Posted by: riverchilde | March 9, 2011

Ignorance is teaching/learning bliss

This blog by WorstProfessorEver on why experts make lousy teachers makes me feel a little better about being a “mere” MA among MDiv’s and PhD’s (particularly an MA interested in the Old Testament who doesn’t intend to get a PhD and isn’t really sure what she’s going to do with the degree, except that she wants to help people get as jazzed as she is by the Bible, and knows that she might not ever make any money doing it).

In To Know as We Are Known, Parker Palmer suggests that by “continually exploring alien, uncharted territory, humility and openness to grace are cultivated…. The teacher is forced to see the world from the student’s point of view, to deepen that capacity for empathetic identification that enables us to practice obedience to truth” (p. 114-115). WorstProfEver clearly agrees.

I think  a lot of us who teach the Bible neglect to acknowledge that, like ancient mythology (and Latin and economics and computer programs), the text is, for most people,  “as inaccessible as alien hieroglyphics.” Like ancient mythology, there’s a lot of subtext, and face it, most of the stories sound really strange to modern ears, particularly ears attuned to pious readings of the Bible.  Painting blood on doorposts? Driving a tent peg through a guy’s head while he’s sleeping? (Although that last one was quite a hit with my husband’s confirmation group of all boys.)

I have a tendency to think that as Bible study leader, I need to know all the subtext, to present the text as somehow logical and understandable, and to be able to communicate every bit of historical-critical stuff I’ve ever learned about the text in a one-hour session. But I wonder if everybody might have a much better time if I try to see the text from the students’ point of view, acknowledge that this is wacky stuff, admit that I don’t have all the answers, but declare that I believe there’s something of value worth mining here, then break out the pickaxes and invite folks to dig alongside me.



  1. I really appreciate your comment regarding getting “jazzed” by the Bible. It is a fascinating book, and it’s unfortunate that we struggle to understand that knowing context is so important. We can read Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, accept the absurdities, but for some reason this doesn’t hold true when reading the Bible. But it’s obvious you’ve found your passion, and I’m guessing the world will be a better place for that—even if the monetary reward is less rather than more.
    Meanwhile, allowing the confirmation age youth to wrestle with the craziness is great, since I’m guessing they are often engaged in rather similar scenarios, especially if they are gamers. The theme of “good and evil” is pervasive in gaming-and the Bible. Drawing the parallels will bring the stories alive.
    At the First Third Dialogue last weekend, Professor & author Craig Detweiler gave several great presentations related to “finding God in pop culture”.
    His latest book is “Halos and Avatars-Playing Video Games with God”. You, your husband, and the young men in confirmation may find a new way to engage in God’s narrative.

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