Michael Hamende (HamendeM@CTS.DB.ERAU.EDU)
Tue, 6 Aug 1996 16:16:32 EST

Darlene says:

With respect to the Bible or God as an authority.

"Isn't that splitting hairs? What is the difference between
"rejecting" an authority and "failing to see it" as an authority? "

Yeah I'm having a tough time describing that one. I guess what I meant
was that on one hand.... no you're right.

"If you are saying in the first part of your message that because
someone in my audience might not believe in God, I should never quote
the Bible as a source, I have to disagree."

Yes, I think that is what I'm saying. But I'd like to add at this
point that the issue for me is that not just someONE in your audience
might not believe God is an authority - but that for the vast majority
of humans on the planet the Bible is only a significant book; it is
not Truth, truth, or anything but a good collection of contradictory
stories. And that quoting it will do your argument more harm than

"In addition to its status in the Judeo-Christian-Islam faiths, the
Bible is an ancient work of literature..."

OK so far.

"... full of practical wisdom that has proven
to be true over the ages."

Whoa, this part I disagree with. I think the Bible is one of the most
significant books ever written. But I find it to be full of myths and
metaphors that in many cases are much more powerful than any truth we
could make up. But I have no way to know if it contains any truth and
it certainly hasn't been proven. And given my personal research into
Biblical history I know that what passes as the most widely used
version of the Bible (the King James version) is as far from the
original texts as Classic Comics are from Literature.

"Most educated people who have not had a negative or de-conversion (I
can't think of the right word here) experience in one of these
religions recognize that the Bible often expresses things succinctly
and in an easily memorable way."

I've not had either of these experiences and I find the Bible to be
contradictory and subject to wide varieties of interpretations. Not
to mention being unverifiable.

"It's like when someone quotes LaoTzu or Buddha or, for that matter,
Marx or Freud. I'm not a follower of any of those people, but I
realize that much of what they said has stood the test of time or,
often, just makes sense in the context in which it is quoted."

And I'd add that we at least have their original texts or close to
them to study. Or in the case of Buddha and Lao Tzu the material is
presented as a guide that is known to be interpreted. None of these
texts are presented as Truth or truth or doctrine or hmmm Gospel the
way the Bible is often used.

"I know they weren't flakes--that they backed up a lot of
what they said, so I'm willing to consider their words."

As am I. I don't think you can say the same thing about the Bible.
This is not to suggest that Jesus or the Christian God are flakes.

"And most people quote these authorities and the Bible because they
said something profound in a way that can't really be improved on."

I don't agree. Marx, Freud, et al have all been improved upon and
their thinking added to. One of the problems with the Bible is the
fact that many people see it as some kind of artifact that has not
changed over time. But in reality it has changed drastically from
what we now find in Nag Hamidi and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. My
concern is that like the child's telephone game, the Bible has gone
through so many translations and interpretations we have no idea what
it originally said. That is until these new texts have come to light
that are much closer to the originals. The basic ideas remain the
same, but the way they are presented is drastically different. I'm
thinking of the Thomas Gospel for example. For me its much closer to
what I think Jesus said than what we get in the traditional Gospels.

"I've only had a few students in college classes write a paper that
said this is true because the Bible says it is. Instead, my
experience is that students use the Bible passage as a springboard
into a topic or a kind of confirming "gotcha" after making their
argument--with or without other sources."

Yes in reality I've not had more than a handful in 6 years. If they
do as you suggest and add a quote to make a point they have already
made I think its fine. A little spice as it were.

"One thing that has been overlooked in this discussion is that we
are talking about freshmen or at least undergrads mostly. Some of the
drastic sentiments that have been expressed or approaches recommended
might be appropriate in an upper level or grad class."

Well, most of the people "listening" (if we haven't put them all to
sleep) are grad students if not practicing scholars.

"Many of my students are away from home for the first time,
unsophisticated, and not too sure of much of anything at the moment.
I'm not going to kick them in the ribs about the one thing they are
certain of--whether I agree with them or not."

A quote I like about higher ed is: "The purpose of college is to
disturb the calm and calm the disturbed." I think by the end of their
experience in high ed they should have some good ideas about what they
think, why they think it, and be able to articulate it. Part of that
process is helping them recognize their current grounding is shaky at
best non existent at worst.

"I think it is important in any class, but especially comp, to create
an atmostphere of acceptance or how are you going to have the comfort
level for "go for the gut" peer reviews?"

But but, the world is not an accepting place. I agree with the idea
of not being too rough on them and recognizing where they are, but
there can be too much of that.

"I also think it is important to help a student establish a sense of
themselves as "authorities" in their writing. WAIT!!! Don't get
bent, yet. What I mean is that I think students need to develop a
sense of their own voice, so their research papers aren't just a
string of quotes from other sources."

I couldn't agree with you more.

"I hope that in their research, they will learn something. And write
an essay that shares what they learned, quoting sources only when the
information they are using needs substantiation."


"Of course, I seldom have to do any of this, because at that first
peer review session, their peers tell the writer all this for me..and
do a better job of it, too."

I know. I love it when students do the teaching and I get to watch and

Mike Hamende