Sunday, August 25, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Doorposts Bible Study Review - Because You Are Strong

I am always on the lookout for Bible study materials that might work within Orthodox Christian Theology without my having to do a lot of adjustment work. A recent review opportunity came across my path and I took it as a chance to look at another curriculum that might fill the bill. Introducing: Doorpost's Because You are Stong: A Study of Godly Strength for Young Men.

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A note about notes:
It is important to remember that marginal notes are not the divinely inspired Word of God. They are editors' notes, written by scholars who have studied the Bible and its original languages. These notes are not infallible. They are influenced by the editors' theology and by different understands of languages and words.
I don't like to start a review on a "negative" note, but the above quote is exactly why this series is not necessarily a good fit for an Orthodox young man.  Orthodoxy is not a Sola Scriptura version of the Christian faith, and so relying heavily on Sola Scriptura study guides and sources quickly becomes problematic. 

Please understand, I am not trying to disparage Sola Scriptura groups, just to say that the SS theology won't work for Orthodox study. The primary reason it won't work for Orthodox study is because Orthodoxy relies on words from the Bible as well as historical examples as set by our religious forefathers and -mothers and the examples they set for us when found in a biblical context. 

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First I'll say that this is a course best used with older students - late junior high or high school. There is a LOT of writing and reference checking, etc. involved. My oldest is 13 and while he was able to do the work, he found it time-consuming and tedious. In fairness to the course, this is probably partly because research and long-hand writing is a weakness we are addressing with him this year. If your student is accustomed to such activity he will likely not have the trouble ours did. Perseverance-when-disinterested is not his middle name, but that will also be honed as he matures!

But what did we like within the workbook? Several things, actually. Because You are Strong is designed to help young men (there is another book for young ladies) examine their ideas, attitudes and propensity towards godly behavior by looking up Bible verses, the references that go with those verses and defining particular words related to having godly strength of character. 

I'm going to highlight just a few excerpts from the back of the guide to help better explain what the intent of the course is:
The Bible studies in Because You Are Strong will help young men gain a biblical view of strength and use that strength wisely, for God's glory. These studies are designed primarily for young men, but they will benefit anyone looking for a biblical perspective on strength.
Ten in-depth studies focus on biblical heroes like David, Samson and the "mighty men of valor". You'll also study the power of God the service of Jesus, wisdom from Proverbs, and the endurance of faithful saints.
Each of these studies uses a different study technique and is divided into daily assignments (between 5 and 20 minutes per day). Because You Are Strong contains 74 days of study, plus 40 more suggested studies -- enough to fuel serious Bible study for more than a year!
One of the things I liked best about this course is that it teaches the boys to learn how to use a Bible's concordance, notes, and other reference materials. These skills are often overlooked when new students of the Bible simply sit down to read the Bible cover to cover or flipping through various Bible stories. The workbook also encourages strengthening English and grammar skills as the boys are required to look up words in the dictionary and thesaurus, find antonyms, synonyms, etc., handwriting, self-evaluation, book study outlines, and more.

Sample questions from the book include things like 
  • "For what reasons does God allow us to suffer or experience weakness?" (referring to 2 Cor. 12:9-10)
  • "Re-read what you just wrote down about lessons you've learned from I Samuel 17. How do these lessons apply to your own life? How can you be more like David?"
  • "What are you going to do about it? List at least two things you will do to apply the lessons you've learned. Set goals that are specific and measurable."
  • "Look up cross references for Proverbs 20:29. If your Bible does not have cross references in the margin, find a study Bible with cross references. These are usually listed in a separate column to one side of the Bible text, or at the bottom of the page." (Additional questions then follow...)
The study guide does require additional resources and reference materials, including:
  • free online resources
  • Strong's Bible Concordance (or the online version)
  • a Bible with a concordance and/or cross references and notes
  • Bibles with two different translations
  • Matthew Henry's commentary
  • English dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • A Bible that can be written in/highlighted
  • Bible atlas or online Bible maps
So while this is not the program for our family, it is a good program and can help not only with how to study ones Bible, but also with how to do an in-depth study of other types of books as well!

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