The Open Bible - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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September 30, 2015

The Open Bible

At the center of Geneva’s official seal is an open Bible, open so that anyone can read it. To insure that its students read the Bible, Geneva requires its students to take Bible courses. Since Geneva has an open enrollment policy, some students read the Bible for the first time at Geneva. Others learn to read their Bibles better.

The Bible is an alien voice to students shaped by modern and late modern thought. Its world is different than ours and speaks in its own voice. The most important thing in Geneva’s Bible classes is learning actual Bible content: its stories, its prophecies, its wisdom, its doctrines, and its telling about Jesus.

Modernity rules out the miraculous from the start, so it cannot take the Bible as it is. It has to try and get behind the “myth” to find what really happened. At best, modernity looks for universal truths, like nuggets of gold that can be mined from the ancient texts. Modernity, like Narcissus, thus always ends up seeing itself in the Bible. Geneva does not read the Bible as moderns do.

Late modernity with its hermeneutic of suspicion rules out truth from the beginning. It looks for power relationships, at how the strong use religion and ideas to advance their own selfish interests. It can let the Bible speak for itself the same way an ancient polytheist could allow another nation its own gods. Late modernity cannot accept the Bible’s claim of one true Savior. That announcement it has to oppose as oppressive and coercive.

The open Bible means that Geneva believes that God in His Word can reveal the thoughts of man no matter how modern he may be. God’s Word, so foreign to our world, can nonetheless reveal God to those who read. So Geneva says to its students, “Take up and read.” What they will read is God’s plan for all nations bound up in the history of one small nation. The Bible is about the origins of Israel, the successes and ultimate failure of Israel, its wisdom, and Jesus the Jew who personally fulfills Israel’s calling to bring life and light to the nations. Geneva is always announcing Good News: that Jesus the Son of David and God come in the flesh died for His people according to the Scriptures and rose again to be proclaimed the world’s universal king.

The open Bible has a second meaning for Geneva. Not only does its iron-age Mediterranean world reveal God to its readers and lead them to Jesus the Christ. It also provides the lenses to correct the astigmatism and near-sightedness with which we were born, which modernity and late modernity exacerbate. The Bible, for example, rejects all national or religious chauvinism. It freely admits that metalworking, music, and domesticated animals are the achievements of Cain’s line; that Philistine iron technology was superior to Israelite technology; and that Moses benefited from learning all the wisdom of Egypt.  Thus the Bible itself leads Geneva to embrace the Liberal Arts and certain professional fields.

Here is our challenge! The Liberal Arts and certain professional fields today are generally infused with the spirit of modernity or late modernity. It is not easy to work in these fields as scholars and teachers to take every thought captive for Christ. Sometimes in “integrating” psychology and the Bible, Freud’s inventions replace the Bible’s anthropology; or in contemporary or historical economic analysis, Marx’s materialism wins out over the Bible. The challenge of thinking with, rather than against, the Bible requires work, prayer, cooperation and mutual criticism, which only love and humility make possible. “Do everything in love (I Corinthians 16:14).”

The Word of God is not bound. The Bible is open at Geneva. Jerusalem judges and rules Athens and Rome: that is Geneva’s conviction.

 

Dr. William Edgar, Interim President


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