The Epistemology of Transformative Learning

by Mike Ratliff

Epistemology: noun Philosophy  the theory of knowledge, esp. with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.


epistemological adjective

epistemologically adverb

epistemologist noun

ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from Greek epistēmē ‘knowledge,’ from epistasthai ‘know, know how to do.’

On my recent trip to Oklahoma, I had one morning to myself prior to our meeting with family to do the cleanup on my parent’s house the following day. I took my camera and hiked across town from my daughter’s house with the goal of reaching the campus of my alma mater where I earned my BBA back in the mid 1980’s. It was hot and humid. I had to stop twice at stores for water, however, as I neared the campus, I began to recognize familiar markers and a few new ones that just seemed to jar my consciousness. I asked God to continue to show me what he was preparing me for. The first “new” marker was this statue just a block or so from campus.

Of course, this is Humpty Dumpty. We have been in discussions quite a bit lately as to how Post-Modernist thinking has attacked the very fabric of the meaning of language to the point that words can mean whatever one wants them to mean just like in Chapter 6 from Alice in Wonderland, `When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

As I strolled across campus, I noticed that there was a new building going up on the opposite side of the University Center from where I was so I headed that way after I took a few shots of the reflecting pool and waterfalls. The new building was in what used to be a parking lot. It is between the two buildings in which I spent most of my time back when I was working on my degree, the Liberal Arts building, and the Business building. It was surrounding by a construction fence so I could not get very close, but I could easily read the name of it. I used the zoom feature on my camera to take this shot.

I then left the campus, headed to the nearest Starbucks to get a frozen coffee drink and digest what I had seen, meditate on this plus what I had prayed for that morning before I left, that God would be glorified in me this day, as I do every day. I mediated on this the whole time I worked at my parents house and as we drove home yesterday. I did some research on this last night after we got home and some more this morning. This piece is the result of all of that. The term ‘Transformative Learning’ really bothered me. The research I did online revealed what I thought it would. It is tied to post-modernism as the means of educating people to ‘learn to think for themselves rather than act upon the assimilated beliefs, values, feelings and judgments of others.’ The quoted part of that sentence is from a paper by Jack Mezirow. Here is the link to the paper. I suggest you read it. The part that struck me and is the reason I believe God had me write this is on page 2 in the summary under Item A. Here is the content describing how adults go through Transformative Learning:

”[Adults] cannot fully trust what they know or believe because there are no fixed truths and circumstances change. Yet we urgently need to understand the meaning of our experience. To do so, we engage in deliberate learning—using prior interpretations to construe a new or revised experience as a guide to future action. We may also engage in incidental and assimilative learning.”

The key is the first sentence in that statement. It says that the basis for Transformative Learning is that “there are no fixed truths and circumstances change.” That sorta’ rules out God’s Word as absolute truth doesn’t it? If you read the rest of that outline you will see that that Mezirow and his cohorts use a lot very complicated jargon and verbiage in explaining that Transformative Learning is nothing more than discussions and coming to resolutions of compromise, finding that place where everyone can get along regardless of differences, et cetera. As I read through that paper I just couldn’t get that picture of Humpty Dumpty out of my mind for this is nothing more than something put in motion to implement the Hegelian Dialectic throughout the world.

All of this goes against true Christianity. We should not be surprised that the unregenerate are going this way. We should not be surprised that the visible church, those professing Christians who are obviously not Christians, are going this way, However, it is very disturbing when we witness evidence of the Hegelian Dialectic being used in what we know of as Christian Evangelicalism. However, Ken Silva told me not long ago that he considered it to be nearly all apostate now. Apostates are not our brothers and sisters in Christ. I was told by a commenter who is permanently blocked from this blog in his last attempt to say something against A Tree and It Fruit that that post was nothing more than a statement of Christian elitism. If that is so then our Lord Jesus Christ was a Christian elitist since the part this fellow had a problem with was a paraphrase of a direct quote from Him. You see this is the problem and I will never stop going back to it. God’s Word is God’s Truth. The Gospel is clearly given to us in it and it is not editable by us. We are told exactly how to serve our Lord as His Bondservants and custodians of His Gospel. The apostates have neglected all of these things and are spiritually blind and have hearts as hard as hard can be.

Christianity is not open to the Hegelian Dialectic. Transformative Learning is a destructive force of the enemy of the truth and a purveyor of postmodernist thinking. We have long said that those contaminated with postmodernist thinking have lost the ability to think logically. The reason is that that they do not accept any truth as absolute. This is why we see certain once solid appearing Christian leaders “suddenly” appearing to go mushy in areas in which they should be standing firm. They claim we should all unify in Christ and they are right, but the Jesus I know and follow would not allow most of those who claim to follow Him to carry His name for they follow “another Jesus.” They are not true Christians and He knows those who are His and gave us the clear means to tell the true from the false ourselves. We are called to stand firm and not compromise, but the pressures being brought to bear on us right now are to cave in to be unified with everyone, even if they are not genuine believers at all. This is not biblical and we cannot agree to this nor do it. Yes, this will be offensive to some. Yes, we will be seen as divisive. Yes, I know that will appear to some as not being Christlike, but look what it cost our Lord and the Apostles and the first Century Christians and the Reformers for standing firm as we are being called to do.

Soli Deo Gloria


Here is a link to that University’s Transformative Learning Program.

24 thoughts on “The Epistemology of Transformative Learning

  1. While reading this article I could not help but think of this scripture:
    “Ever learning , and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. ” 2 Tim 3:7

    These quotes on Transformative Learning:

    “we urgently need to understand the meaning of our experience. ”
    “we engage in deliberate learning”
    “We may also engage in incidental and assimilative learning.”
    AND a whole University building, meaning a separate department with Professors, classes, curriculum devoted to learning, probably even degrees are awarded for study in this field…….. BUT NEVER coming to the truth because it all starts with man, his “experiences”, “circumstances”. IT DOES NOT START WITH GOD AND HIS WORD!!!
    HOW BLESSED I AM!! I know the Word of God and the God of the Word, truly they cannot be separated. How sad this is…… very informative article, I would have never dreamed…….


  2. Amen Stella, Amen, yes, that is it. It is amazing how far the unregenerate person will go in this direction, but will NEVER hit the truth in any way shape or form.

    Also, if you research this more you will find that this is just about the same thing that we see in the “Missional” programs in the Emergent or Acts 29 churches.


  3. Welcome back Mike!
    I think a word that could be placed along side “epistemology” could be “theosophical” (Theosophy is a doctrine of religious philosophy and mysticism. Theosophy holds that all religions are attempts by the “Spiritual Hierarchy” to help humanity in evolving to greater perfection, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth.)
    I have only recently researched this word as our son who has just moved interstate, told me he went exploring Sydney, and had found an interesting library (the theosophical library that is!) :((

    The world, whether they want to acknowledge it or not, are crying out for meaning (even our son who has turned from God) – and it’s smack bang in front of their faces – and they can’t even see it! It makes the scripture verse that Stella quoted oh so evident …“Ever learning , and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. ” 2 Tim 3:7 and on to 2 Tim 3: 8-9…. “now as Jannes & Jambres resisted moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was”…..


  4. Thanks again Mike for this insight. Transformative. Whenever I hear that word I immediately, like you said, think of the Hegelian Dialectic Process—“has God really said”

    This thinking is of the “elementary(basic) thinking” of this world (Gal 4:3). It is meant to get us into dialogue with set beliefs. Hence the rebellion of the 60’s—“question your parents”—the paraphrased words of Al Gore -“your parents mean good but they just are just out of step, they don’t know.”

    Once the child asks, “why can’t I have a cookie” he has entered the parent into dialogue If the parent does not stand on the truth of the law–“because I said no” and begins to dialogue, the parent will end up in a compromise– “ok, just this time”. Now ‘no’ does not mean no, but rather “maybe” and eventually yes. The antithesis of no (yes) has been accomplished through dialoguing to and through consensus (maybe). This is transforming our culture, Evangelicalism and our government. This is Liberalism—liberating us from set beliefs.


  5. Good to have you back, Mike….and as Fred said, a parent will tell a child, ‘”because I told you so….”No questions asked….but to trust.

    God has given us His Word….Do we not trust Him because He told us so…..?

    Man will continue to question, to twist, to deceive…just as the serpent did in the garden….and only those who are discerning, who know His Word, will be able to see.

    Thank you, Mike, for continuing to fight the good fight of faith! Praying for you.


  6. Hi Mike,
    Sounds like the Lord was showing you a lot! Thanks for this article.
    I read the article you linked—it gave me a headache. Looks like I’m not a candidate for Transformative Learning. 🙂
    I guess I’ll go with Proverbs…”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
    Blessings to you!


  7. I just am stunned at how contradictory yet alluring this Helagian rubbish is. It goes to show us how miraculous the renewing of our minds and hearts is.Certainly there but for the grace of God go I !
    I am constantly bowled over by how gracious God is to us. I have been faltering recently and feeling that I am such a rubbish Christian that I was afraid of being lost. But the other night I read from ‘morning and evening’ by C Spurgeon. I hope you don’t mind if I quote it here:
    from June 28th
    ‘Looking unto Jesus’ ( Heb 12 : 2)
    …’ the holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that ‘Christ is all in all’. Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee – it is Christ;it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not even thy faith in Christ, though that be the instrument – it is Christs blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to they hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.
    ………….Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

    It was exactly what I needed to hear and so wonderfully almost immediately I felt close to God again and since then have been seeing the fruits of his spirit again; because he is doing it in me, not me trying to do it in me : )

    All this rubbish about looking to our own ideas to bring about change panders to our pride. When I start getting that way again I start to feel like I am beginning to suffocate myself, and yet can’t get out from inside my own mind. Of course this is because I can’t. But as soon as I turn (because he has so generously drawn me ),to the wonderous, merciful God of grace he reassures me and its like a weight is lifted and I am once again following quietly behind him, doing his bidding and not being afraid, because he is right there in front of me.
    The times ahead are exciting. I am alert to the fact that they are going to be harder than we can conceive but :

    ‘ If God is for us, who can be against us?'( Rom 8:13)


    ( sorry for such a long comment)


  8. Diane, it’s just a lot of verbiage to cover what they are really doing. Yes, the Lord had my attention the whole time and still does. This Transformative Learning stuff is the basis for the redefinition of one the basic Christian principles that is an indication of the New Life in a believer, the Transformed Life. I am working on this. More later…


  9. Hi Mike – Welcome back! It is amazing at how blatant and prevalent this stuff is becoming, and very few see anything wrong with it. I guess Humpty represents the modern church falling into apostasy and the people will never be able to put him back together again, only Jesus can.

    On a personal note – I am being considered for a Principal position with a Christian school in Minnesota. I felt led to apply and am anticipating being flown out next week. My plan was always to move from CA to WA, but that door has been closed multiple times. I am seeking wisdom and discernment in making this decision as it is a huge move. Ironically my family and I are currently studying Proverbs! Your prayers and the prayers of your readers would be most appreciated!




  10. Truth, God, reality…all in a state of flux…reminds me very much of this Bible verse: 2 Timothy 3:7 (NASB)
    7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    Sad when man does what is right in his own eyes…


  11. Lift up your head….redemption draweth nigh!

    More signs of the time!
    Jesus is surely coming ….. soon!


  12. Thank you for this. I have the knowledge of terms such as Hegelian Dialectic, but I am learning. I know how I was able to see that “transformation” and “missional” was something strange in my former church….it was only by God’s grace.

    I really appreciate your articles. I pray for friends in my former church, they really need to see and understand the message. It’s possible to go to church, serve and serve and serve, and still have it all wrong.


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