Friday, May 9, 2014

The Bethel Bible Course, or Why Doesn't the Bible Have Any Pictures?

Please excuse a journey into my ancient past. But my first Bible class, as a student, took place in a 900 member limestone Presbyterian church with a bell tower.

Problem is that some of the folks were tired of emotional pitches about current "issues". These dissatisfied people wanted to study the Bible! I did too. That is why I joined this "super church". Naive me. I was a child.

Now if you can't learn about the Bible in a church founded upon the teaching of Calvin, something is wrong. People were insistent. Poor church elite. What to do? No one had foreseen such an eventuality.

A search of the denomination's resources revealed (not surprisingly) that the entire Presbyterian Church had no Bible course! I can imagine them looking in the Yellow Pages under Bible courses. Finally they found one. Trouble is, it was a Lutheran course. But that was close enough, and they were desperate.

So they bought the Bethel Bible course and advertised for students to learn it, and later to teach it. I signed up for it before I joined the local church.

The study was based on memorization, and that was to be with visual aids. Key concepts were to be written onto "concept cards". These cards were to always be kept at hand. To catch someone without their cards was a kind of game, with a trivial penalty involved. Each week a new poster was unfolded. Memorization of the poster and concepts was the key according to the promoters of the study.

Suddenly it hit me. These people knew nothing about the Bible or how to teach it!

The course was to be paid for by teachers, and later by their students. I asked if tickets for sermons would come next? I felt like we were being prepared to sell vacuum cleaners or encyclopedias. If visualization and memorization were God's way of teaching, then why were there no pictures in the Bible?

But I followed the guide lines. I still remember one of the concepts--"the Dinah-Hamor incident". I have yet to find a use for that one. I studied on my own and used the posters as wallpaper.

Eventually I studied by myself for four years to prepare for teaching the book of Daniel. People loved to study that book. We were done with posters, and back in the Bible at last.

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