Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Faithful Change: The Personal and Public Challenges of Postmodern Life

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Faithful Change: The Personal and Public Challenges of Postmodern Life

Article excerpt

Faithful Change: The Personal and Public Challenges of Postmodern Life. By James W Fowler. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1996. 245 pp. $24.95 (cloth).

James Fowler takes seriously the idea that Christian intellectuals have a vocation to participate in what he describes as the "praxis of God" divine agency manifest in patterns of transformation (within the historical process) that enhance freedom, break oppression, heal what is broken, and care for the earth. In his most recent work, Fowler aligns himself with that agency. What results is both an interdisciplinary enterprise of impressive breadth and depth and an impassioned, even moving, vision of mature, engaged Christian faith.

In structure, Faithful Change is tripartite. Section one, "Change and the Dynamics of Faith," presents the author in the guise most familiar to the majority of his readers, as a faith development theorist. Here he outlines his famous stages of human maturation from the perspective of faith. But he enriches his classic presentation with new insights from the field of infant development, especially the revisionist work of Daniel Stern, whose research suggests innate preverbal structures that dispose humans to faith and religious participation. Fowler encourages us to think about human development not simply as change but also as transformation in which we have a constructive role to play. In other words, we must as individuals and as a society consciously and tirelessly tease forth the God-likeness in which we were originally created to realize the hope buried deep in our hearts.

Section two, "Faith and the Fault Lines of Shame," is perhaps the most original of the sections. Here Fowler attempts to explore "normal shame" (to be distinguished from "toxic shame"), which he sees as a non-pathological innate neurobiological program that keeps us sensitive, modest, respectful and attentive to others. His purpose in this arresting attempt is to provide a theoretical base out of which readers, whether academics, ministers, teachers, health care professionals or responsible citizens, can encourage genuine personal and social maturity in one another. …

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