The Bethlehem College Education Series
At Bethlehem College & Seminary, the Bible anchors all that we do. We read many Great Books in our undergraduate programs, but none of them compares to the Word of God, the Greatest Book of all. The Psalmist says, “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil” (Ps 119:162). The Bible is rich with comfort, warning, and instruction. It sets before us the very way of life. As our students make their way through their studies at Bethlehem, our prayer is that they would hold fast to the Scriptures. “Your word,” writes the Psalmist, “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). The Bible will never lead us astray.
In our undergraduate program, freshman students read through the Bible in its entirety. Our goal is that they would be exposed to “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). This is especially important, since our natural tendency is to prefer certain portions of Scripture over others. In reading all sixty-six books of the Bible, our students gain exposure to the many literary genres in God’s Word, genres such as narrative, law, poetry, wisdom literature, prophecy, apocalyptic, gospel, and epistle. They also see how these diverse genres work together to tell one unified, glorious story about God and our redemption. And when they see this unified message, their confidence that the Bible is the very Word of God can grow ever stronger.
Reading the whole counsel of God also encourages our students to wrestle with important and difficult questions about the text. What, for example, does Genesis 1–2 teach about the age of the earth? What relevance does the Old Testament law have for the Christian today? How should we understand the imprecatory Psalms? What do we do when the Gospel accounts seem to conflict with one another? How can Paul say that “one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:28) and James say “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (Jas 2:24)? Do John’s visions in Revelation refer to the past, the present, the future, or to some combination of the three? We approach these questions not from a position of skepticism but from a joyful confession of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. As Proverbs 30:5 states, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
Of course, one of the dangers when reading Scripture is that we become so engrossed in the intricacies of the text that we lose sight of the Lord of the text. It was this danger to which the Pharisees fell prey. Jesus rebuked them, saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40). It would be a tragedy if our students immersed themselves in Scripture and missed Jesus in the process. Therefore, in our teaching and our classroom discussions, we pray that God would open our eyes to the glory of Christ in the Bible, that he would cause our hearts to burn within us just as the disciples’ hearts burned on the road to Emmaus as Jesus opened to them the Scriptures (Luke 24:32).
When we approach the Bible this way—as a God-appointed means of seeing and treasuring Jesus—we acknowledge that what God is most interested in is our worship, our affections. All of the Bible knowledge in the world is worthless if it is housed in a heart that is cold toward Christ. The prophet Jeremiah condemned unbelieving Israelites for having God “near in their mouth and far from their heart” (Jer 12:2). May this not be true of Bethlehem College & Seminary! God means for us to delight in him, to enjoy him, to find our heart’s deepest satisfaction in him. “In your presence,” writes David, “there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11). In all of their study of Scripture, we want our students to experience God’s joyful presence. This experience is only possible because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who pours God’s love into our hearts (Rom 5:5).
Another danger when reading Scripture is that we would concern ourselves only with our relationship with God and neglect the call to love our neighbors: our family, friends, co-workers, fellow Christians, and other image-bearers who share our neighborhoods, our cities, and our world. If we read the Bible and fail to care for others, we haven’t really read the Bible. We have become mere hearers of the Word and not doers (Jas 1:22). God commands us to love both him and our neighbor (Mark 12:29–31). Therefore, if we truly delight in God, we will seek our neighbor’s good. We will not live for our own private benefit but will strive to share our joy in Jesus with those around us.
We love the Scriptures at Bethlehem College & Seminary, but we are not merely a Bible institute focused on ministry training. We value great works of literature, but we are not merely a liberal arts institution focused on the classics. We read everything from Plato to Dostoevsky, from Homer to Nietzsche, from Virgil to Kant. But we do so in submission to what God has revealed to us in his Word. As we like to say around here, we read the Great Books in light of the Greatest Book. In the words of Paul, we “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). We embrace whatever is true, good, and beautiful in the authors we read, and we reject whatever is false, harmful, and ugly. In doing so, we are equipping our students to be mature in their faith, to be men and women who have “their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:14).
The Bible is God’s gift to us. At Bethlehem College & Seminary, we want to study this gift, treasure this gift, and share this gift with others for the good of our homes, our churches, and our world.
Johnathon Bowers, MDiv
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Theology