Tag Archives: Christian Education

“Bible Study on Wisdom”

I love snail mail and as well as writing to pen pals all over the world, I participate in my swaps via Swap-Bot. Generally most of these swaps are to move around Friendship Books, swap out my craft stash, and write the occasional themed letter, but every once in awhile there’s a swap that gives me a chance to be a bit of an activist. This is one of those.

The swap coordinator gave us 10 questions to use to delve into the Bible on the topic of Wisdom. Here’s my answers that will go to my partner:

Bible Study on Wisdom

  1. What is the wisdom from above like? (James 3:17)

Since I prefer to study the Bible using 2 versions, I have the KJV and NIV open in Bible Gateway. As usual, the words used differ in each translation. The KJV describes wisdom from above as: “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” while the NIV says it is: “first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

I’m not an English major, so for me the differences are slightly nit-picky, but they are still noticeable. I react differently to the idea that wisdom from God should be without hypocrisy than I do to the idea that wisdom from God is sincere. In humanity, there are plenty of very sincere people who are complete hypocrites and don’t make for very good advisors.

As a definition of what wisdom is, this does a poor job. It’s much too open-ended and non-specific.

2. What is the wise of heart called? (Prov. 16:21)

Huh. KJV: Prudent. NIV: Discerning. Merriam-Webster has similar definitions for these words, however, I read prudent as being cautious about decisions, whereas discerning is being very discriminating about understanding. I find the second half of this passage, in both translations, to be the more interesting. The KJV says “and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning” while NIV: “and gracious words promote instruction”.

For me, “increaseth learning” feels like an internal discussion (it’s the wise person who keeps learning) while “promote instruction” is an external action (it’s the wise person who teaches others). This, of course, makes the use of “prudent” and “discerning” important because I feel that the prudent person is very introspective about what they know whereas the discerning person is comfortable enough in their wisdom that they feel that they can teach others what they know.

3. Who is it that gives wisdom? (Prov. 2:6)

God. There is no disagreement here in translations (except for some -eths)! But, to whom does God give wisdom? Solomon below implies that it’s only those who directly ask for it, but this doesn’t happen often in reality. Most people only get called wise once they’ve garnered a lot of experience and learning, though there are many young people who are “wise beyond their years”, though I’d argue that this is because they spent their childhood learning about the world while their peers played.

4. Why did King Solomon ask for wisdom from God? (1 Kings 3:5-9)

Because he felt young and unprepared to be king…

5. What is the wisdom of this world from God’s perspective? (1 Corinthians 3:19-20)

Foolish…

But, this is an overly simplistic description! And one that is increasingly used by some religious people to dismiss realities of the known world! I mean, there are some people who honestly believe that the Earth is only about 6000 years old because that’s the number calculated from the Bible and these people think that scientists have pretty much made up the idea that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old! In 2017, these “Young Earth Creationists” are the ones who look  incredibly foolish for their willfull ignorance of science!

6. What does Prov. 11:30 tell us about evangelism?

Well, these translations are completely different. KJV says that the evangelist who is saving souls gets to call themselves wise whereas the NIV says that the evangelist is wise and will saves lives. This ends up being functionally opposites, though in both cases the label of “wise” is handed out a bit like candy.

7. What does Prov. 13:20 say about our companions?

Having wise companions leads to being wise whereas foolish companions harms the individual. However, without a definition of wisdom, the overall effect is the obscure idea that you should hang out with the “right” sort of Christian and everyone else is going to Hell.

8. What is the virtuous woman’s speech like in Prov. 31:26?

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” (KJV) vs. “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (NIV) “Faithful instruction” is of course very different from “the law of kindness”.

9. Why should we listen to advice? (Prov. 19:20)

Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” (KJV) vs. “Listen to advice and accept discipline,  and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” (NIV) It’s interesting that Merriam-Webster has “obsolete” next to the definition of discipline where it means “instruction” (I was under the impression that the NIV was supposed to modernize the language of the Bible).

Of course, for me, it is more important to be able to identify good advice than to understand that one should get advice.

10. Why is it foolish to boast about tomorrow? (Prov. 27:1 & James 3:13-17)

Do not boast about tomorrow,  for you do not know what a day may bring.” (NIV) Of course, this is actually a good example of sound advice :-).

I’m glad that We’ve gone back to James 3 because I’d skimmed it before answering Question #1 and feel like this Bible Study would have gone better had we started here:

“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (NIV)

This finally seems to answer the very practical question of what wisdom is and how the average person can recognize a wise person…sort of. It does involve “using the word within the definition” (“you can recognize the wise because they act with wisdom”), which means that everyone can define wisdom by their own standards.

But, I do like that it specifically calls out anyone claiming to be wise who secretly harbor envious and selfish ambition! For me, this gives me Biblical based reasoning for why a Clergy member should be scorned when they live in a mansion and otherwise live a life of wealth. I feel that a vow of poverty is the most important thing a Clergyperson does because it shows that they aren’t in it for the money. The Clergy make their living as a salary derived from collections from the faithful who would obviously prefer that their donations go towards the needy and not a Lexus for the Clergy!

Of course, “wise” people (illustrated by  this passage) can earn such vast wealth, but clearly, what matters most is what they do with it and profit sharing plays a large part in illustrating their humbleness (sharing wealth rather than hoarding it for themselves).

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Obviously, I’m not a Christian. I’m a Deist. This is also my first Bible Study and I’m more curious about how this ranks as such a thing.

I feel like the specific questions asked are supposed to guide a person to a specific conclusion. Is this normal? I just found it annoying! I mean, I was expecting an in depth discovery of what the Bible means by having wisdom (meaning that there would be a lot of questions dealing specifically with definitions) and instead the questions led me down a trail of the obvious (of course God is the source of wisdom! This is a Christian Bible Study!). I could have answered half of these questions without opening a Bible!

As for analysis, you can see from my short answers, there didn’t seem to be much room for analysis outside of an overarching question of “what is the point of this question?”.

I’ve heard many Christians complain that non-Christians will all too often attack the Bible using choice picked verses that are “taken out of context”, but this entire Bible Study feel like nothing but verse mining. It felt like the author had searched for the word wisdom in a searchable Bible and picked the passages that sounded most relevant without thought about the overarching idea. If nothing else, I wish that there had been bigger sections called out for analysis!

On a related note, this felt a lot like the assignments I most hated in school. “Fill in the blank with the missing word taken directly out of the passage highlighted.” Honestly, I don’t think that the people of this Bible Study are actually supposed to think about anything but the simple answers to simple questions. If otherwise were true, the questions would have been better.

I think that a proper Bible Study should deal with only one section (as big or as small as necessary) while drawing upon any other relevant passages as necessary. They should not, for any reason, require lots of jumps around to look at single solitary verses.

By the way, you’ll notice that I happily utilized two different versions of the Bible for this study (to give me something to analyse). I’m curious as to what will potentially happen if people involved in this swap receive a Study that uses a Bible that isn’t their own version (since version seems to be very important to many people). Will it force some people out of their comfort zone?

A Christian Education

I’ve always had an interest in education. Back in middle school I wrote an essay in English arguing in favor of year round school. I still support this in all cases because it’s not about of having more days school–with year round school it’s the same number of days that we currently have, just spread out more so that instead of a single long 3 month break, there are more frequent week and 2 week long breaks. The downside is that there’s no chunk of time for remedial summer school classes, but the benefit is that less time is spent reviewing the stuff that is forgotten over the long break. If more effort is spent catching students before they fall behind, there’s no need for remedial classes.

But I’m not here to re-hash a middle school paper. Or even discuss public school education. Over the past few years I’ve been interested in Christian homeschooling and it’s pros and cons. The biggest con being the disregard for a secular education, but again, that’s a discussion for another time. Nah, what this post is about is some information I sought to get straight from the horses mouths. Or in this case, a homeschooling mom who likes to give her opinion and a Christian University that caters to formerly homeschooled students.

Let’s start with the homeschooling mom. Her blog post was all about how “You can do this!” when it comes to homeschooling your kid. That is debatable, since there’s no real consensus when it comes to what kind of qualifications parents should have when they undertake the task of teaching their children.Some states require a college degree. Other states don’t even require that the student be considered being educated (Virginia had like 6000 children legally classified as “not enrolled in school” a few years ago). So, even a single state test to ensure that the student is receiving an education are at times non-existent.

I take a moderate view of this form of education. That is, an ambitious parent with a moderate amount of education can teach their young child the basics of elementary school–reading, writing, arithmetic. Basics of science and history. Simple stuff that doesn’t involve too much outside knowledge; just read the textbook and help the kid learn the information. But at some point in middle school, a turning point occurs. This is when student should start learning how to write a decent essay (and there are many different forms). History should start to get complicated. Mathematics start entering the realm where people either “get it” or they don’t. Science starts entering the realm of theories and research. At this point, I think parents need to seriously consider where their child should go to school.

When a student’s only teacher is their parent, they are limited by their parents limits. I think I wrote a post earlier describing  how my entire education was influenced by something like 150 different teachers. Knowing that this particular homeschooling mom is very Christian I was curious as to how she’d encourage her older children to explore higher education. Turns out, she doesn’t.

My question, specifically was how she’d teach her oldest children Chemistry and Calculus, since I took honors high school Chemistry in 11th grade and Dual Enrollment Chem and Calculus (meaning I was earning college credit at the same time I earned high school credit) my senior year. Her reply was this:

“My oldest actually is there. He is doing chemistry this year, and completed pre-calculus last year but has no interest in going on to calculus because it does not tie in with the field of work he is wanting to go into. Calculus is actually college level math. High School curriculum only runs through pre-calc, and few students even get that far unless they are very advanced in math.

It depends on the student, as well as the teacher. By the time children are doing such advanced High School courses, they ideally should have learned how to teach themselves from their textbooks, all of which explain new concepts step-by-step, give examples, etc.

Many of the higher level courses also come with instructional videos (DVDs or online lessons). Solomon used the DVDs taught by Art Reed for all his higher level math. There are often also local resources available through homeschool co-ops that teach classes on advanced coursework for those who are still struggling with learning on their own from a book.

Unless the parent is a whiz in any particular advanced subject and enjoys teaching it, and also has the time to teach the student who could get the same information by reading the textbook rather than it being conferred to him by the parent, most parents will pass the torch of learning to their child sometime during the earlier High School years. In fact, that is one of the main goals of High School – to transition to life after school, where you have to learn on your own, motivate yourself, and take responsibility.”

First, notice how she justifies her son not going into calculus because a) he’s not interested in it and b) it’s not required for high school because it’s a college level class. So, in other words, that kind of education is pointless and therefore not worth spending time on. Later she goes on to explain that by this point, her son should be teaching himself and that it’s not her responsibility to ensure that he gets a well rounded education. I’m not sure at what point she quits playing an active role in what her children learn, but I’ve read enough stories on Homeschoolers Anonymous about how little some parents pay attention to their homeschooled children’s education. Not all, but one is enough for me to be pissed.

I didn’t choose to go into calculus, I was placed there by my guidance counselor because of my desire to be in orchestra. Half my classmates in our “college bound” clique went into AP Statistics instead. Was it a waste of time? It’s debatable. Because I got the college credit in high school, I didn’t need to take it when I went to college, thus freeing up that time for classes that I actually enjoyed. I did well in the dual enrollment class in high school; I probably would have failed the same calculus class in university. Will I ever use calculus? Well…literally, no. But considering that I call myself a historian, insanely interested in the way life has changed over time (which is the definition of a derivative–one of the key parts of calculus), I can appreciate what calculus is. I have a broader view of the world because I took calculus–I know that the mathematics work, even if I don’t really understand how and why; it’s not magical speech meant to confuse the uninitiated.

I agree that students should be interested in what they study, but at the same time, anyone who only learns what they’re interested in will never have the chance to be inspired by something new. Disregarding classes as not important, for whatever reason, is harmful. And few people, even those who are very intelligent, can teach themselves with a textbook. I got straight As in calculus and thought I grasped the subject well, but I missed a couple of classes because of illness and tried to teach myself the content I’d missed. It was incredibly difficult and it turned out I didn’t do the best job. I was correct in my algebra, but my notations weren’t correct. So, it was like I was doing the problems in Spanish instead of English, though no one but me would understand it.

The problem with homeschooling is that, for the most part, parents only require the bare minimum. Since so much extra effort is needed to access tougher classes, they’re rarely sought after. Now schools, public or private, charter or co-op, are offering any number of electives and honors courses in order to give students the best chance to connect with something bigger than themselves, since they’re expected to spend 4 years there anyway. Meanwhile, homeschool students usually finish their classes early, graduating at 16 or 17, and have to take the GED test to be considered educated by their future employers.

Anyway, my second source is Verity University, a Christian university. I was surprised when looking through their course information that their Biology study guide included a table of ages consistent with standard science “old Earth” dating. So I shot them a question asking about their belief system since this seemed to contradict their “young Earth” mentality on everything else. The response I got was that the “Biology study guide’s introduction provides a Biblical worldview with which to equip our students as they study the CLEP exam materials. CLEP has secular worldviews, but it is necessary to understand the world’s perspectives in order to pass the exams.” In case you don’t know (I didn’t), CLEP is 33 tests that the College Board (organization that manages the SAT tests, AP tests, and other things I consider “college prep” rather than actual college) offers at $80 each as classes you’d take during your first 2 years of college. In other words, the College Board offers these exams as a stand-in for when you want to opt out of taking an intro-to class in college. These are similar to the AP test or dual enrollment in that they can be accepted or not by a university.

Does anyone else find it questionable that’d you’d pay any amount of money to go to a “university” that claims to teach one thing (Biblical Worldview), but has so little accreditation that they can’t teach what they want, but have to teach the secular test that can be transferred. By the way, I haven’t seen a study guide like this since like 6th grade. After that, my classes were required to make our own. In any case, if I’m going to go to a university, it’s going to be one where a) they teach their own stuff and write their own tests and b) when they do that their credits are more or less transferable at the discretion of the receiving university.

Verity College conundrum

I was reading the website of Verity College (https://veritycollegeeducation.org/) because I’m always intrigued by any kind of “Biblical education” and how it conflicts with traditional education. My favorite sections are the academics (what classes are taught) and student life (what restrictions are set). This college differs from most because they offer samples of a typical PowerPoint presentation for a class (English Literature; Renaissance period) as well as a study guide for biology.

The PowerPoint only serves to show that such things are meaningless without context–as is, this education seems very lacking, but that could be just because its only highlighting the highlights.

Now the biology study guide is a wealth of information! The first notable thing is that they give you pretty much everything you need to know to pass the tests. Most of the booklet is flashcards that are begging to be cut out, filled in, and memorized. All the basic notes on just about everything are also given to you. It reminds me of the booklets all the “regular” kids at my high school were given, which were full of basic fill in the blank, “we want you to memorize these things” questions to prepare them for the SOL tests.

Next, the study guide surprised me by having a section for studying evolution, which I wasn’t expecting from a Bible college. Looking at the syllabus for this section, however, revealed one reason the study guide had reminded me of high school–there is something about “cracking the AP Biology Exam”  as though its one of the the textbooks for the class! Wait…it IS a textbook for the class! How did I miss this during my first casual perusal?! It even recommends that a high school text book would be helpful. Wow. I mean I know that most people coming into this school have probably lacked a good science education, but is this really on par with a secular university’s Bio101 course? Maybe I did attend a pretentious school–the required Bio class we took was 201: cell biology.

Anyway. Further along came a table of the geologic timescale which listed the age of the life forming on Earth at… 5000 to 1500 million years ago, which isn’t correct, or is at least very misleading. But, again, I was just shocked to find this included, though now that I think about this, since it’s clear that this is simply a case of teaching the AP test, that this is just taught as simple memorisation of facts so that students who have plans to transfer to another school can have the AP credit. It’s not teaching biology so that students can understand biology!

Which, of course, begs the question of how well do these students perform on the AP biology exam. I took AP psychology in high school taught by a teacher who didn’t understand the first thing about the AP test. A few of my classmates and I were “us who were destined by the powers that be to go to college and therefore were in ONLY AP and dual enrollment classes by 11th grade” rather than “regulars” were not amused and got this teacher demoted from AP because we were pissed that his “take this test I wrote, use the textbook, and take as long as you need” method resulted in nearly all of us getting 1s and 2s. The valedictorian got a 3. The top score in AP is a 5 and most reputable universities will only take a 4 and 5 score, and even if they accept a 4 in one course, they might not accept it in another. This study guide seems like something he’d use and wondered why test scores were so low.

After reading the student handbook which says that they believe the Earth was formed 4000 Years before Christ, I had to send the school a message asking what was up with the discrepancy. That was only a couple hours ago, so I’ll share the response when and if I get one.