Friday, November 8, 2013

Teaching The Biblical Languages: Part Three

Imagine taking a biblical counseling course in seminary. The professor starts out the class with the words, "A little bit of biblical counseling is a dangerous thing." The syllabus is passed out. Students look over the student-learning outcomes. They glance over at the required reading. They check out the grading scale. And then they mosey on over to the course content, the course schedule. Imagine what would happen if this is what they saw:
March 31     Introduction to Biblical Counseling
April 3         Bible Verses for Depression
April 10       Bible Verses for Separation/Divorce 
April 17       Bible Verses for Substance Abuse
April 24       Bible Verses for Pornography
May 1          Bible Verses for Suffering/Death
May 8          Bible Verses for Anger
May 11        Bible Verses for Parenting
I've just selected a handful of topics. You can feel free to substitute any other issue. In case you don't know, believe me when I say there are many that arise in local-church ministry. Returning to the imaginary classroom, think about if it was approached the way many of our Greek courses are. In the course mentioned above, students would be required to memorize all the Bible verses for all the different topics. No real significant discussion on ministry or how to use the content in ministry until all the verses for each respective area had been mastered. Of course, each class section could begin with a short devotional about how a Bible verse ministered specifically to a person who was struggling with such-and-such issue. But no in depth discussion on how to minister to someone struggling in one of those areas until after all the content had been mastered. Here's my question for you: Would students in that course come out more or less equipped to minister to people in difficult/sinful situations?

Mastery as a prerequisite for teaching tools and skills is an approach that is not found in any of the other theological disciplines, only the languages. In the traditional Greek classroom, students are drilled, and drilled, and drilled, and . . . . You get the point. I remember what it was like. Truth be told, our short-term memories are generally sharp enough to retain sufficient quantities of data in order to successfully pass a mastery quiz or exam. Here is my dilemma: When none of that transfers into local-church ministry, there is a real breakdown.

I want my students to get the grammar. Definitely. I want my students to take their Greek New Testaments with them everywhere they go (and be able to use them). I'm an advocate. I take mine with me. I want my students to use Greek for the rest of their lives. I no doubt will. I don't think, however, that postponing the how-to part to second and third-year courses accomplishes any of this on a level professionals would consider a high-rate of success. The reality is those classes that come after the introductory Greek course generally don't effectively cover the how-to aspect either. I had only one professor do it with his classes. It was at the end of my seminary experience, and I wouldn't be using Greek today if it wasn't for his courses.

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