The Importance of Theology (a Bible Class Update)

Last week Mr. Garner introduced the high school class to a project that will be a major focus for the fourth quarter: producing a quality essay. Students are presently working to produce a 5-paragraph essay on lessons learned from the prophet Elijah. Writing a strong and cohesive 5-paragraph essay is a universal expectation for any high school graduate. The skill is foundational, giving students a model for communication that is applicable from shorter writing prompts to larger, collegiate papers. In preparation this week, students have been developing topic sentences (a precursor to producing a thesis) and outlining their papers, creating a logical flow of subtopics to support the main idea of their paper.

Beyond learning to write effectively, the paper will be an important exercise in learning to communicate theologically. “Theology” is one of those disciplines too easily excluded from a high school curriculum. Perhaps perceived as too esoteric or complicated, students often lack exposure to the topic unless they decide to pursue a college degree in professional ministry. Obeying God, however, necessitates that we develop a sound, biblical theology. Jesus communicates that the two greatest commands are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). For Jesus, the way we treat our neighbor is directly related to our understanding of what it means to love and serve God. Our approach to teaching the Bible at the Academy emphasizes this dynamic: students must learn to interpret scripture for themselves so that they treat people not according to the limits of a cultural perspective, but according to God’s ethical standards.

To this end, the assigned paper on Elijah is an opportunity for students to take ethical positions from the theological lessons derived from a study of the prophet’s life. As a short preview of the variety of lessons available in the narrative of I Kings 17-18, here is a selection of theological statements produced by the high school class:

“The idols of this world make us sacrifice our well-being in order to serve them - God does not require us to harm ourselves to get his attention.”

“We should learn to evaluate leadership based on how they perform in their role, not the education or pedigree attached to their name.”

“God often provides through the generosity of others, but we have to humble ourselves to accept their help.”

“Authority and confidence are a result of the time spent in the presence of the Lord.”

“We have to humble ourselves and have faith in order to go to places that are in need and be the person God uses to provide for others.”
 Mr. Garner taught the high school class the skill of making observations from the text. Rather than assuming we know what a story is teaching, producing observations requires us to read closely and slowly, noting the what, who, where, when, and how before identifying the 'why' of a story. Though tedious and difficult at first, the discipline ensures we derive our theology from scripture, rather than inventing it from our own assumptions.

Mr. Garner taught the high school class the skill of making observations from the text. Rather than assuming we know what a story is teaching, producing observations requires us to read closely and slowly, noting the what, who, where, when, and how before identifying the 'why' of a story. Though tedious and difficult at first, the discipline ensures we derive our theology from scripture, rather than inventing it from our own assumptions.