Keith Dennis is just about to finish over thirty years of military service, which is quite surprising since he and his brother Bo both burnt their draft cards while protesting the Vietnam War back at the University of Illinois in 1970. And speaking of the University of Illinois, that's where he started getting his liberal religious education. You see, while a student there he came under the influence of a newly PH-Deed associate professor named Vernon K. Robbins, who was fresh from the University of Chicago's graduate school of religion and theology. Keith took an undergraduate Old Testament course taught by Robbins and began learning some new stuff about the history of the Bible that was not taught in Keith's previous Sunday School classes. For instance, he learned that the Noah story was practically a rip-off of the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic with a few name changes. And that the first chapter of Genesis--the Creation Story-- was suspiciously similar to an earlier Sumerian story called the "Enuma Elish". Needless to say, his curiosity was piqued as to what other ancient tales were also appropriated by the Hebrews. Such knowledge certainly blew a hole in the belief that the Bible was a unified book dictated by God to the scripture writers.
Interestingly, Dr. Robbins later left the University of Illinois and went on teach for many years at Emory University in Atlanta. He became a fellow of the Jesus Seminar and was one of the earliest proponents of using a knowledge of ancient rhetorical styles to compare and contrast scriptures. He was a fascinating individual that got the liberal theological ball rolling for me.