What if one could redesign theological education from scratch? How could this impact 21st century faculty? Students? People in the pews? Facilities? Seating arrangements? Textbooks? Curricula? Technology? Tests? Assignments? Theses? Dissertations? Following are a few questions to jumpstart the dialogue.
What if teachers viewed Scripture as a Sacred Storybook or Sacred Drama rather than a Sacred Textbook? What if the first course a student takes highlights the mountaintops as it sweeps across Genesis to Revelation, tying it all together in a unified story? What if a capstone required a review of the same?
What if theological education was driven by stories rather than abstract concepts? What if it was driven by concrete characters rather than philosophical ideas? What if propositions were personified? What if it promoted discovery learning through problem solving rather than listening to the lecture to pass the next exam? What if it was driven from whole-to-part rather than part-to-(sometimes) whole? What if all Bible classes showed how they relate to the metanarrative of Scripture?
What if the teacher told part of his or her life story before overviewing the course syllabus? What if seating was semicircular making conversing convenient? What if mystery was given equal status with mastery? What if andragogy drove teaching in the classroom? What if case studies and simulation exercises became more dominate in the classroom?
What if all faculty were provided a seminar on primary and secondary orality? All students? What if the class sat in a circle? What if technology was used in the classroom to provide immediate depth to discussion and encourage interaction? What if students initiated it? What if meaning took precedence over words? What if courses were taught in spiral fashion so that repetition provides review as new and deeper materials are added? What if a digital schematic accompanied it for the faculty? For the students? What if geographical maps were used or created to teach books of the Bible? What if biographies were considered textbooks? What if biographies were required of Bible and other characters? What if faculty devised a grading matrix that equally rewarded orality and digital technology?
What if the imagination, emotions, and volition were given equal weight with the cognitive? What if narrative logic was given equal status with propositional logic? What if theories were taught as stories and through stories? What if theories required demonstrated practice and servanthood? What if the grading matrix included storytelling abilities before groups? Abilities to use metaphors and images to create a theater of the mind?
What if hermeneutics gave the same amount of time to narrative theology as it does to biblical theology and systematic theology? What if experiential apologetics were given the same weight as evidential apologetics? What if the creeds were taught through storied events? What if Greek was taught through song? What if the Epistles were taught through story? Reviewed through song? What if students were required to develop the theme of a book of the Bible by analyzing the cast of spiritual and human characters mentioned within it? What if homiletics replaced three-point sermons with Bible stories and symbols? What if evangelism was based on Bible stories rather than propositions and plans? What if spiritual formation practices were based on Bible and post-Bible character studies? Hidden curriculum (unintended learning) of symbols and rituals? What if the arts included ethnodoxology? What if chapels expressed the same? What if theological education was driven by missio Dei?
What if syllabuses were written in story with bullet points? What if PowerPoint was big on images but brief on words? What if some required assignments could be fulfilled through the production of videos or dance or pieces of art or composed songs or proverbs or poems or Prezi presentations? What if book reviews were written or told as stories? What if dissertation research was based as strongly on story collection (qualitative research) as it is on gathering statistics (quantitative research)? What if assigned papers were required to be written in stories? What if textbooks were written in story? What if theses and dissertations8 were written in story format?
What if exams were given to groups with all receiving the same grade earned? What if the number of oral exams were equal to the number of written exams? What if honor-shame values received the same attention as guilt-innocence in the classroom dialogue? In grading? In the Sacred Storybook?
What if graduation depended on accurately telling a minimum of 35 Bible stories, and the doctrines they teach? Depended on telling five books of the Bible from memory? Depended on one’s ability to tell 15 Bible proverbs and 10 Psalms? Depended on one’s ability to identify Bible characters that followed (or failed to follow) the Ten Commandments? That define the Covenants? The Great Commandment? The Beatitudes? The Great Commission? Depended on knowing the stories of the key players who made the genealogies in the Gospels? Depended on one’s ability to identify the Bible characters that convey the major doctrines of the Bible? Convey ethical and unethical behavior? Convey exemplary and cautionary models of leadership and followership? Depended on relating spiritual power issues with the gospel (1 Thess. 1:5)?
What if graduation depended on one’s ability to tweet the metanarrative of the Sacred Storybook? Tweet the gospel? Tweet the theme of each of the 66 books of the Bible? Depended on one’s ability to dramatize the metanarrative from Genesis to Revelation in 30 minutes? Depended on one’s ability to tell the stories of the 11 characters and two symbols mentioned in Acts 7? The 19 characters who made the honor role of faith along with the 10 symbols mentioned in Hebrews 11? Of the approximately 550 stories in the Sacred Storybook, what is the minimal number that should comprise a Biola graduate’s “Story Collection” (Steffen, 2005:101)?
Would such revisions in theological education help produce thick or thin theology for a 21st century audience? Would memorable theology that translates into practice result? Would lifelong learners result? Let the dialogue begin because it will do no good to stay where we presently find most faculty and students involved in theological education.
What if? . . .