Critical Theory in Christian Education -- By: Eugene S. Gibbs

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 29:0 (NA 1997)
Article: Critical Theory in Christian Education
Author: Eugene S. Gibbs

Critical Theory in Christian Education

Eugene S. Gibbs

Eugene Gibbs (Ed.D., University of the Pacific) is Professor of Christian education at ATS.

Richard E. Allison should be honored for his years as Christian education professor, pastor, and denominational leader. In my years at ATS I have heard numerous students comment on things they have learned from Richard’s classes. These have been, for the most part, not general statements about his “good courses,” or “I learned to like CE,” but specific descriptions of content meaningful to the student. One recently told me that the discipling course with Richard had “changed my life.” Another mentioned Richard’s visit to the student’s church. Students have always known that he personally cared about them and their ministries.

One quality that has impressed me since coming to ATS in 1994 has been Richard’s ability to keep up to date in the field. This is not easy since Christian education is multifaceted. Think about having to be expert in childhood, youth, and adult education; in curriculum development, leadership training, and educational psychology. In addition, ATS has courses that look at biblical foundations of CE, history, and philosophy of education as part of the CE program.

One way Richard did this was by keeping abreast of the latest textbooks. He rarely used the same text two years or even two quarters running. If new materials come to the market on a regular basis, this takes up much time and a lot of energy. Occasionally he asked my opinion, but he often had already seen the new text and had some ideas of his own. He always looks for something better for the students.

The purpose of this paper is to continue in the academic spirit of Richard E. Allison by examining a perspective fairly new to education and almost completely new for consideration in Christian education. It is called “critical theory.” Before getting into critical theory, one should review the position of Christian education within the discipline of education, broadly defined.

I like to say that Christian education is the use of the discipline of education in the accomplishment of church-related ministry. This is similar to the use of biblical studies or theology or writing to accomplish ministry. This means that we want to use the structure and processes for our own ends. Our

“ends” as Christian educators is the spiritual growth of Christian people. All the art and science of education need to be brought to bear on the task. For Christian educators, all we can know of biblical studies and theology need to be brought to bear also. In fact the biblical/theological disciplines and education w...

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