When I was in seminary and had the opportunity to do a bit of teaching, Dr. Stuart (OT prof) gave me this advice that has stuck with me: classroom preparation involves 10% work on producing a lecture and 90% readiness for answering questions. By that he meant that anyone can hit the library and develop a lecture with bulletin points and examples. The way you detect an expert from a novice is in the “thinking on your feet” moments. It also means that a lot of learning and processing happens in unpredictable ways.
It is unfortunate when a professor gets into the classroom and is too locked into setting the agenda for three hours. It pays, I have learned, to pre-plan “wiggle-room” for discussion and reflection (perhaps even 30-50% of the classroom time should be non-lecture). Nowadays, students have a lot of access to information (ATLA, blogs, ebooks, etc…). What they need is a context to work through some of their own questions.
That having been said, I was delighted to get a surprise in the mail today from IVP – Theology Questions Everyone Asks: Christian Faith in Plain Language (2014). This book is produced entirely by Wheaton theology faculty to provide basic thoughts on questions that are often raised by students (What is Christianity? Who is God? Who is Jesus? How Should I Live?). I couldn’t help myself so I jumped right to chapter 2: “What is the Bible?” (contributor: Kevin Vanhoozer). While it is a basic approach to the question (15 pages, non-technical), I found Vanhoozer’s discussion refreshingly clear and insightful, even winsome. I don’t suppose this book fits the needs of seminary students as much as it does undergrads, but I am considering throwing Vanhoozer’s concise little chapter on Scripture into the introductory reading mix for my first-year sem students. Why not? Who could teach them better than KJV?
Anyway, this is a neat little book – always exciting to see a faculty come together to produce a shared work. It shows institutional unity and integrity. It shows care for their students and others. By the way: the three chapters I will read next, “Who is Jesus?” (Gary Burge), “Who Is the Church?” (Dan Treier), and “What Is Christian Hope?” (Beth Felker Jones). Do you teach a gen-ed intro theology course at your evangelical institution? Pick this up and have a look.