THE SPECIAL STUDIES CLASS
The Special Studies Class is a unique institution of the College Park Baptist Church of Orlando. It was established in 1987 when there was a reorganization of the Sunday School, and the undersigned was asked to start a free-curriculum course of advanced theological seminars, teaching whatever subject matter the teacher and the class chose to pursue.
The need for such a class as this is evident to anyone who finds too much repetition (a seven-year cycle) in published lesson materials. Also, such lesson materials are too shallow for some, being written at a sixth-grade comprehension level and skipping over difficult passages in the Bible. Every church should have a class for intellectuals - those who enjoy reading and have an inquisitive nature and a yearning for truth. Such a person will not “fit in” in the average class, because he or she will ask probing questions and not be satisfied with glib answers. This may make some people uncomfortable. Such a person may start getting a chilly reception and then may stop attending church.
The material being presented in this Special Studies Class is at seminary level and is in accordance with the latest findings in archæology and current concepts in scholarly Bible criticism, linguistics, and comparative religion. (Jesus was a scholar: that is what “rabbi” means.) The class gives special attention to relevant literature, folklore, legend, and mythology. Materials used are not generally available to church members. There are no restrictions on subject matter, and it is possible to discuss things not presented in most classes. Challenging concepts and open-minded discussions are encouraged in such areas as history, philosophy, and doctrine. Strict adherence to a schedule of lessons is not followed whenever a question comes up and the study of applicable subject matter becomes necessary. Religion is a lifelong quest, requiring concentrated study, and a class should, therefore, never be boring or superficial - wasting valuable time.
Class Covenant and Principles
This Class shall adhere to the following ideals:
PRIORITIES OF ALLEGIANCE
1. We are faithful first to our Church and next to this Class.
2. We place authority in the Living Word (Christ) over the Written Word (Scripture).
PREREQUISITES TO LEARNING
1. An open Bible (Freedom of Interpretation)
2. An open Mind (Freedom from Creeds).
PARAMETERS OF DISCUSSION
1. We permit any question on any subject.
2. We respect all opinions.
PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER
1. Scholarship: seminary-level treatment of mature concepts.
2. Democracy: individual dignity, equality, and responsibility in all religious matters (Congregationalism).
Richard L. Atkins