LOVING TO KNOW:
Introducing Covenant Epistemology
This book develops covenant epistemology, an innovative, biblically compatible, holistic, embodied, life-shaping epistemological vision in which all knowing takes the shape of the interpersonal, covenantally shaped, relationship. Knowing is less about information and more about transformation; less about comprehension and more about being apprehended. Rather than knowing in order to love, we love in order to know. I want to show that all knowing is like knowing God—a transformative encounter. Covenant epistemology creatively blends insights from Michael Polanyi’s philosophically revolutionary epistemological proposals, the motif of covenant as historically unfolding interpersonal relationship (theologian Michael D. Williams), and an important exploration of “interpersonhood,” (John Macmurray, Martin Buber, and James Loder). Covenant epistemology rings true to the urgent calls for an interpersonally relational epistemology of missiologist Lesslie Newbigin and educator Parker Palmer, as well as to the Christian Scripture. It offers critically needed “epistemological therapy” in response to the pervasive, damaging, hampering, presumptions that people, churches, and institutions in Western culture continue to bring to efforts to know, formal or informal, religious or professional. The book’s innovative approach—an unfolding journey and conversation together—itself subverts standard epistemological presumptions of timeless linearity. While it offers a sustained and sophisticated philosophical argument, Loving to Know’s texts and textures interweave loosely to effect therapeutic epistemic transformation in the reader.
Download a PowerPoint I made
to accompany my 2012 RZIM
Institute Lectures on L2K.
“Nobody acquainted with philosophical epistemology would associate it with eloquence or passion. So Loving to Know is extraordinary, because this is epistemology presented with both eloquence and passion, addressed to the person ‘on the street’ but at the same raising issues that professional philosophers should take account of. In a most creative way, Professor Meek takes Michael Polanyi's epistemology, which she perceptively and lucidly summarizes, into new terrain. She argues that to come to know as we ought to come to know is to keep covenant. It is to be faithful both to the known and to oneself, the knower. So take and read. And when you do, you will learn that how the book came about is itself an example of the theory, as is the innovative structure of the discussion. The formation and presentation of the theory display the theory.”
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University
"Esther Meek has given a good gift in Loving to Know, continuing her lifelong reflections on a more human and truthful understanding of knowledge. Drawing on the best of scholarship, she is her own scholar too, offering a unique vision of a covenant epistemology, a way of knowing that is deeply personal and responsible, because it is profoundly relational. A book for every one of us, as we take up the most perennial of human questions, viz. what will we do with what we know?”
Steven Garber, Director, The Washington Institute
“This book is a tour de force of clarity, depth, and compelling wisdom. Esther Meek argues that we become what we love and that if we love truth then we must love to engage in the interpersonal dialogue of seeing the world well through the prism of another's heart. Her premise is lived out through dialogue with a range of authors that makes my head spin. She seizes their wisdom and yet pursues it further to the person of Christ than any I have read. This is an epistemologically therapeutic embrace of how to live well in the world of divergent thought that nevertheless longs to reveal Jesus as the center of all true wisdom. It is a breathtaking and beautiful labor.”
Dan B. Allender, Professor of Counseling Psychology and Founding President, Mars Hill Graduate School
"Loving to Know is a marvelous follow-up to Meek's Longing to Know. Like her earlier work, this is clearly the work of a masterful, compassionate teacher inviting a wide audience to reflect on the nature of knowledge. Here is epistemology for the people, so to speak. In the process, through a rich set of conversation partners, Meek puts her own stamp on a Reformed epistemology that makes love and covenant central to our account of knowing. An excellent achievement."
James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College
Click the button above to download a helpful
summary of Loving to Know by one of my
students at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, TX.
"Wanted to express my thanks for your new book - what a masterpiece! You really have written something special. I will be facilitating a learning party at the little neighborhood church I am a part of and we will be purchasing 15 copies or so."
Paul Sparks, Tacoma, Washington
Click Here for Andrew Grosso's review for Tradition and Discovery: The Polanyi Society Periodical.
"Dancing through Esther Meek's Loving to Know is what we all need to do, right now. Wherever she pushes you, stop and ponder. Take courage to hope again, that there really is a there there after all, and that you can move ahead in knowing it, since you already do! Yes, you do know and you are knowing. Yes, you are known too. Against the complexities of philosophical jargon, Meek displays hope for living in the real world, and challenges you to flourish in that confidence.
"Follow her in giving an enthusiastic burial to the old dream of a world of facts, standing all alone in splendid isolation. With her, be also radically discontent with today's relativistic vacuums. Could there be a third way, Meek's way? That she learned from Michael Polanyi: scientists truly make discoveries, and they know that they will. They already know where they are going before they get there! Could we do that too, and enjoy that we know where we want to go? Could we employ in that quest all we have: our bodies, our skills, our friends, our being loved and loving?
"Meek showed us that in her earlier Longing to Know. Loving builds upon it, passionately and oh-so-comprehensively. Polanyi science is not the only game in town; there are also 'conversations' with: philosopher of religion John Macmurray, psychologist and theologian James Loder, marriage counselor David Schnarch, theologians Colin Gunton and Philip Rolnick, and especially education guru Parker Palmer.
"As I am a theologian, I find the interactions with Calvinist theologians John Frame and Mike Williams especially provocative. Meek honors Calvinist comprehensiveness, where knowledge of God relates to knowledge of anything. She appreciates Frame's presuppositional approach, where your understanding of the big picture impacts how you see any piece; but she hopes that can be cast in a more positive way, so it means something more than, if you're not a Christian you don't know anything. She works well with the Williams insights into the unfolding character of God's revelation to us, in 'biblical theology.' (Can she can do still more with Williams, as God's continued revelation emphasizes his patience--though he has been ignored before he still persists?)
But why am I looking backward, to what she has said? Isn't Meek's whole point to nudge us to look at the vast frontier vistas before us? What would your world be like, if you began to build solidly on what you already know and envision and hope for? (I am reminded always of the insights of the theological giant Jay Adams, as he told us: have hope, you can change! Of course he didn't mean anything like, you yourself are capable of anything, but rather, as one who belongs to Christ you have the Holy Spirit and 'all you need for life and godliness.' That confident hope I keep envisioning through Meek).
"To continue my own vision, how could we work with what we already know about God? (Yes, of course we try to reject it, but it sticks with us, that someone must love us deeply). Meek develops that 'common grace,' that we all enjoy in spite of ourselves. Traditional evangelical religion has always begun with your rebellion and judgment, that you had to know deeply how much you deserve rejection before you could appreciate God's love. Could it be, we could begin with God's love, not in the old namby-pamby way, but realistically? Then on the way of love could we understand our sin more clearly? (Cf. Berkouwer, 'knowledge of sin through the gospel'). Could that be the way of wisdom for those who don't know Jesus Christ? Could that be the way of growth for those who do? I dream that. Otherwise the evangelical Christian world looks very bleak, with its rapidly aging and irrelevant American church.
"But tell me, Esther Meek, why did you 'converse' with Frame and Williams so early in your story, and then seem to leave them behind? Yes, you're a philosopher, not a Christian apologist, but I'm puzzled. Or, tell me this: your most gripping culmination, I think, is in reflecting upon personal love, and you conclude that must rest upon the interpersonal love within the Trinity; but why did you stop there? Why didn't you go on to the greatest punchline of all, that if you have seen Jesus you have truly seen the Father? Next time?
"With that off my chest, let me warn you all: you can read this rapidly, but you'll keep stopping to ponder. All your hopes and dreams are in here. Are they foolish or are they real? Learn Meek's biggest lesson: move on from guessing, and live out what you know. That's chapter 15, 'Inviting the Real,' the heart of the book. There's your own blueprint for authentic living, with Love, and Being at Home, and Personal Beauty and Fidelity and Covenant and Trust and Humility and much more. Whew!
"Loving to Know is one of the best books I have ever read. It brings bright light into many dark places."
D. Clair Davis, Professor of Church History and Chaplain, Redeemer Seminary, Dallas, TX
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