Last Wednesday Dr. Doug Koskela was honored as the keynote speaker for this year’s Paul T. Walls Lecture in Wesleyan Theology. In his talk, “I Knew When Written On My Heart”: Experience and the Knowledge of God,” Dr. Koskela discussed John Wesley’s conviction that “experiences play a crucial role in one’s epistemology of theology.” Knowledge of God is both a matter of the head and the heart, and one’s “perceptive experiences” play a role in one’s testimony of God in her/his life.
In the church and the academy today, there is a growing concern about reliance upon one’s perceptive experiences when discussing one’s relationship with God. Many are unsure whether experience is a valid means of understanding God, or how a person’s individual experience with God can contribute to the faith life of a whole community. Dr. Koskela believes that Wesleyan communities can provide and cultivate space for honoring people’s perceptive experiences of God while also attending to “what Christians believe and why they believe it.” Knowledge of God and perceptive experience of God are not antithetical to one another–rather, both contribute to the testimony of God working in one’s life.
Dr. Rob McKenna, Professor of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, acted as the respondent, and re-emphasized the importance of creating space in the academy for people to reveal the ways in which God is working in their lives. People should feel “invited into” the conversation about God’s action in the world rather than “lectured at.” Dr. McKenna then provided space within the service itself for the audience to share their stories of God’s action in their lives with one another, modeling what it looks like to create space in everyday contexts.
Congratulations, Dr. Koskela, for receiving this honor, and thank you Dr. McKenna for acting as the responder!
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