Current events shape Bible exams at Bethany Christian Schools

Students consider how different historical figures might answer a call to arms against Muslims

Jan 4, 2016 by and

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GOSHEN, Ind. — Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, unwittingly helped write the final exam this semester for students in several Bible classes at Bethany Christian Schools.

Bethany Christian Schools Bible teacher Dale Shenk talks with sophomores Abby Rudy-Froese and Klaus Bottorff. — Bethany Christian Schools

Bethany Christian Schools Bible teacher Dale Shenk talks with sophomores Abby Rudy-Froese and Klaus Bottorff. — Bethany Christian Schools

Bible teacher Dale Shenk used Falwell’s controversial statements regarding guns and Muslims to test students not only on their knowledge of course content but also on their ability to synthesize their knowledge of history with current faith issues.

Falwell made the following comments at a Liberty Christian student assembly on Dec. 4: “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in” [applause drowned out the end of his sentence, which was] “and kill them.” He added: “I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your [gun] permit. We offer a free course. Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

For their Church History exam, students chose 10 situations from different eras of church history and described how the church, person or movement would respond to Falwell’s statements.

“I believe that the purpose in learning history is to acquire data from other people’s experiences,” Shenk said. “This data then becomes in some sense part of our experience, providing us with a broader and hopefully more nuanced view of the world. So when we encounter a situation [like Falwell] we are able to respond with more depth and analysis than simply stating whether we agree or disagree.”

Historical hypotheticals

Some examples of student responses included:

– Maximilian (274-295, martyred as a conscientious objector to military service) would respond with his quote: “I may not fight, for I am a Christian.”

– Constantine (272-337, Holy Roman emperor who united church and state militarily) would respond by having weapons marked with the cross.

– Boniface (ca. 675-754, Anglo-Saxon missionary) would take all the guns and throw them into a trash compactor. He would then preach a sermon to the students and faculty at the university about how instead of carrying a gun out of fear, they should carry God around.

– Crusaders (ca. 1100-1500) would have been inspired with this quote. They would have cheered and gone with it, saying that they need to get the Muslims out so that Christianity can rule.

– Just-war theorists would respond by saying that we can get the permits and guns, but we cannot go out and just kill or shoot people. Another student said just-war theory would support the statement because Muslim terrorists attacked Christians first.

– Martin Luther (1483-1546, Protestant Reformation leader): One student said Luther would get a gun to protect the church; another said Luther would not, because he believed in a merciful, loving God.

– Menno Simons (1496-1561, early Anabaptist leader) would counter Falwell by advocating for a peaceful alternative, offering to mediate and being willing to risk being killed if attacked rather than resist evil.

For their New Testament exam, students wrote an essay identifying five sections in the Sermon on the Mount that speak to Falwell’s statements, describing how the sections agree or disagree with Falwell’s statements. Students overwhelmingly dem­onstrated how Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount do not support Falwell’s statements.

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