Christian Nurture & Character Development -- Reflections from the Educational and Developmental Theories of the West

Christian Nurture and Character Development — Reflection from the Educational and Developmental Theories of the West

Peter Tze-Ming NG

Christian Religious Education is Education for Life. One of the primary aims of Christian nurture is to help believers not only to secure life but to grow in life and to attain abundant life.

The present study attempts to introduce four modern educational and psychological theories, namely, Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development, Erik Erikson's Eight Stages of Human Growth, Lawrence Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Judgment Development and James Fowler's Theory of Faith Development, and to draw their relevant implications to Christian nurture. These theories reveal the various stages of human development on cognitive social, moral and spiritual aspects respectively, which are also significant to Christian growth. Emphases are made that Christian educators should venture to help develop proper ways of fulfilling these human needs at the various developmental stages.  

Attention is drawn also to the two key forces of human life, namely, the drive for security and the drive to excel. Christian educators are reminded of their delicate tasks to maintain a balance of the tension between these two life forces. 

For Christians, the ideological motivation needed is the love of God and this particular love serves also as the Christian's source of moral courage. Finally, Kohlberg's theory has been criticized as a male-centered “ethics of duty or obligation.” It has neglected the role of “care” in the process of moral decision making. After giving a critical reflection of Kohlberg's theory, John Wilson's paradigm for moral reasoning is introduced. In concluding this essay, the author will give a brief discussion of the relationship between empirical sciences and Christian ethics. 

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