Infused in my teaching of Bible and theology is the subject of writing.
I believe that interwoven into any true education --in any discipline--is the study of writing.
I have met people with bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from accredited colleges, universities, and, yes, seminaries, whose writing abilities are simply atrocious.
One of our faculty members told me of a time when he and a friend were completing their Doctor of Ministry degrees at an accredited seminary. At the end of one term, they handed their term papers to their professor. His friend's paper was on top, and the professor gave the first page a quick scan . . . after a couple of seconds the professor said, "Well, I see you have a dangling modifier." The D.Min. student--completely unaware of what a dangling modifier was--checked his pants zipper!
That story is (1) true, (2) funny, and (3) sad.
Many college graduates (at all levels) do not know how to write well. This is not uncommon. Jim Pinson, one of the authors of Working with Words told me that he constantly deals with journalism majors who have completed their bachelor's degrees who do not know basic grammar.
Most Bible/Theology Students
I think that most Bible and theology students haven't given a thought to the idea that grammar and writing should be a part of their education. They are, after all, trying to learn the Bible or theology.
Some have asked me, "What's writing and grammar got to do with it?"
I could get on my "soapbox" and give my lecture for why Bible/theology students should plan to incorporate writing into their programs of study, but someone has said in a concise way what I would argue for pages.
Under the sub-heading, The Importance of English Grammar and Syntax , in the chapter titled, "Clearing the Cobwebs from My Mental Attic," J. P. Moreland argues that,
. . . language development is critical for cultivating a careful, precise, attentive mind. Most people today do not use good grammar or syntax in sentence construction. . . .
The devaluation of grammar correlates closely with a devaluation of the mind, truth, and thought. When a main purpose of a language is the careful, precise expression of thought, grammar and syntax become critical because they make such expression of thought possible.
If we Christians are to develop our minds, we must take greater care to improve our syntax and grammar, and we must expect this from each other. From years of experience grading student papers, I can tell you that if a student's grammar is poor, he or she has a difficult time developing a coherent line of though clearly and carefully ( Love Your God with All Your Mind. Colorado Springs, CO.: NavPress, 1997, p. 112.)
For those of you who might be interested: I have produced a lecture series on audio with notes. I cover the basics of good writing, grammar, punctuation, and more. I've had people with Master's degrees and PhDs go through these lectures, and some of them told me that they learned more on this subject from my lectures and notes than they had from all of their previous education combined. You can listen to the lectures for free and downlaod the lecture notes as PDFa files (for free) at CES Writing Protocols Lectures.
Send comments about this, or any, Coffee Talk to Rick Walston at: CES - @ - ColumbiaSeminary.edu
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