Thursday, June 07, 2007

More on 'Knowing'

I happened to be reading a Q&A session where N. T. Wright (a leading New Testament Scholar) was answering some questions from the Wrightsaid email list. In context the questions generally centered around whether Jesus 'knew' he was God. In the answer that he gave he made some interesting statements about Love being the highest form of knowing and I thought it would be worth posting his answer here.

Are you equating 'justified, true belief' with 'propositional knowledge'? If so, I think I want to shift the terms of the debate quite radically. I want to ask, do you hold some kind of hierarchy of knowledge, whereby some kinds of things are the 'real' or 'deep-level' knowledge and others less so? As you may know, I have come to the view, following Lonergan, that love is the highest mode of knowing; and love, notoriously, is difficult to tie down in propositions. That doesn't mean it isn't knowledge, or that it isn't true, or that it isn't justified, or that it isn't real. I think vocational knowledge -- knowing, in prayer, what God is saying about who you are called to be and become and do -- is quite close to love. I think knowing that two plus two equals four, while fully justified and true and real, is ultimately less significant than knowing I love and am loved, and knowing that God really is calling me to do and be certain things. And my frustration with the debate that swirls around this whole topic of 'Jesus' self-knowledge' is that people often seem to talk as though 'did Jesus know he was God' is more like 'knowing two plus two equals four' whereas I think it's much more like love or vocation.

In other words, I guess I have been driven, by my years of immersing myself in the gospels and in their Jewish context, to rethink all sorts of things about knowledge itself. I'm not claiming that the way I currently put it is correct. I just know (in several senses!) that it makes very good historical sense, theological sense (within a very high Christology and full Trinitarianism), and that it does NOT mean in any way a 'weakening' of Jesus' self-knowledge but rather a strengthening of it. I'm grateful for the question but I would urge those who are puzzled by all this, not to give up or back off but stick with the question and consider whether their ideas of knowledge might need to be pulled about a bit. Or, if they don't want to do that, whether they are prepared to argue against the ideas of knowledge I'm finding myself driven to.

Unless we have that debate, what's happening is that some people are putting my rather careful statements onto the Procrustean bed of their own late-western epistemologies -- like trying to play a Beethoven quartet on a guitar...

No comments: