Influential philosopher of science, Michael Polanyi, wrote a few decades ago that there is a personal side to knowledge. He argued that everything about Science was not ‘scientific’. There is a tacit dimension. The whole scientific edifice is built on trust and he called this eco-system as the tradition of knowledge. This would mean that every student needs to recognize that we are not dealing with mere impersonal data and concepts, but rather that our personal values matter. One of the greatest teachers who ever lived engaged with his pupils both at an objective level of gyan and at an experiential side of anubhav. Dr Radhakrishnan engaged with the thoughts of Christ while at college and a significant area where he distinguished his view from the biblical message was that the ultimate was impersonal. It comes down to what is the Absolute – a Principle or a Person?
While Jesus was an influential teacher catching the imagination of the likes of Radhakrishnan and Gandhiji, let us look at some principles from this great teacher. In his interaction with the early disciples, Jesus moved seamlessly from the objective to the personal.
1. He was available – One of his early acquaintances asked him, ‘Teacher, where do you live?’ To that question on geography, Jesus opened up His life to discuss all subjects. He responded: ‘Come and see’. The teacher created space and time for his disciples to interact and learn from Him.
2. He was approachable – He was comfortable in the presence of His opponents, the marginalized in society, and even with children. John, his early disciple, records – ‘He was full of truth and grace’.
3. He enjoyed access to people – His social networking skills were remarkable. He wasn’t a spiritual recluse confined to the synagogue, but was found walking the dusty streets of Palestine, engaging with fishing communities by the seashore, and visited people in their homes. His ‘home delivery’ of God’s purposes was shocking as he visited his opponents’ homes and even the houses of those who were looting public money. His conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well shows how he comfortably transcended human-made barriers such as race, gender and ostracisation as an adulteress.
4. He was authentic – The sin Jesus most vehemently spoke against was hypocrisy. He once described people who looked religious but were deviant in their convictions as ‘white-washed tombs’. He moved his hearers to be ruthlessly honest with themselves. He could more easily accept an honest sinner rather than a dishonest saint. He said with sarcasm: ‘I have come for the sick, not for the healthy’.
In the New Testament, there are two Greek words used for knowledge. One is, oidas, meaning to have an opinion on something. It could mean knowledge about God and the other is ginosko, meaning relational knowledge. While it is good to know about God, isn’t it better to know God experientially? It is amazing how Jesus invited people to define how much they would like to engage and learn. He seemed to empower them that way.