Thursday, April 10, 2008

Objective Truth in Religion and it's Perils

On a listserve for progressive Brethren someone shared this post this morning:
I have been rereading Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach as a guiding focus as we do professional development for our principals next school year.

On the subject of how we perceive, he has some very interesting things to say. I will quote some of it here, and although it speaks of teaching, the words apply to far more.

"A mode of knowing arises from the way we answer two questions at the heart of the educational mission: how do we know what we know? and by what warrant can we call our knowledge true? Our answers may be largely tacit, even unconscious, but they are continually communicated in the way we teach and learn.A great post.

If we regard truth as something handed down from authorities on high, the classroom will look like a dictatorship. if we regard truth as a fiction determined by personal whim, the classroom will look like anarchy. if we regard truth as emerging from a complex process of mutual inquiry, the classroom will look like a resourceful and interdependent community. our assumptions about knowing can open up, or shut down, the capacity for connectedness on which good teaching depends. ...

For objectivism, any way of knowing that requires subjective involvement between the knower and the known is regarded as primitive, unreliable, and even dangerous. The intuitive is derided as irrational; true feeling is dismissed as sentimental; the imagination is seen as chaotic and unruly; and, storytelling is labeled as personal and pointless. ...

Years ago, Alfred North Whitehead declared that 'inert ideas' were the bane of higher education, deadening the process of teaching and learning for students and teachers alike. But for objectivism, the only good idea is an inert idea that like the lepidopterist's prize butterfly is not longer elusive and on the wing but has been chloroformed, pinned, boxed, and labeled. this way of knowing may render the world lifeless - but that, say its proponents, is a small price to pay for what they call objective truth. (pp. 50-52)"

"If we dare to move through our fear to practice knowing as a form of love, we might abandon our illusion of control and enter a partnership with the otherness of the world. By finding our place in the ecosystem of reality, we might see more clearly which actions are life-giving and which actions are not - and in the process, participate more fully in our own destinies, and the destiny of the world, than we do in our drive for control. This relational way of knowing - in which love takes away fear and co-creation replaces control - is a way of knowing that can help us reclaim the capacity for connectedness on which good teaching depends. (p. 56)"

What Palmer says about teaching is true in our complete lives as well. It is when we seek to define knowing for others (control) that we lose the more important call to relationship. In the Garden, God wanted relationship with Adam and Eve. God knew that once knowledge could be claimed, relationship was in jeopardy; therefore, the only prohibition was to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

How many do we see today who proclaim they *know* the truth of what is good and evil? How many relationships have been lost because of this objective truth?
A great post.

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