WILSON, N.C. — Dr. Jane S. Webster, professor of religion and philosophy at Barton College, has co-edited a new book, “Teaching the Bible in the Liberal Arts Classroom” with Dr. Glenn Holland, professor and Bishop James Thoburn Chair at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. The project began with her search for better methods of teaching biblical studies to undergraduate students.
When she joined the Department of Religion and Philosophy faculty at Barton College in 2000, Webster found herself pondering how she could make biblical studies more relevant and interesting to both religion majors and students enrolled in her classes to fulfill general education requirements. Hoping to gain more insight on the subject at the Society of Biblical Literature’s (SBL) annual meetings, Webster attended numerous sessions on teaching, but she found they dealt mainly with graduate school and seminary teaching contexts. As a result, she proposed a new program unit, “Teaching Biblical Studies in the Undergraduate Liberal Arts Context.”
The new program unit generated substantial interest right from the start. The steering committee invited proposals for conference papers through the SBL web site. “We accepted submissions based on timeliness, relevance, creativity, and persuasion,” Webster explained. “And, each paper needed to focus on pedagogical issues in the undergraduate liberal arts context.”
In order to make these papers accessible to other professors in the liberal arts context, Webster and Holland compiled the best of them into a book. The collection addresses several fundamental questions that plague many religion professors. “Do biblical studies deserve a place at a secular liberal arts college?” “Should courses in Bible follow the denominational line in church-affiliated colleges?” “How do biblical studies advance the goals of liberal education?” And, “How do instructors of the Bible simultaneously engage the attention of students from non-religious backgrounds with no real knowledge of the Bible, and students who think they already know what the Bible is all about?”
All the authors of these essays teach biblical studies in undergraduate liberal arts colleges and profess a passion for excellent student-centered teaching. “I really enjoyed the editing process,” Webster added. “The essays were all very well written and interesting; I learned a great deal lingering over their words.”
“Dr. Holland and I have been very happy collaborators on the program unit and on this project in particular,” she continued. “We worked together to find the best way to communicate the authors’ ideas.”
Both Holland and Webster have essays included in the volume, and they collaborated on the introduction. Webster’s essay, “Teaching with Meta-Questions,” describes an approach to teaching religion that she has developed during her tenure at Barton.
“Teaching the Bible in the Liberal Arts Classroom” is available online through Sheffield Phoenix Press or through a variety of online booksellers.