Kendra Haloviak Valentine, New Testament scholar and Dean of General Education at La Sierra University, simultaneously accomplished two things in a remarkable series of presentations earlier this school year at the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School (RBLSS) in Loma Linda, California. On the one hand, she illuminated several passages in the New Testament’s Gospel of Mark. On the other, she also demonstrated five contemporary methods of interpreting Scripture.
Much of the Gospel portion of the Lectionary this year has been taken from Mark.
He gets right to the point much of the time. In Chapter 1 he introduces John the
Baptist, the baptism of Jesus, Jesus in the wilderness, calling the first disciples,
driving out an evil spirit during church, healing many, curing leprosy,
All in 45 verses.
He skips everything else about the early days of Jesus one finds in Matthew
Mark is a good read. But one has to be VERY careful. One can skip over important
things he says, and the things that HE sees are important with just a superficial read.
One Sabbath Betty and I. Invited a traveling evangelist to dinner…Following dinner the evangelist and I took a walk around my 3 acre farm. I asked several questions regarding his views offered in the morning session.His respond was—It is possible to think too much. I see nothing postmodern about this view of Mark. In question the woman, Christ knew her response before she responded. He wanted to show her faith to a Jewish bias.
We seriously underestimate how helpful this scholarly, in-depth analysis of the biblical text would be to our Sabbath School members who now struggle through quarterlies that are in too many cases soporific at best. Granted, Professor Haloviak is a trained NT scholar and extraordinary teacher. Still, the material itself with some helpful hints (or videos!!) would stimulate a large share of our membership. Most Adventists don’t know what going “deep” into the text would mean. She has shown us how to do that in a faith-building series that should be exciting to anyone open to “new wine” in “new wineskins.”
SDA SS were not meant to be graduate seminars. They serve rather to encourage ordinary members to be better Christians through a broad and devotional study of the word of God. It is encouraging and truly wonderful to see ordinary elders facilitate ordinary discourse among ordinary folk, to hear them pontificate on matters too high for them before humbly admitting their ignorance.
Having said that, there is an SDA market for conferences that cater to the scholarly mind. It’s just a matter of personnel, money, time, place and logistics.
Your post is very significant because it brings up the theme of what the purpose of Sabbath school is.
I have taught SS since 1975 and kinda cringe at how I led out back then. While in the Southern Calif conference I would attend “SEEK” meetings every quarter to learn better how to teach. Now in the Southeastern Calif conference, the SS continuing education seminar meetings are held just once a year and at the last one the presenter mentioned that pastors do not support the Sabbath school.
Your post about “better Christians” made me think of the trend of self serving nurturing classes.
What came to mind is this SOP quote…"The Sabbath-school should be one of the greatest instrumentalities, and the most effectual, in bringing souls to Christ."
Are Sabbath schools just a weekly superficial 25-50 minute session to counter the worldly, secular, carnal onslaughts on SDA members?
A seminary teacher taught me 2 points of what theological sessions should inspire…
Positively impact our moral decision making
Promote our showing up in people’s lives.
Notice in Eph 4:12 that the purpose of teachers is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and then next Paul mentions edify the body of Christ.
SDA usually just hear the trite outreach words of share 3 angels messages & gospel and are not taught on how to do even that.
The Sabbath schools are in trouble and there are very few who know how to conduct them in a significant way. A local SDA pastor mentioned to me that Sabbath school is generally innocuous.
So churches can be “safe places” , 2 elements of 2 Tim 3:16 have been gutted…“reproof” & “correction”
Highly intellectual people like you and me and obviously @Sirje often feel trapped and despondent when a carpenter elder stands up to facilitate SS. But we miss the purpose of the sabbath by indulging such feelings. The sabbath was designed to allow everyone, irrespective of class, profession or talent, to feel at home in the larger family of believers, to forget (just for one day) about the cares of life and enjoy each other’s company in the presence of God. Why overwhelm a farmer with the significance of anthropomorphism, the use of analogy, the methods of apocalyptic discourse … (and that is just 3 A’s) in the scriptures?
Rather, address the common experience.
And should you care, the afternoons are free for you to hold any number of interesting esoteric theological studies. What you will find however, is that a very small subset of the church membership and a few visitors will attend. That is as it should be. Theology is just ONE branch of the magnificent Tree of Life God has planted for our delectation and delight, for our good and growth. Eventually, the entire church over decades, and imperceptibly so, will become enlightened because of your constancy and wise dealing.
Unfortunately, you read into my brief comment far more than it intended. “Graduate seminar?” Of course not. On the other hand, in my experience with Maine farmers who never went to college, they hungered for more than the same old material they had learned 20 years earlier. Dr. Haloviak -Valentine demonstrates that the more we know about the text, its cultural moorings, and what other serious students have to say about it (who have been born since Ellen White), we can better understand and find spiritual help in the text. You cannot even read the parable of the prodigal son and get the full “wallop” of its surprise without knowing more than a mere reading might give you. You might be surprised how delighted a carpenter “from anywhere” (who taught the lesson week by week) might be to gain a fresh understanding of some very familiar passages.
One of the blessed experiences I have had is this.
A sunday school class [open to anyone] sit in a circle. We read the Lectionary readings
[Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, Gospel] one at a time. Give 15 minutes of open
discussion time to each reading from all members of the group. [there is NO Leader, just a time keeper].
It is an enjoyable learning process as each person is free to share what they see in the
readings, and its impact on them.
WHAT would happen in Sabbath School classes if they sat in the round, read Scripture
ONLY and allowed time for participants to comment on what it says to them???
NO TEACHER, just a timekeeper???
Of course, during the week they would have had opportunity to read the Scriptures
ahead of time;
JXLB, aren’t the “soporific at best” S.S. lesson quarterlies written by respected SCHOLARS?
(Or perhaps they’re being heavily redacted by editors and committees?)
The Adult Teachers S.S. Bible Study Guide team should be given some credit for providing suggestions for reading, exploring and understanding Scripture (see the Natural Learning Cycle); also for being aware of individuals’ different learning styles.
A suggestion: Principal contributors and various other contributors, while planning material for the adult S.S. lesson pamphlet, should keep in mind relevant principles of andragogy vis a vis pedagogy.
Have you prepared a feedback questionnaire? Have you approached your pastor about it? Have you thought of creating a small Bible study group with those who share your thirst for more in-depth knowledge?
As adults, we are quite capable of acting independently of, hopefully not against, church governance. In fact, do you know why the “Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School” is so called? Here is what they say, “Our goal is to share with like-minded people around the world some of the good things which we enjoy …” and again, “This Sabbath School continues the Legacy of Roy Branson who began it in Loma Linda …” and still further, “He was one of the chief founders of the Adventist Forum and its quarterly journal [our own Spectrum] …” Finally, “His contributions continue in the significant contributions of his graduate students in several different specialties.” — Joshua 1:1-11
In answer, I recommend the post just above by @ECCLESIASTES. She asked rhetorically, and I quote: “aren’t the, soporific at best, S.S. lesson quarterlies written by respected SCHOLARS? … The Adult Teachers S.S. Bible Study Guide team should be given some credit for providing suggestions for reading, exploring and understanding Scripture (see the Natural Learning Cycle); also for being aware of individuals’ different learning styles.”
But again I ask you to understand, the church is NOT a school. The only admission requirement it has is a confession of faith in things that cannot be practically proven, and no one graduates, ever! Therefore, the way you approach the SS class is different, TOTALLY DIFFERENT, from the way you approach any class in academia.
The student in any SS class is not there to fulfill the requirements of a degree major, having completed certain credits and therefore in possession of some necessary previous knowledge and coming with the expectation of building on that knowledge. NO. The SS class is an incongruous amalgamation of special interests more or less focused on the Cross of Christ and His redeeming love. Learn to listen, to wait for the little ones, to suggest further study for the more eager, to meet with the scholars afterwards – and you will make a very good SS teacher.
The Coleman-Liau Index: 5
Grade level: Fifth Grade
The SMOG Index: 5.3
Grade level: Fifth Grade
Automated Readability Index: 3.1
Grade level: 8-9 yrs. old (Third and Fourth graders)
Linsear Write Formula : 6.1
Grade level: Sixth Grade.
So…it appears that the current Adult SS lesson is written upon the same level as “Reader’s Digest”. If one has the knowledge and educational level of a 5-6 grader then they should be able to read and grasp the concepts in the lessons. The problem that so of us have had is the lessons have never been challenging enough and…well, boring as a result. Fortunately, there have been sites like Spectrum and AT which have articles that are a bit more intellectually challenging.
Your use of “esoteric” indicates an opinion formed before you really had a chance to experience what I am describing. If one reads the Bible assuming that every word or thought descended from the Holy Spirit through feelings and ideas, you cannot understand what the Bible is truly about. It is far more complex, as the work of Ellen White herself demonstrated. If one believes/assumes/ has evidence for the gospels being written decades after Jesus in order to ensure that the record and meaning of his life was preserved in writing after the original eyewitnesses were gone; or, that crises and challenges facing specific Christian communities required Mark and Luke, e.g., to write the counsel of Jesus that would most help them at that time; or that the apostle Paul wrote his letters in the same milieu, how one reads and understands that counsel (admittedly under the movement of the Spirit) changes–even dramatically–in some cases. Why the fear of delving into all that?
adjective: intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest. This is what I said, “should you care, the [sabbath] afternoons are free for you to hold any number of interesting esoteric theological studies.”
I point you to what I said before, “there is an SDA market for conferences that cater to the scholarly mind [like ours, obviously]. It’s just a matter of personnel, money, time, place and logistics.”
It is very important to grasp the fundamental concept of sociology (or is it psychology or more properly, pedagogy? I am ignorant of all the -ologies. There are so many and scholars – who have nothing better to do than to pile on the knowledge – are making up even more as I speak) … that people have different interests.
It just so happens that ours is theology and there is no end to the depth to which we are eager to go.
For others, theology is a matter of curiosity and wonder but require a more gentle approach to the subject matter.
Still others are delighted and (mind-bogglingly for us) satisfied that all the theology known to man can be hung on two simple laws: “Love for God; and love for one’s neighbour.”
Believe it or not, all those types stare at you as you stand before the SS class. It defies the rules of education spectacularly. But the church is NOT a school. It is a family.
Who sets the tests and determines success or failure?
At what age does one graduate?
The church may be like a school in some of its programs, but the very first prayer we pray as a body of believers begins this way, “Our Father in heaven …” And in any family, the focus is not the accumulation of esoteric knowledge but the common good, experienced in the happiness of just being together, talking and laughing and reminiscing and discussing and learning and NEVER forgetting that some like it hot and some like it cold and some like it in the pot nine days old. Some are old, some are young, some are like the sun and some are like the moon. Some know a lot, some don’t know a lot.
For that reason, every sabbath day in the family of God you will hear the same fundamental theme over and over and over again - these words: God loves you. Do you get bored hearing that?
However, outside of church hours you are free to pursue your interests to your hearts content and share it with whoever cares during church hours; but please, please, please be patient with those whose little feet can barely stretch to walk in your big boots. I beg you!
Mark 10:13-16 NLT. There are many who come to church who are like those little children. And then, there are many like us whose eyes turn bright at the thought of hearing another parable and cracking it open with a satisfying crunch.