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Sem-Turtle: Funneling Global Epistemology

September 26, 2012

So this week I started on a new journey: I am enrolled in classes at Bethel University’s “Sem PM” program. I will be working on a three- or five-year seminary program that will end either in a Master’s in Theological Studies degree or a Masters of Divinities degree. The “PM” means that these are evening classes and I have not quit my day job!

My classes this quarter are Hermeneutics and Holistic Discipleship.

Juts to give you a small taste, it all started Monday night with Heremeneutics. The professor (Thorsten Moritz) describes his method of teaching as analogous to a funnel — we will spend the beginning portion of the course on a wide variety of general observations (the top, wide end of the funnel), and then we will progress towards applying these various themes to the narrow questions of biblical hermeneutics.

So our big funnel topic of exploration on Monday night was “global epistemology.” We were exploring different worldviews as to what is considered knowledge and how knowledge is attained. In a very rough and crude generalization, we landed on four models of knowledge — rationalism (Europe), pragmatism (the U.S.), relational/community (South), and renewalism (East).

Then our professor asked the question, “Which of these models best reflects the epistemology of Jesus?” The consensus answer seems to have been mostly relational/communal with a dimension of renewal. Jesus’ acts of knowledge emphasized the impact of truth on relationship and community. He also taught about re-birth and renewal.

But I wonder if there is not another way to look at this question (setting aside for the moment the overly generalized categories used for world epistemologies). We asked what epistemology best reflected Jesus’ own worldview. But I think one could easily make the argument that Jesus, as a master preacher and communicator, cared little about his own view of epistemology and instead adapted his message to the worldview of his audience. So to say that Jesus had a relational/communal epistemology may simply be a reflection of the community that he preached within. If we, ourselves, were to come face-to-face with Jesus, might he not adopt a more rational or pragmatic epistemology in order to reach us?

Just a thought.

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