Classroom Controversy: University's Bible Curriculum Does Not Teach Bible
Oklahoma Christian University is a mid-sized school nestled in the Bible belt college town, Edmond, Oklahoma. The school aligns with the Church of Christ denomination. In the fall of 2021, the university announced a change to its general education Bible requirements. The school’s student-run newspaper, The Talon, reported the new curriculum reduced the required hours from 16 to 12.
Incoming freshmen began their fall semester with the first required course, “Foundations: Intro to the Good Life.” The class interferes with student’s weekend plans as it takes place every Sunday night from 7 p.m. to 8:40 p.m.
The course takes an unorthodox approach; it is set up like a TedTalk. The primary professors Dr. Alden Bass, Assistant Professor of Bible and the Program Chair for Division of Bible and Dr. Jim Baird, Distinguished Professor of Bible & Philosophy play late night talk-show hosts.
The concern of students in the course is the lack of Bible taught in the curriculum. So far, students have experienced in-depth exposure to Plato, Socrates and the atheistic speech “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace.
According to the syllabus the purpose of the class is to “teach students to examine their own worldview, beliefs, values and practices.” However, students are “disappointed” by the lack of Biblical enrichment they were hoping to receive from the course.
In a classroom lecture about the meaning of truth students were told, “The most important kind of truth requires not knowledge, not math, not laboratory proof, the most important things require trust. Trust in another human person.”
In the same lecture, Bass cautioned students to “not get bogged down by these sorts of binary conversations” about the difference between subjective and objective truth.
“One way to think about truth is not objective or subjective but intersubjective which means the truth emerges as we talk and as we see together,” Bass said.
While students are confused by the lack of Biblical content in a Bible course, Bass confirmed the class is not meant for studying Bible.
“We really won’t delve into the Bible in this class. That's not its purpose. It’s a questioning class,” Bass said.
According to Baird, the structure of the class was created with unbelievers in mind.
“For a lot of students, talking about Jesus makes them feel some-what alienated, so we’re trying to lay some common ground,” Baird said.
The university is succeeding in their goal to welcome unbelievers as a Muslim student shared her positive review for the course.
“I learned a lot. It helped me shape a better understanding of Christianity. I realized there are many similarities between Christianity and the Islamic faith,” she said.
Oklahoma Christian’s students who hold to a Christian faith are left unsatisfied with the course.
“I feel like a Bible class should include the Bible,” Freshman Cayden Cole said. “I think that [not alienating non-believers] is a fair idea, but the execution is poor. Good idea, bad implementation,” Cole said.
The only acknowledgement unhappy students have is a word of caution from their professor.
“I would caution people: don’t think you have to go to Bible class to do Bible study. This is not the one stop shop for everything. Take responsibility and seek it out,” Bass said.