It is a common thing in our college Bible classes, even in advanced classes, to find that the students do not make proper personal preparation in study for the classes. They merely come to class to get what the teacher has to give them by way of lectures and admonitions. Generally, too, it must be admitted that this sort of procedure is ample for good grades in the Bible subjects taken,— often, indeed, the best grades that the student receives in any of his classes.
We are reaping the fruit of this kind of teaching in the grade of Bible students we are turning out as college graduates. Comparatively few of our college-trained young men and women really know their Bibles either theoretically or experimentally. They know altogether too little about how really to preach or teach Bible truths, or even how to approach the Bible in original study for themselves. One result of this situation is that as soon as these young people get out into the field as teachers in our schools or as conference laborers, they seek to shun those lines of activity which require them to deal primarily with the Bible. They feel that they are not able to assume the role of leadership along Bible lines, so they prefer to take up teaching in other lines, or engage in activities which do not lay upon them so heavy a tax of spiritual knowledge and experience.
Now I am greatly interested in the solution of the threefold problem which confronts us as Bible teachers:
I. How to make, in our classroom endeavors, that vital connection with the practical Christian life and experience.
2. Placing adequate, but not overdone, emphasis on the side of theoretical knowledge of the fundamental truths of Christian teaching and fundamental facts of Christian experience.
3. Establishing a method of teaching Bible which will not only reach a proper balance between theory and experience in the classroom work, but will also lead the student into definite and personal and original Bible study for himself, and furnish him with some measure of knowledge as to how to approach the Bible in his personal study.
To this latter phase of the problem it might be added that it does not stop with such results as leading the student into an experimental study of the Scriptures, into a proper grasp of the theoretical teachings or facts, and into some satisfactory measure of ability and interest as a Bible student, but also so to teach as to enable the student to go out from his study in school and efficiently teach the Bible truths to others. Indeed, he should not only be able to go out and teach the Bible to others, but he should have an unobstructed willingness and a burning desire to do so. The accomplishment of all these desired, yes, demanded, ends, requires nothing short of a Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit of God upon us as Bible teachers. We are utterly unable to attain unto such success in and of ourselves.
It is surely proper for me to state that I do not count myself to be even a good Bible student, to say nothing of being a good Bible teacher. I have simply gained enough knowledge of the real problems which we face to lead me to seek earnestly the way through. And in this seeking I have been led to adopt a different method in my Bible classes than I have ever used previously. In this new method I am making a great deal of the assignment. I want the students to do some original study. If the method gives satisfactory results, I intend to adopt it for all my classes, including synthetic Bible. Of course the assignments would have to be a little lighter in synthetic Bible, as that is a freshman class. " Christ in Prophecy " will be taken by the second and third year students.
I am inclosing a copy of the assignment for the first lesson according to this new method, and would be glad to have the benefit of the reaction from Bible teachers concerning it. I would request that the lesson be considered from the viewpoint of a member of the class. For instance, suppose you were a member of the class--
Would you relish the job of preparing such a lesson as this for each class hour?
Does it require too much work for one assignment?
Are the questions such as serve to guide the student into at least some of the essential phases of the subject?
I recognize the fact that some who go over this lesson may not come very close to the development of the topic as I have it in mind,— they may see other things in texts of Scripture than I see in them; they may not see in them what I see; they may not be able to find that any texts cited furnish an answer to some of the questions. But the point I am, after, so far as the student's preparation is concerned, is that he get something out of these texts of Scripture relative to their bearing upon the topic of the lesson, before I give him any interpretation of them. In other words, that he try to gain some conception from his own individual study as to what this topic means in the light of Scripture teaching.
The student is not limited to the texts cited, but he must study them, and he must try to use them as best he can in answering the questions. If he considers other texts afford a better answer than those cited, he is at liberty to make use of them.
If a student should make the excuse for failing to try to answer a question, that he could not decide just what I was driving at in the question, then I shall tell him that just what I was driving at in the question is not so important as what he himself decides is the point of the question. He may be all wrong in his answer, according to my point of view; but even at that he might be as near the truth as I am, at least in some cases. At all events, he has been challenged to a decision, satisfactory to himself, relative to these points, and in advance of what the teacher tells him he himself thinks or believes about the topic. In other words, the student has been spurred to make an investigation and find out where he stands.
The Lesson Assignment
Subject: " Christ in Prophecy." Topic: " The Messiah and the Messianic Hope."
1. Memorize: Rom. 15: 4.
2. Study: Make memorandum of central thought of each text: Rom. 15: 4; Jer. 14: 7-9; 17: 13; 50: 7; Luke 2: 36-38; 23: 50, 51; Acts 23: 6; 24: 14, 15; 26: 6-8; Titus 1: 1, 2; 3: 7; Heb. 6: 13-20; 1 Peter 1: 3-12; Acts 28: 20; Col. 1: 27; Isa. 7: 14; 9: 6, 7; Matt. 1: 21-23; Luke 2: 25-32, 36-38; Titus 2:,11-14; Eph. 2: 12; Luke 2: 25, 26.
3. Write: Answer following questions in the light of above texts:
a. What general portion of the Bible forms the basis for the Messianic hope?
b. What was embraced in the Messianic hope as expressed by both Old and New Testament writers? (Summarize the content of the hope set forth by these writers.)
c. To what event dill the Old Testament prophecy look forward as the goal of the Messianic hope?
d. To what event do the Scriptures point for the consummation of the Messianic hope?
e. Of what importance, according to the teaching of Scripture, is this hope to yourself and to every one?
f. Is this hope worthy of the chief place among the things you regard as vital in your life? How can you make it so?
g. Do you possess this hope?
4. Head: Take notes on two or more of the following references:
a." Prophecy a Preparation for Christ." R. Payne Smith, pp. 1, 2, and footnote; also p. 24.
b. " Messianic Prophecy," C. A. Briggs, p. 49.
c. "Prophecy and History in Relation to the Messiah," Alfred Edersheim, pp. 2, 3, 5, 8.
d. " Desire of Ages," Mrs. E. G. White, Chap. III.
e. "Story of Prophets and Kings," Mrs. E. G. White, Chap. LVIII.
f. "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia," art. " Messiah."
Union College, Nebr.