A Tale of Two Professors
I returned to college later in life than most who attend. I was thirty-five when I began attending The University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, KY. A professor gave me the title Uncle Wes and it took with the students who were 15 years younger than me.
There were two professors in the music department at the time. One primarily taught Music Theory and the spouse taught Music History.
I really struggled in Music Theory. I was concerned I might fail the class and my grades in that class were lower than I normally achieved, but I did pass. Music History was a different matter. I had no problems with the class. I made A’s every semester. One assignment given to the class was to author a paper. It was to be twenty pages long, double spaced, with one-inch margins, and single sided printing. My paper was on Mozart. It titled it, “Mozart: Prodigy or Parental Influence?” Most everyone knows Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart but few, outside of music students and scholars, know that Mozart’s father, Leopold, was a composer as well. My paper examined how much of Mozart’s competency at composing was because he was a natural prodigy versus how much was because he was reared in a home where music was ever present, and with his father regularly composing music. I received an A on that paper.
Thus, I completed my degree barely getting by in Music Theory and excelling in Music History, if one uses the grades I received as the means of measurement.
The degree I earned was the Bachelor of Science in Sacred Music. It was a 120-hour degree which was more hours than Music Education or any other music degree. It encompassed Music Education, Sacred Music studies, classes in brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion, along with the common courses in music history, theory, piano, voice (my emphasis). It had the most hours because the Scared Music degree was the baby of the Music Department Head . . .but I digress.
After graduating from The University of the Cumberlands, I moved the family to Louisville, KY so I could attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where I continued my studies in music.
Every student had to take competency tests at the beginning of the school year to assess their level of education and to select which level of each class in which they would enroll.
This leads to the point of my article. Every area of music ability and knowledge was evaluated. The two this article is concerned with are Music History and Music Theory. I was surprised and shocked at the results. In Music History, in which I excelled in undergraduate school, I failed miserably. My scores were exceptionally low. However, in Music Theory, in which I struggled in undergraduate school, I did very well. How confusing!
The only conclusion I can make is that the difference was between the teaching of the two professors that taught me in those subjects in college. I surmise that the Music Theory professor was teaching at a very high level while the Music History teacher did not.
It is apparent to me that the Music Theory professor demanded more from us undergraduate students than the Music History professor. I dreaded my Music Theory classes at The University of the Cumberlands. I braced myself for my semester grade each semester preparing my mind to have to repeat the course because I had failed it. I thoroughly enjoyed Music History and looked forward to it each semester because it was so easy!
We often shortchange our students, young people, and our congregations when we “water-down” the information on our teaching of the Bible and all it encompasses. Certainly, it is possible to teach beyond what the student is capable of digesting, but I’m convinced that we have lowered the bar too far and that people can achieve much more than they believe they can if they are challenged and encouraged rather than belittled and shamed.
Jesus, to use a current vernacular, “blew the people’s minds” with His teaching. He turned the teaching of the Rabbis and other Jewish leaders upside down. He chided one who came to Him, Nicodemus, was puzzled by Jesus’ statement that he must be born again. Jesus stretched and expanded their minds, but He did it in such a wonderful way that the simplest of persons could understand their need to accept His gift of salvation, while the highly educated were challenged with the depth of His teaching.
Churches today are facing a dearth of believers who know and have a deep understanding of God, His Word, and His principles. Our churches are facing the problem increasingly of leaders to fill positions such as Deacons, Bible Study Teachers, and other mentors because we have not been teaching them adequately.
This is not a new problem. God led the writer of Hebrews to admonish the Hebrew Christians as “babes” in their knowledge saying by this time (in their spiritual development) they ought to be teachers managing the more profound concepts of faith in Christ. (Hebrews 5:11-6:3)
Unfortunately, besides teaching only the “elementary truths” of scripture we have acquiesced by eliminating Sunday evening worship and Wednesday Evening Worship, among other discipleship opportunities.
I understand the reasons for doing so but that does not make the practice right.
We need to encourage people to want to study God’s Word. One way to do that is to challenge them with the deeper truths of scripture. We must whet their appetite. We must demonstrate the depth of richness in God’s Word. We must be sure to not belittle the learner and we need to quit putting people in teaching and other leadership positions who are not properly well-versed in God’s Word.
We have dug ourselves a deep well. There is an adage often said regarding someone in trouble. It goes, “If you’re digging yourself into a hole, the first step is to stop digging!” This is a good analogy for the church. We need to stop digging the hole of poor biblical literacy. We do this by digging deeper into the deep truths of God’s Word. The previous sentences are paradoxical in nature. Stop digging but dig deeper. Opposite actions whose only explanation is the two actions are referring to different objectives. The first being digging a hole of biblical literacy whereas the second is digging deeper into God’s Word. Digging deeper into God’s Word results not in a hole but in a mountain of faith.
Oh, may our people who profess a faith in Jesus Christ develop a thirst to know Him on a deeper level. Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” Don’t be stupid!