Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: Abraham from @Logos

Today’s Review is actually for a curriculum produced by Logos Bible Software. I use Logos, and I like it, but the product family as a whole gets pricey. Which is why, though I recommend it as a resource for scholarship, I don’t suggest everyone needs it. But if you can afford it, it’s a great tool. They provided a free download of the complete curriculum in exchange for the review.

Many of us who grew up in church take the stories of the Bible for granted. We were born to Noah’s Ark storybooks and heard about Abraham from both the Egermeier’s Story Bible and the Beers’ Bible Story books. Then there were picture Bibles and children’s Bibles and….

You get the point. What we often miss is that our faith as Christians is not just a hereditary faith. It is a missionary faith. Which means that we bring people in who have not grown up knowing such things, and it is unfair to leave them at that disadvantage. Many times, we also miss this: teaching a child about Abraham, for example, leaves an impression but does always echo into adulthood like we might hope.

In all, it is good to go back and be reminded of the character and story of the Patriarchs, those early fathers of the Hebrew people. Alongside learning their stories, though, it is helpful to try and learn their land, their culture, and their world. It is a great benefit to grab hold Scripture as Truth while adding supplemental knowledge to help the Word come clearer to us.

Into that need slides, rather nicely, Logos’ curriculum on Abraham, titled Abraham: Following God’s Promise (link is to the main curriculum on Logos’ website). We have here an 8-session study in the life of Abraham. Logos has this bundled with videos for group introduction and with a leader’s guide for group discussion.

Let’s take the videos first. These are short, which is good. The goal here is not to learn from the video teacher but to facilitate discussion. The videos will also work as simple promotional spots to encourage attendance and participation in the study group. They are not overly flashy, which strengthens their usefulness.

Then the leader’s guide. A good leader’s guide makes it possible for nearly anyone to be able to lead the study by, at the least, providing references to look up and connect. The small group resources section of this guide does just that. It also provides the slides for Powerpoint or Keynote, as well as Logos’ system Proclaim. (No, there are no filmstrips/audio cassettes available. Sorry.)

Additionally, sermon outlines are provided, but I’ve never been good about preaching other people’s outlines. I would use the slides, though, and probably use the provided outlines as a guide for rewrite. There is nothing I see here that makes the material unusable, it’s just my personal preference against using another person’s sermon outline straight up.

Finally, the material. Each weekly session is structured in these parts: Setting the Stage; A Closer Look; Throughout the Bible; Beyond the Bible; Application; Further Reading. These provide:

  • Setting the Stage: Background information on context and genre.
  • A Closer Look: This is just the specifics of the passage itself. This includes some dips into Hebrew to explain finer points of the events.
  • Throughout the Bible: Gives a look at where the ideas from the focal section are shown in other parts of Scripture, including the theological idea from all of the text.
  • Beyond the Bible: Addresses references to this passage in non-Biblical but useful sources, such as Early Church Fathers or Jewish sources. These are valuable additions to the discussion.
  • Application: This is the how-to section, and is that challenging mix of generic and specific that should draw out thoughts without closing off too many possibilities.
  • Further Reading: Bibliography. I was surprised these were not Logos-linked.

Each section has a few questions with a place to type in answers, and these questions make good springboards for group discussion.

Is this curriculum good for you and your church to consider? Absolutely. It is text-centered and seeks to put a clear foundation on the life of Abraham. Those parts of his life that are filled-in via non-Scriptural sources are clearly delineated and allow for easy separation.

Further, the leader’s guide was easy to follow and I found the overall material worthwhile. The advantage of Logos-linking for Scripture references, words, and maps is obvious—one only needs to right-click and search for anything in the material that needs further explanation.

Some improvement could be found in accessing the slides if you do not have Proclaim. It was not too hard, and certainly not worth paying for Proclaim, but still a bit difficult. The only other drawback is the all-digital format. It’s helpful that the Logos website makes PDF and Word formats available, but I live in a semi-not-tech world out here, and if I told church members we’d be doing a digital book Bible study, I’d lose half the participants. So, I’d be using the old inkjet and making my own books, which end up not looking as good.

It’s not a real large problem, but it’s one for me.

I recommend this resource—I expect that the rest of the Patriarchs series up to the same quality and would gladly use it as well.

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