EH2305 In Search of Biblical Justice



The John Leland Center for Theological Studies

Arlington, VA

Fall Semester 2020

Facilitator: Samuel L. Feemster                                                 Office: Online

Office Hours: Online 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Mon. & Tu.   Class: 8:05 – 10:00p.m. Thurs.

EH2305 – In Search of Biblical Justice: A multi-focal perspective

Course Description:

Biblical Justice is about making the love and truth of God a tangible reality. In the Holy Bible, this ancient truth is understood. Despite its prominence in the Bible, Christians today know little about biblical justice. This ignorance has given rise to disturbing realities. First, many professed Christians do not see ‘doing justice’ as part of their calling. Second, many younger Christians embrace a secular approach to rectifying the church’s failure to teach and practice biblical justice—this reaction leads to gross distortions in their practice and lives. Because of these realities, we designed In Search of Biblical Justice to introduce students to the truth about what God declares he loves. Based upon exposure to God’s self-disclosure, students will reflect upon what God might say about justice as defined and promoted in churches and the world. More importantly, students will consider their preparedness to be an instrument of God’s righteousness.

This course consists of interactive lectures followed by collaborative discussions based upon assigned readings and insights about justice provided by visiting professors and pastors. Synthesizing information from the presentations and readings, each student will submit their reflections to assigned questions weekly.  As one group, students will identify policy, regulation, rule, or law that intentionally disadvantages a group of people based upon difference, and then create innovation to redress the injustice. This format will promote opportunities for informed students to cultivate skills essential for working together to create a sustainable environment where the love and truth of God are a tangible reality.

Learning Outcomes: 

  • Communicate the meaning of justice as revealed by God in Scripture
  • Promote the pursuit of justice and righteousness as the character of God and the work of the Church
  • Compare the centrality of justice in the life of Israel, the teachings of Jesus, and life in 21st Century churches where we worship
  • Cultivate a working knowledge of essential language and concepts to inform the design, development, and implementation of innovations intended to dismantle systems and structures that sustain injustice

Course Principles:

  • To encourage the pedagogical virtues of integrity, excellence, challenge, and support. (along with discovery, creativity, tenacity, imagination, and fun!).
  • To foster the life of the mind via intrinsic motivations for authentic Christian learning.
  • To push beyond the normal boundaries of individualistic thinking.
  • To be demanding, engaging, respectful, creative, & fair.
  • To be accessible to every student as needed.
  • To use a variety of formats in the learning process (where feasible).
  • To explore descriptive and advanced materials.
  • To facilitate or encourage collaborative inquiry and learning via groups.
  • To promote cooperative learning across various learning styles.
  • To encourage virtue (see Romans 12:21 and Philippians 4: 8).
  • To advance student competencies and professionalism in theology
  • To equip students for leadership and service in the church, society, and the world.

Required Readings for EH2305

Barram, Michael, Biblical Justice and Christian Formation (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI., 2018) ISBN 978-0-8028-7507-5

Nicholas, Jessica, God Loves Justice: A User-Friendly Guide to Biblical Justice & Righteousness (S&E Educational Press, LA, Cal., 2017) ISBN 978-0-9989031-0-1

St. Ambrose: On the Duties of the Clergy (Benediction Classics, Oxford., 2020) ISBN 978-1-84902-616-1

The Poverty and Justice Bible, (American Bible Society) ISBN 978-158516-973-3

Tisby, Jemar, The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Churches Complicity in Racism (Zondervan Press, Grand Rapids, MI., 2018) ISBN 978-0-310-5927-8

Supplemental Text:

Gilbert, Kenyatta R. Exodus Preaching: Crafting Sermons about Justice and Hope (Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN., 2018) ISBN – 13:978-1-5018-3257-4

Houston, Walter J., Justice – The Biblical Challenge (UK: Equinox Publishing Ltd., London, SW3 55R, 2010) ISBN 9781-84553-888-0 (Paperback $42.00; Kindle $31.78) On Reserve

Marshall, Chris; The Little Book of Biblical Justice (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2005) ISBN 978-1-56148505-5 (Paperback $5.99; Kindle $5.99)

Westfall, Cynthia. L., and Dyer, Bryan, R., EDS, The Bible and Social Justice: Old Testament and New Testament Foundations for the Church’s Urgent Call (Pickwick Publications, Eugene, Or., 2015) ISBN 13:978-1-4982-3807-6 (Paperback $29.00; Kindle $ 9.99) On Reserve

PREREQUISITES:  None

Course Requirement:

Attendance is required: Three unexcused absences constitute automatic failure.

  1. Due Thursday August 27, 2020
  2. Weekly assignments Due: 7:00 PM the day of class (electronic)
  3. Group project. Each week students will participate in a 1-hour group discussion (online) about the previous lecture and their group project. Students will:1) Identify a policy, regulation, rule, law, or norm that intentionally disadvantages a group of people in communities across our nation or other nations based upon difference, and 2) detail how its enforcement violates God’s justice. Due Thursday, December 17, 2020.
  4. [Cohort students will begin to create an innovation to redress this injustice. They will incorporate the required “action” and anticipated “learning” impact of this change as part of their externship proposal.]        
  5. Final paper. Due: On or before December 22, 2020 at 11:59 PM

Course Grading:

Attendance                                                                                      15

Survey                                                                                              05

Weekly assignment and individual presentation                             40

Group Project (including weekly group participation)                    20

Final paper                                                                                       20

TOTAL POINTS                                                                          100 PTS

Course Schedule

August         27/1  Introduction: In Search of Biblical Justice (Feemster)

  • Discuss syllabus and course requirements.
  • Collect survey data to establish how student’s perspectives about Biblical Justice have been informed and shaped
  • Share the meaning of Biblical Justice and Justice Formation as used in this course
  • Establish student’s involvement with justice as either worship, education or advocacy

September   3/2   What God says about Justice and Righteousness (Carro)

  • Introduce students to the theme of justice and righteousness in the Bible
  • Explain what God means by justice and righteousness
  • Explore how the first audience might have understood this language
  • Assigned: Nicholas, Introduction, and chapters 1-2
  • Submit answers to questions 1-4, page 17

10/3  The Story of Creation: Justice as Cosmic Order (Wallace)

  • Assigned: Nicholas: Chapter 3, Submit Answers to questions 1-2
  • Chapter 4, Submit Answers to questions 1-3

17/4  Justice, The Fall and Responsibility (Houck)

  • Assigned: Tisby, Forward & Chapters 1-3
  • St. Ambrose: On the Duties of the Clergy, Book One, Chapters 24-25

24/5  The Story of the Exodus: Justice as Faithfulness (James)

  • Assigned: Nicholas, Chapters 5. Submit aswers to all questions
  • Tisby, Forward & Chapters 4-5

October        01/6  The Story of Israel: Justice as a Community of Equals (Smith)

  • Assigned: Nicholas: Chapter 6, Submit answers to questions 1-3
  • Tisby, Forward & Chapters 6-7

8/7   Justice according to the Prophets (Catlett)

  • Assigned: Nicholas, Chapter 9, Submit answers to questions 1-4
  • Tisby, Forward & Chapters 8-9

15      Reading Week  (Students are encouraged to prepare for 9/22)

22/8  Justice in the Old Testament Wisdom Literature (Fr. Reed)

  • Assigned: Weinfiled Justice and Righteousness
  • The Social Visions of The Hebrew Bible

29/9  Justice as Virtue (Lee)

  • Assigned: Nicholas, Chapter 7. Submit answers to questions 1-3
  • Assigned: Nicholas: Chapter 8, Submit Answers to questions 1-3
  • St. Ambrose: On the Duties of the Clergy, Book One, Chapters 26

November    05/10 Justice in the Sermon on the Mount (Dapaah)

  • Assigned: Nicholas, Chapter 12. Submit answers to questions to questions 1-4. Chapters 13. Submit answers to questions 1-4

12/11 Justice in The New Testament (Parker)

  • Assigned: Nicholas, Chapters 10. Submit answers to both questions. Chapter 11. Submit answers to questions 1 4.

19/12 Western Theories of Justice (Shirin)

  • Assigned: St. Ambrose: On the Duties of the Clergy, Book One, Chapters 27-29
  • Nicholas, Chapter 14. Submit answers to questions 1-3.
  • Distribute Final Exam

26      Thanksgiving Holiday

December    03/13 Exodus Preaching (Gilbert)

10/14 Justice: Abdicated, Compromised, or Embraced

  • Assigned: Nicholas, Chapters 15 & 16. Submit answers to questions 1-4 at the end of chapter 15.
  • Question 4: Based upon your reality and the reality of our nation and world, who are the bad guys according to God’s justice. What do you think it would be like for Christians to pursue transformation for people who are the “bad guys” of the world according to God’s justice?

17/15 Group Project: In class presentation – One hour

  • Individual Presentations – Reflect on how Biblical Justice informs your perspective about justice and the probable practical impact of this wakefulness on your work – One hour

24      Final Paper Due before 11:59 PM

 

Answer Format For Questions

The user-friendly introductory guide prepared for our use will help you engage, reflect, and commit to the justice ministry of Jesus. The author exposes readers to God’s love of justice and provides thoughtful questions to guide engaged believes through a self-critique of their behavior in light of God’s expectations of his children. The questions at the end of each chapter help readers understand that God expects his children to do justice throughout the routine of daily living according to his standards. My responsibility is to meet you at this point on your journey and encourage you to wade into deeper waters. I will read every word you write and respond to you each week. The format for your writing is detailed below.

Prepare your weekly responses to questions at the end of each chapter as detailed below. At a minimum, your response to each question should include three paragraphs.

Name                                                                             Date

Semester                                                                       Class #

 

Introduction

  • Re-state the question to give context to the rationale and conclusion that follows.
  • [It is acceptable to provide a concise conclusion as an introductory sentence/statement.]

Rationale for response

  • Your experience(s) of God, our classroom lectures, assigned readings, and group discussions should inform your rationale.

Conclusion

  • If necessary, re-state your conclusion. In either event, provide a summary statement or paragraph(s) connecting your conclusion and rationale.

Be Diligent and thoughtful.

  • Producing this weekly summary will provide an excellent outline for your final paper.