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Helping students think biblically

CMS missionaries Ian and Jenny Wood teach at Nungalinya College, a theological college for Aboriginal students in Darwin. They share here how they are teaching their students to differentiate between biblical, cultural and western approaches to understanding.  

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17)  

Like theological students everywhere, our students come to Nungalinya with ideas that they’ve thought about and things they’ve learned from many different places. In the Certificate III and IV courses on ethics and ministry we encourage students to tease out where different ideas come from and think about how to evaluate them. This approach is not unique to us or our context, but we’ve been deeply encouraged with how the students have responded. 

Thinking in light of the cross  

We talk about the different ‘voices’ that any of us listen to when we’re trying to work something out: the voice of the Bible, the voice of our own experience, the voice of tradition and the voice of western thought and philosophies. For some subjects we add the voice of our church tradition as well.  

In class, we imagine the voices as people sitting on the ground at the foot of the cross, having a conversation, and we think about what they say in the light of the cross.   

The Bible, as the voice closest to the cross, has a weight that the others don’t share. So, we think about conversations about church leadership, about safe ministry, about medical care, and on and on with the subjects that come up. What does the Bible say? What have we learned from our own experience? What’s a traditional way of thinking about this?    

There are all sorts of interesting spinoffs, like noticing that the voice of the Bible and the voice of the West are often not the same thing: or that our own experience or tradition have something to contribute, but they don’t have the biggest say.   

Equipping students to think for themselves  

Our students find it beneficial to think about different perspectives as voices. This technique gives them a tool to break down for themselves what might otherwise be a jumble of ideas. It enables students to readily assess the ideas. It’s a delight to hear students taking the tool into their own hands and explaining outside the classroom: ‘Well, this is what the voice of the Bible says…’  

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