Born in Hungary and working in Berlin just prior to World War 2, a Jewish chemist Michael Polanyi was deeply disturbed by the choices and actions of Germany under the Nazi regime. He wondered how could such an intelligent, progressive and advanced society commit the barbaric atrocities that it did, particularly to his own people?
The single minded pursuit of reason characteristic of so many Western nations he realised was lacking. It could produce skilled engineers who had failed to refuse to design the ovens in Dachau. His questioning of the educational system, which he was trained in, led him to observe artisans at work, whether it be a musician, a wine maker or leather tanner. What he noticed was the personal transmission of knowledge, person to person, that was not found in the modern educational system. He saw this ‘elbow knowledge’ as critical. Information was not transmitted as a set of facts, but delivered through a person. A person who brought an ethical or moral framework to the way in which the knowledge should or should not be used.
The Germany, Polyani was part of, had become scientifically brilliant but morally bankrupt.
To truly understand knowledge, it cannot be divorced from a person. Arguably it should be transmitted through people. The most important information should be communicated from life to life, person to person, elbow to elbow.
This is also true when it comes to knowing about God. Just trying to learn about God and faith without interaction with another, runs the risk of reducing faith to a set of rules. Faith is more than knowing about God, it is knowing Him and living with Him. It invades every aspect of a persons life and is best understood as we witness it, lived out in the life of another.
If you are exploring faith in Jesus, maybe the best thing you could do is get on the elbow of someone who is following Jesus, and learn from someone like you. Someone who is trying to embody and follow the way of Jesus in some small way. Elbow to elbow.