David Van Biema has written a decent article on the trend of offering elective courses teaching the Bible as Literature, and I must say that I am torn over the idea.
On the one hand, I am all for the teaching of scripture to young minds. The Bible is most profitable for teaching young people in the ways of righteousness. At the same time it is, of course, the only place where we can find true hope in this life of strife. Now here comes the part where I am have issues.
In order to teach the Bible in classes they pretty much have to strip the Bible of its core purpose, the proclamation of Jesus Christ's substitutionary death and resurrection. One the Supreme Court, the dunderheads that they are, require the Gospel to be striped in order to teach because they do not wish to promote a religion. Second, the stated goals of much of the course is to help the students understand the cultural impact of the Bible. Which, in essence, is pure idiocy without the Gospel, because the Gospel is the single reason the Bible has had the impact it does. If it were not for the Gospel the Bible would be as exceedingly dull and vacuous as a modern soap opera. Without the Gospel, the Bible would have been lost in the myriad of works and be no more of an influence than the gnostic writings.
My pastor friend has other worries. After reading Van Biema's article he recounted his time at Texas A&M when he took a Bible as Literature course. He noted that the course was full of theories which attempted to dissect and devalue the Bible as the Word of God. In this course, they promoted such idiotic ideas as JEDP, as if they could even hope to tell you who wrote what just by looking at grammar. We must not forget the eternal question, how many Isaiahs are there 2, 3, 4, 25? To add on to the troubles caused by viewing the Bible in the same light as every other book they tend to look at the Bible as a collection of separate pieces rather than a unified whole.
This is cleaving of the Bible is evidenced by the Van Biema when he brings up the issue of a case being thrown out because Jurors had a discussion on "eye for an eye" according to the Old Testament. He claims the jurors were at fault because they ignored or hadn't noticed that Jesus repudiated "eye for an eye" by teaching people to turn the other cheek. However, Jesus' proclamation is not a negation of the Old Testament where God is laying out the civil laws for the physical nation of Israel. Jesus is arguing against those who have used these verses to justify revenge as Dr Jeff Gibbs notes in his commentary on Matthew " Given the human condition, it was inevitable that some teachers in 1st Century Judaism would have taken the biblical admonitions regard just penalties and recompense and married to them this perspective of "do what you have to do, and be sure to get even." Jesus is not negating the states right to punish by the sword which is outlined in the Old Testament he is calling on people to take on "lives of reckless generosity and naivete." (Gibbs)
Enough about that, as much as I love the idea of young people studying God's word, I just can't help but feel that courses that seek to teach the Bible as literature will do nothing more than butcher and bury the most important thing about the Bible, Jesus Christ.
Gibbs, Jeff Matthew 1:1-11:1 Concordia Commentary Series, CPH, St. Louis: 2007