Is Online Education Unbiblical? One Professor Thinks So

I don’t know if the following is exactly what Beeson Divinity School believes, but it does come from one of her professors, Paul House.  Here we go:

The Bible highlights face-to-face theological education. God sent his son, not just his word. Moses, Elijah, Huldah, Jesus, Barnabas, Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla mentored future servants of God. They did so face-to-face in community settings. They did so individually and in groups. They ate together. They prayed and worshipped God together. They suffered and shared together. They did use the medium of writing to advance their mission, but always to supplement synchronous education conducted in the same location as the learners. Jesus was able to send twelve disciples and then seventy disciples through such personal means. The early church multiplied disciples and ministers in this fashion.

Granted, we follow this pattern imperfectly even at our best. On campus we offer students tutorials, seminars, lectures, mentoring groups, chapel services, cross-cultural mission opportunities, and community events. We offer respect, support, and love to colleagues. Sometimes we are not sufficiently caring, and sometimes our students and constituent churches use us as credentialing factories. But at our best we hew towards the personal pattern. We try to do what Jesus did—teach, touch, and model in person. Even in our extension work we try to have an onsite person teach, a person who can answer questions, model community communication skills, pray with students, and give a human face to an institution perhaps far away. This work is not as personal as we should be on campus in community, but it tries to hew to the personal pattern.

This ancient pattern reflects ministry and human need. Ministers deal with people face-to-face, in community, and in real time relationships. The voice of the people’s shepherd, the touch of the deaconess’s hand, and the presence of God’s servants at crisis moments will last when all hard drives are discarded. Traditional personal programs sometimes fail. They often settle for less than their potential. We must strive harder to reach the biblical pattern, not seek a lower common denominator.”  (emphasis added, Source)

I’ve emphasized several statements in the above-quote to help the reader see how professor Paul House, of Beeson Divinity School, has argued his thesis.

While professor House has mentioned nothing about the Bible authorizing schools like Beeson Divinity, he somehow, has found in the Incarnation, the ministry of Jesus, and the early church, an established biblical pattern of how we should do Christian education in our today.

But this article is utter nonsense!  Do you hear me?  Utter nonsense!  I never expected such garbage from a school I highly esteem (but it must just be this one professor).

At any rate, the article is posted on the school’s website for everyone to read.  See here.

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9 Responses to Is Online Education Unbiblical? One Professor Thinks So

  1. DaveJ says:

    While I agree that some form of personal contact is helpful to many, the Beeson article seems to contain a number of attempts to invalidate anything different than what they themselves are doing.

    I am not aware that there are any significant issues with graduates of programs from SATS who seem to do everything online

    We could probably cite Paul’s letters to the churches as being early church examples of distance education. (Nothing like a good epistle)

  2. Simon says:

    TC, it seems to me that the bible doesn’t address online education. I suspect that’s why you believe the article is utter nonsense 😉

  3. TC says:

    DaveJ, I wonder why they’re using the internet at all…? Not only SATS, but even here in the US several fine schools have online options and the like. I think DTS. But this whole thing is just maddening.

    Simon, I’ll take it a step further: I don’t see Beeson in there either. 😉

  4. Jason says:

    What a shame–I’ve always liked House’s work.

  5. Scott says:

    TC –

    That seems a bit extreme. I like what you said: While professor House has mentioned nothing about the Bible authorizing schools like Beeson Divinity……

    On a side note, I just purchased Jamie Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom. It specifically looks at what entails holistic and faithful education for Christians. He says:

    ‘What if education, including higher education, is not primarily about the absorption of ideas and information, but about the formation of hearts and desires? What if we began by appreciating how education not only gets into our head but also (and more fundamentally) grabs us by the gut—what the New Testament refers to as kardia, “the heart”? What if education was primarily concerned with shaping our hopes and passions—our visions of “the good life”—and not merely about the dissemination of data and information as inputs to our thinking? What if the primary work of education was the transforming of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect? And what if this had as much to do with our bodies as with our minds.’

    • TC says:

      Scott, that’s a great quote. I’ve seen those Smith works on the Kingdom. I plan to give them a read someday.

  6. Lon says:

    hmmm… I can’t say it’s nonsense to prefer face-to-face interactions over remote interactions to influence hearts and minds. I wouldn’t call it “biblical” but “preferable.” After all, this comment isn’t face-to-face and it will fall far short of the level of understanding you and I could come to discussing this at a Starbucks.

    • TC says:

      You just excited me there with your reference to Starbucks. 😀 At any rate, I too prefer face-to-face in this context, but I would never appeal to the Scriptures to argue my point and thus make a biblical statement along the way.

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