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Teaching the Bible in Higher Education in a Post-Truth Era

University of Winnipeg
April 11–12, 2019

Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as its international word of the year in 2016 and defined it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The word was associated particularly with the campaign of Donald Trump. The problem of Donald Trump’s lack of veracity and his on-going popularity among many “Bible-believing” Christians raises several important questions regarding the present teaching and interpretation of the Bible: Is the way the Bible is taught, particularly in higher education, contributing to the continuing existence of a post-truth cultural era? More broadly, does the current political polarization point to a failure of higher education to form citizens capable of constructive, public dialogue? Does this, in turn, point to the need for new content and different pedagogies in higher education?

Considering the current cultural dominance of emotion and belief over objectivity and facts, we are seeking paper and workshop proposals that address these sorts of questions: (1) What is the future of biblical studies and the teaching of the Bible in theological education? (2) What is the future of biblical studies and the teaching of the Bible in publicly funded institutions? (3) Can there be any rapprochement between the two? Would it be possible to teach the Bible to religious studies students and theology students in the same classroom and, if so, how? (4) In what ways might the dominant textual and pedagogical methods need to be modified or supplemented in response to living in a post-truth era? Preference will be given to papers that address these questions, but we are open to any proposals that address the future of teaching the Bible in higher education.

Conference speakers include: Dale B. Martin, emeritus professor of religious studies at Yale University and author of The Corinthian Body (Yale, 1999), Sex and the Single Savior (Westminster John Knox, 2006), Inventing Superstition (Harvard, 2007), Pedagogy of the Bible (Westminster John Knox, 2008) and Biblical Truths: The Meaning of Scripture in the Twenty-first Century (Yale, 2017); HyeRan Kim-Cragg, Lydia Gruchy professor of pastoral studies, St. Andrew’s College, University of Saskatchewan and the author of Interdependence: A Postcolonial Feminist Practical Theology (Wipf & Stock, 2018) and What Does the Bible Say? (Cascade, 2017); Robert C. Fennell, professor of historical and systematic theology at Atlantic School of Theology, Halifax, and author of The Rule of Faith and Biblical Interpretation (Cascade, 2018). Sandra L. Gravett, professor of religious studies, Appalachia State University Department, author of An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (WJK, 2008) and Twilight to Breaking Dawn: Religious Themes in the Twilight Saga (Chalice, 2010).

Travel and housing bursaries are available for graduate students whose proposals are accepted. Paper proposals are due by the end of the day, February 15th, 2019. Proposals should be a maximum of 1,000 words and be accompanied by a 150-word abstract. Please email proposals and abstracts to Arthur Walker-Jones, a.walker-jones@uwinnipeg.ca, or Charles Miller, charles.miller2@und.edu,  Conference registration is $40 CDN. To register contact Chris Wells, ch.wells@uwinnipeg.ca.

Sponsors include the University of Winnipeg United Centre for Theological Studies, The Newcombe Family Foundation Lectureship, and the University of North Dakota Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies.