By: John Remy
I may actually agree with the state representatives of Tennessee in the following, though probably not for the same reasons:
There is quite a range of how “academic study,” “approved textbook” and teacher selection might be interpreted and implemented. I, personally, would positively delight in teaching the range of academic approaches to the Bible today, especially if I could use a primo text like Bart Ehrman’s The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. The techniques and theories used by even the most devout biblical scholars would challenge many assumptions held by your average Bible Belt Christian. For example, I think that most scholars could agree that the assignment of authorship of the gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is extra-biblical, and that New Testament wasn’t assembled until over 200 years after the death of Christ.
“Academic study” would imply that students would be introduced to competing claims, including ideas accepted by many mainstream Christians that the so-called five books of Moses actually had multiple authors, that Paul didn’t write some of the letters ascribed to him, and that there is overwhelming evidence that whoever wrote Luke and Matthew plagiarized off of the gospel with Mark’s name on it. Such impartial, non-sectarian academic study would truly encourage critical thinking and create an environment for more nuanced approaches to religious claims.
I’m not so naive as to think this is how things would play out. After all, 16% of US science teachers are creationists, and
So much for trusting teachers to teach the approved curriculum. Instead of proper academic study, the high school students Tennessee will get Sunday School six days a week. There go my dreams of an enlightened, not quite so fundamentalist Christianity rising up from the heart of Clinton country.