Culture and Understanding Scripture | Christian Education | Christian Colleges & Universities

Culture and Understanding Scripture

Interview with Stephanie Freeman, Author, Theological Studies Graduate, and Bible Studies Professor. 

Interview with Stephanie Freeman on Culture and Understanding Scripture

In the fast-paced and sometimes confusing nature of modern times, connecting the Bible to a righteous life is not always a clear cut and apparent path. Through her teaching and writing, Stephanie Freeman tries to show others the ways that the Bible can be a force of guidance, no matter what the issue.  

Freeman earned her Bachelor’s degree in English from North Carolina State University, and  her Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She then went on to earn a Masters of Theological Studies from Duke University. For twenty-three years, she’s been teaching at the college level and has been honored with teaching excellence awards and admittance to honors societies. Currently, she is an instructor and the Program Director for the Arts and Humanities Program at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina.

 In addition to the instructing she does in the classroom, Freeman also speaks at symposiums and conferences on such varied topics as “Online Education – The Benefits and Pitfalls,” “Recovering from Natural Disasters,” “Using the Written Word to Overcome Pain,” and “Fighting Spiritual Battles and Winning Them.” She is also often quoted and interviewed by publications as reputable as the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and Redbook. Freeman has authored a memoir about her survival through five natural disasters and a novel about one woman’s vibrant life of struggle and strength. 

Enjoy our full interview with Stephanie Freeman to find out how she holds strong to the principles of the Bible, even in the face of adversity and strife.

Tell us more about your education and background. What led you to study theology at Duke University and teach Bible studies and scripture courses?

I studied theology at Duke University because I wanted to develop a more intimate and academic knowledge of the scriptures. I wanted to be able to teach other people about the intricacies of scriptures and help them develop a love for them. When I read the scriptures, I know that I am connecting with my savior and the ruah breath of God. That is why scriptures give life to the one who embraces them.  I am currently an Elder in my church. I began as an ordained deaconess. Once I had been ordained, I began teaching the scriptures/the Bible. 

How did your education prepare you for the various roles you have now?

I love writing and I love teaching and studying scripture. My background in English and Theology helped to fuel those passions/loves. I have enjoyed reading some of the best books in the world, including the best book ever written—the Bible. I have also gotten to study various works with some of the most dynamic professors in their fields. 

The universities you attended are not considered Christian colleges, but do you think you would have benefited from attending a Christian education?

Yes, most definitely. I would love to attend a Christian college/university, and plan to do so soon. I want to obtain a doctorate, and I plan to obtain it from a Christian institution. 

What were some of the challenges of your theological studies graduate program? Were you faced with anything that compromised your personal beliefs?

I had professors whose beliefs did not agree with my own; however, I did not let them become the final authority in my life. I studied the scriptures, listened to the Holy Spirit, and made up my own mind about how I believed. For example, I had a professor that believed that all the stories in the Bible were made up by people trying to understand what they were seeing and what was happening on the earth. He believed these stories were merely folktales. I disagreed. I believe the events that are described and discussed in the Bible are true and actually happened.  I also believe the Bible contains future events (something many of my professors also ridiculed) and metaphors.  It is a book that is like no other in that it contains past, present, and future events.

How does your experience teaching Bible studies and exegesis shape your current and future aspirations?

I would love to one day start a school that focuses on Biblical studies. I want the school to show how God used various forms of expression (dancing, singing, poetry writing, etc.) to foster a deeper and more meaningful relationship with him. I also want to ignite a passion in other people to study the scriptures and to delve deeper and more frequently into them. 

Since the Bible was written, so many things in the world have changed. In studying exegesis, how do you interpret some modern, cultural issues through the lens of the Bible?

The Bible is the standard for living—period. From it, I get all of my standards for living. I exegete scriptures so that I can understand what the standards for living should be. Then, I look at what is happening in the world and in culture to see how they are measuring up to the standard. I don’t go the other way around. I don’t try to make the Bible conform to the world. I love the scripture that says, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19, KJV). When evil comes against Christians, we have a standard (the word of God) to hold up to it. 

What are some of the topics you discuss with your students?

I try to help them gain understanding of issues and problems in life. Some topics include:

  • Becoming a Successful College Student
  • How to Have/Develop a Successful Relationship and Marriage
  • Overcoming Molestation and Sexual Abuse
  • Recovering from Natural Disasters
  • Using the Written Word to Overcome Pain
  • Fighting Spiritual Battles and Winning Them

What part does social media play for you in spreading your message?

I use Facebook and Twitter on a limited basis. However, I have not developed a strong social media format to spread my message. I use articles and books that I have written (or been a contributor to) when spreading my message.

You’ve been a professor for over 20 years. What are some of the hardest questions you’ve been asked about the Bible and how did you respond?

I was asked why I believe the Bible is true. I said that first, I believe by faith that it is the inspired word of God. Second, I believe it has stood the test of time because it has and continues to change people for the better in ways that no other text can do. It has been criticized, ostracized, ridiculed, burned, and banned. Yet, people cling to it with their last breathes. They also get inspiration from it that takes them to the point of death and even into death without compromising their belief in it. Third, much of science continues to prove that the Bible is accurate. I don’t need that proof, but I like knowing that other people have proven what the Bible says has happened. 

What are some misconceptions people have about theology, Christian education, or the Bible? When you’re faced with those misconceptions, what have you done to debunk them?

I think the worst misconception is that some Christian beliefs are based on hatred and not love. I think that Christians have done much to foster this belief, but I also think that Christian beliefs come under attack because the word of God says they will. I try to lead with love. I try to show people the love of God before I show them the righteous hand of God. I may not agree with someone, but I don’t want my disagreement with them to be bigger than my love for them. That means, I have to be ready to show love even when I don’t feel like it or think that person deserves it. I don’t deserve love many times, but God loves me all the time. 

What is some advice that you would give to students who are considering attending or transferring to a Christian college or studying theology? How can students prepare themselves for the challenges?

Preparing for college is preparing for college (in some ways), no matter where you go. You have to prepare to study and work diligently and honestly, for example. However, if a student is going to attend a Christian college or study theology, he/she must understand that Christians do not always agree on theological issues. Even the most learned and scholarly Christians do not agree on every aspect of scripture. Sometimes, we have to develop a belief of our own based on our own studies and our faith. The Bible is not always cut and dry or black and white—it has to be interpreted. Christians have a comfort—that the basics of our foundation tenets are agreed upon and upheld (such as Jesus Christ as our savior or the importance of Holy Communion). Students can prepare themselves by not letting anything rock the core of their faith. They may get a different view, but they can always search the scriptures and pray for guidance. Also, they can read other credible sources to obtain more clarity on a doctrine.  

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