Tuesday, July 08, 2008

BOOK REVIEW! To Know as We Are Known by Parker Palmer

I had to read this book in my Educational Ministries class and i really LOVED this book. Here is a little review i put together, enjoy!

The main thesis put forth by Parker Palmer in To Know as We are Known is that truth is relational. Parker makes the case that education is at it’s best when it reflects this model. The quest for truth, by this definition, is a quest for self and for community with each other, with all creation and with our Creator. We cannot be removed from the equation and viewed as entities observing truth. We must be a part of it and be willing to be transformed by it. This way of life is only as secure as your relationships, and relationships are a lot of work. Parker’s truth is not to be found in our various doctrines or theologies (as these are partial, impersonal), but in the quality of our relationships.

There can be groups of people who just want the easy, impersonal relationships. I see these in extreme fundamentalist religions. These are a threat to community as a rigid adherence to doctrine takes an objectivist stance that reduces everyone to mere objects for conversion. There is also a subjectivist view when these groups lay claim to the absolute truth and those outside the circle are destined for damnation. In both instances of objective and subjective stances go against this idea of personal truth and how it involves relationships.

Some would claim that Parker is too vague and too idealistic. I don’t see this at all. Parker simply strips away all the systems we’ve added to get to the natural way to truth through community. We’ve ritualized education; we’ve synthesized and systemized for the sake of a controlled path to truth. Parker offers a look back to where we started, a world where relational community met life or death and this fact brought us closer to God.

The problem I see is that America is built on competition. We are a capitalistic society from the get go. Parker’s “truth is relational” stance flies in the face of our society and this makes the idea that much harder to get people to listen to it. How can you enforce good community? How can you measure it? In this area I wish Parker should have gotten down to the nuts and bolts, as this is what the theory hinges upon.

The question of building a good community is one that I will carry with me into my ministry. I will measure my effectiveness in how well my community has bonded. I won’t deal in the currency of answers, but that of questions. The more questions raised, the better and deeper dialogue my future congregation can have and thus a better chance at building true, loving relationships. This method is much more messy and uncontrolled but isn’t this how Jesus taught? Isn’t this how God ultimately connects with us? We build systems that inherently block this truth in the name of controlling and measuring education. The last thing we need is another system as we’ve had the answer in each other all along.

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…” (John 14:12) This is the call of Christian education. We are called to be the way, the truth, and life ourselves. We must become the incarnation of truth. Jesus also gave us the only way to do this is when he said, “When two or three are gathered…” (Matt 18:20)

1 comment:

John T. said...


"Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names."

By the way did you get my email, and when are you going to be in Michigan in August? The wife and I were thinking of taking a road trip.