Discipleship: Introduction to Moral Development

A few years ago, while trying to find a book in the library, I chanced upon a book titled Moral Development, by Bonnidell Clouse.1 I skimmed through the book and found an interesting chart, based on the work of Lawrence Kohlberg, about how children and adults grow in the way they think about moral choices. It was easy to find myself on the chart — not only where I was now, but also the way I had thought about moral choices in the past. The chart was valid for my own experience, and it helped me understand a little more about myself.

In this chart of moral development, I could also see my church. When we as a church approached moral decisions, we generally used a certain way of thinking. I could also see that we were changing — developing. The chart helped me understand the church and the process of change. I photocopied a few pages and decided that this subject was worth studying in greater detail — when I had the time.

Several years passed, in which I did not have time to study moral development. But on several occasions I saw references to Kohlberg and his views of moral development. This helped maintain my interest. Recently, I took a class that dealt with Kohlberg’s theory in greater detail. I was forced to study it, analyze it, and write about it.

I want to give a summary of Kohlberg’s theory, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it may be useful in understanding and ministering in our situation. I am not an expert in this, but I want to give it a wider airing. Perhaps someone else will be able to build on the topic with further study.

Piaget’s Description of Cognitive Development

As humans grow from infancy toward old age, they go through various phases, which often fall in predictable patterns. We have general expectations of how 3-year-olds act, how 16-year-olds act, and how 80-year-olds act. We do not expect the elderly to act like adolescents, nor vice versa. If a 3-year-old acts wisely, we might say she is “very mature for her age.” Maturity is relative to age-based expectations.

The common wisdom is that humans develop over time. Psychologists have attempted to categorize and give more precise descriptions to the way humans typically develop. They list “stages of development” — a progression on the way toward greater maturity. Jean Piaget was a pioneer in this field, beginning in the 1920s.2 He focused on children’s cognitive development — changes in the thinking ability of children. He described cognitive growth in four major stages:

Age Stage Development
0-2 sensorimotor Infants see, hear and touch the world. At first, they don’t even think about things they do not see (e.g., toys, people). They progress rapidly toward using language and experimenting with the way things work.
2-7 preoperational Thinking is based more on feelings than on logic. They have a good imagination about things, but often find it hard to see situations from the perspective of another person.
7-11 concrete operational Children can use logic, but tend to be literalistic. Abstract concepts (including many spiritual truths) are not easily understood.
12 and up formal operations Abstract concepts can be understood and reasoned with.3

Piaget also sketched a simple scheme for the way children develop morally, from heteronomy (a law outside of self) to autonomy (internalized laws, beginning at age 7 or 8, becoming well formed by age 11 or 12) to equity, “which includes benevolence and an understanding of universal love and forgiveness.”4

Piaget’s observations are relevant to Christian ministry in several ways. I do not have space to explore them or explain them in detail, but I will mention a few to invite the readers to study this in more detail:

· Since young children are more emotional than logical, we need to be aware of the emotional environment we give youngsters. Although we want children’s ministry workers to be able to teach, the most important quality of a children’s ministry worker is that the person loves children. The child learns to love the people in the church before learning to love the God they teach about.

· Children need age-appropriate education. A metaphor that can help an adult to understand salvation (e.g., “washed in the blood of the Lamb”) may be confusing for a child. This is one reason a well-designed curriculum is helpful — it has already been checked by people who know children’s vocabulary and conceptual abilities.

James Plueddemann also credits Piaget as accenting these two points:

· People learn best from interacting with other people. Information is understood best when it is discussed. People can see how other people integrate the information into their practical lives. They can ask questions to see how it is relevant.

· Learning often comes at times of disequilibrium. When we realize that something doesn’t make sense, we become open to learning more about it. We ask questions and resolve them to reach a new state of equilibrium. Crisis, frustration, and trials can be learning opportunities.5 “When individuals become aware of discrepancies between their experiences and their perceptions, a kind of disequilibrium is created which motivates them to restructure their views.”6

Piaget provided the foundation for the work of later developmental theorists, such as Erikson, Fowler, and Kohlberg.7 In this article, I want to focus on Kohlberg.

Kohlberg’s Theory

Lawrence Kohlberg noted that people often come to similar decisions for very different reasons. Some people do good to avoid punishment; others in hope of reward. Some do it simply to conform to peer pressure; others think in more abstract concepts of what is best for society as a whole.

As Kohlberg studied the reasoning that leads to moral decisions, he noted age-related developmental patterns. He described three levels, each with two stages. Most people function at two or three stages at any given time in their lives. A stage 4 person, for example, will reason in stage 4 half the time, stage 3 part of the time and stage 5 part of the time. But such people would still be categorized as stage 4 because that approach is most typical for them.

Level and stage Description

Level I – the preconventional level

Level I, Stage 1
Whatever is rewarded is good; whatever is punished is bad.
Level I, Stage 2
instrumental egoism and simple exchange
I’ll do something good for you if you do something good for me. Fairness means treating everyone the same.

Level II — the conventional level

Level II, Stage 3
personal concordance
Good is conformity to a stereotype of “good” people, or to peer approval.
Level II, Stage 4
law, and duty to the social order
Good is defined by the laws of society, by doing one’s duty. A law should be obeyed even if it’s not fair.

Level III — the postconventional (principled) level

Level III, Stage 5
societal consensus
Good is understood in terms of abstract principles that the society has agreed upon. An unfair law ought to be changed.
Level III, Stage 6
universal ethical principles
Good is understood in terms of abstract principles whether or not societies agree with them. An emphasis on human rights.

Kohlberg theorized that all people begin at stage 1 and progress stage by stage toward maturity. They can usually understand the reasoning of a person one stage above them, and exposure to that next higher stage encourages them to move upward themselves. However, they are usually unable to understand reasoning that is two stages up.8 So a discussion one stage up is helpful; a discussion two stages up is impossible. Most people in society stop at stage 3 and 4: they are law-abiding citizens, conforming to the general expectations of society around them.9 Very few reach stage 6.10

A closer look at the six stages

To see how Kohlberg’s theory might be helpful to us in our ministries, let us look closer at each stage. The three levels are compared to “convention” — what is normal for society. For people at the conventional level, conformity is important. It is good to meet the behavioral expectations of the group(s) to which one belongs. It is good to be loyal to the group(s), to support the social structure(s).

A person (usually a child) at a preconventional level is not motivated by social conventions, even though he may be aware of them. The primary motive is his own situation — whether a specific course of action is going to cause pain or pleasure. He may be aware, for example, that society does not approve of theft, but he may interpret a particular theft as “good” for himself. Negative reinforcers (punishments) help the child choose acceptable behavior until he becomes aware of better reasons for being good. Parental commands often define good and bad, and might makes right.

A child at stage 2 is motivated more by reward than by punishment. She may behave well because it serves her own interests. She may share her toys with Sally because then Sally will share her toys in return. Other people are evaluated by what she can get out of them. Fairness means equal treatment. The child gets upset if adults get more ice cream or get to stay up later than she does.

As children grow, they learn that it is in their self-interest to conform to society. They transition into stage 3 thinking: “I’ll have more pleasure and less pain if I act like other people do, if I help other people, if I do things that they like.” Teenagers are usually in this stage11 — they are strongly influenced by peer pressure. They spend more time with their peers and seek the approval of that group.12

As people grow older, their circle of social interactions continues to grow. They interact with people they work with, people who live in the neighborhood, people who have children the same age as theirs, people in the same church, people in similar business situations, people with similar hobbies, sports, entertainment, etc. They see themselves as members of society, and the pressure for conformity moves from peer expectations to the broader expectations of society, defined in modern societies by laws. Laws provide a basis for getting along with people we do not know and even those we do not like. Right and wrong are defined by the law, and stage 4 people work to do their duty, to respect authority, to maintain the social order.

However, the laws of society are not always good. I think for example of the discriminatory laws of the United States and Germany in the 1930s. Some people realized that a majority vote was not the final authority for morality. It is not right for the majority to oppress a minority. People who think like this are postconventional. They realize that morals have validity that is not dependent on the consensus of the groups to which one happens to belong. Stage 5 people then try to work within legal procedures to try to change the law. They realize that laws do not cover all aspects of morality, and it is possible to be immoral even when obeying the law.

Stage 6 people go further: They do not obey a law they consider unjust. A stage 5 person might obey even while working to repeal the law; a stage 6 person will disobey even at great personal cost, because the universal principle matters more than the self.

Let me repeat at this point that each stage is an average. One act of stage 6 behavior does not mean that the person is typically at stage 6. Also, stage 6 thinking on one ethical issue does not always mean stage 6 thinking on other issues. More likely, the person is at stage 5 and sometimes thinks at stage 6, and sometimes at stage 4, too. “Research studies indicate that from 2 percent to 10 percent of the adult population make statements indicative of this stage”13 — but it is a rare person who operates at stage 6 most of the time — such a person sees the unethical aspects of our societies, challenges the status quo, breaks social conventions, and is a nuisance to the authorities who support the status quo. (And we note also that just because someone is breaking social conventions does not mean that she is at stage 6!)

How people develop in moral thinking

If a toddler does not understand abstract thought, he cannot think in terms of ethical principles, either, for they are also abstract. He cannot know enough about society to think in terms of laws that are voted in by a majority. He cannot empathize with people he does not know. His sense of morality will depend largely on what his parents teach him.

But we as parents want our children to mature so that they can make their own decisions. How can we help them make progress? For one, by expanding their circle of awareness. First, we help them understand one other person, then a small group, then a larger group, then a society with many interrelated groups, then a world with many societies. It takes time to understand each stage and to perceive morality in progressively larger contexts. It is also helpful to deal with children not only at the stage they respond to best, but also at the next higher stage.

A stage 1 child may be told, “When you finish picking up your toys, I’ll read you your favorite story” [a stage 2 reward], rather than being told, “If you don’t get your toys picked up, you’ll wish you had!” [stage 1 punishment] A stage 2 child who takes the attitude, “Make it worth my while,” when asked to help around the house needs to understand that being a member of a household includes mutual consideration and responsibility…. Once the child is strongly entrenched at stage 3, the next step is to realize that the maintenance of order goes beyond the seeking of approval. Rules for behavior are established in the home, the school, and the society for the smooth functioning of the group.14

Growth comes through modeling and through discussion of the principles involved in ethics. Exposure to one-stage-up thinking invites the person to a better understanding. Experience is also helpful:

The more involved persons are in decision-making responsibilities, the more they must take the roles of others. Then they better comprehend the perspectives of others, which stimulates development. Families and groups that encourage interaction and communication enhance development.15

However, moral development is not automatic. It cannot be forced, no matter how intelligent the person is,16 no matter how much experience or education is given. Kohlberg and other educators were initially optimistic that a better understanding of moral development would enable them to help children mature faster and further in their moral thinking. In 1968 Kohlberg hoped to bring many people to stage 6. In 1976 he thought that stage 5 was a more realistic goal, and in 1980 he scaled his expectations downward again — stage 4 as the educational goal.17 The fact remains that most people do not get beyond stage 4, which means that they are able to understand ethical principles and operate at stage 5 part of the time, but it also means that they regress to stage 3 group-think part of the time.

As an example, consider why parents send their children to college. The usual answer is, “So you can get a good job.” And why does one want a good job? “To make more money.” If this is all the further it goes, it is a selfish goal. But this is the motivation that many adults are modeling for high-school graduates. It may not be the bestmotivation, but it is often the one that communicates best to this age.

A particularly interesting transition occurs between stage 4 and stage 5. As the person realizes that ethical principles sometimes conflict with laws, and they realize that social injustices sometimes allow for civil disobedience, they become less obedient to conventional authority and become an authority to themselves. Some of their decisions may be ethically correct, but some of them are motivated more by selfishness than by morality. Sometimes “the behavior cannot be differentiated from stage 2 egocentrism.”18 Yeatts calls this a “regression”; Clouse more optimistically calls it stage 4½.19

Contributing to the problem may be that many people enter college at stage 4, but they leave behind the social structure on which they have based their morality. Also, they are often confronted by both professors and students who inform them that blind allegiance to authority is immature. Thus they find their basis of morality undermined before they have had time to understand the principles on which they should base moral decisions. Considering these circumstances, a period of confusion is not surprising.

Furthermore, many people enter college at stage 3, and are simply unable to understand the stage 5 abstractions that they are taught, and they are confronted with a bewildering variety of moral and immoral behavior. The message they receive is that we should each decide for ourselves whether and when to obey laws and rules. In these circumstances, regression is not surprising.

Fraenkel…argues that children may take rules too lightly if adults discuss with them the conditions in which rules should be obeyed and in which rules should not be obeyed. He indicates that getting a child to a conventional level may be as much as we can hope for and that discussions at the postconventional level serve to confuse the child and may result in socially unacceptable behavior.20

Another interesting dynamic occurs when a parent is at stage 4, and a teenage child begins to explore stage 5 thinking. The parent tends to think that laws ought to be obeyed, and the child begins to question this approach. The parent is disturbed — “Moral reasoning that is either lower or higher than that of the populace must be limited or it will be perceived as a threat”21 — and the adolescent is confused.22

Developmentalism in Christianity

How are the observations and insights of moral developmental relevant to Christian ministry? I would like to make ten points:

1) Our audience is at all different stages, even without considering children. We work with a wide spectrum of people: some who have been in the church for many years and are still immature in their thinking; some who are new to the church but experienced in ethical thought; others are in between.

2) We should preach or teach at all stages. If our messages are always stage 1 — obey or else be punished — we are not helping people grow toward maturity. On the other hand, if our messages are always stage 5 — abstract principles each of us can apply in our own situations — part of the audience will not be able to understand, part will find it intellectually difficult, and part will think it unbiblical.

Ideally, each message can offer something for everyone. Whenever we teach about Christian behavior, we can describe the consequences of disobedience, the blessings of obedience, the consensus of the Christian community, the commands of Scripture, the way those commands are rooted in principles of love and faith, and how those principles critique even ourselves. I am not suggesting a mechanical outline, point by point, equal time for each stage. Rather, comments at various levels can be woven throughout the message for better communication.

3) Scripture deals with all different stages. The Bible warns us that disobedience will be punished and obedience will be rewarded (stages 1 and 2); it encourages us to be loyal to the community of faith and to obey rules (stages 3 and 4); it encourages us to see principles underlying those laws, principles we should obey even to our own hurt (stages 5 and 6). As we preach from Scripture, we will automatically be teaching at a wide variety of ethical levels — sometimes we will even be teaching above our own ability to understand! People at each stage will be able to profit from Scripture.

When God first brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he dealt with them at stages 1 and 2. He encouraged clan loyalty (stage 3) and required obedience to numerous commandments (stage 4). The prophets spoke at stages 5 and 6 — ethical principles — as well as stage 1 — threats of punishment.

The Pharisees were stuck in stages 3 and 4; Jesus called them toward a more principled morality, but they refused to come. Jesus, at stage 6, challenged the injustices of the status quo so much that the authorities put him to death. Although Jesus himself was at stage 6, he taught at all levels of moral thinking. He frequently warned about hell; he taught about rewards;23 he commanded obedience based on his own authority; he advocated the highest of principles. He taught at all levels.

4) Stories offer a multi-level teaching tool. Scripture contains many stories with complex ethical lessons. The stories of Rahab, Samson, David, Josiah and others present us with diverse situations. When the stories are told, children hear certain lessons; adults may hear different lessons. We are all invited to bring our own level of moral thinking to the situation, and we are all invited to think again. Modern stories often have the same multi-level possibilities.

5) Developmental theory is good for downscaling our teaching, not for hurrying people up the scale. Kohlberg tried to get people to move further and faster, with little success. We can’t speed people up, because moral development is not a matter of simply acquiring more information. Growth in moral thinking must come from within and must be motivated from within, based on a person’s own circumstances. A Christian teenager may be at moral stage 3, and yet just as validly Christian as someone at stage 4.

Developmental theory is descriptive, not prescriptive. It is a misuse of the theory to try to manipulate people into faster growth. The best we can do is provide a climate in which growth can take place, and we can provide teaching that isn’t over the heads of our audience. “Giving the right questions may be more productive than giving the right answers.”24

Moral development theory may be helpful for leaders, but it should not be dumped on the congregation. It doesn’t need to be a secret, but it doesn’t need to be preached. A significant part of the audience won’t understand it, will misunderstand it, and/or will disagree with it. People could easily (mis)perceive it as intellectual arrogance, as “I’m better than you are.”

6) People at different stages tend to judge one another. Stage 4 people (who form the majority) tend to label stage 5 people as liberal, as not having enough allegiance to the law. Stage 5 people tend to look down on stage 4 folks as unthinking conformists or as Pharisees. Indeed, sometimes stage 5 people are too loose with the law, and sometimes stage 4 people are too rigid with it. However, a climate of suspicion is not healthy.

Stage 4 Christians…are often suspicious of Christians at stages 5 and 6 because postconventional believers are less dogmatic, less structured, and sometimes deviate from the rules…. By contending for the faith, the conventionals become contentious, forgetting that the Bible says love is greater than faith (1 Cor. 13:13).25

Stage 6 believers [should not] consider that they are better Christians than those who reason at other stages of moral development. All people have equal worth in God’s sight, and God uses Christians at all stages…. One is not a better Christian for reasoning at a higher level. Rather, the advantages come in being able to function at more levels at a time.26

7) The person at the higher level bears the most responsibility for communication. If a stage 5 person is talking to a stage 3 person, it is unrealistic to expect the stage 3 person to rise to the occasion and talk more profoundly than she can. She cannot describe stage 5 thought because she has never been there. The stage 5 person, on the other hand, has been at stage 3 herself. She can figure out how the other person is thinking (“where she’s coming from”) and phrase her comments in a way that will be understood by the other person.

Most Christians are at stage 4. If they put their minds to it, they can function in stage 5, but stage 4 is more comfortable for them. It is easier to follow rules than to analyze complex situations. A stage 5 leader can get frustrated at this reliance on laws and rules, but it is futile to get frustrated. A more realistic approach is to teach and preach primarily at level 4,27 as well as teaching the principles behind the rules, thus inviting people to develop whenever they are ready. The leader must teach at all stages. If we want people to understand, we have to meet them at their level and talk their language. They will probably develop faster in a climate of affirmation than one of criticism.

Many pastors are also at stage 4. That might be just fine with most of the congregation, but it can pose problems. The pastor may not encourage anyone to grow beyond conventional thinking, and a consistent diet of stage 4 messages may cause some people to leave. Young people exploring the boundaries (stage 4½) may be judged harshly by stage 4 leaders. The stage 4 pastor needs to be aware of stage 4 tendencies, and to compensate by working to think in terms of broader principles behind the laws of the community.

8) People may leave the church at stage 4½, especially when they feel criticism from the conventional majority. But peer pressures will not make their questions go away. They need a safe environment in which questions can be dealt with. It would be helpful if the pastor and lay leaders would see questions not as a sure sign of rebellion, but possibly only a temporary stage needing extra grace.

9) Small groups are helpful. Small groups provide an environment in which people can ask questions and explore ethics. They can be exposed to one-stage-up reasoning. Higher stages can become more attuned to the way lower stages process moral questions and how to communicate with them more effectively. In small groups, individual questions and needs can be taken care of with a tailor-made approach. Discussion can facilitate cognitive growth.28 (Sermons and lectures can simulate this with a mock dialogue. Both Jesus and Paul used rhetorical questions as catalysts for teaching.)

Groups can also help defuse some of the tensions between conventional and postconventional Christians. People get to know one another better in small groups, and through helping one another, become bonded to one another. When Stage 5 Sam helps Stage 4 George deal with a trial, George is less likely to label Sam a liberal. He knows from personal experience that Sam’s preference for principles rather than laws does not make him unethical and does not make him selfish. Similarly, Sam realizes that George is doing the best he can, and that is admirable. Again, the burden of bridging the gap falls primarily on the more matured person. Christians do not have to hide their different approaches, but they learn to love each other despite those differences.

10) Developmentalism reminds us that humans always have potential for further growth in grace and knowledge. Children grow in their abilities to think about faith and behavioral issues, and the church facilitates growth not only in its children’s activities, but also in the childrearing information that is given to parents in the church. Parenting classes could include general information about children’s cognitive and moral development. Parents of teenagers may appreciate knowing some of the typical stages, even if those stages are not presented in psychological terminology.

But growth does not stop once the young adults settle down and have children of their own. Our goal in Christianity is not compliance with a set of external behaviors — the goal is the maturity that is in Christ. Behavior is part of the goal, but the heart must also be involved. We need to become more and more like Christ in compassion for the downtrodden and in zeal for righteousness in the heart. We need to imitate how his faith translated itself into decisions — specifically his willingness to disregard the values of this life when they conflict with the eternal values God reveals to us. True maturity will support and edify the body of Christ, not create people who remove themselves from the body.

How can we help adults continue growing in moral reasoning? In teaching and preaching, we can continue to observe the principled basis of biblical commands. Just as we look at the principle involved in “Greet one another with a holy kiss,” so also we should look at the principle involved in other commands. We are challenged by Jesus’ observation that David did something that was not lawful, and yet was not condemned (Matt. 12:4). God looks on the heart — he wants us to act out of conviction, not out of social conformity.

People are most likely to examine their presuppositions when bad things happen to good people. In times of stress, old ways of thinking may reveal their insufficiency, creating an opportunity for a new approach. This is facilitated in small groups, for in such an environment people may be exposed to the one-stage-up thinking of a person who loves them and can be trusted, and who is there for them when they are ready to learn.

Problems with the theory

Let me conclude with a few observations about the weaknesses of developmental theory. First, Christianity stresses conversion, but developmentalism has no place to put it. The converted person may have the same kind of moral thinking, but a different table of authorities. Developmentalists may call this a lateral move, but Christians perceive it as significant, of highest importance. Developmentalists generally assume that humans can be fully moral on their own; Christianity asserts that God must transform the heart.

Second, developmentalism focuses on thinking, not on emotion or behavior. Persons who think well about the issues do not always do well — they do what they know is wrong. Both emotion and behavior are important in morality. “Christians must go beyond Kohlberg…. Concern for how the child processes right from wrong is to be combined with concern for the content of that rightness and wrongness…. Morality is more than rules — it is a relationship.”29

Third, Kohlberg focused on justice as the highest good, but compassion is sometimes a competing morality. He did not have a logical reason to elevate one above the other. Our goal in Christ is multifaceted, not reducible to a single term.

Fourth, developmentalism generally assumes that people always progress and do not regress. It assumes that higher stages are better than lower ones. Since theorists often choose to ignore the supernatural, however, they do not have a logical basis for saying that any morality is good, or that humanity itself is any good.

Fifth, developmentalism is based on subjective studies. Motives are not easily measured, and the role of the theorist/observer may be significant. Although many studies have been done using Kohlberg’s theory, women have been underrepresented, and the elderly almost excluded.30

I hope that this introduction has been interesting, and perhaps that it has sparked a few thoughts of your own. Perhaps you from your own experiences can write some ideas and observations about the usefulness or the limitations of developmental theory.


1 Bonnidell Clouse, Moral Development: Perspectives in Psychology and Christian Belief (Baker, 1985).

2 Piaget worked in Switzerland from the 1920s to the 1970s. See a brief biography of him in Bonnidell Clouse, Teaching for Moral Growth (Victor, 1993), pp. 224-225.

3 Chart created from information in James E. Plueddemann, “The Power of Piaget,” in James C. Wilhoit and John M. Dettoni, eds., Nurture That Is Christian (Victor, 1995), pp. 52-54. See this book and Clouse, Teaching, for further details about Piaget and his theory.

4 Clouse, Teaching, p. 226.

5 Ibid., p. 59.

6 Clouse, Teaching, p. 240.

7 Erik Erikson studied social relationships; James Fowler studied faith. I might comment on them in a future article. Those who are interested in Erikson and Fowler will find analyses in Clouse and Wilhoit and Dettoni.

8 “Messages tend to be misinterpreted if they are two stages or more beyond the reasoning a person uses with ease” (Wilhoit and Dettoni, p. 71). “If the material…is too mature, the people will misunderstand the material, consider it irrelevant, discard it” (ibid., pp. 252-4).

9 “Stage 3, along with stage 4, remains the dominant stage for most people during adulthood” (Clouse, Teaching, pp. 230-231).

10 “Kohlberg found very few examples of this mature moral reasoning, so few that he had to acknowledge his Stage 6 within Level III to be a theoretical possibility needing further empirical study” (Catherine Stonehouse, “The Power of Kohlberg,” in Wilhoit and Dettoni, p. 68).

11 “Stage 3 usually begins in preadolescence and is a dominant stage during the adolescent period” (Clouse, Teaching, p. 264).

12 It becomes important for parents to give attention to a child’s choice of companions. It is easier to help children in their choice of friends during the early years than when they are in adolescence and spend more time away from home. The key is to guide rather than tell…. Discussion of possible consequences of friendships with certain types of people sets the stage for cognitive decisions that enable moral development to take place” (Clouse, Teaching, p. 275).

13 Clouse, Moral Development, p. 115.

14 Ibid., p. 131.

15 Stonehouse, p. 72.

16 “Although people who are more intelligent also tend to be higher in moral judgment, there are many exceptions…. The level of moral development is only moderately correlated with IQ” (Clouse, Teaching, p. 243).

17 Ibid., p. 140.

18 Clouse, Teaching, p. 290. The difference is that a stage 5 person breaks the law to benefit others; a stage 2 person breaks the law to benefit himself. One person breaks down the neighbor’s door to warn him that the house is on fire; the other breaks down the neighbor’s door to steal his goods.

19 John R. Yeatts, “Helpful But Inadequate; a Critique of the Developmental Paradigm,” Christian Education Journal 13 (fall 1990): 54; Clouse, op. cit.

20 Clouse, Teaching, p. 251.

21 Clouse, Teaching, p. 270.

22 “It is a confusing time for many adolescents who feel fear, anger, and alienation while at the same time experiencing the emotions of freedom, anticipation, and excitement” (Clouse, Teaching, p. 290).

23 The rewards he offered were usually eternal rewards, not those of this life. But in at least one story, he offered crass self-advancement as a motive for doing something right (Luke 14:10).

24 “Seven Assumptions and Seven Applications,” class handout, Dynamics of Christian Formation, Azusa Pacific University, November 6, 1997.

25 Clouse, Teaching, p. 383.

26 Clouse, Teaching, p. 283.

27 This may mean that stage 5 people sometimes get bored with the message. However, they should realize that the message is designed to communicate with the majority, not with the few. The more mature must accept the responsibility of seeking additional discussion at a higher level, rather than insisting that the general discussion be at their level and thereby neglecting the needs of the majority.

28 “People must interact with each other in order to grow. Education that merely fosters passive reception of information will seldom develop people” (Wilhoit and Dettoni, p. 59).

29 Julie Gorman, in Wilhoit and Dettoni, p. 154.

30 These and other weaknesses are discussed in much greater detail in Yeatts, op. cit. His critiques apply not only to the moral development theory of Kohlberg, but also the faith development theory of Fowler.

Author: Michael Morrison


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