We cannot adequately deal with the question of Bible teaching without a few words about the teacher, because the character of the teacher bears a powerful influence upon the student. The living Word can be ministered efficiently only through the agency of the living teacher. The influence of the teacher cannot be overestimated. Long after some piece of instruction has faded from the mind, the lesson learned through human personality will live on. The secret of successful teaching of the word of God lies in the character of the teacher. The very best methods will be unavailing in the winning of souls through the ministry of the Word if the life of the teacher is in contradiction to the ideals of that Word. It is written of the Master Teacher:
"What He taught, He was. His words were the expression, not only of His own life experience, but of His own character. Not only did He teach the truth, but He was the truth. It was this that gave His teaching power."—"Education," pp. 78, 79.
The marks of a great teacher are strength of Christian character, power of personality, mastery of subject matter, force of conviction, and teaching technique. He must learn how to translate the truths of God's word into his own life, and then study how to transmute them into life in his students. If the teaching of other subjects demands a training in educational theory and practice, the teaching of the Scripture certainly does also. The best work cannot be done by one who is ignorant of the principles of teaching.
It is not true that anyone can teach Bible. A person may be very successful as an evangelist, and yet make a poor Bible teacher. Too often the teaching of important Bible subjects has been placed in the hands of men and women who, although they were competent in their own particular profession, were incompetent as Bible teachers. The result is seen in the student. If it is to be soulsaving, the Bible lesson calls for thorough preparation in matter and method, accompanied by diligent heart preparation. I feel firmly convinced that if more attention were given to this necessary preparation, we would see more tangible results for our labors. Our success is commensurate with what we put into our work.
In dealing briefly with the method in Scripture teaching, I wish to touch first of all on the matter of the place of the Bible in class instruction. What place should the teaching of the Bible occupy in the school curriculum? This question is answered in the Spirit of prophecy in the following statements:
"God's word must be made the groundwork and subject matter of education."—"Counsets to Teachers," p. 16.
"The Bible should be made the foundation of study and of teaching."—"Ministry of Healing," pp. 401, 402.
From these statements, we would conclude that the Bible has its place in the teaching of every class. As well as being the subject matter, it is to be the groundwork of all study. Too often, I fear, we are inclined to confine the Bible to the Bible teacher and the Bible class. When the Bible class is finished for the day, and Scripture instruction is then out of the way,' as it were, we take the attitude that we can devote our attention to other studies. Such an attitude results in little more benefit than is afforded by the method of Bible instruction in State schools. Although we are not to turn our other classes into Bible classes, yet the influences and principles of the Scripture should run, like a golden thread, through all our subjects.
The true Seventh-day Adventist teacher will not teach history, science, or literature as they are taught in the state schools. The principles of Bible truth will enter into all his teaching. The history teacher, for example, will find in the word of God a divine interpretation of history, and will present it to his students in that light. The workings of a divine hand will be pointed out, the setting of history in its relation to God's purpose will be studied, and the unfolding of Bible prophecy will be shown. What will it profit the student of history if he fails to recognize its relationship to Scripture? What will it profit the student of science if he is unable to see the hand of the Creator? What has the master of literature gained if his compositions never breathe the spirit of the divine ? The Bible in the school is not to be sandwiched between other subjects, nor should it be permitted to push out other subjects, but it is to be foundational in its relationship to all subjects.
Reverting now to the Bible class, let us give our attention to the spirit of the classroom, for it is important that we create a proper atmosphere for Scripture study. The Word is sacred and must be studied in a holy atmosphere. A holy atmosphere, however, must not be regarded as stiff and formal. The spirit of the classroom should be bright and free, and yet respectful and reverent. Invite God's presence to direct. Handle the sacred volume reverently, never carelessly. Speak the name of God respectfully. Never make light of Scripture. Carefulness on the part of the teacher will weigh far heavier than exhortation. Speaking of the influence of reverent deportment upon his life, a missionary in South Africa wrote: "From the services in which I joined as a child, I have taken with me into life a feeling for what is solemn, and have discovered a need for a quiet self-recollection, without which I cannot realize the meaning of my life." __________ To be concluded in October