Sociology and Scripture merge in new book from ONU dean

“This book is a call to the people of God to understand that God’s Word has a timeless significance that reaches across the centuries and still stirs, instructs, and inspires His people in the 21st century.”

May 10, 2023 Alumni & Friends

Dr. Kent Olney has long made the study of God’s Word a personal daily practice. As a sociologist trained to observe and analyze the interconnectedness of life’s many facets, he continues to marvel at the relevance of Scripture for all of life. Sixty-Six: A Sociologist Reflects on Scripture, Its Themes, and Their Relevance is Dr. Olney’s new book that brings together inspiration and knowledge in a refreshing challenge for church leaders and laypersons to re-engage with Scripture.

“We live in a world where so many competing voices threaten to drown out the value and relevance of God’s written Word,” says Dr. Olney, dean of Olivet Nazarene University’s College of Arts and Sciences. “This book is a call to the people of God to understand that God’s Word has a timeless significance that reaches across the centuries and still stirs, instructs, and inspires His people in the 21st century.”

In writing this book, Dr. Olney was inspired by both his personal study and his interactions with the members of the intergenerational Christian education class, “Scripture and Society,” he and his wife, Beth, co-taught for nearly 20 years. Much of this book’s content comes from Bible reflections he shared with more than 100 class members via email when their class couldn’t meet in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The whole time of writing was a rich spiritual time for me,” he shares. “Not only did I include many personal stories, but God’s Word was penetrating my heart in some new and important ways. I’ll be honest. God used the writing for me as much as, if not more than, for my readers.”

Sixty-Six combines Biblical truth, sociological insights, personal stories, and reflection questions for personal or group consideration. A theme is identified from each of the 66 books in the Bible, and then that theme is discussed, analyzed and related to contemporary life.

As an academic dean and professor, Dr. Olney models how to bring together academic disciplines and God’s Word. From his viewpoint, both students and faculty benefit when challenged to consider how Scriptures speaks to their area of study. He is committed to leading the way in showing how the influences of faith and society work together and relate with one another. Sixty-Six speaks to the wholeness believers find in God for every part and every day of their lives.

“So much that is going on in our society today can be understood through the lens of God’s Word,” Dr. Olney says. “Tragically, however, too many of us no longer take the Word seriously. Just like U.S. Route 66 once served as a primary roadway across America but is now obsolete, the Bible risks becoming an obsolete artifact held in a museum. We dare not let that happen. Its message is universal and timeless. We need God’s Word more than ever.”

Dr. Olney believes strongly in not only the relevance of God’s Word, but the power it has to transform homes, communities and lives. From his perspective as a leader in Christian higher education, he is seeing more challenges than ever for today’s college students. One of those challenges is the trend toward superficiality and shallowness in knowledge, relationships, and personal commitment.

“Our job at ONU, as a Christian university, is to prepare students to realize their God-given potential, while urging them to become compassionate servants,” he says. “Graduates leave ONU and go on to make a significant difference in their communities. We see this happening time and time again.”

Another stressor for today’s college students is the many choices they face in nearly every area of life. “My friends and I couldn’t wait to graduate from college and head into the real world beyond our campus,” Dr. Olney says. “Today, I sense in our students much more apprehension and uncertainty about the world. Our job is to prepare students for their future and invite them into the attractive possibilities that await them. And most of all, to assure them that the sovereign Lord goes before them and is with them.”

An ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene, Dr. Olney served as a pastor and professor at a state university in Oregon for several years. In 1995, he and his family joined the Olivet family. He holds a PhD and MS from the University of Oregon, MA from Gallaudet University, MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary, and BA from Asbury College.

Sign language and the deaf community are significant parts of Dr. Olney’s life. Not only did he grow up with deaf siblings, but he has also been active in deaf ministry, education, research and sign language interpreting. He has more than 20 years of experience as a professional sign language interpreter, and has interpreted at a number of religious and political events around the country.

To learn more about Olivet Nazarene University, contact the Office of Admissions at or 800-648-1463.


Published 5/10/23

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