The Red- (and Blue-) Letter Bible: Reading the Book Together in a Divided Land

Class Number: 
June 5-9
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Class Price: 

Being Christian and leading Christians is a stiff challenge in a polarized age. How are we to pray, preach, teach, lead, or just do church in ways that honor the various perspectives in our groups, while maintaining integrity and boldly proclaiming what light we have? Oddly enough, Bible study can help us here. While it has often been weaponized by one side or the other, the Bible is politically and theologically multi-vocal. The ideological inclusiveness of the canon is actually quite stunning. In this course we will channel the early rabbinic notion that there’s such a thing as “disagreement for the sake of heaven” (Mishnah Avoth 5.17) and imagine a diverse church thriving in our divided land.

This course will follow a hybrid design, joining biblical and practical theology. Here’s the structure:

  •   Preparation: Participants will be assigned to pre-read key Bible texts that feature this scriptural tendency to keep voices in tension, along with brief secondary reflections on tensions and conflict within scripture. (No more than 30 mins to an hour of focused preparation will be expected. Brief articles will be identified and sent out a couple of weeks prior to the start of class.)
  •    Presentation: Hilton will begin class with a lecture on texts and topics that feature the Bible’s habit of holding competing views in its pages.
  •      Discussion: The class will…
  •   discuss the assigned texts in light of the lecture and the brief assigned readings;
  •   ask together how this scriptural tendency might land fruitfully within contemporary Christian thought and practice; and 
  •   apply the scriptural tendency in our own in-class conversations about controversial issues (e.g., immigration, abortion, homosexuality) from the 21st century.
  •     Further Investigation: At the end of each session, students will receive a list of articles and/or books for reading beyond the course.

This week of pondering how scripture can inform the way we deal with conflict will help prepare pastors, leaders, and laypeople to live and lead Christianly in a divided land.

Yale Divinity School

Allen Hilton