Religion and Scripture in the Trinity School Curriculum
Trinity School students study Christian doctrine (ninth grade) and Scripture (tenth and twelfth grades). They also read and discuss a number of important Christian writers (Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther) in their Humane Letters Seminars (eleventh and twelfth grades).
In all its coursework, Trinity School aims at the acquisition of knowledge, the acquisition of intellectual skills and the development of certain habits of mind. As a school, we don’t teach Christian piety, nor are we involved in any direct evangelism of the students, in teaching them apologetics or, in the case of Catholics, preparing them for the sacraments.
Grade Nine Doctrine
Students in grade nine study Christian doctrine. In this course, and in only this course, Catholics and Protestants are separated. However, during the first semester both Catholic and Protestant students study the historical development of the creeds and in particular the fundamental Christian dogmas found in the Nicene Creed. Thus, Trinity School students are presented with a clear and unambiguous account of the fundamental beliefs of Christian orthodoxy. Topics include the Trinitarian nature of God, the creation of the material universe ex nihilo, the divinity of Christ, etc.
Following that, Protestant students study the church of the Middle Ages, the 16th-century Reformation movements in Europe, the English Reformation, the American experience of Christianity, and the modern ecumenical movement. Each student also completes a major independent study of his or her own religious tradition.
Catholic students focus on the moral teaching of the Ten Commandments and sacramental life. In addition, they study encyclicals such as Gaudium et Spes and Ut Unum Sint. They read and discuss the Catechism of the Catholic Church throughout the year.
Both courses include a unit on ecumenism.
Grades Ten and Twelve Scripture
The study of Scripture at this level is understood as a serious academic enterprise that, like Scripture itself, involves history, literature and theology. It is not a religion course or Bible study of the sort that students might encounter in their churches or other groups. Trinity School approaches Scripture as texts—ancient Hebrew and Greek texts, in English translation—that were written by human beings at particular points in history under particular circumstances. This is known as the historical-literary approach to Scripture (see next paragraph). The goal is to come to terms with the vocabulary, grammar, imagery, literary forms and devices, and other tools used by the Biblical authors so that we understand what these authors were trying to communicate to their contemporaries.
We take a historical-literary approach to these texts, but we do not think that this is the only possible approach, nor is it even the only one we might use in other contexts—at Trinity School's morning prayer, for example—but it is the approach used in these particular courses.
Students in these Scripture courses are not doing theology in the sense of trying to derive the properties, qualities or characteristics of God. They do, however, attempt to recognize the theology of the writer of each text in a broad sense—what the writer says about God, about human beings, about the created world, about the presence of evil, etc. This grows out of the historical and literary work and is traceable through the various writers.
The upper-level Scripture courses are different from the lower-level courses, not because they deal with different stories or texts, but because they examine these at a different level of understanding and introduce the tools necessary for that kind of understanding.
In both the tenth and twelfth grades, the courses are conducted in seminar fashion. As a result, the pedagogy of the course is effective only when students participate. The seminar format invites students to engage issues directly. We encourage every child to participate. We encourage him or her not to hold back, but to think continuously, both inside and outside the seminar, to consider and respond to alternative accounts, and to put forward his or her own views of the text for discussion. All participants will have their ideas challenged.
The tenth-grade course meets four days each week for two semesters. Readings include selections from Genesis, Enuma Elish, The Gilgamesh Epic, Exodus, Deuteronomy, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, 1-2 Maccabees, Daniel, Wisdom of Solomon and The Jewish War of Josephus.
The twelfth-grade course meets five days each week for one semester. Readings include the Gospels of Luke and John and selections from Matthew and Mark, Against Apion by Josephus, Acts of the Apostles, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Romans and selections from Hebrews, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Galatians and Revelation.