In the fall of 2021, Oklahoma Christian University altered the general education Bible requirements. This change reduced the required Bible class hours from 16 to 12 and included some new courses.
The new curriculum begins with a course titled “Foundations: Intro to the Good Life,” required for all freshmen. The class is held on Sunday evenings beginning at 7 p.m. and lasting until 8:40 p.m. In addition, hour-long break out groups are held at various times throughout the week.
The course aims to teach students to examine their own worldview, beliefs, values and practices.
The class’ primary professors are Alden Bass, Assistant Professor of Bible and the Program Chair for Division of Bible and Jim Baird, Distinguished Professor of Bible & Philosophy.
Bass said the mission of the class is to explore how belief in God correlates to living a good life.
“Is God worth believing in? Would it change your life? Does this make your life good?” Bass said.
Bass discussed the class’ purpose in more detail as a “questioning class.”
“You could think of this class as a leveling class, we want to get everyone to the same point,” Bass said. “We really won’t delve into the Bible in this class. That’s not its purpose. It’s a questioning class.”
Baird continued in accordance with Bass’ statement as he discussed the approach of the class.
“The purpose of this class is to lay down the foundations that allow us to have a common ground to talk to people,” Baird said. “For a lot of students, talking about Jesus makes them feel some-what alienated, so we’re trying to lay some common ground.”
This is the class’ debut semester and so far, students have mixed reactions to the new format of Bible curriculum.
A freshman girl said she was disappointed in the course content.
“I’m disappointed I’m not getting enriched in the Bible like I was promised,” she said. “I’m really sad this class hasn’t mentioned the Bible, hasn’t really even talked about God or Jesus or really even faith. They haven’t mentioned any Christian principles.”
While she understands the goal of the class, she said she disagrees with its methods.
“Yes, I understand the class is supposed to present non-believers with questions, but you still need to provide them with some Biblical things that help answer those questions and not wait until next semester,” she said.
In contrast, another freshman girl said she likes the class.
“The class approaches various subjects and ideas I didn’t think deeply about.” she said. “It allows me to see the world from different angles and become aware of others’ perspectives.”
She said she took the sequel to “Intro to the Good Life,” “The Story,” last semester and gained from it as well.
“I learned a lot. It helped me shape a better understanding of Christianity. I realized there are many similarities between Christianity and the Islamic faith,” she said.
Freshman Greg Kennedy said he would like to see the class presented in a different way.
“I think they had a good idea starting out, but they should restructure it to more of an apologetics class to reaffirm the Christian faith,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said one of his friends is struggling with his faith and this class is not helping him.
“He comes back with questions from this class and doesn’t really get anything out of it, so we basically tell him, ‘Don’t pay attention to this class, it’s not really going to be helping you to grow in your faith.’ The reason he came here was his faith,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he and his girlfriend had to leave their church function early to attend the class.
“We had to leave church just to come to a class we both know we’re not gonna get anything out of anyway,” Kennedy said. “We both have a better chance at getting something out of a church service than we do here. That’s the whole point of a Bible class, to grow in your faith, and I don’t see that happening in this class.”
Freshman Cayden Cole said the motives behind the class could be better.
“I feel like a Bible class should include the Bible,” Cole said. “I think that [not alienating non-believers] is a fair idea, but the execution is poor. Good idea, bad implementation.”
A unique feature of the class is its unorthodox style, involving more theatrical antics. Cole had a comment about the format.
“I think formatting your class as a late-night show is out of touch,” Cole said.
Another freshman girl said the class is “upsetting” to her.
“It feels like false advertising. If the word ‘Bible’ wasn’t on the course description, I would not know it is a Bible class,” she said. “It’s upsetting because there are so many people in this class who could stand to learn more about Christianity. It feels like shrinking away from what we believe.”
She continued to say why the class does not feel like a Bible class to her.
“What I can’t stop thinking about is Plato and Socrates being mentioned and explained in detail, but the person of Jesus Christ never being mentioned, or if he has, it’s not very remarkable or it’s very little,” she said. “I feel like I’m learning more about historical figures than the Bible or Christianity.”
Freshman Arnold Mugita said he wanted to use his weekends for free time, but the Sunday night class interferes with his schedule.
“Sundays are my rest days, but I’m not resting. I still have class. We should just keep Monday through Friday school. Out of all my classes, Bible is the most stressful,” Mugita said.
Bass addressed student concerns by reassuring them the Bible would be discussed in more depth in the spring semester. Students will take a class called “The Story,” which covers the story of Jesus throughout the Bible.
“By starting with the interpersonal, we hope to work up to a deeper meaning of what faith in God means,” Bass said.
As for students still dissatisfied with the Foundations course, Bass said to find resources in other areas of campus.
“I would caution people: don’t think you have to go to Bible class to do Bible study. This is not the one stop shop for everything. Take responsibility and seek it out,” Bass said.