I teach theology at Dordt University, and courses resume this week. At least that’s the plan. Here is northwest Iowa we are attempting in-person classes (masked and distanced). Actually, to be precise, we are attempting what’s called a HyFlex model, where we prioritize in-person classes while also making space for online students who are in quarantine. Preparing for all-online or all-in-person is much easier, and it has been exhausting to plan with so many variables and contingencies. Thus, I’ve been including something like the following language for all my courses:
The course I teach most frequently is called Biblical Foundations. It’s an overview of the Bible, and it is the only Bible or Theology course that every Dordt student is required to take (though of course we would say that all of our classes are theological, because of “every square inch,” and all that).
The course is challenging to teach. Since it is a mandatory course, there are often a handful of students who don’t want to be there. There are others who enter the class thinking they know it all already. There are others who don’t think they know it all, but perhaps they should; they have been inundated with Scripture and sometimes inoculated against its power. There are students who think the only value of the Bible is for personal inspiration or political proof-texting. And there are students who are intimidated by the course because they don’t “know anything about the Bible.” It’s hard to meet all these students where they are. I’ve taught it six times, and I’ve only been satisfied with with the overall experience once.
Although it is challenging, it is also rewarding. Many students are surprised by how much is in the text that they haven’t seen. They begin sitting differently, looking at the Bible through new lenses, asking really thoughtful questions. Some compare my lectures to sermons, which may be an unavoidable result of my having started as a preacher. The comparison could be taken as either a positive or a negative, depending on how one thinks of sermons. But I’d say that they are right, at least insofar as my primary goal in the class is that they would walk away with a deeper sense of awe: awe at the depths and riches of Scripture, and awe of the God whose story it tells, and who shows up in its pages.
Here are the textbooks I’m using this semester:
Here is the short video I’m using to welcome the students with this semester. It even includes a cameo from Snoop Dogg.