Wendell Berry on Teaching the Bible

Wendell Berry on Teaching the Bible February 13, 2024

Wendell Berry— Kentucky poet laureate, author, teacher of English literature

“The interesting question here is…whether a book that so directly offers itself to our belief or disbelief can be taught as ‘literature’.  It clearly cannot be so taught except by ignoring ‘whatever else it may be’ which is a very substantial part of it. The question then is whether it can be adequately or usefully taught as something less that it is. The fact is that the writers of the Bible did not think that they were writing….’literature’. They thought they were writing the truth, which they expected to be believed by some and disbelieved by others. …That it could be taught by a teacher uninterested in the question of its truth is not conceivable….There is now an embarrassment about any statement that depends for confirmation upon experience or imagination or feeling or faith, and this embarrassment has produced an overwhelming impulse to treat such statements merely as artifacts, cultural relics, bits of historical evidence, or things of ‘aesthetic value’.  We will study, record, analyze, criticize, and appreciate. But we will not believe, we will not in the full sense know. The result is a stance of ‘critical objectivity…This may be said to work. as a textual mechanics, but it is not an approach by which one may know any great work of literature….Thus if teachers aspire to the academic virtue of objectivity, they must teach as if their subject has nothing to do with anything beyond itself….Objectivity in practice, means that one studies or teaches one’s subject as such, without concern for its relation to other subjects or to the world– that is without concern for its truth.—-

Wendell Berry ‘The Loss of University’

Browse Our Archives