Disembodied Knowledge

What follows is a first draft section of my upcoming book: “Truth & Knowledge: A New Biblical Paradigm for Christian Education.” This header will be removed as the draft is finalized. Feedback is welcome – leave a comment!

The problem of Being described in the previous section only emerged as philosophy turned inward upon itself seeking to discover its own truth rather than to discover something outside of itself. In doing this, it lost its power to point the individual toward a better way of being, and confused the individual with endless questions about whether there was even such a question. This emphasis took at least one intermediary step between the Greek philosophers, who sought out how to live lives of virtue and those enlightenment philosophers who gave up on the quest altogether. This intermediary step was probably the end result that Socrates feared would happen if ideas were captured in books instead of people. Truth became a disembodied concept that could be poured from the mouth using words that belonged to another into the listening ear of anyone who could be attracted to its sound. Similar to the sophists who began to use rhetoric for the sake of rhetoric and fame, the philosophers (known for their love of wisdom), began to use philosophy for the sake of philosophy rather than for the sake of truth. It was possible to demonstrate a way of life that completely contradicted the creed one claimed to hold sacred.

The Medieval Church bears much blame for the walking contradiction that it became in the dark ages of history, but this is due less to an inaccurate collection of truth, than to an acceptance of its disembodiment. To chop off the head of someone who disagrees with your opinion about the nature of God is to prove knowledge of something other than the nature of God. Words and religious practice are meaningless if they do not spring from the proper source. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to listen than the fat of Rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). It is the double-minded man who is unstable in all his ways that should not expect to receive wisdom from God even when he asks for it (James 1:6). “How long,” asked Elijah “will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:22). Holiness requires a full commitment to one way of being. A house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25).

If it is possible to think of knowledge as a collection of information rather than as an intimate acquaintance, then it is possible to claim knowledge without putting forth a single shred of effort. Think of all the college graduates who have certified knowledge in everything under the sun except what they really know. As any student can tell you, the true knowledge of college is the art of getting by or getting laid. Those who truly attempt to seek a state of knowledge in anything other subject are too often stifled by a process that provokes more frustration than learning. (This is, of course, too much of a generalization, but its reality is far too apparent to ignore). My objective in such a harsh critique is not to blame the faculty, among whom I count myself, but to ask how we found ourselves in such a dire situation where those who want to learn and those who want to teach face such an impossible challenge.

In the first place, a majority of people are not even aware of the possibility of knowledge, and if they have heard of the concept and desire to find it, they begin with the wrong approach: collecting the data that is so readily accessible. Drowning in facts is perhaps the commonest way to stifle the flame of a young seeker. Too much information too fast is impossible to relate to. Instruction that focuses on this end of the process will tend toward one of two directions: pride in the person’s ability to remember and pretend to embody, or shame in the apparent inability to measure up. Thus, churches and schools are filled with those who pretend knowledge and fear lest the light of wisdom and truth should shine upon their broken and empty hearts. These have looked to the fig leaves of the surrounding world to cover their nakedness as they hide from that which could bring them life (Genesis 3:7-8). Unfortunately, the easier option is pretending there is no problem at all and making the claim that knowledge cannot be found, does not exist, or is of a different nature than a relationship between the knower and the known.

Thus, the separation of humanity from its source of Being leaves two options: to claim that Being doesn’t matter/doesn’t exist, or to seek to rediscover the connection between ourselves and that which is. For the ancient Hebrews, this looked like a pursuit of wise living in accordance with the commandments of God.

Leviticus 18:4-5

You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statues and my rules; if a person does them he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

For the Greek philosophers, this looked like the practice of a virtuous life. The pursuit of virtue could guide the person seeking to live in the way of wisdom. The pursuit of virtue is a predefined pathway of restoring that connection. In this way, religion offered the same solution as philosophy. The love of wisdom is not a pretense of knowledge, but rather an attempt to find life. For virtue is only apparent in its demonstration. One does not consider a person generous until something is given. The beginning of the process of transformation is the humble recognition that one is not virtuous – as long as I think myself to be a wise person, I will have no incentive to acquire wisdom. Aristotle supposes that one must be trained in virtue because it is not a natural practice for the human person. By nature, we seek to conform the world we encounter to ourselves rather to respond to what the sages have discovered is true. We would rather settle for what is easy than to work for what is worthwhile, and the transition from one choice to the other is what requires education.

In part, this reflects the Biblical view in which humanity was given the commission to have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). This does not appear to have changed throughout the biblical narrative. Rather, Paul says that “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). The blessing given to Noah repeated the blessing given to Adam, except it added a note that the fear and dread of mankind would be on all of the creatures (Genesis 9:2). If by nature of his identity as one bearing the image of God, Adam was supposed to rule, the men who stepped off the ark were so far removed from this image (in spite of being saved) that all the creatures lived in dread. Even today, it is only with careful attention and great amount of time that humans and the creatures we consider tame can form the bond of relationship that it seems they must desire. Thus, it is by nature that we seek to rule, but unless we learn to find our identity in the image of God rather than in our own image, the result of our rule will not be a restoration of peace. I believe it was to address this problem that Aristotle proposed that training in virtue was necessary.

To All My Single Friends: Why Wait?

A long reflection from Valentine’s Day and introduction to some bigger concepts that inform my upcoming book on Christianity and sexuality: “The Choice”

Inevitably, I have once again spent too much time thinking about the ideas in my head and not enough time writing them down to match the expectations of the public audience for a blog post on love that emerges 7-12 days before February 14. Today the Valentine’s Day holiday season is  over and non-single people no longer feel the obligation of casting sympathetic glances at anyone who does not appear laden with gifts of pink hearts and chocolate – (This year my good friends set me up with a literal date…I think it was probably organic)! Yet, the struggle exacerbated by this holiday will last the rest of the year for some Christian young adults who find themselves outside the context of a relationship with someone special. In light of the occasion, I wanted to share something I have been learning, which strikes at the heart of the identity crisis experienced by so many unmarried individuals at least one day out of the year.

In order for a relationship to succeed, the individuals involved must learn the art of submission. Submission is a touchy concept within relationships and marriage, but I believe this is the result of misunderstanding its nature. When approached from the perspective of honour and identity, submission becomes a tool of empowerment by which singleness and marriage both acquire tremendous value.

In the world of Christendom, marriage is looked upon as a holy sacrament, a demonstration of Christ and the church, the subject of political debate, or worst of all the inevitable conclusion of a heart connection between two people. The issue is not that marriage is bad for relationships, but that for many people it has become a destination to reach, not necessarily a journey to be started. The difference is similar to a mistake that is made when people view ‘salvation’ as a single event rather than a life-long process of transformation.

In my opinion, marriage is a relational process that is recognised and supported by a public proclamation of commitment to its ongoing development. To mistake the public declaration for the thing itself is to rob marriage of its full potential. It is like assuming that a person has been saved because they said some magical phrase or prayer. The ceremony and the prayer were never meant to be the destination, they are simply the celebration or recognition that a journey is in progress and has reached a certain (rather undefined) point. Unless a person has taken the time to pursue the relationship that these recognise, the formalities become laughable. After all, a contract is only as good as the people who commit to it.

Within the marriage ‘contract’, two people commit to letting another person define the context in which they will live their lives. In the relationship between Christ and the church a similar mystery takes place in which each becomes the context through which the other is fully expressed. As the unity grows, the range of expression also grows. On the other hand, without Christ, church becomes meaningless; without husband, wife is a pointless term.

Certainly the way in which each partner of the relationship expresses and responds to the other will vary, but the choice remains the same: to make someone else the context in which one will ever more fully disclose and express his or her identity. Unfortunately, for many people the disclosure of identity or the proactive limitation of individuality are terrifying thoughts. Marriage is supposed to add something, not take something away – and certainly it does. The depth of relationship that can be achieved within this context can be incredibly empowering. It is beautiful and unique, but not the epitome of goodness. In fact, unless the partners are willing to learn the art of submission, they will not discover the power that exists within this relationship.

Those who are not voluntarily limited in their expression of identity by the context of marriage can find a similar level of satisfaction and empowerment when they learn to make others the context of their self-expression. What is lacking in depth is made up for in variety. Marriage and singleness each have their own sweet reward for learning the art of actively submitting one’s life to the benefit of others.

In my understanding, this submission is not a passive affair in which one individual is dominated by another, but rather an active choice to invest oneself fully into another without expecting a particular outcome. Such an investment inevitably results in a heightened level of relationship in which one shares in the joy, success, sorrow, and failure of the other. Therefore it is very important to wisely choose where this investment is made. At the same time, though, we must remember that the very existence of such a relationship is rewarding in itself regardless of the outcome.

Sadly, there are some who believe that unless this investment results in a marriage, it has been wasted. If they see no potential for a long-term commitment, they will not make any kind of investment. They will only choose to submit their life to the context of another person if they can expect to receive something back. One reason that so many people find themselves in this scenario is that they have been hurt when their past expenditures of time and energy into another person have not paid out in the way they expected. Or perhaps they chose to submit themselves to the context of a person that was harmful for them.

The issues is not that the person chose to invest in a relationship, but that they expected the relationship to supply them with some sense of identity. Even within a marriage, the husband or wife can not provide the other with a complete sense of identity. Relationships are a context for the expression of identity, not the source of it. Both individuals must let themselves be defined by something greater which can supply purpose and meaning to their lives, which they can invest in the pursuit of a more dynamic relationship. Without this external input, it is possible to see relationships in which individuals begin to make demands of each other rather than giving of themselves to each other. These reflect the sad case of the planet earth which is under the dominion of a people who do not understand who they are and ask of the earth to give them of itself to provide them with a sense of identity. The earth has no choice but to submit and this has often caused it harm. So it is with people who enter relationships without knowing who they are and needing their partner to provide them with a sense of identity.

It is therefore impossible for a single or a married person to experience the deep satisfaction of submission without first learning what it means to submit one’s life to the context of perfect love. For example, this past week I met a wise old woman who has spent the past several years of her life caring for a husband who died, a mother who also died, and now caring for the elderly in nursing homes who have nothing to give back. Where does she get the energy to continue pouring herself into the lives of these people? If she required some kind of validating response from those she invested her life in (submitted to by making them the context of her self-expression), her situation would be tragic. However because her first submission is to a being that also makes her the context of His expression, she is constantly filled with more love to give.

Within the created order, the man receives his identity from God, but requires woman to the be context of its expression. As a part of the man, woman also receives her identity from God, but requires man to provide the context of her expression. No human being is complete without someone else to provide the context for the expression of our humanity. We were not made to be alone. Marriage is a mysterious context in which the level of trust engenders a more full expression of oneself. But why wait until this season of life to begin experiencing the joy of submitting your life into the context of another?

Who can become the context in which you express the person that God has made you to be? Where can you invest the gifts that he has given you? If you do not have a wife or a significant other, the answer may prove to be less obvious. However, it is no less important. As we learn to submit ourselves to God by making Him the context of our lives, He will  give us the opportunity to give what we have to others without expecting anything in return. Though the decision of where we invest our lives is crucial, the reward of this investment is not in the result but in the giving itself.

Thus, the conclusion that I have come to is that neither marriage nor singleness is a perfected state, but simply a setting in which to experience the joy of making others the context by which I express the nature of God that is within me. Relationships are not about receiving, but about sharing what I have to give with others. I cannot do this in any other way besides through the unique characteristics, interests, and skills that God has given me. Furthermore, I cannot share these things freely unless I am certain that I will be rewarded, which is why I must first learn to submit to God (or make Him the context of my life).

As I test the waters, I am beginning to discover that is truly more blessed to give than to receive. On the other hand, it is foolish to begin taking my identity from what I can give to someone else. I will never be everything that they need. The beauty of relationship is in the limitation of my self-expression to the context of other people. Because it is a limitation, the choice of where I choose to do this is incredibly important. It is possible to submit my life to investing in other people just because I need somewhere to do it…and this is not always a good thing! To all the amazing women that I know, please take this is a plea to not compromise your potential by making a man without character and wisdom the sole context in which you express your identity. Let yourselves be defined by love (i.e. submit to God) and choose to share the amazing person He has made you with others in ways that add value and empower you to be great!

And finally, men, it’s time to stop pretending we don’t want to grow up and embrace the privilege and responsibility of maturity. This appeal is not to let go of the qualities that are uniquely us, but to develop these and to maximise their potential in our lives by learning how to submit them to the context of the people that are around us. It means choosing to take control of the direction our lives are going and wrestle, fight, pray, and shape them into something we can be proud of. This means learning to overcome our selfish tendencies by making others into the context of our self-expression.

Why wait until a marriage ceremony says that this is what is supposed to happen? Enjoy the benefits, the blessing, the joy, the pain, and the amazing experience of learning to submit your life to love (God) and then to express this in the context of deepening relationships with those around you. It is within this context (not marriage, not singleness, but submission) that the individual transcends the limitations of fear and selfishness to become the transforming power of love in the world. You don’t need a marriage relationship to begin. The best time to start is now!

***

More related articles and posts will be coming out as I complete the first draft of a book exploring identity and relationships in the context of sexuality and the church. Some of these will provide more detailed biblical and logical support for the broad topical overview supplied here. Learn more about my upcoming book, “The Choice” here. http://charlesheyworth.com/publications/love-lust-power/ Please let me know what you think. Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Need clarification? Let me know and you can be a part of bringing hope and restoration to at least one small part of our world. Courage, friends!

A Prediction for Higher Education

Less than 300 years ago, an institution existed throughout western Europe known as the guild. The guild was the center of commerce in the same way that the universities were the center of thought. In contrast to the guild where individuals learned to master trades through a complex system of apprenticeship, universities more closely resembled the monastic communities of the church where individuals dedicated their lives to the cultivation of their hearts and minds. These were the centers of literacy, art, and the less-practical subjects of the humanities (the domain of the elite).
When technology like the printing press made information widely available, literacy became a valuable commodity and teachers came from the intellectual centers to provide general schooling for the public. The wider accessibility of information did not replace the professor but changed his role into one of a guide for those wishing to encounter the information for themselves. They began to teach the public to read, write, and interact in a more complex world than had ever existed. The only requirement for a respectable commercial job at this point was probably the ability to read, spell, and add.
Meanwhile, craftsmen received their training through apprenticeship and their credentials through the guild. The title of “master” was conferred upon the one who was recognized within the guild as an expert in the trade. Sound familiar? Churchmen received their training through the church. Farmers learned the trade from their family. Those who attended university did so because they had the luxury of time and money to develop their network, their understanding of abstract concepts that were not useful on the farm, and perhaps even indulge their curiosity in the sciences. In some cases higher education was a necessity as they needed to understand principles of law and government that they would use in leadership positions within the community.
As time passed, this exclusive education in the liberal arts became more widely available and in countries like the United States, basic literacy itself was no longer a competitive advantage. One needed a high school degree in order to demonstrate greater potential for participating in more complex jobs. The businesses were too small to train the one accountant they needed and so economies of scale led to mass training for accountants. Those who did not participate in this training could no longer get a job as a book-keeper. And so a trend began in which the well-paying jobs required years of study to prepare for participation. Those who learned the information on their own lacked the credentials of the college and were not always recognized as capable. The university degree thus became the key to both the information and the certification needed for a respectable job. 
It had effectively replaced the guild, the church, and the community as the primary source of introducing information and credentialing individuals. But then the industrial age came to an end with the advent of the information age. As industry became automated, the value of the homogenous individual disappeared and the specialist (craftsman) began to reappear. The guild came back with a vengeance under the guise of internships and technical college where students received training and certification for their pursuit of a trade. But more importantly, the internet was born as a new way of producing and sharing information through digital technology.
Like the printing press, it opened up a whole new world of information and complexity to individuals. And just like the role of the professor changed then, it will have to change again. The internet has replaced the university as the repository and dispensary of information. The professor is no longer the expert in the subject when compared with the collected knowledge of the world. The value of the campus as a place of learning and innovation has fallen relative to the amazing laboratories and experimental centers run by private companies. An internship with a well-respected company is more valuable for job prospecting than a degree at this point. And those who do get a job participate in ongoing corporate training to master their company’s particular knowledge base. As the guild (read corporations) has begun to resume its credentialing and training power, it is leaving the university in a rather uncomfortable position of irrelevance.
I believe this is a good thing as the next 20 years will see the university begin to re-assume its position as the thought center of society.
Imagine children are trained in literacy by artificial intelligence designed by education specialists and technology gurus who learned their trades from dedicated schools on the subject and interact with a worldwide network of related individuals developing a greater depth of information about the field. The learning experience for the children is designed particularly for them from a dizzying database of information and can produce a high school or college level of subject mastery by the time the child has barely reached 13 years of age. Then they will begin to specialize in some particular field and join the worldwide conversation mediated by technology around a particular subject or career field. Some have speculated that at this point the institutions of the church of government, and of education will all be subsumed by the corporation, but I believe that if they adapt, these institutions will find their roles enhanced and expanded by the developments in technology that come from these corporations.
For most people, the university will no longer be a necessary part of a life that is filled with learning through exploration and interaction through digital and real world spaces. History will be experienced live through virtual worlds and ancient places can be explored with accompanying meta-information and guidance that is currently locked away in vaults and virtual databases waiting to expose its secrets to the world. Math will be visual and interactive. Virtual skyscrapers will rise and fall on the mastery of physical properties demonstrated by students in a safe and collaborative environment for exploration. In the rush of available information, much of humanity will be at a loss for how to transform it into something useful.
This is where the university will find its identity by returning to its quiet and noble roots of philosophy, literature, government, poetry, and art which will give meaning and value to the mad process of learning undertaken by the rest of the world. Perhaps for some, university will be a lifelong dedication, for others it will be a detour on the way to more information, and some might find a week at the university to be a relaxing vacation in a quiet and artistic setting removed from the rush of learning. But in order to return to its foundations and maintain its relevance in the next decades, the university must ask an important question: what is education? 

For if education is simply the mastery of one’s subject, the university will be replaced by a digital crowd-sourced environment for discovering and interacting with information. If, on the other hand, learning is the mastery of oneself and subjects cannot be separated from the individuals who engage with them, the university will play a prominent role in the success of individuals using the available technology in a way that is profitable. In this second scenario, the university will become the center for the development of the individual as a holistic being who not only thinks and feels, but breathes and moves and loves and creates and will never be confined to a mere cog in the digital machinery of the information age!

Read more at www.humancenteredlearning.com

A Majority Vote

“Does anyone realize what just happened?”, I wondered silently from the sidelines as the crowd in the auditorium slowly rose to their feet. Within minutes the applause had died down and the audience resumed their happy Sunday morning chatter. Nobody seemed to realize the decision they had made as a community to stay true to certain ideals would be just one small piece of an argument slowly assembling to challenge and perhaps change the political scene in their city and perhaps their nation. For a moment, the majority voice shouted a unison of ayes and no one dared speak up to question the decision. No one opposed the movement. In a decision so momentous shouldn’t there some question about the proper direction, said me disagreement, some sense of uncertainty?

I felt like I was the one person among hundreds that questioned the wisdom of the decision, but knew that my voice would be instantly discredited if I chose to dissent. I wasn’t a member of this group anyhow. If I was, perhaps I would think no differently than the others.
What worries me is not the logic of the decision. The rationale behind the vote made sense given the immediate context. What worries me is that it completely overlooked the negative implications that will come to light once the group recognizes the larger context in which they may no longer comprise a majority.
Outside of the building, how does the decision impact the image of the church? Does it undermine the core message and doctrine by choosing to emphasize a certain argument? Will people who disagree respect the process by which the corporate decision was ratified? Can the validity of the decision be supported simply on the basis of majority belief? Most importantly, though, what will be the impact of this decision?
 James Baldwin Quote