t he judging? Isn’t he making distinctions? He called some people pigs—foul animals to his first-century Jewish audience.”

Again, silence.

“Furthermore, Jesus tells us in that same sermon to not condemn sanctimoniously but to remove the logs from our own eyes. Does that not require us to judge, to discern, our own shortcomings? Isn’t judgment involved there?” I pressed.

I knew I might make some enemies by drawing them to the text, but the text of Scripture must be interpreted correctly. Otherwise, all sorts of misapplications can occur with supposedly biblical grounds. Proper context is key.

This is the way I ended, and for the remainder of class I just listened.

“Folks, may I suggest something to you? You are in a current events class. You spent half an hour excoriating politicians with whom you disagreed. Some of you condemned the president for wanting American sovereignty and laboring to build a wall to protect legal American citizens; others of you recognized that social justice is encroaching, and even overtaking, some mainline Protestant denominations. You condemned your political and theological enemies, and you lauded those with whom you agree. How can you misapply Jesus’ words about judging? Your whole class is designed to have you think biblically—to judge, to discern, what God would have you think and do. Does that make sense?”

I share this story from my own life only to reiterate what we need to do with our own writing and when we teach writing to Belhaven students. When we quote Scripture, context is key. Explaining and understanding the whole and proper context of a verse/passage/book, etc. of Scripture is essential in our vocation as educators and Christians. When Paul neared the end of his life, and was about to be executed for his Christian witness, he wrote to Timothy crucial words for all of us, too, to heed: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Webinars to Inform and Improve

Greetings,

We are working on a re-design for the Faculty Resources tab of our site and in the process the webinars, which have been listed there, have all been moved to YouTube for easier access.  As I was compiling these links I reviewed some of the webinars and was reminded of the wealth of information these contain.  I’m posting that information below and encourage you to look over the list and review a couple yourself – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Webinar of the Faculty’s Role in Student Retention – see the calendar link on this page to register.

APA and Grading Writing Across the Curriculum. Presenter: Dr. Everett Wade https://youtu.be/HFeLIpg2lUk

Bring Life to Your Classroom. Presenter: Dr. Ed Garrett https://youtu.be/urKi7DGVGQM

Christian Worldview: Practical Applications for the Classroom. Presenter: Dr. Paul Criss https://youtu.be/jFm9nNoFoXc

Effective Use of Library Resources. Presenter: Dr. Kim Priesmeyer https://youtu.be/CxpBGF8AHAs

Introducing Critical Thinking into the Classroom. Presenter: Rosemary Foncree https://youtu.be/HotogEC0PEc

Plagiarism: Helping Your Students Avoid It. Presenter: Dr. Kim Priesmeyer https://youtu.be/jFmhBggVdzw

Student Engagement Strategy: Experimentation. Presenter: Dr. Thomas Randolph https://youtu.be/vvOAQl2Q_48

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Foster Critical Thinking. Presenters: Dr. Jerald Meadows & Elizabeth Juneau https://youtu.be/Qdt7Mu5sGno

Using Canvas to Facilitate Team Projects. Presenter: Dr. Rick Upchurch https://youtu.be/RWuMnPtAvZA

Millennials in the Classroom. Presenter: Emma Morris https://youtu.be/0kgNsVN3SDs

Canvas Updates 2017. Presenter: Joe Villarreal https://youtu.be/0wWkVfKNNbA

Andragogy: Adult Learning Theory Applied. Presenter: Dr. Rick Upchurch https://youtu.be/KnDc3zfpvrs

Accessing Case Studies from Belhaven Library. Presenter: Charles Gaudin https://youtu.be/3k_X6RQ5jvM

The Soul of the University

I’ve just started reading Restoring the Soul of the University by Perry Glanzer, Nathan Alleman, and Todd Ream.  In the introduction they state, “Redeeming the Christian university’s soul starts by recognizing that if we are made in God’s image and the world is made by God, we must first know God if we are to truly know who we are and what the world is.” (p.10)  As I reflect on this quote and the title of the book, I am thinking about both in the context of Belhaven University.  What I see reassures me that, at least at Belhaven, there is no need to restore the Soul to the University, for Belhaven can truly sing “It is Well With My Soul.” You no doubt have heard of the upcoming retirement of Dr. Dan Fredericks, our Provost.  Due to his efforts and, many others, the Soul of the University has been carefully strengthened and nurtured over the years.  The emphasis on fully incorporating a Christian World View into every aspect of Who and What Belhaven is has impacted lives, and through our graduates, their communities and the world.

For us, it is not about restoration.  Instead, it is about maintaining and enhancing the ground already gained.  This is the charge for all of us in the roles God has called us to play here at Belhaven. For Faculty, you nourish the Soul of Belhaven through your interactions in the classroom: teaching, counseling, and modeling what it means to be called of God and saved by grace. Your faith, your commitment, your discipleship are a reflection of His love into the lives of our students and our University. We cannot rest on the past, as Paul writes, “I focus on this one thing; Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Phil 3:13b,14)  I am excited to see what God has in store for the future of Belhaven University.

2018:MLK50

by Dr. Paul Criss, Dean – Belhaven University Memphis/DeSoto

2018 commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. As we celebrate the life of Dr. King this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and then prepare to commemorate the tragic day of his assassination, it seems important to reflect on his life and message. I am sure that many of you will have questions raised in your classes and you will want to encourage your students to take some time for reflection. This is especially needed due to the social unrest we have been experiencing in our country and even in academia recently.

Many students and leaders in academia are looking for glimpses of hope and truth within the current social framework. I believe our best source for reflection is history and Scripture, as did Dr. King. In his book on the history of the Civil Rights movement, David L. Chapell describes the movement as not political, but as primarily religious and spiritual. White liberal leaders in the North who were allies of the African American civil rights leaders were not advocates of civil disobedience or of a direct response to segregation. Believing in the goodness of human nature, they supported education and enlightenment to bring about social and racial progress; however, that would not be enough. Chapell argues that African American civil rights leaders were rooted in the biblical understanding of the human sin nature and in the rebuke of social injustice offered by the Hebrew prophets. He also shows that it was their vibrant faith that empowered them to press for justice despite the often violent opposition to this biblical standard. Chapell concludes that there is no way to comprehend what occurred until you see the Civil Rights movement as a religious revival.1

Dr. Timothy Keller builds on this understanding specifically addressing Dr. King’s living out of this biblical ethic in his book The Reason for God:

“When Martin Luther King, Jr., confronted racism in the white church in the South, he did not call Southern churches to become more secular. Read his sermons and ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ and see how he argued. He invoked God’s moral law and the Scripture. He called white Christians to be more true to their own beliefs and to realize what the Bible really teaches. He did not say, ‘Truth is relative and everyone is free to determine what is right or wrong for them.’ If everything is relative, there would have been no incentive for white people in the South to give up their power. Rather, Dr. King invoked the prophet Amos, who said, ‘Let justice role down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream’ (Amos 5:24). The greatest champion of justice in our era knew the antidote to racism was not less Christianity, but a deeper and truer Christianity.”2

That is the key, not only to all intellectual endeavors, but also to all social progress – to become truer as individuals and as a society to a deeper and truer Christianity. As your students inquire and as you reflect on what happened 50+ years ago and on what is happening today, it is hoped that we will personally inch closer to the biblical standard and that we will lead others to do the same.

Resources

1 Chappell, David L., A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow (University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

2 Keller, Timothy, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Penguin Random House, 2008).

Helpful Online Resources:

  1. kingcenter.org; http://www.thekingcenter.org/books-bibliography
  2. http://www.aascu.org/programs/ADP/publications/MLK/
  3. rca.org/resources/mlkblackhistorymonth
  4. http://www.poetpatriot.com/holidays-martin-luther-king-jr-day.htm
  5. desiringgod.org/articles/dont-waste-martin-luther-king-weekend
  6. http://www.churchmarketingsucks.com/2015/01/martin-luther-king-jr-day/
  7. http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-65/martin-luther-king-jr.html
  8. crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/inspiring-quotes/31-powerful-quotes-by-dr-martin-luther-king-jr.html
  9. dclibrary.org/mlkday
  10. edutopia.org/article/resources-martin-luther-king-jr-day-matt-davis
  11. nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-lecture.html
  12. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/martin-luther-king-jr
  13. tes.com/teaching-resources/blog/commemorating-martin-luther-king-jr-day
  14. thoughtco.com/martin-luther-king-day-federal-holiday-45159
  15. thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/the-day-martin-luther-luther-king-jr-prayed-at-the-billy-graham-new-york-crusade/ .
  16. http://edsitement.neh.gov/feature/i-have-dream-celebrating-vision-martin-luther-king-jr

How the Reformation Reformed Education

by Dr. Paul T. Criss, Ph.D.
Dean, Belhaven, Memphis/DeSoto

On October 31, 2017, what do we celebrate? No, the answer is not All Hallow’s Eve. The answer is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation epitomized in Martin Luther’s nailing of 95 Thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. The point was to debate the statements to bring about a greater understanding of Scripture and a greater adherence to what Scripture taught. The Reformers reformed the church by the five solas:

  • Scripture Alone (sola Scriptura)
  • Christ Alone (solus Christus)
  • Grace Alone (sola gratia)
  • Faith Alone (sola fide)
  • God’s Glory Alone (soli deo Gloria)

The first principle of Scripture Alone sparked a hunger for knowledge and a reformation, not only of the church, but of education as well. The following is a summary the great research of Hugh Whelchel (https://tifwe.org/how-the-reformation-changed-education-forever/), David Murray, William Boice, and R.B. Peery (Luther’s Influence in Education).

Martin Luther has been called “the father of modern education” because he was almost as great a reformer of education as he was of religion.  John Calvin was known for reforming higher education. The Reformation took salvation out of the hands of the clergy and placed it, under God, in the hands of each individual. This necessitated each individual possessing the potential to have a Holy Spirit illuminated understanding of Scripture. It also directed Christian belief away from the dictates of the church and vested it in the Word of God; to teach each person to derive their interpretation of the Bible, not from the church or clergy, but through personal prayerful investigation of God’s revealed Word. All of this required that each person be able to read Scripture him or herself. It also meant that each individual must learn to read and to think clearly and critically leading to a reformation in education. The reformer’s concern did not stop at literacy; they were interested in both the theory and practice of education as well.

In nearly all of this writings, Luther references better education; however, his principles are clearly outlined in the letter “To Mayors and Alderman of the cities of Germany in Behalf of Christian Schools” (1524) and his sermon on “The Duty of Sending Children to School” (1530). The following ideas draw heavily from these writings unless otherwise noted.

Education for Everyone

Prior the Reformation, education was strictly the purview of the clergy and aristocrats, but the reformers believed that education should be available to everyone. The schools they started were the first, in line with Jesus and Paul, to educate girls and desired that every child of God reach their full potential for God’s glory. Luther expressed, “Even if there were no soul, and men did not need schools and languages for the sake of Christianity and the Scriptures; still, for the establishment of the best schools everywhere, both for boys and girls, this consideration is of itself sufficient, namely, that society, for the maintenance of civil order and the proper regulation of the household, needs accomplished and well-trained men and women” (1524). Joel Beeke in Calvin for Today states, the later reformers like John Calvin “opened the way for people to raise themselves by education and by the diligent use of their knowledge and abilities.”

Who is Responsible for Education?

The reformers taught the parents and the church held the primary responsibility of educating children under the authority of God’s Word (with possible support from the state). Luther and Calvin personally started numerous schools with existing churches. Parents were expected to reinforce instruction at home and church leaders would assess the instructional process and a student’s progress throughout the school year. Luther encouraged the state to provide stability to education by undertaking and supporting primary and secondary schools. He said, “Therefore it will be proper for the civil authorities to exercise the greatest care and industry in regard to the young; for, since the interests of the city are committed to their trust, they would not do well before God and the world if they did not seek with all their might to promote its prosperity. Now, the prosperity of a city does not consist alone in the vast treasures, strong walls, beautiful houses, large supplies of muskets and armor; yea, when these things are found, and fools exercise authority, it is so much worse for the city. The best and richest treasure of a city is that it have many pure, learned, intelligent, honest, well-educated citizens, for these can collect, preserve, and properly use whatever is good” (1524).

Education Should Be Theological & Practical

The reformer’s perspective on the sovereignty of God over all creation affected how they approached the study of all topics. All truth is God’s truth and theology, as the queen of the sciences, unifies all knowledge and understanding under the guiding principles of Scripture. As Mark Thompson wrote in Engaging with Calvin, “According to Calvin, science was a gift of God, created for benefit of mankind. The real source of natural knowledge was the Holy Spirit. Whoever dealt with it acknowledged God, obeyed the call of God, and focused on God’s creation. Thus, biology was also theology.” The reformers knew that the Reformation movement would grow through the study of arts and sciences through the lens of scripture. They also thought of education as a way to prepare students more efficiently to easily perform their daily duties in life. In some way even the concept of adult studies was encouraged, or at least schools at hours which would not interfere with the work schedule of those obligated to earn their living; these guidelines were recommended to authorities of both the church and state. Luther stated students should “spend an hour or two a day in school, and the rest of the time at work at home, learning some trade and doing whatever is desired, so that study and work go together…” (1530).

 Education Requires Gifted Teachers

The reformers viewed the position of teacher as very important. They actually viewed teachers as officers and servants of the church. The call to “Scripture Alone” required teachers who would teach how to read and understand the Word of God. Because of this, they required teachers not only to have expertise and education in their discipline, but also to obtain a degree in theology and to demonstrate high character. They also thought that teacher’s compensation should be high enough to provide education to the poor who could not afford to pay for their own instruction.

Education and Citizenship of Church & State

John Calvin founded the Genevan Academy. It became the model for colleges and universities for several centuries. Hugh Whelchel describes, “the Academy was a university that offered higher learning in a number of subjects, including theology, training pastors, and those preparing for other vocations.” The Academy also viewed its purpose to prepare those who would serve in the church and in government. Historians affirm that wherever followers of the Reformation went, they founded churches, school, and colleges. In fact, many of America’s early colleges, like Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, were originally based on the model set by the Genevan Academy.

Broad & Rich Curriculum with Best Teaching Principles

Luther advocated for a broader range of subjects to be taught to students based on liberalis study that taught students to contribute to society rather than servilus education that simply taught one skill to keep people in servitude. He retained the normal course of study for the clergy (Latin, Greek, and mathematics), but he also recommended Hebrew, more mathematics and additionally he insisted on nature studies, the sciences, rhetoric, gymnastics, history, and music. He realized the cultural power and practical value of music. Of course, Luther gave priority to the Christian teaching in all educational endeavors, so perhaps he was one of the first reformers to teach the Christian Worldview (along with Calvin). By using the Bible and the Catechism, he focused on developing the heart as well as the head. He also insisted on teaching being in the vernacular. He believed that students should not be subject to the medieval tradition of harshness, but rather should be dealt with gently and kindly, being ruled by love and not fear so they would find joy in learning. He also began the tradition of Academic Freedom by allowing liberty and opportunity for self-expression and questions within the classroom.

What Does This Mean for Us Today?

Scriptural reformation and education are the keys to cultural transformation. James Montgomery Boice in his book Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? Recovering the Doctrines that Shook the World illustrates for us: “Here is a particularly striking example. In 1535 the Council of Two Hundred, which governed the city of Geneva, Switzerland, decided to break with Catholicism and align the city with the Protestant Reformation. They had very little idea what that meant. Up to this point the city had been notorious for its riots, gambling, indecent dancing, drunkenness, adultery, and other vices. The citizens of Geneva would literally run around the streets naked, singing indecent songs and blaspheming God.

They expected this state of affairs to continue after they had become Protestants, and the Council did not know what to do. It had passed regulation after regulation designed to restrain vice and remedy the situation. They thought becoming Protestant would solve the problem. But that did not do any good either. Genuine moral change never comes from the top down by law, but from the bottom up through a transformed people. Geneva’s morals continued to decline.

But the Council did one thing right. They invited John Calvin to become Geneva’s chief pastor and preacher. He arrived in August of 1536, a year after the change. He was ignored at first, even by the Council. He was not even paid the first year. Besides, his first preaching proved so unpopular that he was dismissed in early 1538 and went to Strasbourg, where he was very happy. He had no desire to go back to Geneva. Yet, when the situation in Geneva continued to deteriorate, public opinion turned to him again and, driven by a sense of duty, Calvin returned. It was September 13, 1541.

Calvin had no weapon but the Bible. From the very first, his emphasis had been on Bible teaching, and he returned to it now, picking up precisely where he had left off three and a half years earlier. Calvin preached from the Bible every day, and under the power of that preaching the city began to be transformed. As the people of Geneva acquired knowledge of God’s Word and were changed by it, the city became, as John Knox called it later, a New Jerusalem from which the gospel spread to the rest of Europe, England, and the New World. This change made other changes possible. One historian wrote:

Cleanliness was practically unknown in towns of his generation and epidemics were common and numerous. He moved the Council to make permanent regulations for establishing sanitary conditions and supervision of markets. Beggars were prohibited from the streets, but a hospital and poorhouse were provided and well conducted.

Calvin labored zealously for the education of all classes and established the famous Academy, whose influence reached all parts of Europe and even to the British Isles. He urged the council to introduce the cloth and silk industry and thus laid the foundation for the temporal wealth of Geneva. This industry…proved especially successful because Calvin, through the gospel, created within the individual the love of work, honesty, thrift and cooperation. He taught that capital was not an evil thing, but the blessed result of honest labor and that it could be used for the welfare of mankind. Countries under the influence of Calvinism were invariably connected with growing industry and wealth…. It is not mere coincidence that religious and political liberty arose in those countries where Calvinism had penetrated most deeply.

There probably has never been a clearer example of extensive moral and social reform than the transformation of Geneva under the ministry of John Calvin, and it was accomplished almost entirely by the preaching and teaching of God’s word.”

It has been said that we are to ever be reforming. For Christians, this means that we compare our beliefs and practice to the Word of God; it we do not line up to what the Bible says we reform or change to meet the biblical standard. May we, in obedience to Christ, follow in the steps of the reformers and be agents of ecclesial and cultural transformation through our efforts in education.

Recommended Resources

An excellent and accessible book on the Reformation is Erwin Lutzer’s Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2016). If you are looking for ideas on how to celebrate the 500th Anniversary or incorporate it into your class, investigate the following sites:

 

The REFORMATION – What’s It All About?

by Dr. Larry Ruddell
Dean, Belhaven-Houston

(NOTE: On Tuesday, October 31, 2017 … many Christians will celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation)

On October 31, 1517, at the Church door in Wittenberg Germany, a hammer hit a nail. And with that “Bang”! … an idea explosion took place that still impacts society today.

Martin Luther, Catholic Priest and Professor had his life changed over a period of months due to his wrestling with Romans 1:17, For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (English Standard Version) He came to realize that salvation comes from faith alone by the grace of God alone and he came to realize that this faith required action. As a scholar, he saw the disconnects between these Scriptural Truths and what the Catholic Church was teaching … which resulted in him writing out 95 Theses (or points for debate) … hence the need for the aforementioned hammer and nail.

This relatively innocent request for a discussion (as any scholar should have been respected for having broached) resulted in anger and attack from the Catholic Church, even the Pope himself. Jesus was hated and attacked for presenting Truth as well, See Luke 4:31b-32 that reads, And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. We see the reaction from the Pharisees a little later in Luke to Jesus’ teaching and works, But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:11)

Ideas from the Reformation

What was different about Jesus and what Luther (and the others that followed, including Calvin and Zwingli) was getting at with his points of debate that got people so stirred up and what does it mean as instructors with Belhaven University?

The ideas of the Reformation are in some ways simple because they get back to the Scriptures and what the Scriptures say about themselves. … and here are the highlights:

Sola (or “Only”) Faith … we come to God not through any works that we do but only by trusting in Jesus Christ.

Sola Scripture … in other words, Scripture is our source of authority which means that ALL (including kings) are under the authority of Law. A corollary of Sola Scripture is the Perspicuity of Scripture … which means that the Bible can be understood by normal people and we could add that “Scripture interprets Scripture” … for example, see Matthew 5:21 where Jesus is explaining the meaning of the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13 with Genesis 9:5-6).

The other key points follow; Sola Christ, Sola Grade, Sola Glory to God.

What do these ideas mean for us at Belhaven?

So, what’s the big deal? How do these ideas apply to us as faculty and citizens? Here are a few thoughts.

God’s world is one world … so Reformed thinking never separated God from the “secular” world; which would include a need to be involved in government, society and vocation as well as our church lives. This is our aim at Belhaven to show how God’s Word applies in natural ways to our class material.

Freedom of Conscience … no one should coerce the thinking of others … that is God’s purview. Students are made in God’s image so their ideas should be respected … but that doesn’t mean that we have to agree. It just means that we “disagree” by explaining our arguments and trust God from there … but never do we force ideas on others through coercion or disrespect.

We will be going “against the flow” … the church has always found it easy to “go with the flow” of culture … which the Bible constantly warns against (i.e. see book of Judges i.e. Judges 2:10-13). So we should be alert to class material that misrepresents what the Bible says … especially the tendency to allow ourselves (or students) to assert “what the Bible says” without using actual Scripture (read within the proper context).

There are others but this is a good start. May we all be faithful to “stand out” as distinctive servants in these tough times and remember this October 31 those who have gone before (see Hebrew 12:1)!

Constitution Day – Sept. 17 – Celebrate Freedom

Please use the information below for a short presentation on the Constitution during one of your class sessions the week of September 17, 2017

Celebrate Freedom!
by Dr. Paul Criss

It is amazing to hear some of the current statistics of American Constitutional illiteracy. In 2014, the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study that revealed that American citizens’ knowledge of the government is lacking:

In 2011, a survey by Newsweek revealed that 70% of Americans did not know that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Fifty percent of college students think that Thomas Jefferson was the Father of the Constitution [the correct answer is James Madison] even though he was overseas during the signing of Constitution (www.issuelab.org/resource/what_do_college_graduates_know_american_history_literacy_survey). Studies have also revealed that 70 percent of Americans cannot name one of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment and 90 percent cannot name all five protected by the same Amendment. The Intercollegiate Institute of American Civic Literacy found in 2008 that 70% failed a basic test on the knowledge required for an informed and responsible citizenship (www.americancivicliteracy.org/2008/report_card.html).  If we do not know what is in the Constitution how will we know our rights or how will “We the People” hold our leaders accountable?

On September 17, 2017 we will celebrate the 230th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787. Federal law requires that all institutions receiving federal funds must observe Constitution Day, however, studies show that 90 percent of schools ignore this law. We would encourage you to celebrate freedom the entire week that September 17th falls upon. Some suggestions on how to do this follow:

A fun way might be to do a quick quiz on the Constitution like this one that is provided by Wallbuilders (www.wallbuilders.com):

  1. Of the 39 signers of the Constitution, how many had previously signed the Declaration of Independence?
    (http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/declaration/bio.htm) (link no longer available)
  2. The Constitution was signed in 1787, but was not binding until it was ratified.  When did that happen?
    (http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/first-principles/primary-sources/the-constitution-of-the-us)
  3. Which state was the first to ratify the new constitution?
    (http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day/ratification.html)
  4. Which state was the last to ratify the Constitution?
    (http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day/ratification.html)
  5. How many articles does the Constitution contain?
    (http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesarticles.asp?id=36438)
  6. Which article is the longest, and why?
    (http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/about-congress#.U_dlFmNi-ik)
  7. The Constitution Convention met in Philadelphia for the purpose of creating a document that would establish a new government for the States. True or False?
    (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/continental/constit.html)

Instructors might also consider incorporating the Constitution as a collaborative discussion in the discipline being taught. For example, in English, the instructor may want to discuss the differences in word meanings between 1787 and the present for words such as “general welfare” or “misdemeanor.” In a science or business class, one might discuss why the Constitution enables Congress to make laws protecting patents and intellectual property. Another business question might be on how the Constitution supports free enterprise. In a Bible class, a discussion might be led on the importance of religious freedom. Of course, the history class correlations are obvious.

How did you do on the quiz above? Check yourself:

  1. Six: Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, George Clymer, George Read, and James Wilson
  2. It was ratified on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify the Constitution, as specified in Article 7 of the Constitution. The new government under the Constitution came into effect on March 4, 1789.
  3. Delaware, on December 7, 1787
  4. Rhode island, on May 29, 1790
  5. Seven
  6. Article I is the longest.  It organizes and governs the legislative branch, which was the branch closest to the people and the most important of the three branches. It was therefore given the most, and the most powerful responsibilities.
  7. False.  The purpose was to address and solve the weaknesses that had become apparent under the Articles of Confederation, the document under which the country had been governed during the American Revolution.

Here are some resources that you might find helpful:

By the way, we do not have a godless Constitution as some have suggested. In fact, many of the clauses incorporate biblical principles such as representative government (Exodus 18:21, even Acts 6:3), distrust of power due to the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9), and a separation of powers in three branches (Isaiah 33:22). The Founders who were instrumental in writing and ratifying the Constitution specifically acknowledged God in its creation:

  • James Madison said, “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution.”
  • Benjamin Franklin stated, “I beg I may not be understood to infer that our general Convention was Divinely inspired [as in the Inspiration of the Bible] when it formed the new federal Constitution…yet I must own [admit] I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance…should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in Whom all inferior spirits ‘live and move and have their being’”[Acts 17:28].
  • Benjamin Rush shared, “I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration [as in the Inspiration of the Bible], but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament.”
  • Alexander Hamilton believed, “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God could never have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”

Our very first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, encouraged all of us by instructing: “Every member of the State ought diligently to read and study the constitution of his country and teach the rising generation to be free. By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated, and be the better prepared to defend and assert them.” Read, study, teach, know, defend, and assert – take some time this September to help your students reflect upon how the Constitution has shaped American culture and thinking. In all of this remember to Celebrate Freedom!

Dry Bones and Dead Hearts

Ron Pirtle, Dean of Faculty – Chattanooga/Dalton

If you have ever wondered what impact you, an adjunct faculty member, might have on a student, let me share a story. A few months ago, I had a student in my office who had stopped by just to share what a blessing the class she had just completed was to her and others in the class. Knowing which faculty member was assigned to that class, it did not surprise me in the least. However, while I had expected to hear how effective the faculty had been in helping them learn the information, she surprised me by sharing how she felt the faculty member had been used by God to open her heart back up to Scripture and the Holy Spirit. What a testament to God and the faculty member’s willingness to listen to the Spirit and be used by Him! While that is just one short story related to the Chattanooga site, it is true for many of our faculty members, across all the instructional sites. I am confident the other deans would have similar stories. So, how can we, as faculty members, allow God to use us to open up a student’s mind or heart? Let’s take a trip to the Valley of Dry Bones!

Those familiar with the book of Ezekiel know that the “glory of the Lord” is fundamental to the book, as well as God’s kindness and restoration regardless of Israel’s continued disobedience. In Ezekiel 37, God gives Ezekiel a vision of a valley of dry bones and commands him to speak to the dry bones, exclaiming that God will put breath back into them, and tendons and flesh, and cause them to live again. Of course, this vision was God’s way of telling the Israelites that he would resurrect them as a nation, which is revealed in verses 11 – 13. It is through this resurrection that God will put His Spirit back into Israel and place them back in their own land. The message of this particular vision is as true today as it was in Ezekiel’s time; God can take dry bones and dead hearts and bring life back into them.

So, I ask again…how can we, as faculty members, allow God to use us to open up a student’s mind or heart? Listen for God’s direction and guidance when dealing with a student, opening ourselves up to allow His Spirit to move through us, and His word, to breathe life back into our students. The faculty member from the story allowed God to work through them and allowed the work of the Spirit to breathe new life into the students in the class. As a result, a new hunger for establishing how Scripture should be used in every area of our life to allow God to work through us was established, viewing life through the lens of Scripture! This is the very essence of the Christian worldview, which is central to our teaching. So, as we stand before our students each night, my prayer is that we will heed the Spirit’s leading and be the vessel God uses to breathe life back into those who He is restoring to Himself. I leave you with a link to a song by Lauren Daigle, “Dry Bones”…powerful rendition of Ezekiel 37! May it bless you as it has me! https://youtu.be/MqzrTpwXTr8

Webinar: Best Practices to Inspire Student Engagement

by Dr. Warren Matthews, Mrs. Kim Priesmeyer, Dr. Ray Smith, & Dr. John Song

Four of Belhaven’s full-time faculty came together to share their ideas on how to increase student engagement in the classroom.  Their ideas are bulleted below but the real value will come when you take the time to watch this WEBINAR.  Each one brings new insights to the subject, applying their ideas both to online and on-site courses.  If you are like me you will be taking notes practically from the first word.  This was a great webinar with some take-away for everyone.  It will also be available in the Faculty Resources area of this Blog, under Webinars

John Song, Full-time Bible Faculty, Atlanta

“My personal contributions consisted of some basic but hopefully helpful principles. The three principles were: (1) relationships, (2) relevance, and (3) reflection.”

Kim Priesmeyer, Full-time English Faculty, Houston

  1. Send out a reminder announcement sent out each week through Canvas regarding what’s due next class meeting.
  2. Spend a few minutes each night with each student giving feedback on writing (require that students bring some writing to class to review before a paper is due)
  3. List nightly objectives/agenda on the whiteboard with approx time to spend (ex:  peer review with first draft, 30 mins)
  4. Show APA videos from Resources during class so we’re all on the same page about APA

Warren Matthews, Full-time Business Faculty, Houston

  1.  Effective feedback is very important, not only in grading but also in class discussion
  2. Socratic questioning is important to add value in the classroom.
  3. In an online class, be visible on a regular basis in the classroom
  4. Share our professional experience and insights.  Give examples from real world situations that are relevant to the course.
  5. Refer to current events as appropriate to apply the theory of the classroom to the real world.
  6. Inspire students by recognizing excellence in discussions and assignments.

Ray Smith, Full-time Business Faculty, Chattanooga

  1. Use of Wall Street Journal
  2. Current movie clips representing text topics
  3. CWV – use of entire books or topics that follow the full course
  4. Technology or mobile devices – turn them into assets rather than distractions
  5. Use small groups (2 or 3) to respond to questions instead of instructor merely quoting text or giving opinion

After the webinar was over, I received this addition from Nick Walters, Adjunct Instructor

Dr. Upchurch – Thank you for setting up these monthly webinars.  Even though many of us have the spiritual gift of teaching, it doesn’t mean we have cornered the market on how to do it.  These webinars have been very helpful.

How to Read Old Testament Laws – Part 1

by Dr. John Song, Full-Time Bible Faculty – Belhaven, Atlanta

Many of our students at Belhaven may struggle to understand the relevancy of the Old Testament laws. Are they mere cultural rules for an ancient civilization or do they apply to us today? As faculty, how do we train our students to become better readers of this genre of the Old Testament?

Alec Motyer lists three ways one can interpret these Old Testament laws (Motyer, 2009, pp. 26–27). For the sake of economy, I will only list two since these are the more popular lines of interpretation. First is the cultural interpretation where one reads the Old Testament laws as primarily belonging to the culture of their day. This view tends to mitigate the relevancy of the Old Testament laws for the present believing community. The second is to look for the underlying spiritual principle that governed these laws. While certain practices were cultural the underlying spiritual principle remains. I personally advocate for the second view. Let’s take a look at some examples:

Leviticus 19:28 prevented the Israelite community from cutting their bodies and placing tattoo marks on themselves. Many well-intentioned Christians quarrel over the relevancy of this verse. The argument may mistakenly focus on whether believers are allowed tattoos. Some argue that if Lev. 19:28 still applies to us then so should the preceding verse where there is a prohibition of cutting the hair at the sides of the head and the trimming of the beard. Whether Christians should get tattoos or not we will leave for another day. The immediate context of Lev. 19:28 is the prohibition of participating in certain pagan “customs which involved physical disfigurement” (Wenham, 1979, p. 272). The cutting of the hair on the sides of the head, trimming the beard, cutting the body, and placing tattoos on oneself (usually emblems of pagan deities) were pagan ways of mourning for the dead. The main underlying principle was that God was calling Israel to a different way of life that was distinct from their pagan neighbors. This spiritual principle still applies to us today.

Exodus 23:19 gives us the prohibition of not cooking a young goat in its mother’s milk. This prohibition also appears in Exod. 34:26 and Deut. 14:21. The repetition of this prohibition is not insignificant. While the cultural interpretation seems to fit well for most city dwellers who don’t raise goats, it is actually a law that applies to all believers today. In short, this was a Canaanite fertility potion where its broth was believed to have magical characteristics to make the flocks more fertile. The underlying principle was that Israel was not to trust in pagan superstitions.

As a final example, in the Old Testament welfare system (e.g., Deut. 24:19) when one dropped a sheaf while harvesting the land the Israelite was not to go back for it; rather it was to be left as a provision for the foreigner, fatherless, and widow. While we may not all harvest crops this law does, nonetheless, apply to all of us whether one is a farmer or not. The common denominator of the foreigner, fatherless, and widow was that they were all disadvantaged in that society. The disadvantages of the fatherless and widow are plain to us but what about the foreigner? Foreigners may not have known the culture, practices, and the laws of the land and therefore could have easily been mistreated. God called Israel to love the foreigner as themselves (e.g., Lev. 19:34). The underlying principle was that God’s people were to care for those who were disadvantaged.

Many of these underlying principles find continuity in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:20; Gal. 5:20–21; Jas. 1:27). A fuller conversation on the continuity and discontinuity (e.g., food laws and sacrifices) between the Old and New Testaments require a separate discussion.

For now, it is important to train our students to think about what these laws meant in the culture of that day. Exposing our students to the history and context of the ancient Near East will help them become more sophisticated readers of the Old Testament.

References

Motyer, A. (2009). Roots: Let the Old Testament Speak. (J. Stott, Ed.). Scotland: Christian Focus.

Wenham, G. J. (1979). The Book of Leviticus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.