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THEO 337/338 WI: Bible and Social Justice: PAPER ASSIGNMENT for THEO 338 Coomber

This libguide supports the research projects of this course.

THEO 338 Assignment paper

Students will complete a 7 to 8-page paper of original research on how the Bible has been

applied to a particular political issue in the modern world (1830s—present). The student will address each of the following:

     • 1. The historical contexts of biblical texts used to address the modern issue

     • 2. Modern contexts that shaped the interpretation of the biblical texts

     • 3. Effectiveness of their application: both success and also failure

     • 4. Assess the consequence of their use

Your paper should examine how the Bible has been applied to a particular political issue since 1830. These could include climate change, abortion, segregation, civil rights legislation, military intervention, resistance to a particular military conflict, poverty, industry decisions, or any other political issue. Use Chicago Style 17th ed. for citations.

What IS NOT of concern in this assignment:
- Whether or not the chosen political issue can be supported by the Bible

- What side of the political issue you stand on

What IS of concern:

- How the Bible was (or is currently being) used to address the chosen political issue

- What impact that use of the Bible has had, if any

The point of this paper is to examine the use of the Bible in politics, not whether or not our political views can be supported by the Bible. This will mean students will need to research (1) the issue, (2) how Bible came into contact with the issue, and (3) what the results were. Let's take a quick look at the four criteria listed above:

1. Historical Context of the Biblical Texts Used to Address the Modern Issue

You'll research the sitze im leben, as Gale Yee would say, of the biblical text(s) that was/were brought to the modern (1830s to the present) political issue. What sort of events shaped the text? What was the mindset of those who wrote it? What were they addressing and how does it relate to the modern issue (directly? indirectly? not at all?). You're going to have to look at books and academic articles that address biblical history: don't worry, I can help you get started on this!

2. Modern Contexts that Shaped the Interpretation of the Biblical Texts

You'll research the sitze im leben of the modern time into which the Bible was brought to address a political issue. What was going on when this political issue was hot? What sorts of socio-cultural events shaped the political atmosphere. Maybe there was a new scientific discovery, or maybe they didn't understand the world in a way we now do. Maybe a cataclysmic event occurred, or a shift in technology. Maybe a major cultural shift was going on. These factors will be important to include, both in how they shaped the biblical interpretation, and also how they shaped the political situation. You will need to look at books and academic articles on your political issue. Newspaper clippings from the time can also be very useful. Even if you look at, say, the Russian Revolution (assuming you can't read Russian newspapers from 1917), you can read what English and American newspapers were writing about the events at the time (especially English and American communist newspapers, as well as anti-communist or neutral ones).

3. Effectiveness of Their Application

Here you will need to assess how well the Bible was being used. Was it an honest treatment of the Bible? Was it a dishonest treatment of the Bible? Were those useing the Bible doing so out of ignorance, not really understanding the Bible? Was it a mixture of these? This is a tricky thing to do, because it is here that you will need to be most keenly aware of your own biases. This is where it is most important to pay attention to Yee's warning about intellectual censoring. Maybe you agree with those who used the Bible to address the political issue but find their rational for using the Bible the way they did is crap. Maybe you disagree with the issue, but you find that they made solid biblical arguments. Remember, I don't want your opinions (like it's stated on the syllabus), I want evidence and evidence-based conclusions.

4. Assess the Consequences of Their Use

What was/is the aftermath of how the Bible was used? Was it effective? Did it result as they had expected? Were there unexpected results? During your research, did you see missed opportunities for how the Bible could have been used?

Now for the proposal:

What I'm looking for in your proposal

This paper is nothing formal. It is supposed to be a page, but it doesn't have to fill up the full page. The main purpose of this assignment is to help me get an idea of how I can best help you as you start on your research project, or help direct your project into something that is doable (I've had proposals that, while fascinating, had some red herrings that needed to be addressed). Basically, you're just cluing me in to your chosen political topic and why it's of interest to you. You're going to do a deep dive, so be sure you choose something that will keep your interest. List the things in the syllabus that will help support you in launching your research (it's best to choose something relating to our syllabus). Take a look at any of the assigned articles that relate to your topic that you think might help you. You will use these to branch out to find other sources (remember, sources are not boxes to tick so students can achieve a certain number. Sources are the places from which students will get the information that will make it possible to both write their papers and also to have a well-rounded view as they write them). 

Chicago Style Citations

Librarian Help

Your Librarians can HELP!

Contact Stella Herzig, your Theology Librarian, for an appointment:


approach the research help desk in the SAU Library at your convenience.
Librarians are at the desk waiting to assist you:

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