Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Book Review of Astley, Jeff and Francis, Leslie J. (eds).1992. Christian Perspectives on Faith Development. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans
by Dr Alex Tang
The review will focus on two chapters as these examination of Fowler's faith development theory.
3.1 The journey of a pilgrim: an alternative to Fowler by Mary Ford-Grabowsky (p.109-121)
The author finds Fowler’s theory to be ‘theologically deficient’ and the emphasis on ego development lack the ‘transtemporal aspect of faith.’ She suggested using the ego/self concept of analytical psychology of Jung and the Hildegard of Bingen understanding of Pauline theology (the outer/inner man) in offering ‘the journey of a pilgrim’ as an alternative faith development theory. In their theory, faith begins at baptism and is an act of grace. Faith development occurs in an axis movement between ‘Zone of Christ’ and ‘Zone of Evil’. While interesting, I find this theory lacks the importance given to chronological age as stages and seasons of life. It also very cognitive as evident in its case study of the journey of ‘John’. I agree with the emphasis on the importance of sacraments. I do not believe faith begins at baptism but at creation. Instead of Hildegard, I would think Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle will provide a better model of spiritual development.
3.2 A Lutheran examines James W. Fowler by William O. Avery (p.122-134)
Avery is sympathetic towards Fowler whom he believes is trying to develop a theory from the standpoint of ‘an empirical social scientist’ and a ‘practical theologian’. He pinpointed correctly Fowler’s definition of faith is an important area of contention of Fowler’s theory by Lutherans. Fowler understanding of faith as a human act is incompatible with the Lutheran’s understanding that faith is a gift from God. Avery offered a suggestion that instead of rejecting the theory completely, Fowlers’ seven stages may be used to describe ‘different ways of living in one’s baptism’. While I agree with Avery that we should not reject Fowler’s theory outright, I would hesitate to reinterpret the theory to fit our theology. Fowler’s descriptor ‘faith’ is still devoid of Biblical content. The challenge of Fowler’s theory is for us to develop a Biblical faith development theory that incorporates the means of grace and human freedom and is Trinitarian in content.
Soli Deo Gloria
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