Yesterday afternoon, my colleague Doug ducked into my office with his mother-in-law’s copy of Robert Lee’s The Outlined Bible, and I had a thrill of delight to see an example of visually-sophisticated pedagogy:
Now, I don’t endorse this example uncritically! There’s plenty I would change about it. But here someone has manifestly thought about just what to put onto a one-page overview of the biblical book. Type, layout, and exposition have to work together to compose an effective tool for learning. (Witness likewise the famous Larkin Bible Charts, which add such persuasive force to dispensationalist theology.) And if one were to read James with this outline page in hand, or in memory, one would likely derive greater satisfaction from one’s reading (albeit an unsatisfactory satisfaction, from my perspective as a 21st-century critical scholar of James).
The Outlined Bible suggests that there’s no reason that design and teaching might not be allied in teaching materials for biblical studies. Instead, though, most of us produce words about words, a dessicated, immaterial, invisible alternative to visible, tangible, pedagogical rhetoric. It wouldn’t cost any denominational body much to put together a decent scholar and a decent designer to produce teaching materials to make a visual argument for sensible theological, biblical, ethical, historical learning. That’s what lay behind my Theologians Trading Cards (hat tip to the Revd Prof. Steve Lahey for the art) and the Early Church History ‘Top Trumps’ card game. I’m not holding them up as the best anyone can do — far from it! (though I’d put Steve’s drawings up against any pro’s) — but underscoring that we’ve got to make the effort. Come on!