In discussing the function of teaching for ministry, Nouwen distinguishes between violent and redemptive ways of knowing. Violent learning is competitive, unilateral (only from teacher to student), and Alienating. In contrast, redemptive teaching is evocative, bilateral, and actualizing. While actual teaching is usually a mix of violent and redemptive teaching, redemption should be the goal in ministry.
However there are several factors which make us resistant to redemptive learning. First, we operate from the wrong supposition that it is better to give than receive. This prevents us from seeing teaching as a mutual enterprise. Secondly, we operate under the false pressure created by the attention we pay to intellectual and academic accolades. Thirdly, there is the horror of self-encounter. In order to be able to grow in this redemptive mode, it is imperative that we face ourselves, our own weakness and frailty.
Nouwen closes his chapter by pointing to the example of Jesus as one who did not cling to His prerogatives but ‘became one of the many who have to learn. His life makes it clear to us that we do not need weapons, that we do not need to hide ourselves or play competitive games with each other.”
Nearly 40 years of educational theory have proven what Nouwen calls redemptive, is good teaching. People in our culture do not learn well when teaching is top-down and one sided. This is particularly true if we look at teaching in a Church context. People learn by sharing in the process. I think I first learned this leading a Bible Study in Inter-Varsity. The Bible study was inductive, all questions were welcome. A better example of where this has worked was the partnership class we have done at Kits. Four weeks of exploring the ideas of partnership and solidarity together, meant that it could not be a top down teaching. People needed to be guided somewhere but there also needed to be space for mutual self discovery.
Yet I can see the violent method in me. Even a place as concerned with spiritual formation as Regent College, does bread an Academic Scotosis. It is interesting that the place giving me my M.Div and preparing me for ministry is also teaching me to care about degrees and grades and intellectual achievements without looking introspectively at what is appropriate for Spiritual growth.