Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Book Review of Fowler, James W. 2000. Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian: Adult Development & Christian Faith. rev.edn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
by Dr Alex Tang
Fowler’s Faith Development Theory is commonly being used to describe Christian spiritual growth. Yet, when it was first formulated, Fowler described faith as ‘seeking meaning in our lives’ and universal, thus not limited to Christianity. This theory, which arise out of Piaget’s cognitive and Kohlberg’s moral development theories are descriptive and did not take into consideration the supernatural/spiritual.
This book was Fowler’s attempt to reconcile his development theory to the Christian theological concept of salvation and sanctification. His approach to integrate this is by the concept of vocation which ‘is the response a person makes with his or her total self to the address of God and to the calling to partnership’. He defined this partnership as synergy between the human potential and the work of the Spirit which he called ‘grace’. Fowler defined blockage to this synergy as sin and unblocking this synergy as salvation. The aim of this partnership is ‘in God’s work in the world’ which Fowler elaborated as partnership with God the Creator, with the governing action of God and in the liberative and redemptive action of God. However, what Fowler was describing are a series of behavioural pattern. Any description of spiritual growth must include a new creation, inner transformation and fruit of the Holy Spirit. One needs to differentiate between descriptors and contents.
Fowler then went on to describe vocation, relationship of vocation and Christian communities and the Christian story. While I agree that our vocation is a call by God for His purpose, I do wish Fowler had explained how the different stages of his theory can be directly linked to the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, justification by faith and the work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us into Christian maturity (Christ-likeness). In the final chapter, he did try again to integrate spiritual maturity and development theories but surprisingly, he used Levinson’s seasons of life theory instead of his own. In the end, Fowler did not give a clear picture of the integration of his faith development theory and theology.
Soli Deo Gloria
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