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Review of Botton K, King,C & Venugopal, J. 1997. Educating for spirituality. Christian Education Journal, Spring, 33-48 and Gorman, J. 1990. Christian formation. Christian Education Journal, 10, 2 (Winter), 65-73

by Dr Alex Tang

The two articles by Botton, King & Venugopal (ES) and Gorman (CF) were chosen because their topic is spiritual growth in a CFC. To be effective in CE in CFC, we need to aware of the processes of spiritual growth and have an appropriate model of CE for the desired outcome which is maturity/perfect in Christ (Col.1:28). ES was chosen because they approached spiritual growth from a spirituality model with a corporate perspective whereas CF was chosen because it approached spiritual growth from a theological/sociology model and was individualistic in its perspective.

ES approach to Christian formation was from spirituality. Unfortunately they did not give a clear definition of ‘spirituality’ except to characterize it as “loving God”.  Their limited definition of spirituality makes it a relationship between a person and God only. This is not true spirituality. Thus the ES model was built on false premises. The model utilized a spiritual triangle with three axis. For the first part of the article, the authors were writing about individual Christians. The aim is to move the Christian to the centre of the triangle where he/she is equidistant from the apexes and hence is balanced in affect, action and cognition. The authors mentioned the five windows of doorways of human personality but did not explain how these fit into the spiritual triangle model. The second part of the article, the authors has suddenly made a transition from individuals to churches. One is not sure whether the model is meant for individual Christians or churches or both. For the model to work, one must be able to place the individual or the church in an exact spot in the triangle. Unfortunately this is not possible as most individual and churches are a mixture of affective, action and cognitive. The model will only work if there is a specific test to determine the exact location of an individual or a church with respect to its affect, active and cognition.

CF from the start identified spontaneous and deliberate formation and clarified that her model is for deliberate formation of an individual Christian. Her model is descriptive of the various elements that are necessary in deliberate formation- articulation, character imagination, praxis, community, character guide and Holy Spirit. Gorman also indicate that these elements are influenced by the nature of the learner-regeneration, developmental levels and ‘willness- to-change’. This model builds on theology, anthropology, spirituality, psychology and sociology. The weakness of this model is that there is no emphasis on religious instruction of the faith. The study of the Bible and Christian creeds should have a prominent place in the model.

CF is more concrete in its components and easier to implement. The problem with working with spirituality models is that there is no fixed definition of spirituality. Spirituality means different things to different people. The ES authors have acknowledged this weakness from the beginning of their article. ES reminds me of the problem I faced when studying spirituality – it is such an ambiguous and confusing term. If one would like to have a spirituality approach to spiritual growth, I would suggest using an enneagram (Rohr & Evert 1990). The nine types of human personalities and the movement along the axis to be redeemed are like the spiritual triangle but is a much more developed and sophisticated tool.

I find the CF model more appropriate because it has identified the majority of factors necessary for spiritual growth. One has to develop strategies for CE for each of these factors. I also find it good that Gorman has included the nature of the learner in her consideration. Whether the individual is already a Christian (regeneration), his/her stage of  faith development and the willingness to change will influence the outcome. Change is not easy to accept especially a change in worldview during spiritual growth.

The problem I find in both ES and CF model is that they did not clearly specify the target ‘learners’. There is a need to identify the ‘learners’ because each CE strategy must take into account their faith development, gender and life structures.  Often CE programs are designed as ‘one size fits all.’ In summary, both models have room for improvement.

                                                                                                                                                        Soli Deo Gloria


Rohr, R,& Ebert, A, 1990. Discovering the Enneagram. New York. NY: Crossroad Publishing.



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