Theology as Education: John Dewey in Dialogue with Christian Doctrine

Aaron J. Ghiloni (2010). Theology as Education: John Dewey in Dialogue with Christian Doctrine PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Aaron J. Ghiloni
Thesis Title Theology as Education: John Dewey in Dialogue with Christian Doctrine
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-05
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Terry Veling
Associate Professor Richard Hutch
Total pages 241
Total black and white pages 241
Subjects 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies
Abstract/Summary This thesis is a dialogue between John Dewey’s philosophy of education and Christian theology. The study employs Dewey’s educational work as a means of developing pedagogical strands inherent within Christian theology. By using Dewey’s pedagogical texts as a heuristic device, the research highlights the pedagogically-laden nature of theology. The research opens up new space for dialogue between Dewey Studies and Religious Studies. The research is primarily concerned with Dewey’s educational texts, particularly “Interest in Relation to Training of the Will,” “My Pedagogic Creed,” The School and Society, The Child and the Curriculum, Democracy and Education, and Experience and Education; Dewey’s works on religion are secondary to this study. The methodological approach includes hermeneutics, mutually critical correlation, and pragmatism. Following the lead of Dewey scholar James Garrison, the study has three main parts: the seeds of experience and creation, the stem of knowledge and action, and the fruit of learning and revelation. Part 1 addresses the seeds, or starting point, of both education and theology. Experience is the starting point of Deweyan pedagogy, but given the amorphousness of this concept, “experience” is explored in terms of Dewey’s doctrine of interest, his emphasis on practical needs, and the naturalistic basis of learning. In the sections of theological dialogue, it is shown that Dewey’s concepts of experience are useful in establishing a doctrine of creation that is not eclipsed by the doctrine of redemption. Dewey also helps establish strong links between divine creation and human creativity (Chapter 3). Dewey’s ideas on experience are not as smoothly correlated with Friedrich Schleiermacher’s notion of religious experience, primarily because of Dewey’s naturalism (Chapter 4). Part 2, the stem, is dedicated to the relationship of knowledge to action. The Deweyan topics addressed here are Dewey’s attitude toward dualisms, the nature of educational method, Dewey’s notion of habit, and the school curriculum. In Chapter 5 the theological dialogue partners are a range of contemporary theologians who have attempted to rethink the role of practice, especially in relationship to doctrine. This discussion progresses into Chapter 6 where likenesses between Dewey’s curriculum and the Rule of Saint Benedict are established. Part 3 concentrates on the fruit of education. The Deweyan topics are the two-sided nature of learning (active/passive), the experiential continuum, and the reconstruction of experience. All these themes have a common concern for the recreation of existing experience into a blooming, fecund experience. In Chapter 7 the theological theme is revelation; in Chapter 8 the topic is Rowan Williams’ doctrine of revelation. In both chapters it is shown that viewing revelation as education emphasises human agency while allowing space for discontinuities in human experience. Broadly speaking, the intended readers can be divided into two categories. One group is theologians specialising in theological education (including Christian education, religious education, and inter-religious education), practical theology, and spiritual formation. The other group is Dewey scholars and other educational researchers interested in spirituality and religion. Through a correlation of theology and education, this study contributes to both fields of research and to dialogue between the fields. John Dewey has sometimes been characterised as anti-Christian. Occasionally this is due to Dewey’s rhetorical excesses towards theological straw-men; other times this is due to interpreters’ fixation on A Common Faith and their consequent failure to understand Dewey’s overall project. But, as this thesis shows, Dewey’s pedagogical work is a resource rich in theological potential.
Keyword John Dewey
Saint Benedict
Rowan Williams

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Created: Fri, 15 Oct 2010, 21:19:42 EST by Mr Aaron Ghiloni on behalf of Library - Information Access Service