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Erin Naler

Photo of Erin Naler

Department Head, Department of Theatre
Division of Communication
School of Fine Arts and Communication



  • PhD, Humanities - Aesthetic Studies, The University of Texas at Dallas
  • MA, Dramatic Production, Bob Jones University
  • BS, Speech Education, Bob Jones University



No other book has had the embodied affect on my practice of thinking, creating, and teaching as Esther Lightcap Meek’s book A Little Manual for Knowing. While in many ways her discussion of epistemology was graciously transformative for me, it also felt familiar—without knowing how to delineate it, I was already practicing (with blind terror of the unknown) her “covenant epistemology.” The argument of her book—a robust outpouring of her own orthodoxy—is that all acts of knowing reflect our own knowing of God through the paradigm shift of the Incarnation. Unfortunately, the enlightenment and modernity, with their trumped up claims of objectivity through scientific observation, has resulted in our distance and disembodiment from our knowing ventures. We believe that education is simply an amassing of information—what Meek calls the “knowledge-as-information” approach. This impersonal, disembodied approach has led to a kind of sickness in our epistemology because it eliminates the personed knowing modeled in the Incarnation. Meek reminds her reader that the knowing venture is personal. Reality—with its infinite complexity and comprehensiveness—is a person. The Person. If all of Reality is contained within God, then Reality is seeking us even before we begin our own knowing venture. Knowledge itself wants us to know and be known. 

This paradigm shift in knowing-as-relationship alters the way I approach my own knowing ventures, but also the way I relate to student’s knowing ventures in my classroom. One slight, but essential, shift in rhetoric that I owe to Meek’s work is the elimination of “the unknown” for the gracious “yet-to-be-known.” For God there are no “unknowns,” and so for myself and my students (who are seeking a relationship with the All Knower) there are only “yet-to-be-knowns”—knowing will continue to occur for us into eternity. My students’ four years of education, my classes, and our current knowing ventures in theatre and art are simply the foundation of an eternal pursuit of the Reality of the yet-to-be-known. 

This perspective allows me to passionately teach my subject and my students because it removes fear—we are not trying to amass facts like conspicuous consumers attempting to gain power through knowledge. Francis Bacon’s empty aphorism “knowledge is power” has no place (or power) in the covenant relationship Reality is making with us, because in relational knowing ventures no one is seeking to wield power over another. Rather, the fear of “not getting it right” or “not knowing enough” or “not asking the right questions” or “not being smarter than my classmate or my students” or “not being certain” is eradicated. We are not afraid to ask questions of Reality—hard questions—nor are we afraid that Reality won’t respond. Reality is not changed by our doubts or our questions. Reality is changed by our ever growing relationship with it. Our responsibility is to show up. To get in the way of the yet-to-be-known. To stop forcing Reality to be something it is not. To allow Reality to reveal its complexity. To humbly set aside our quest for power.

This is what the Incarnation teaches us—God shows up in the person of Jesus in our ultimate knowing venture. Reality scandalously invades the universe. We are undone and remade in the same moment. 

This is what my student’s knowing ventures teach them—they are scandalously invaded by Reality as it reveals itself; and they are undone and remade one venture at a time. It is my responsibility to lead them on that venture. To help them get in Reality’s way. And to let it transform me at the same time.