“Revolutionising” our New Testament teaching

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Cambridge]On: 20 December 2014, At: 22:32Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK</p><p>Religion in EducationPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cbre18</p><p>Revolutionising our NewTestament teachingB.W.T. Handford M.A. aa Lancing CollegePublished online: 25 Feb 2011.</p><p>To cite this article: B.W.T. Handford M.A. (1937) Revolutionising our New Testamentteaching, Religion in Education, 4:2, 88-94, DOI: 10.1080/3708619734</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/3708619734</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, orsuitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressedin this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not theviews of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content shouldnot be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions,claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilitieswhatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connectionwith, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expresslyforbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cbre18http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/3708619734http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/3708619734http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>88 R E L I G I O N I N E D U C A T I O N </p><p>may come a verse or a passage of imprecation entirely out of keeping with the Christian ideal. More use should be made of selections of psalms for Christian worship. But knowing how the book of Psalms came to be and what was the devel- opment of the Bible, one is not troubled by the intermingling of base and beautiful, crude and most refined sentiments. </p><p>One result of the method of study here illustrated is recognition that the work of God in the world and man's discovering of God and of better human relations is an on- going process. L~stead of the idea that revelation is ended, we attain a keen expectation of clearer vision; instead of the closed mind, the open mind; instead of a static God and a religion of bygone days, a growing appreciation of the past and a keen anticipation of the future. The Bible is no longer merely the record of the dead past, but of a dynamic process of life ever growing in vitality and beauty. </p><p>"REVOLUTIONISING" OUR NEW TESTAMENT </p><p>TEACHING </p><p>By B.W. T. HANDFORD, M.A. Assistant Master at Lancing College </p><p>I T is said that religion is caught, not taught. Such epigrams are like alcohol, they both stimulate and drug. The mind, caught by the jingle and conciseness of the words, perceives the fallacy in some unconsidered assumption, but remains charmed, rooted to the antithesis, unable to advance. It is true that religion is a spirit and not a piece of information. I t cannot be handed over the educational counter like a fact of grammar. But it is equally true that an information bureau is not a school, and an informant is not a teacher. I r a teacher of literature, deciding that the spirit of poetry must be caught not taught, were to make no attempt to convey to his pupils the spirit of the poetry that he is teaching, he would not only be a bad teacher of literature, but he would not be teaching </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>ambr</p><p>idge</p><p>] at</p><p> 22:</p><p>32 2</p><p>0 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>"REVOLUTIONISING" OUR NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING 8 9 </p><p>literature at all. Similarly, if one who is teaching the word of God makes no attempt to inspire his pupils with a religious spirit, he is not teaching the word of God at all. </p><p>The New Testament is taught for a religious purpose. A knowledge of it is, indeed, a part of a liberal education and is essential for the understanding of history. But its value as an element in general knowledge would scarcely justify the continual teaching of it for some ten years; and if it is taught simply to account for the history of Christendom, it raises at least as many problems as it solves. Its secular value is put forward as an argument to convince the secularists, but the argument will in the end convince no one. The teacher of divinity ought to be a teacher of religion, and if religion is caught, it is his duty as a teacher to be infectious. </p><p>Every teacher of English knows that if a boy's mind is for any reason prejudiced, consciously or unconsciously, against a poet, it is an extremely diffficult task to convey the spirit of that poet's work. He may explain the circumstances in which the poem was written; he may point out the profundity of the poet's thought, the width of his sympathy, the music of his language, the perfection of his technique, but the pupil remains deaf to the poetry. He will agree to all that the teacher says, but still the poem has no meaning for him. In the same way, the teacher of the New Testament may convey to his pupil a mass of information about the circumstances in which it was written and the manner of writing; he may point out the beauty of the character of Jesus, the fervour of St. Paul, the superiority of Christianity to other religions, and the pupil may agree; but if the pupil is consciously or unconsciously prejudiced, the New Testament will have no meaning for him. </p><p>Among boys in English public schools of sixteen to eighteen years of age there is a prejudice against the divinity lesson which it is the more difficult to overcome because the causes of it are not understood--least of all by the boys themselves. I t is not that there is a prejudice against religion as such. On the contrary, these boys--and not least those who call themselves atheists--are genuinely interested in religion, more so, perhaps, than their more orthodox predecessors. </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>ambr</p><p>idge</p><p>] at</p><p> 22:</p><p>32 2</p><p>0 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>9 R E L I G I O N IN E D U C A T I O N </p><p>But despite this interest the prejudice exists, and its existence must be faced. </p><p>Some will be tempted to deny this. Their pupils work hard, pass examinations, ask intelligent questions, write understanding answers--surely this would be impossible without interest? But to retort thus is to misunderstand the indictment. To say that English public school boys were never interested in their New Testament lessons would be absurd. But it is very pertinent to ask how far the religion of these boys is directly enriched by those lessons. Most will doubt the enrichment, spiritual enrichment is purpose does it serve? </p><p>some will deny the purpose. Yet if not the purpose of the lesson, what The teacher of literature aims first </p><p>at conveying the spirit of a poem, then he can vitalise his technical study. The teacher of the New Testament, too, must first convey some part of its spirit if he is to vitalise the technical study. How can one convey the spirit of the New Testament without enriching religion? If there is no enrich- ment, the spirit has not been conveyed. For this there may be two reasons: the incapacity of the teacher or the prejudice of the pupils. The former may be dismissed, the latter must be discussed. </p><p>The New Testament is immeasurably the greatest religious book in existence; it is the one book taught in schools which has a direct and immediate bearing on a boy's daily life; the boys are genuinely interested in religion: yet divinity is not a favourite subject. This statement can easily be tested. A number of boys, aged sixteen to eighteen, may be asked to write down the subjects that they learn, in order of preference. Care must be taken to give no clue as to the purpose of this ballot, and it must not be held in a school period devoted to any one subject or upon the request of a specialist teacher. For the tact of boys and their desire to please is such that often their views will be coloured by the wishes of a master, and, without any dishonesty, they will tell him what they think he wishes to hear. Have not all schoolmasters at least one colleague whose views invariably coincide with "what the boys say"? If such a ballot is held, divinity will generally be found to take a very low average place. I f the boys are </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>ambr</p><p>idge</p><p>] at</p><p> 22:</p><p>32 2</p><p>0 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>"REVOLUTIONISING" OUR NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING 9 I </p><p>going to see each other's papers, it is likely that its place will be very low indeed. </p><p>We have, then, four propositions: First, the purpose of teaching the New Testament is religious; secondly, the spirit of the book must be conveyed first, if the technical discussions are to be vital; thirdly, it is extremely difficult to convey the spirit of a book if the pupils have some prejudice or inhibition about it; fourthly, there generally is such a prejudice or inhibition about the New Testament among boys aged sixteen to eighteen years in English public schools. As this prejudice is often continued later in life, it is of the greatest importance to find a remedy. </p><p>Perhaps some light can be thrown upon this prejudice by examining the general attitude of these boys to the Church. The Bible is the book of the Church; their familiarity with it has largely come from sermons and services; it is, to a great extent, taught by the clergy. The Bible is, in consequence, closely associated in a boy's mind with the Church, and his emotional reaction towards it is likely to be part of a complex of emotional reactions in which Church, Bible and the Clergy in general are indistinguishably mixed. The boy's attitude to the Church is extremely interesting. He connects it with elderly persons, and in particular with elderly women. He never thinks of the Church as consisting largely of boys. He tends to regard it as unmanly, fussy, strict over unim- portant matters, out-of-date, unimaginative; it is, no doubt, upright, respectable, reverend, "good," but he does not find it sympathique. In fact, he regards it in much the same way that a child regards an elderly person in authority for whom it does not greatly care. The Bible, associated in his mind with the Church, produces subconsciously the same complex of emotional reactions, and he tends to regard i t - - emotionally not intellectually--as a book which tells him to be "good", that is, submissive. It is associated in his mind with nursery authority. But at the age of sixteen to eighteen he is engaged in establishing his independence, in throwing off the authority of the nursery. A society or a book which is associated with elderliness, nursery-authority and nursery- morality will inevitably share in the subconsciously condi- </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>ambr</p><p>idge</p><p>] at</p><p> 22:</p><p>32 2</p><p>0 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>92 R E L I G I O N IN E D U C A T I O N </p><p>tioned repugnance which he feels towards all these unmanly things as part of his growing independence. </p><p>If this analysis of his prejudice is correct there is but one way in which it can be overcome. An association must be established between Church and Book on the one hand and his struggle for independence on the other. So long as they are associated with submission, he will react emo- tionally against them; if they can be associated with rebellion he will gladly welcome them. </p><p>The method of establishing this re-association lies ready to hand. Both the prophetic movement and early Christianity were revolutionary in a social and a religious sense. The great systems of polytheism which grew up in the Near East between the fourth and the first millennia B.C. were closely associated with the dominance of priests and kings or god- kings and the subservience of the common people. These systems were, in fact, the sanction of that dominance. The ritual was magical and unworthy of respect. All over the Near East, including Palestine, we learn of phallic pillars, temple prostitution, animal worship, and even traces of human sacrifice. So far as we know, scarcely a voice was raised in protest; the common people accepted their exploita- tion as a religious necessity; the system was unchallenged. The prophetic movement was the first great revolution against this social-religious domination. Its challenge was directed not against irreligion and rebellion but against the religion and society of the time. In one corner of the Near East, at least, it smashed the false religion and seriously damaged the social dominance that was based upon it. At the end the purified worship of Jehovah was established, and the terms "poor" and "righteous" are practically synonymous. A revolution in social ideas was an inevitable consequence of the prophetic teaching about God. </p><p>By the time of our Lord the Jewish religion was beset with formalism and legalism. Priest and Book had established a dominance over the free prophetic spirit, and the wealthy had again achieved social predominance. Christianity carries on the revolutionary message of the prophets in both a social and a religious sense. "Ye scribes and pharisees, hypocrites," </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>ambr</p><p>idge</p><p>] at</p><p> 22:</p><p>32 2</p><p>0 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>"REVOLUTIONISING" OUR NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING 93 </p><p>is a recurrent condemnation in the Gospels, while the denunciations of the rich would shock "Society" to-day, were they not so familiar. The nature of the social revolution is evident in the early Church--a society of men and women without distinction of race or class or sex, living together, having all things in common, persecuted by the dominant social-religious powers. </p><p>In the same way, true Christianity to-day is revolutionary both in a social and in a religious sense. For though nomin- ally the nations of Europe are Christian, in fact it is not the humility and love of Jesus that they worship, but a two-faced Janus-God. One face is greed, and the other is pride; one is materialism and the other nationalism; they are wor- shipped under the honourable titles of "business" and "patriotism." Society is so organised that it must serve this God. Men, women and children may, in the midst of plenty, go short of food and be physically and morally corrupted, but no remedy that interferes with "business" or reduces profit can be applied. Nationalism remains the one idea which men so worship th...</p></li></ul>


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