Trinitarian epistemology and pedagogy : a somewhat Barthian theology for epistemology and its application in philosophy of education
A survey of historical and current epistemological options in chapter one reveals significant disagreement. The church ought to be able to speak to this situation, if it has faithfully thought about knowledge. A theology for epistemology, an epistemology-from-above, is needed. Epistemology-from-below may provide complementary confirmation, but this study explores the former. Our thesis is that God's (self-revelation of God's own) knowing guides how humans should know. Since we are made in his image, we can and ought to relate responsibly to others as God does - we should love others. That is, we should imitate God's epistemic stance. God's love is the best model for knowing anything. Since God is trinitarian in his being, his knowledge is also. After analysing the trinitarian theology of Karl Barth, in chapters two and three, we confirm that our knowledge should be characterised by humble objectivity and the manner in which we stand towards an object should be relational, historical and moral. A trinitarian theme in Barth leads us to identify three crucial concepts: committedness, openness and relationality. These form a teleologically ordered dialectic that profoundly assists our articulation of a trinitarian epistemology in chapter four. Ontologically, Father, Son and Spirit are at work when humans know. It seems the Father facilitates, the Son is criterion and the Spirit supervenes. Epistemologically, we conclude maximal true but partial knowledge of God is available through relational open committedness to God, through his Word. And maximal true but partial knowledge of anything is available through relational open committedness to the object before God. This is an epistemology of love. Trinitarian epistemology, we find in chapter five, is fruitful in application to philosophy of education. Rather than to a student- or teacher-centred pedagogy, it leads to a subject-centred and transformational pedagogy of love. The key is to cherish and challenge learners in relational ways to love the subject. Committedness, openness and relationality are a profound summary of God's love. They prove useful, not only in analysing Barth's theology, but more importantly, in optimising knowing and teaching. They discourage nihilism, dogmatism and instrumentalism. They encourage humility, confidence and patience. With God's help, they will assist us to 'be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love' (Eph 5:1,2).