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Spiritual development and the public educative care of children: a critical evaluation of biblical and dynamic systems perspectives

Cupit, Christopher Glenn (2002) Spiritual development and the public educative care of children: a critical evaluation of biblical and dynamic systems perspectives. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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A useful model of spiritual development in the public educative care of children must: specify the meaning and nature of spirituality; clarify its relationship to an underlying ontology; identify in what sense spirituality is developmental; be consistent with a justifiable paradigm of human development; explain the role and status of such spiritual development with a secular system of educative care; and specify practical implications flowing from these matters.

Using narrative criticism within an evangelical framework, the biblical descriptions of spirituality and childhood were critically examined as a basis for such a model. Biblical spirituality was developmental and was identified with encounters, usually naturally mediated, between human spirits and God's Spirit, and spirits which alienate from God's Spirit. All children, without qualification of belief, community, rite or age, were identified as spirits who share a special relationship with God's Spirit both ontologically and experientially. Biblical childhood was not defined chronologically but functionally by inability to take responsibility for one's own spiritual life because of openness to God's and other spirits.

Principles of 'magician systems' in Dynamic Systems Theory parallel phenomena of human development and those commonly designated as spiritual. Consequently, a dynamic model of spiritual development is proposed which is consonant with biblical teaching and grounded in an established scientific paradigm. This indicates that spirituality is an inescapable aspect of any educative care setting or system and need not be introduced as though children lack it. Spiritually salient aspects of educative care will lead children to spiritual encounters which are derivative of a positive life affirming principle or fundamentally destructive and alienating. These aspects encompass the spiritual ontology of the setting, the children, the personnel, the physical environment, the nature and quality of relationships, the curriculum, religious activities, the nurture provided, and the wider context, all of which are of spiritual moment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Supervisor(s): Hill, Brian
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