What is Adult Faith
(This is a brief overview of
the wisdom for empowerment that I seek to communicate in all my work and
writings. Like all adult learning this is an interactive process on
which I always welcome feedback).
“No anthropology can yet be written because humanity
is not yet human.”
All religions and churches emphasise that humans are:
sinful while God is strong and holy
dependent on the all-providing God,
-servants of God to whom we owe
-children of a Father God and a Mother Church
to be humble and obedient to the parent-like divine power.
The metaphor of the child is extensively used in
conventional spirituality. Phrases like “childlike trust,” “loyalty,”
“obedience,” “under authority” all denote a sense of dependency that is
not congruent with adult maturity. The tendency to structure religion in
patriarchal-type institutions, with a strong focus on those who govern
from on high, breeds co-dependency rather than mutual interdependence.
Such metaphors and systems militate against the emergence of wholesome,
Much more serious
and less obvious to the naïve observer, is the tendency of religions to
alienate people from the planetary and cosmic web of life. The dualism
of the sacred v. the secular truncates nature’s invitation to live in a
convivial, cooperative relationship with the earth and its living
systems. Properly understood, earth-life systems function best when
humans treat other life-forms with a sense of adult care and
responsibility. But this experience of being human, in an integrated
planetary and cosmic way, is largely unknown to people of our time
Adult Faith Development wishes to reclaim
our integral place in creation:
- There is a cosmic dimension to our lives, elegantly
illustrated in the fact that
stardust is essential to our existence
and all sources of nourishment ultimately belong to sunlight.
There is a planetary/earthly dimension: our very existence is dependent
healthy functioning of the
There is an organic dimension, highlighted in the bacterial foundations
of all life, thriving primarily on cooperation, not via competition.
Our own human existence belongs to an amazing creative story of some
7,000,000 years, often dismissed by academics as primitive and barbaric.
- Contextually, we are an integral
part of a greater whole that confers on us our integrity and dignity,
forever calling us to mutual engagement with the evolving life-forces of
cosmic and planetary life. Because of our disconnection from the larger
context, we end up condemning ourselves to a contrived, minimalistic,
childish participation in the great enterprise of universal life.
AT HOME IN
CREATIONCreation is our
true, authentic home, the houshold of all life, including those who have
gone before us. The afterlife does not exist outside creation, but
within it, a realm in which our departed loved ones inhabit a different
level of being - within the one cosmos.
Religion’s negative regard for the created
order is responsible for much of the meaningless suffering in the
contemporary world. Because this suffering is often so overwhelming,
many people throw themselves at the mercy of God. Although an
understandable response, and often the basis of survival against heavy
odds, this is an abdication of our call to be co-creators with God in
enhancing the growth and development of God’s creation.
Faith in our
time requires us to grow up and learn to relate with God in a new way.
As co-creators with our creative God, we are invited and challenged to
relate as adults to an adult God, modelled for Christians in the adult
life-example of Jesus. This requires that we replace:
-The patriarchal sky-God with the divine life-force we encounter
in the miracle of God’s creation.
- Hierarchical top-down
dependency with a sense of mjutual eqaulity and interdependence.
Power-over with power-with (empowerment).
controlling relationships with those based on mutuality (as modelled in
-A product mentality in which everything is
essentially predetermined with a process outlook that respects the
divinely inspired evolutionary nature of life.
communities where the focus tends to be on control and top-down
governance (priest, imam, rabbi), to one centred on people and
programmed for mutual empowerment.
PRINCIPLES OF ADULT FAITH DEVELOPMENT:
In contemporary cultures –
secular and religious – calling forth the adult is either construed as a
non-issue because, allegedly, adulthood is already fostered and
protected, or it is subverted as dangerous propaganda. For the
religions, in particular, it is quite a new concept with consequences
that are likely to be perceived as threatening and dangerous for the
status quo. In promoting a culture of adult faith the following
principles are crucial:1.Faith is a process of life-long
learning, not some magical, divine product bestowed by church or
2.Grace builds on nature (St. Anslem; St. Thomas Aquinas);
consequently, appropriation of faith at different life-stages needs
informed attention (see the pioneering work of James Fowler).
3.Adults learn by doing in a dynamic, interactive and
co-operative endeavour in which educator and learner are equal partners.
4.In adult learning, everybody is endowed with wisdom and
all are beneficiaries of divine revelation. Both educator and learner
have joint responsibility for the awakening and appropriation of faith.
5.Story-telling is a central strategy in articulating a
meaningful faith. Discernment skills arise from this context.
6.Adult faith matures when life experience is honoured, and
the ensuing challenges are explored through mature adult conversations
7.Adult faith tends not to be incapacitated by
perfectionism. It is much more at home in soulful realism in which
paradox is honoured , vulnerability is protected, questions are
respected and dogmatism gives way to trust and dialogue.
8.Adults commit to faith-based structures in which power is
shared equally and justly at the service of empowerment.
9.Adults desire transparency through open dialogue,
pursuing truth that is always in the process of being realised.
10. Adults seek to change co-dependent metaphors, images
and language into more imaginative and intuitive constructs that
challenge people to act as adults, faithful to an adult God, modelled on
the adult life-example of Jesus.
Useful Webpages: www.lifespirals.com;