Will Virginia Participate in the Bible Literacy Project?

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For those who don’t know, the Bible Literacy Project’s website can be found here.

The Bible is back on the agenda in Chesterfield County.

Nearly a year after the last public discussion on the issue, the county’s School Board is scheduled to vote tonight on the adoption of a textbook for a high school elective course in Bible studies.

Last spring, a committee of school administrators, teachers and parents reviewed two books: “The Bible and Its Influence” and “The Bible in History and Literature.”

The “Influence” text was the top choice. The ACLU of Virginia opposed the other book.

Rebecca K. Glenberg, the legal director of the Virginia ACLU, said in an April 22, 2010, letter that the book had “serious constitutional flaws,” including teaching the Bible “from the perspective of Christianity in general and a particular interpretation of Protestant Christianity specifically.”

“While the ACLU doesn’t endorse any Bible textbook, I’m glad to hear they didn’t pursue that book,” she said Monday.

via Board to vote on biblical textbook | Richmond Times-Dispatch.

In 2008, an Alabama State Senator took to task The Bible and Its Influence:

  1. Redefines biblical terms and demeans God: “Do absolute good and evil exist?” (page 163). “The Setup: Many students although aware of good and evil, have not thought deeply about it. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God is considered to be all good, all knowing, and all-powerful. Yet this view presents a problem. Where does all the evil in the world come from? How could an all-good God let something like the Holocaust happen? Why would God let innocent children suffer?”
  2. Denies the moral value of Old Testament illustrations: “Job is one of the most difficult books in the Bible in that the text provides no clear cut moral or answer to Job’s situation” (page 161).
  3. Debases the character of God: “God’s help comes with strings attached – commandments or laws that the Israelites must obey in order to keep faith” (page 72).
  4. Demeans God by making Him accountable to man: “… seemingly to shame God into fulfilling them” (page 138).
  5. Diminishes the value of Old Testament texts: “The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.” [Job 42:12] “This ending though pleasing in some ways, has failed to satisfy various readers over the centuries” (page 160).
  6. Undermines Scripture: “At God’s command … placed in a richly decorated chest that has become famous in Western imagination as the ark of the covenant” (page 75).
  7. Suggests a link between the Bible and communist philosophy (amoral totalitarianism): “Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) stated in his novel ‘The Brothers Karamazov,’ ‘If there is no God, then all things are permitted.’ Find this passage and read it in context. Then, write a short story about a world in which all things are permitted” (page 35).”American writer and reporter Lincoln Steffen’s 1926 defense of Leninist (Communist) politics was called ‘Moses in Red'” (page 65).
  8. In the First Edition, quotes the Mayflower Compact incorrectly (page 50), leaving out “Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith …” When Richard Scurry, co-founder of the Bible Literacy Project, was asked over the phone why they had left out those sentences of the Mayflower Compact he replied, “There was only so much room in the textbook.” After many people raised concern about this part of the Mayflower Compact being omitted, the Bible Literacy Project returned the omitted part of the document to the textbook.

Read more: here

I’m not saying I agree with him – just trying to be balanced – unlike some Alabama Senators…

Some conservative scholars have praised this book –

[The Bible and Its Influence] is an undisputed triumph of scholarship and presentation. The achievement is breathtaking….Your [Hebrew Scriptures] unit raised the bar very high, and I was a priori a little skeptical about whether you could make the [New Testament] genuinely literary in nature. I actually ended up liking the NT unit better than the OT one. … If virtue is its own reward, so is excellence. The material is excellent.”

Leland Ryken, Ph.D., the Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton College, IL

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Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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