A few days ago we had an interesting discussion in my Communication Studies Research Methods class (at least I thought it was interesting!)
We were talking about epistemology: what counts as knowledge, how do we know what we know.
Some people think that observing people counts as knowing; some think that you can’t know something that isn’t measurable; others think that unless you can prove it, it’s not true.
This is a big debate in research methods of all kinds, but especially in Communication Studies. So, naturally, we talked about it in class!
But then I started asking questions of the students.
“How do you know what you know about God?” “Can you believe things have to be proven and still be a Christian?” “If you think observation is knowledge, how can you observe God?”
They had puzzled looks on their faces and took my questions as rhetorical.
The questions continued in my head.
How can I think that each individual experiences each situation uniquely if I know there is only one true God? I think there are multiple truths out there, but I certainly don’t think there are multiple gods. Is it ok if we all read the same verse but come to different understandings? Does that make someone wrong?
I’ve thought these things many times before. Especially in grad school when we were continually pushed to find our place in the Research Methods world.
What do you think counts as knowledge? What do you think counts as truth?
Before ETBU, I have always been part of secular schools where we DO NOT talk about God. Especially in the classroom. So I never got to really hear anyone else’s take on the issue. And I still have questions.
Is there a Christian way to research? (Click to Tweet)
Is there a satanic way?
My Research Methods students know that I am a qualitative researcher – I am more interested in individuals’ unique experiences and perspectives than I am in finding the mean and standard deviation of an experience.
Simply put, I’d rather know what something means to you than how you feel about it on a scale of 1-7.
It’s easy to say that I’d like to know your personal faith story – because I would! And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with different ideas about different verses. As long as they’re not too different…
The place where I get stuck is reconciling these two beliefs:
1. I believe in One. True. God. And that His son came to earth to die on the cross for our sins. No question. No perspective. Just truth.
2. I believe everyone socially creates their own reality through communication and that everyone’s experience is their own truth.
Contradictory? Maybe… I don’t think so, but I can’t explain why.
Do any of you struggle with questions like these? Have you come up with any conclusions?
I come back to James 1:5 -
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”