Biblical Perspectives and Samford University’s Perspectives
The mission of Samford University is “to nurture persons in their development of intellect, creativity, faith, and personhood.” Through this Christian commitment Samford balances its dedication to fostering “academic, career, and ethical competency” with a deep commitment to “social and civic responsibility and service to others.”
It is only natural that Samford should attract students whose own life goals match this Christian mission. Even if they have not yet settled on a career path, many Samford students affirm, “Whatever I end up doing, I want to do it for God.”
At Samford, we teach UCBP 101: Biblical Perspectives with both the university’s and students’ goals in mind. The purpose of Biblical Perspectives is to guide students in an exploratory journey through the historical contexts and religious teachings of the Bible, and to encourage students to discover their interpretation and application to human life, both to life together in a society and to the lives of individual believers.
Whoever thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought. Augustine of Hippo
Biblical Perspectives is taught by the faculty of the Department of Religion. Professors encourage students:
- To develop an understanding of the historical contexts in which the Bible took shape.
- To appreciate the development and variety of religious thought within the Bible itself.
- To explore the concepts of God and God’s dynamic relationship with humankind.
- To examine how biblical teachings have been and continue to be interpreted and applied.
- To use a variety of modern critical methods for studying the Bible, including historical criticism, social-scientific criticism, and cultural criticism.
- To reflect on how these critical competencies can guide students as workers, family members, and citizens after they graduate from Samford.
The location of Biblical Perspectives within Samford’s Core Curriculum reflects a commitment within the University that Scripture should undergird all of Samford’s academic programs. While not all courses require skilled biblical interpretation, an intellectually rigorous and faithfully committed approach to the Bible shapes each program. A nursing student may learn a mass of information and techniques for patient care, but she or he also asks critical questions: Why is it important to care for people in the first place? How does my dispensing of care reflect my grasp of God’s purposes? How does my treatment of this particular patient draw on—or ignore—my understanding of God’s kingdom? The finance major asks similar questions about financial planning, real estate, and banking. It is our hope that students will emerge from Biblical Perspectives knowing the importance of asking such questions and having the means to begin to answer them.
The Christian commitments of Alabama Baptists formed part of the underpinning of Samford when it was founded as Howard College in 1841. The College appointed Jesse Hartwell as its first Professor of Theology in 1844, though it would be another fifty years before a course on the Bible was offered for credit. Soon thereafter all students were required to take at least one Bible course. When Howard College organized itself into departments in 1916, the Bible curriculum was entrusted to the Department of Religious Education. Through various name changes, the Department of Religion has continued to offer an extensive curriculum devoted to the study of the Scriptures. In 1997, Samford’s new Core Curriculum was introduced, and the four-credit Biblical Perspectives course replaced the two-course cycle of Old and New Testament Survey, of which students had to take at least one. Biblical Perspectives connects the study of the Bible to the rest of the University’s Core Curriculum and ensures that every Samford undergraduate studies both the Old and New Testaments.