By Brad Wigger
CRAIG RICHARD DYKSTRA (b. 1947). Baptized in the Reformed Church of America, confirmed and later ordained to ministry as a Presbyterian, his career has served the church through congregational ministry, theological school teaching, writing, and philanthropy. His scholarly work in the areas of pastoral and ecclesial imagination, moral education, faith practices, and practical theology has provided a rich context for the field of Christian education even as his visionary support for faith-based institutions has strengthened the practice of religion in America.
Craig Dykstra was the first-born of three sons to Pauline and Richard Dykstra, who were living in Detroit Michigan at the time. Craig was not the first minister in the family; his maternal grandfather, the Rev. J. J. Hollebrands, was the pastor of the First Reformed Church of Detroit (RCA), the church in which Craig would be baptized and the family had long been deeply involved.
During his late childhood, Craig Dykstra’s family moved to the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe and eventually joined Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (a United Presbyterian church at the time) where the Rev. Bertram Atwood was the senior pastor. According to Dykstra, “he was an astounding preacher” who got at the “deep truth of the Christian gospel” by engaging Christian faith and serious theology with the deep concerns of human life during a time reeling with the conflicts of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. Dykstra was confirmed at Grosse Pointe Memorial, and between Atwood, the congregation, and his parents’ commitment to the church, he found profound opportunities for formation in the Christian life. This happened not only through participation in worship and education, but through music and choirs, camps and youth groups, as well as through the overall support of the congregation. In addition, the pastoral staff led study groups with the youth in which they read and discussed serious theological works in relation to the rapidly changing social world.
It was in these teen years that Dykstra met his wife to be, Betsy Hanson. They both attended Albion College for a year before transferring to the University of Michigan, where both finished their undergraduate degrees. Betsy graduated from the School of Education and devoted her career to teaching and school administration. Craig was a philosophy major. One of his most influential teachers was Professor Robert Adams, who offered a philosophy of religion course in which students read Buber, Kierkegaard, and Barth, among others, which provided an extension for Dykstra of the serious theological engagement that had begun with the study groups of his home church.
Toward the end of college, Dykstra decided to go to seminary. Graduating from Michigan in 1969, Craig and Betsy were married and moved to Princeton where Craig attended Princeton Theological Seminary and Betsy taught school. During the first year at Princeton, the Dykstra’s first son, Peter, was born, and a year later (1971), their second son, Andrew. This led to Craig laying out his second year of seminary to work a variety of jobs to help support his family—from tutoring at-risk children to working with youth at First Presbyterian Church of Moorestown, NJ. He was able to return to classes the following year and graduated with the MDiv degree in 1973.
At Princeton, Dykstra’s commitment to the church’s educational ministry grew and flourished under the guidance and teaching of James E. Loder, Freda Gardner and D. Campbell Wyckoff, all strong leaders in the field. Dykstra also directed the seminary’s Reigner Reading Room, the resource center and library for the seminary’s School of Christian education. At Princeton, he was able to build upon his love of philosophy as a student of Diogenes Allen, professor of philosophical theology, and as a student of Loder who drew heavily from Kierkegaard and other significant philosophical sources. Like Loder, Dykstra could integrate philosophical theology with Christian education in a way that brought together philosophical depth with engaging practice. Partly as a result of a senior thesis focused upon Kierkegaard, Dykstra was offered a PhD Fellowship in Practical Theology at Princeton to encourage him to continue working in the field.
After graduation in 1973, Dykstra received a call to the position of Assistant Minister at Westminster Church of Detroit (United Presbyterian), a large multi-staffed inner-city church whose congregation was racially integrated. At Westminster, Dykstra oversaw the Youth and Christian Education Programs, including the all-summer Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake in northern Michigan. While the year was very fruitful and a significant learning experience, the call of theological education was strong for Craig, and a time limit on his fellowship at Princeton loomed. So the Dykstras decided to return to Princeton Seminary in the fall of 1974 for Craig to pursue the PhD. The seminary accommodated his love of both philosophy and education and designed an interdisciplinary program that allowed him to integrate both fields. After finishing his comprehensive exams, in 1976, Dykstra returned to the job of directing the Reigner Reading Room, and served as an Instructor in Christian Education at the seminary. His dissertation was far along when he received a call to serve as an Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in the summer of 1977. He successfully defended his dissertation, Christian Education and the Moral Life, in the spring of 1978, graduated, and was able to enjoy a great career of teaching and writing at Louisville.
In addition to enjoying his colleagues, Dykstra learned and grew under the guidance of the Louisville’s president, C. Ellis. Nelson, who at the time was already a senator in the field of Christian Education. Dykstra calls Nelson “a most wonderful man,” and fondly remembers that it was Nelson who actually picked Dykstra up at the airport when he had flown out for the interview. Nelson, for Dykstra, embodied so much of what he saw as important in the life of faith: a loving and gentle spirit, deep integrity, moral vision, educational imagination, and a love for the church. Just as Nelson’s Where Faith Begins emphasizes the community of faith in formation and education, Nelson believed the seminary community of faith was crucial to theological and ministerial formation. These values, this vision, and this man had a deep influence upon the seminary and on Dykstra himself. In many ways, the community echoed the ways those first communities of faith that shaped Dykstra’s own early Christian formation.
Louisville certainly gave Dykstra a fertile place to grow as a teacher, a writer, and as a leader. He often team-taught with seasoned teachers, courses such as: God, Evil, and the Practice of Ministry as well as DMin seminars with philosophical theologian Burton Cooper; The Art of Teaching with Old Testament scholar Gene March; a course developed with Louis Weeks, Congregation-Based Christian Education (made possible from a grant from the Lilly Endowment); as well as many other courses with colleagues. The communal spirit of the seminary and its classrooms had a profound effect upon Dykstra’s own educational imagination, one that carried into his teaching, writing, and leadership throughout his career. This can be seen in the emphasis upon the community of faith in Dykstra’s first book, Vision and Character: A Christian Educator’s Alternative to Kohlberg in 1981. More about this work will be described below, but for Dykstra, it is the community of faith where vision and character are cultivated and sustained.
The love and appreciation for this particular community of Louisville Seminary made all the more difficult the decision Dykstra faced when Princeton Seminary offered him the opportunity to return to Princeton as a Professor of Christian Education to begin in the fall of 1984. Dykstra was genuinely and openly torn about which of two great possibilities to pursue: the chance to continue the work he was doing in Louisville, or, the opportunity to teach PhD students at Princeton and work with his former mentors Freda Gardner and Jim Loder. As a colleague (Don Richter) witnessed one day during this time: Freda Gardner was in Louisville for a meeting and at the seminary having lunch with Craig in the cafeteria. On one side was Burton Cooper telling Craig all the reasons he should stay in Louisville; on the other side was Freda Gardner telling Craig all the reasons he should come to Princeton.
In the end Dykstra joined the faculty of Princeton Seminary in 1984 as the Thomas W. Synnott Professor of Christian Education. In addition to teaching, he became the Associate Editor of Theology Today and later, in 1987, became its Editor. At Princeton, Dykstra developed more formally theological themes that had taken root in Louisville: ecclesia (the formative power of the community of faith); theological vision (as an alternative to developmental frameworks for the life of faith); and faith practices (as a way of organizing practical theology as well as educational ministry).
Through teaching and writing (described below) Dykstra brought these themes not only to the fields of Practical Theology and Christian Education, but into the classroom. In addition to readings and discussion, Dykstra implemented pedagogies that embodied communal and generative ways of teaching and learning. As one of his former students remembers, “In Craig’s classes, we always knew we were all in this together—learning from Craig, of course, but from one another.” For Dykstra, faithful practice bears epistemological weight—whether in classrooms or congregations, in communities or households. That is, some things can only be known as they are lived, bodily, and shared in the community of faith. As a result, these themes, ideas, practices, and “knowings” took shape in the educational imaginations and practices of countless seminary students, who in turn, have taken them into congregations and seminaries.
The depth and clarity of thought in this work, combined with his integrity, as well as administrative facility and vision, no doubt led to another difficult decision. In the spring of 1989, The Lilly Endowment approached Dykstra to be its Vice President for Religion. A fellow Christian Educator, Robert Lynn, had held the position and it was he who identified Dykstra as a person to consider. The position is responsible for the oversight of the nation’s largest grant-making program in religion, and after consulting with trusted friends and colleagues, Dykstra accepted the offer. “And,” in his words, “a large world opened up.” The work took him, formally, out of the field of Christian Education, but his vision and many of the themes and practices developed earlier went with him as he worked with a wide range of institutions—including seminaries, universities, secular organizations, denominations, and more. In fact, a strong emphasis in this work was to enable leaders of institutions, practitioners, scholars, and writers to work and think together rather than in isolation. The same communal spirit brought to his classrooms, Dykstra brought to the work of philanthropy.
Dykstra stayed at Lilly until July, 2012, a tenure he calls “a glorious twenty-three years.” Retiring from Lilly (though he now serves on its Board of Directors), he took the position of Research Professor of Practical Theology and Senior Fellow in Leadership Education at Duke University Divinity School. At the time of this writing (2013), Dykstra continues to teach and to write. He has two major writing projects underway, one focused on the general subject of religion and philanthropy; the other focused upon a practical theology of institutional life. Dykstra’s career has placed him in a unique position to understand religious institutions. In his words, he has seen “how beautiful it is when institutions work collaboratively” not just within any particular organization, but between them so they “become a community of practice, attempt new ways to do important things, experiment, and learn from one another.” He hopes to marshal his experience with and vision for institutions, in writing and in practice, to encourage them to share their abundance of gifts so they may flourish. In this, Craig Dykstra still thinks and works like a faithful educator.
Contributions to Christian Education
In one sense Craig Dykstra’s work cannot be contained by any particular academic or theological field, even that of Christian education. In another sense, Dykstra has brought the sensibilities and vision of educational ministry—of a faithful teacher—to his entire vocational life. A glimpse of these sensibilities is provided by a story Dykstra tells of one of his earliest teaching roles, that is, as a swimming instructor at the YMCA while he was in seminary.
Teaching nervous, teeth-gritting preschoolers how to swim, provides, as Dykstra describes it, deep lessons in faith and Christian education. The first task is to help the children trust the water. Trust, in this sense, is a very specific kind of knowledge: “In a deeply somatic, bodily way—and in a way that is in no small part existential, for it is a knowledge that must be strong enough to address their fears—they must come to know the buoyancy of the water.” He describes gently taking children into the water, helping them relax and not clutch up their muscles. With an assuring hand beneath their backs, he lets the children feel the buoyancy of the water, a buoyancy that must be known and trusted, if they are to learn to swim. “So it is with the life of faith. At the heart of the Christian life, there lies a deep, somatic, profoundly personal but very real knowledge. It is the knowledge of the buoyancy of God” (2008, April 8).
This illustration works at many levels when considering Dykstra’s contributions to the field of Christian Education, and these are explored below through his writings.
Intellectual Context. The era in which Dykstra began his academic career, in the late 1970’s, was an era in which the developmental approach of Lawrence Kohlberg dominated discussions of moral and religious education. For Kohlberg, there is a cognitive pattern of information-processing (a structure) of morality that can be studied through the judgments a person makes about situations involving ethical dilemmas. Maturing in moral reasoning happens through identifiable stages, in a way similar to the stages Piaget describes in a child’s cognitive development, but for the whole lifespan. This developmental approach would soon be extended to faith itself, through the work of James Fowler and his faith development theory, which would have an even greater impact upon the field of Christian education. Fowler describes faith as also involving universal structures that organize patterns of trust, loyalty, and commitment; and these structures can (but may not) develop through the entire lifespan.
Vision and Character. In relation to these large trends in developmental theory, Dykstra found himself going against the grain, and much of his early work sought to establish a different vision of the moral world and the life of faith. This alternative vision is first articulated in Dykstra’s dissertation (Christian Education and the Moral Life, 1979) and its revision in his first book, Vision and Character: A Christian Educator’s Alternative to Kohlberg (1981).
Influenced by his own teachers, Diogenes Allen and James Loder of Princeton Theological Seminary, as well as the philosophical writings of Iris Murdoch and Gabriel Marcel, Dykstra brings a deep critique of the description of the moral life as characterized by stages of intellectual decision-making. As he puts it, morality is not simply “a matter of intellectual operations.” Instead, “Morality is a matter of love. It is a matter of love which takes the form of the apprehension of the mystery of reality” (1979, 181-182).
Key to this alternative vision is Dykstra’s special use of the term mystery, drawn particularly from Marcel. Dykstra is not using the word in its ordinary meaning of a baffling riddle or a problem with no solution. Instead, mystery is the inexhaustible particularity of existence, and it “means that it is impossible for us ever to get things settled, tied down, secured” (1979, 102). Mysteries are irreducible. And the apprehension of mystery—of life, of others, of self—is to recognize and honor this irreducibility. I am, you are, life is, ever more than our rational minds could ever conceptualize—at any stage of development—and our ability to attend to mystery is the font from which the moral life flows.
In this approach to the moral life, the great temptation is to treat mysteries as problems, that is, to reduce them, to refuse to encounter them in their fullness and depth (1981, 35). Reducing people to their roles or to stereotypes, for example, is to turn mysteries into problems. Why would we do this? Dykstra answers: fear and the consequent need to control. “Real people cannot be controlled as problems can, and we become afraid when we begin to lose control over things” (1981, 37).
The ethical life, therefore, is less about moral reasoning and problem-solving and more about mystery-encountering vision. That is, “the moral world is a world of mystery rather than a world of problems. People are mysteries and being moral means treating them as such. Our world is a mystery, and being moral means encountering it that way. At the depth of being there is an Ultimate Mystery, and being moral means being properly related to that Mystery” (1981, 36). Encountering the world as mystery is a matter of vision, a way of seeing in depth. Character—our way of being in life—is thoroughly intertwined with seeing and “depends not only with what is in front of our eyes, but also on what lies within our hearts and minds. Who we are determines what we see” (1981, 50).
Even so, who we are and what we see has a lot to do with the contexts in which we live and learn, particularly our social contexts and with their particular ways of being. Dykstra follows other Christian educators, such as C. Ellis Nelson and John Westerhoff, who emphasize the socializing role of the church. The community of faith helps shape our “perceptions, values, and identities” (1981, 124). In the Christian life, the ability to apprehend mystery and grow in love is cultivated and sustained in the community of faith and its disciplines of repentance, prayer, and service—in short, through worship, which is paradigmatic. “To grow morally means to turn one’s life into worship” (1981, 106).
The community of faith—as it worships—forms the context in which to learn the ways of the mystery-encountering ethical life. And the role of Christian education is to help facilitate this vision and character formation. A teacher in this context, is the one “who is intentionally responsible for involving learners in the experience of the repenting, praying and serving community in such a way that its various aspects might be explored, shared, understood, and participated in” (1981, 125).
In a way, apprehending mystery is like apprehending buoyancy; it has to be known directly, bodily, personally, if it is to be trusted. Teachers are needed to introduce us to it, to help us relax, un-clinch, and not be afraid of the depths. And this is as true for whole communities as it is for individuals.
Faith Development. Can this learning, this knowing, be captured in stage development theory? For Dykstra, the answer is: probably not. The issue is not whether there are stages of life, that is, periods characterized by one kind of concern or another—childhood and adolescence, finding love and vocation, parenting, etc. But any and all of these times can be marked by death, fear, and suffering, for example, by all that can make us clutch and grit and drown. If faith is about knowing buoyancy—especially in the face of existential fears and challenges—it is unclear what stage theory is describing. Or is faith something else?
This was a fundamental question Dykstra raised in his next publishing project, Faith Development and Fowler (1986), a multi-author volume co-edited with Sharon Parks. In a chapter entitled “What Is Faith: An Experiment in the Hypothetical Mode,” Dykstra poses a thought experiment concerning the nature of faith: if faith is ____, then ____. He takes up Fowler’s own description of faith and considers whether stage theory makes sense for it. Key is that Fowler understands faith as a structural component of human existence as such—it is universal, though expressed in a wide variety of ways through whatever humans trust and are loyal to. So, Dykstra asks, if faith is what Fowler says it is, then does it make sense to consider it developmental? And Dykstra’s answer is yes.
However, Dykstra takes up an alternative definition to see whether stage theory would be appropriate. Borrowing from John Cobb, Dykstra suggests this definition: “faith is appropriate and intentional participation in the redemptive activity of God” (Dykstra, 1986a, 55). In this case, faith is not by definition universal, not a generic structural feature; instead it is “a possibility in human existence, but not a necessity” (Dykstra, 1986a, 55). So if faith is what Dykstra says it is, then does it make sense to consider it developmental? His answer is no. For Dykstra, faith is something we can grow in, but it is not the same thing as human development or a general capacity of human existence.
Nonetheless, Dykstra sees some common ground with Fowler when it comes to religious education. Fowler understands the purpose of church education as being for creative discipleship, not for faith development itself. Faith development helps us better understand the readiness of people for that discipleship. Dykstra agrees, but would call the response of discipleship itself faith, rather than the readiness (1986a, 63).
Ecclesia. Even as Dykstra was describing an alternative to developmental theory, he was also refining and extending his understanding of the importance of the social context, the ecclesial nature, of Christian education. In 1987 he published an article for the journal Religious Education called, “The Formative Power of the Congregation,” that draws heavily from the philosophical theologian Edward Farley and his phenomenological analysis of the church in Ecclesial Man.
The critique of and concern about schools of enculturation and socialization in Christian education has been that people can be socialized and enculturated into terrible ways of being. Communities can cultivate and even institutionalize all forms of turning mysteries into problems, from racial hatred to religious bigotry. As Dykstra (borrowing from James Loder) puts it, in congregational life, as much as in other social contexts, we may be “engaged in socially acceptable (indeed, socially celebrated) patterns of mutual self-destruction” (1987, 532).
One response to this concern has been Thomas Groome’s “shared praxis” approach to Christian education, which is to engage people in critical reflection in the light of the Christian Story. Dykstra, in “Formative Power of the Congregation,” appreciates Groome’s work on the one hand, but on the other finds it insufficient. It begs the question: how do we reflect critically? Facing our flaws and cooperation with principalities and powers is no easy task. First, critical reflection can itself be co-opted by the very destructive patterns from which we seek freedom. Second, even conscious awareness of our condition does not necessarily provide the critical leverage on our behaviors needed to break the hold, as anyone suffering addiction could testify. The fears, compulsions, or distorted desires feeding the destructive ways run deeper than reflective consciousness or the ego’s will. So, for Dykstra, critical reflection does not by itself have the power to break the hold of destructive ways of being (sin); genuine critical reflection is instead a fruit of something more profound (1987, 537).
Dykstra, following an existentialist stream of thought, sees death and chaos as the ultimate threat to human existence, a threat that operates largely at pre-reflective levels of knowing. Accompanying this threat however is a corresponding refusal of chaos and meaninglessness. Our anxiety over death is countered by a drive for life. Following Farley, Dykstra notices the forms that refusal of chaos can take: self-securing on the one hand, or faith on the other. Self-securing is a form of refusal built upon our own powers and efforts. But such anxious striving inevitably fails—we still die; chaos reigns—and at some level we know this and are plagued by this fundamental insecurity. “Unless there is this reality which does in fact establish and sustain us, secure us in existence, notice us in love, permanently and utterly, and unless, through faith, somehow deep within our being we know that, we have no choice but to continue desperately to secure our own selves” (1987, 539). Faith, then, is the deep and personal knowledge that God is the power of life and the power to refuse chaos. Faith is the power to break the hold of sin. While we are never completely free of sin and its temptations, faith can modify our self-destructive ways in the direction of redemptive ways characterized by love and freedom.
Yet faith is no achievement (which would make it another form of self-securing). It is a gift mediated by communities of faith. As congregations 1) acknowledge patterns of self-destruction (confession), and 2) admit its incapacity to secure themselves (repentance), and 3) celebrate the securing power that is God alone (proclamation and prayer), in short as congregations worship, the power of sin is potentially broken up by the power of God’s love. “Through worship, patterns of mutual self-destruction become redemptively transformed” (1987, 540). Worship, in this sense, is more than what happens in ritual; it is a lifestyle, one that indwells the rhythms of confession and repentance, proclamation and prayer, and issues in ways of being characterized by love and freedom. Worship, in this sense, testifies to a power beyond ourselves (communally and individually) to the ground of life, of freedom, of security, of a love transcending our fragile, chaos-plagued, lives.
Here is an extension of themes first articulated in Vision and Character—the importance of the social context for faith and education, along with its disciplines and ways of being. Christian education in this view is totally dependent upon the worshipping church even while it helps the community of faith understand its own experience, to “grasp the inner character and hidden nature of the mutual self-destruction and redemption that goes on in its own experience in order that it…may more and more be open to the redemptive activity of God” (1987, 546). We are able to grow in our ability to be open to and respond to God’s redemptive activity among us, that is, to grow in the life of faith.
We could say that Christian education in the context of the worshiping community helps the church understand its experience of the buoyancy of God. To that end, it helps relieve our insecurities, relax our scared bodies and anxious self-securing ways that we may delight in the loving power that uphold us.
Practices. When Dykstra moved from Louisville to Princeton Seminary in 1984, he joined the Practical Theology faculty and began teaching PhD students for the first time. This work included helping future practical theologians think through the methodological concerns of the field, a field that was suffering something of an identity crisis at the time.
“Theology and theological education are burdened by a picture of practice that is harmfully individualistic, technological, ahistorical, and abstract” (1991, 35). So writes Dykstra in an essay entitled “Reconceiving Practice,” that reflects an emphasis that would attend his work for the next two decades. This problematic picture of practice only serves to reinforce what Farley calls the “clerical paradigm” in which our understanding of practice is a minister doing something—teaching, preaching, counseling, for example—for, or to, or on behalf of someone else. Practical theology, here, is designed to help the minister do this.
Christian education in such a paradigm is focused upon administering programs and on the craft of teaching; and the measures of success rest in utility—the results or effects of an individual’s effort and the procedures used. No doubt administration and teaching are crucial components to Christian education, but for Dykstra they are necessary but insufficient dimensions of helping a church engage in creative discipleship or understand its own experience of God’s redemptive power.
As a way of re-imagining practical theology, Dykstra focuses first on notions of practice. If practice is reconceived along lines outside the clerical paradigm, perhaps practical theology could find sturdier ground. Dykstra finds help for this in the work of Alasdair MacIntyre who understood practice as a “coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity” (MacIntyre, 1981, 175; Dykstra, 1991, 42). Key here is that practices are socially established, that is, they are activities done together—from playing baseball to worshipping God. In addition there are goods internal to the practices themselves, realized only by participating well in them (Dykstra, 1991, 45). That is, practices bear epistemological weight. “Engagement in certain practices may give rise to new knowledge” (Dykstra, 1991, 45). Some realities may only be apprehended through participation in particular practices. This is crucial to Christian education.
Dykstra draws an example from Marianne Sawicki’s analysis of Luke-Acts: action on behalf of the needy was a precondition for apprehending the resurrected Jesus, not the result (Sawicki, 1988; Dykstra, 1991, 46). The practice of hospitality to “all who had need” put early followers of Christ in the position to apprehend the mystery of resurrection, to know God’s refusal of death and chaos. Epistemological weight is another way of talking about revelation.
Practices, then, are key to theological formation according to Dykstra, not only for church leaders, but for everyone in the community of faith. This formation, this habitus, “is profound, life-orienting, identity-shaping participation in the constitutive practices of Christian life” (1991, 50). And our participation in these practices is something that must be learned. We learn best by doing them, with others, and this requires teachers who are also our partners in these practices. Because clergy will also be teachers of practices, clergy education is an important realm for church leaders to explore and deepen their ability to participate in them. At the same time, practices are communal activities and larger than clergy or teachers or any individual.
“Reconceiving Practice” was written while Dykstra was still at Princeton, in 1989, but he soon left to become the Vice President for Religion of the Lily Endowment, Inc. While the move took him away from direct teaching in theological education, it allowed a flourishing of his ideas. With the help of the Endowment and under the leadership of Dorothy Bass, the Valparaiso Project initiated a writing project involving theologians of many varieties to explore multiple Christian practices—from hospitality and discernment, to testimony and Sabbath-keeping—and became the book Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People (1997).
This was only the beginning as over twenty additional books revolving around this understanding of practice have been generated through the Project, along with a website full of resources for adults and youth alike. One of these books is Dykstra’s own Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices (1998). Growing includes previous writings (such as “The Formative Power of the Congregation”) as well as new descriptions of deep themes such as practice and growing in faith.
The contributions made to the church and Christian education by way of practices is immeasurable. We can notice though, that what began for Dykstra as an emphasis upon disciplines (of repentance, prayer, and service) for the moral life and for apprehending mystery has become a focus for vast number of scholars, writers, pastors, and teachers. Most importantly, people of faith are actually engaging in practices and finding meaning and power in them. They are, as Dykstra puts it, “habitations of the Spirit,” that is, the “places in the contours of our personal and communal lives where a habitation of the Spirit is able to occur.” (1998, 64) These places, like swimming pools, are where we come to know buoyancy.
Pastoral Imagination. “It is a beautiful thing to see a good pastor at work,” opens Dykstra in “Pastoral and Ecclesial Imagination,” a chapter from For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry (2008), a multi-author book he also co-edited with Dorothy Bass. After nearly twenty years of serving at the Lily Endowment, Dykstra has worked with and supported all manner of scholarship, research, theological education, and religious institution, not only through grant-making, but through guidance and wisdom born of years of leadership experience. But the focus of Dykstra’s most recent publications (and a fundamental theological concern) has been pastors in congregations.
“Somehow, pastors who really get what the Christian ministry is all about and who do it well are able to enter many diverse situations, whether joyous or full of misery and conflict, and see what is going on there through the eyes of faith.” Here we can see the deep themes of vision and character connected explicitly to faith and the practice of ministry. “This way of seeing and interpreting shapes what the pastor thinks and does and how he or she responds to people in gestures, words, and actions. … This way of seeing and interpreting is what I mean by ‘pastoral imagination.’” Pastoral imagination emerges over time in the midst of ministry, and “functions as a kind of internal gyroscope, guiding pastors in and through every crevice of pastoral life and work” (2008, 41). We can see here, then, how the practice of ministry, for Dykstra, bears epistemological weight and yields goods intrinsic to the practice.
Playing off of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, Dykstra even sees a kind of pastoral intelligence at work in the pastoral imagination. It is not so much an additional, discrete intelligence (in Gardner’s sense) but a dynamic coherence of all the intelligences in pastoral work—from arranging worship space and creating budgets, to understanding people and music and the power of words. “To be a good pastor, you have to be very smart in lots of really interesting ways” (51).
Dykstra understands that the demands of ministry, the demands on multiple intelligences, the demands of a pastoral imagination, are overwhelming. But it is precisely at this point that he tells the story of teaching children to swim. The pastoral imagination rests on the knowledge of the buoyancy of God, “a deep, profound, existential knowledge that infuses not only our minds, but also our hearts and even our bodies” (56).
Key, however, to this deep knowledge buoying a pastoral imagination, is ecclesial imagination. Why? Because the life of faith and ministry is life together, is shared knowledge. Ecclesial imagination emerges in the community of faith, that is, in people’s responses to God’s redemptive activity. It “fosters a way of seeing and being” characterized by humility, listening and learning, attentiveness, and it is deeply hopeful, generous, caring, and dedicated to the next generation (57). When pastoral imagination intersects with ecclesial imagination, “ministry is received as a gift of God within a larger life of faith shared by pastors and people.” This yields a kind of existential freedom from (futile) self-securing and striving and freedom for life abundant— “instead of working frenetically and compulsively to harness their own powers and energies, pastors are somehow set free to receive, draw upon, release, and share in the multiple energies and capacities of the people of their congregations and of the whole body of Christ” (56).
When Dykstra writes of the pastoral imagination, strictly speaking, he has gone beyond the field of Christian education. Yet, we can see that he is still thinking like his own understanding of a teacher: to help the church understand its own experience of buoyancy, that it may swim and thrive. In addition, with his work with and concern for institutions, Dykstra is taking this teaching role into an even larger public.
References in addition to Dykstra:
Sawicki, M. (1988). Recognizing the risen Lord, in Theology Today, 44(4), pp. 441-449.
MacIntyre, A. (1981). After virtue. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame.
Dykstra, C. (1981). Vision and character: A Christian educator's alternative to Kohlberg. Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press. Reprinted (2008). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock.
Dykstra, C. (1984). Vision and character: A Christian educator's alternative to Kohlberg (K. M. Lee, Korean Trans.). Seoul, South Korea: The Presbyterian Church of Korea. (Original work published 1981).
Dykstra, C. (1999). Growing in the life of faith: Education and Christian practices. Louisville, KY: Geneva Press.
Dykstra, C. (2005). Growing in the life of faith: Education and Christian practices (2nd ed.). Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.
Dykstra, C., & Bass, D.C. (Eds.). (2008). For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Dykstra, C., & Parks, S. (1986). Faith development and Fowler. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
Dykstra, C. (1978). Christian education and the moral life: An evaluation of and alternative to Kohlberg. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation.) Princeton Theological Seminary (available through Xerox-University Microfilms).
Chapters in Books
Dykstra, C. (1983). What are people like? In D. Joy (Ed.), Moral development foundations (pp. 153-162). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Dykstra, C. (1984). Faith development issues and religious nurture. In M. J. Taylor (Ed.), Changing patterns of religious education (pp. 74-88). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Dykstra, C. (1986a). Faith development and religious education. In C. Dykstra & S. Parks (Eds.), Faith development and Fowler (pp. 251-281). Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
Dykstra, C. (1986b). Family promises: Faith and families in the context of the church. In L. Sawyers (Ed.), Families and faith (pp. 137-163). Philadelphia, PA: Geneva Press.
Dykstra, C. (1986c). What is faith? An experiment in the hypothetical mode. In C. Dykstra & S. Parks (Eds.), Faith development and Fowler (pp. 45-64). Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
Dykstra, C. (1987). Agenda for youth ministry: Problems, questions, and strategies. In M. Warren, Readings and resources in youth ministry (pp. 71-103). Winona, MN: St. Mary's Press.
Dykstra, C. (1991). Reconceiving Practice. In B. G. Wheeler, & E. Farley, (Eds.), Shifting boundaries: Contextual approaches to the structure of theological education (pp. 161-182). Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.
Dykstra, C. (1996a). The formative power of the congregation. In J. Astley, L. J. Francis, & C. Crowder (Eds.), Theological perspectives on Christian formation: A reader in theology and Christian education (pp. 252-265). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Dykstra, C. (1996b). No longer strangers: The church and its educational ministry. In J. Astley, L. J. Francis, & C. Crowder (Eds.), Theological perspectives on Christian formation: A reader in theology and Christian education (pp. 106-118). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Dykstra, C. (1997). Reconceiving practice in theological inquiry and education. In N. Murphy, B. J. Kallenberg, & M. T. Nation (Eds.), Virtues & practices in the Christian tradition (pp. 161-182). Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. (Reprint of Dykstra, C. (1991).
Dykstra, C. (2008). Pastoral and ecclesial imagination. In C. Dykstra & D.C. Bass (Eds.), For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry (pp. 41-61). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Dykstra, C., & Bass, D.C. (1997a). Growing in the practices of faith. In D.C. Bass (Ed.), Practicing Our faith (pp. 195-204). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Dykstra, C., & Bass, D.C. (1997b). Times of yearning, practices of faith. In D.C. Bass (Ed.), Practicing our faith (pp. 1-12). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Dykstra, C., & Bass, D.C. (2000). Christian practices and congregational education in faith. In M. Warren (Ed.), Changing churches: The local church and the structures of change (pp. 247-262). Portland, OR: Pastoral Press.
Dykstra, C., & Bass, D.C. (2002). A theological understanding of Christian practices. In M. Volf & D.C. Bass (Eds.), Practicing theology (pp. 13-32). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Dykstra, C., & Hudnut-Beumler, J. (1992). The National organizational structures of protestant denominations: An invitation to a conversation. In M. J. Coalter, J. M. Mulder, & L. B. Weeks (Eds.), The organizational revolution: Presbyterians and American denominationalism.( pp. 307-331, 377-378). Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.
Dykstra, C., and Parks, S. (1986). Introduction. In C. Dykstra & S. Parks (Eds.), Faith development and Fowler (pp.1-12). Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
Dykstra, C., & Wigger, J. B. (1992). A brief history of a genre problem: Presbyterian educational resource materials. In M. J. Coalter, J. M. Mulder, & L. B. Weeks (Eds.), The pluralistic vision: Presbyterians and mainstream protestant education and leadership (pp. 180-204, 379-382). Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.
Dykstra, C. (1996). Love’s knowledge: Theological education in the future of the church and culture. Address to the Joint Plenary of The Association of Theological Schools and the American Theological Library Association at the 40th Biennial Meeting of The Association of Theological Schools. Pittsburgh, PA: Association of Theological Schools.
Dykstra, C. (Principle author). (1989). Growing in the life of Christian faith. A report approved by the 201st general assembly of the Presbyterian church (U.S.A.). Louisville, KY: Theology and Worship Ministry Unit.
Dykstra, C. (1969, Fall). Abortion: A proposal for the church. Dimension, 7, 14-32.
Dykstra, C. (1978, May). Faith development. A.P.C.E. Advocate, 3, 1. https://apcenet.org/advocate/
Dykstra, C. (1978). Teaching Christian education is a congregation-based setting. In G. Noyce (Ed.), Report of the fifteenth biennial meeting of the association for professional education for ministry: Education for Ministry: Theology, Preparedness, Praxis, pp. 57-62.
Dykstra, C. (1979, Winter). Sin, repentance, and moral transformation: Some critical reflections on Kohlberg. Living Light, 16, 451-461.
Dykstra, C. (1980, March/April). Moral virtue or social reasoning. Religious Education, 75, 115-128. doi:10.1080/0034408800750202
Dykstra, C. (1980, Fall). Thinking about religious and moral life: A review essay. Living Light, 17, 277-283.
Dykstra, C. (1980, October 1). My teacher, we made bread . . . . Christian Century, 97, 901-902. http://www.christiancentury.or...
Dykstra, C. (1981, March/April). Understanding the place of “understanding.” Religious Education, 76, 187-194. doi:10.1080/0034408810760207
Dykstra, C. (1981, September). Learning to be sent. Presbyterian Survey, 71, 44-45.
Dykstra, C. (1982, April). Theological table-talk: Transformation in faith and morals. Theology Today, 39, 56-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/004057368203900109
Dykstra, C. (1982, July/August). Response to interview with Dwayne E. Huebner. Religious Education, 77, 407-411. doi:10.1080/0034408820770402
Dykstra, C. (1983, Fall). James Smart's contribution to the pastor as educator. Quarterly Review, 3, 77-84.
Dykstra, C. (1984, New Series). Education, the gospel, and the marginal. The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 5, 13-20. http://journals.ptsem.edu/?action=browse-journal&journal-id=psb
Dykstra, C. (1984, Winter). Mystery and manners: The task of religious education. Religious Education, 79, 61-66. doi: 10.1080/0034408400790113
Dykstra, C. (1985, New Series). No longer strangers: The church and its educational ministry, (Inaugural Address). The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 6, 188-200 http://journals.ptsem.edu/id/PSB1985063/dmd008
Dykstra, C. (1985, Fall). Maturing in the Christian life. The Drew Gateway, 56, 48-53.
Dykstra, C. (1986, January). When the editorial council sits down for a chat. Theology Today, 47, 509-513. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/004057368604200411
Dykstra, C. (1986, Spring). Youth and the language of faith. Religious Education, 81, 163-184. doi:10.1080/0034408600810202
Dykstra, C. (1986, August). When the Bible happens. Alert, 16, 8-12.
Dykstra, C. (1986, Fall). Growing into personhood in Christ. Alumni News [Princeton Theological Seminary], 25, 8-9.
Dykstra, C. (1987, Fall). The formative power of congregations. Religious Education, 82, 530-546. doi:10.1080/0034408870820403
Dykstra, C. (1987, October). Philosophy in theological education. Theology Today, 44, 309-310. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/004057368704400302
Dykstra, C. (1988, June). Under certain conditions: The church's educational ministry. Virginia Seminary Journal, 39, 2-11. http://www.vts.edu/podium/default.aspx?t=118992
Dykstra, C. (1990, Fall). Thinking faith: A theological education for the American churches. Living Light, 27, 7-16.
Dykstra, C. (1990, September). Communities of conviction and the liberal arts. Bulletin of the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion, 19, 61-66.
Dykstra, C. (1991, Autumn). Looking ahead at theological education. Theological Education, 95-105. http://www.ats.edu/Pages/default.aspx
Dykstra, C. (1991, Fall). Trusteeship as moral practice. The Trustee Educator, 2, 1, 5.
Dykstra, C. (1992, New Series/July). Christian education as means of grace. The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 13, 164-175. http://journals.ptsem.edu/id/PSB1992132/dmd006
Dykstra, C. (2003, Winter). Vocation: Called to the way of life, the way of love. Initiatives in Religion, 10, 1-2, 22. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (2008, April 8). Imagination and the pastoral life: A way of seeing. The Christian Century, 26-31. http://www.christiancentury.org/archives/
Dykstra, C. (2008, Fall). Pastoral imagination and the encouragement of ministry. Seminary Journal, 40-48.
Dykstra, C., & Gardner, F. (1985, November 25). Why we oppose educator ordination. The Presbyterian Outlook, 167, 4-5. https://pres-outlook.org/home....
Dykstra, C. (1986a). Education, Christian moral. In J. F. Childress & J. Macquarrie (Eds.), The Westminster dictionary of Christian ethics, (pp. 184-185). Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press.
Dykstra, C. (1986b). Moral development. In J. F. Childress & J. Macquarrie (Eds.), The Westminster dictionary of Christian ethics, (pp. 396-397). Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press.
Dykstra, C. (1990a). Confluent education. In I. V. Cully & K. B. Cully (Eds.), Harper’s encyclopedia of religious education, I. V. (pp. 150-151). San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.
Dykstra, C. (1990b). Faith. In I. V. Cully & K. B. Cully (Eds.), Harper’s encyclopedia of religious education, I. V. (pp. 245-247). San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.
Dykstra, C. (1990c). Learning theory. In I. V. Cully & K. B. Cully (Eds.), Harper’s encyclopedia of religious education, I. V. (pp. 369-371). San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.
Dykstra, C. (1985, July). A 'post-liberal' Christian education? Theology Today, 42 (2), 153-157. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0040...
Dykstra, C. (1987, March 16). Music is spirit. The Presbyterian Outlook, 169 (10), 8-9.
Dykstra, C. (1987, June 15). Educational junk food? The Presbyterian Outlook, 169 (23), 23-24.
Dykstra, C. (1987, July). Memory and truth. Theology Today, 44 (2), 159-163. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0040...
Dykstra, C. (1987, July 20-27). Constitutional hermeneutics. The Presbyterian Outlook, 169 (27), 8-9.
Dykstra, C. (1987, July 20-27). Songs and hope. The Presbyterian Outlook, 169 (27), 8-9.
Dykstra, C. (1988, January). Theological geography. Theology Today, 44 (4), 419-423. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0040...
Dykstra, C. (1988, October). The presence of children. Theology Today, 45 (3), 269-272. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0040...
Dykstra, C. (1991, Autumn). A new initiative of Lilly Endowment. Initiatives in Religion, 1 (1), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1992, Winter). Why we study and support institutions. Initiatives in Religion 1, (2), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1992, Summer). Church—A critical presence in public life. Initiatives in Religion, 1 (3), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1992, Autumn). The conduct of inquiry. Initiatives in Religion, 1 (4), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1993, Winter). Committing religion in public. Initiatives in Religion 2 (1), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1993, Spring). The importance of stories. Initiatives in Religion, 2 (2), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1993, Summer). Deep veins of wisdom. Initiatives in Religion, 2 (3), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1993, Fall). Evaluation as collaborative inquiry. Initiatives in Religion, 2 (4), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1994, Winter). Vision and leadership. Initiatives in Religion, 3 (1), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1994, Spring). The religious significance of trusteeship. Initiatives in Religion, 3 (2), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1994, Summer).What counts as religion. Initiatives in Religion, 3 (3), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1994, Fall). Shared convictions. Initiatives in Religion, 3 (4), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1995, Winter). Aims and purposes. Initiatives in Religion, 4 (1), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1995, Spring). New wrinkles. Initiatives in Religion, 4 (2), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1995, Summer). Dissemination. Initiatives in Religion, 4 (3), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1996, Winter). Convenings. Initiatives in Religion, 5 (1), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1996, Spring). A Long obedience in the same direction. Initiatives in Religion, 5 (2), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1996, Summer). Religion and spirituality. Initiatives in Religion, 5 (3), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1996, Autumn). A way of life. Initiatives in Religion, 5 (4), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1996/97, Winter). Religion and spirituality. The Responsive Community, 7 (1), 4-7. http://www.gwu.edu/~ccps/rcq/r...
Dykstra, C. (1997, Winter). Pairing abiding interests. Initiatives in Religion, 6 (1), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1997, Spring). Shared practices. Initiatives in Religion, 6 (2), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1997, Summer). Good questions. Initiatives in Religion, 6 (3), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1998, Winter). Figuring things out. Initiatives in Religion, 7 (1), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1998, Spring). Good ministers. Initiatives in Religion, 7 (2), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1998, Autumn/Winter). The renewal of a calling. Initiatives in Religion, 7, (3/4), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (1999-2000, Winter). Vested interests. Initiatives in Religion, 8, (1), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (2000, Winter). The faith of our children. Initiatives in Religion, 2 (1), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (2000, Summer/Autumn). What is a grant? Initiatives in Religion, 8 (2), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C. (2001, Spring). The pastoral imagination. Initiatives in Religion, 1 (1), 1-2. http://www.resourcingchristian...
Dykstra, C., & Kerr, H. T. (1988, July). A brief statement of reformed faith. Theology Today, 45 (2), 151-158. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0040...
Dykstra, C. (1977a, New Series). [Review of the book Foundations for Christian education in a era of change, by Marvin Taylor (Ed.)]. The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 1 (1), 102-103.
Dykstra, C. (1977b, New Series). [Review of the book Will our children have faith? By J. H. Westerhoff, III]. The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 1 (1), 100-102.
Dykstra, C. (1978, September). [Review of the book Toward a history of needs, by I. Illich]. New Review of Books and Religion, 3 (1), 16.
Dykstra, C. (1979a, October). [Review of the book Moral life, by R. Beehler]. Theology Today, 36 (3), 438. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0040...
Dykstra, C. (1979b, October). [Review of the book Religious education and religious understanding, by R. Holley]. Theology Today, 36 (3), 438-441. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0040...
Dykstra, C. (1980, June). [Review of the book Christian religious education, by T. H. Groome]. New Review of Books and Religion, 4 (10), 7, 24.
Dykstra, C. . (1980, July). [Review of the book Stages: Understanding how you make moral decisions, by N. Lande, & A. Slade]. Theology Today, 37 (2), 284. doi:10.1177/004057368003700234
Dykstra, C. (1980, Fall). [Review of the book The world Sunday school movement, by G. E. Knoff]. The Journal of Presbyterian History, 58 (3), 277-283.
Dykstra, C. (1980, November/December). [Review of the book Moral development, moral education, and Kohlberg, by B. Munsey (Ed.)]. Religious Education, 75 (6), 704-705. doi:10.1080/0034408800750613
Dykstra, C. (1982). [Review of the book Stages of faith, by J. W. Fowler]. Ministry and Mission, 3 (4), 10. (Reprinted from New Catholic World, 224 (1981, November/December, 1344), 283-284).
Dykstra, C. (1982, March/April). [Review of the book The philosophy of moral development (Essays on moral development, vol. I), by L. Kohlberg]. New Catholic World, 226 (1346), 94-95.
Dykstra, C. (1984, January). [Review of the book Religious education development, by G. Moran]. Living Light, 20 (2), 178-180.
Dykstra, C. (1985, June). [Review of the book The Psychology of moral development (essays on moral development, vol. II), by L. Kohlberg]. The Living Light, 21, (4), 358-362.
Dykstra, C. (1985, July). [Review of the book The church in the education of the public: Refocusing the task of religious education, by J. L. Seymour, R. T. O'Gorman, & C. R. Foster]. Theology Today, 42 (2), 271. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0040...
Dykstra, C. (1985, Summer). [Review of the book Transforming a people of God, by D. Grierson]. Religious Education, 80 (3), 496-497. doi:10.1080/0034408850800315
Dykstra, C. (1986, January). [Review of the book Horace Bushnell: Selected writings on language, religion, and American culture, by D. L. Smith (Ed.)]. Religious Studies Review, 12 (1), 89. DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-0922.1986.tb00239.x
Dykstra, C. (1987). [Review of the books Renewing the Sunday school and the CCD, by D. C. Wyckoff (Ed.), and Beautiful upon the mountains, by D. C. Wyckoff, & H. Wilkinson (Eds.)]. The Princeton Seminary Bulletin n.s., 8 (3), 84-87.
Dykstra, C. (1988). [Review of the book Religious thought and the modern psychologies, by D. S. Browning]. The Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 42 (3), 67-71.
Dykstra, C. (1988, February). [Review of the book On being family: A social theology of the family, by R. S. Anderson, & D. B. Guernsey]. The Princeton Seminary Bulletin n.s., 9 (1), 86-88.
Dykstra, C. (1988a, July). [Review of the book Congregation: Stories and structures, by J. F. Hopewell]. Perkins Journal, 41 (3), 27-30. http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost
Dykstra, C. (1988b, July). [Review of the book Education for Christian living, by M. L. Roloff (Ed.)]. Religious Studies Review, 14 (3), 239-240. DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-0922.1988.tb00299.x
Dykstra, C. (1988c, July). [Review of the book Handbook of moral development, by G. L. Sapp (Ed.)]. Religious Studies Review, 14 (3), 240. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0922.1988.tb00299.x
Dykstra, C. (1989). [Review of the book No ladder to the sky: Education and morality, by G. Moran]. Cross Currents, 38, 488-89.
Dykstra, C. (1989a, Spring). [Review of the book The critical years, by S. Parks]. Pastoral Psychology, 37, 218-220. http://link.springer.com/journal/volumesAndIssues/11089
Dykstra, C. (1989b, Spring). [Review of the book The Gospel in history: Portrait of a teaching church/The origins of Christian education, by M. Sawicki.] Religious Education, 84, 308-309. doi:10.1080/0034408890840213
Dykstra, C. (1989, October). [Review of the book the mantle of maturity: The history of ideas about character development, by C. Kiefer]. Religious Studies Review, 15 (4), 349. DOI:10.1111/j.1748-0922.1989.tb00061.x
Dykstra, C. (1983, Fall). Decisions! Decisions! In Christian Education: Shared Approaches. Today's word for adults, vol. VI, course 1, study course and leader's guide. Louisville, KY: Geneva Press.
Dykstra, C. (1984, Spring). Instruction for faithfulness: Studies in Hebrews and I Peter. New Ventures in Bible Study, 6 (3). (Reprinted from New Ventures in Bible Study, 3 (3), 1-64.)
Dykstra, C. (1987, Spring). Instruction for faithfulness: Studies in Hebrews and I Peter. New Ventures in Bible Study, 9 (3). (Reprinted from New Ventures in Bible Study, 3 (3), 1-64.)
Dykstra, C., & Gardner, F. (1986). Guide for use [guide to videotape, The pastor as educator]. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian School of Christian Education.
Dykstra, C., Little, S., & Hussell, O. (Co-producers). (1986). The pastor as educator [videotape]. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian School of Christian Education.
Sermons and Prayers
Dykstra, C. (1973, December). The one who is to come. Master Sermon Series, 4 (12), 649-656.
Dykstra, C. (1975, July). God's recreation. Master Sermon Series, 6, 7.
Dykstra, C. (1975a, December). A pastoral prayer for epiphany. Master Sermon Series, 6 (12), 678.
Dykstra, C. (1975b, December). A new year's prayer. Master Sermon Series, 6 (12), 679.
Dykstra, C. (1976a, May). Pastoral prayer I. Master Sermon Series, 7 (5), 255.
Dykstra, C. (1976b, May). Pastoral prayer II, Master Sermon Series, 7 (5), 256.
Dykstra, C. (1984, June). Quest and celebration. Master Sermon Series, 5, 6.
Dykstra, C. (1990, Pentecost). After the noise. Journal for Preachers, 13 (4), 26-29. http://www.journalforpreachers.com/
Dykstra, C. (1987). Foreword. In A. R. Held, Keeping faith in families, (p. 5). Belleville, IL: National Presbyterian Mariners.
Dykstra, C. (1988, Winter). Comments on John Westerhoff's editorship. Religious Education, 83 (1), 5-6. DOI: 10.1080/0034408880830101
Dykstra, C. (1988). Foreword. In D. O. Aleshire, Faithcare: Ministering to all God's people through the ages of life (pp. 9-12). Philadelphia, PA: Westminster.
Dykstra, C. (2003). Foreword. In K. A. Cahalan, Projects that matter: Successful planning and evaluation for religious organizations. Bethesda, MD: Alban Institute.
Dykstra, C. (In press). Foreword. In M. Harris, Fashion me a people. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF REVIEWS OF BOOKS BY CRAIG DYKSTRA
Paulsell. S. (2010). Review of the book For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry, by D. Bass & C. Dykstra (Eds.). Theology Today, 66, 526-528.
Slough, R., Stortz, M. E., and Kwok, P. (2010). Three reviews of For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry, edited by Dorothy C. Bass and Craig Dykstra, [Review of the book For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry, by D. Bass & C. Dykstra (Eds). Teaching Theology & Religion, 13, 54-63.
Daniel, L. (2009). Teaching pastors. [Review of the book For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry, by D. Bass & C. Dykstra (Eds.). Christian Century, 126 (4), 30-34.
Herbert, T. (2009). Review of the book For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry, by D. Bass & C. Dykstra (Eds.). Journal of Education & Christian Belief, 13, 82-83.
Kinast, R. (2009). Review of the book For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry, by D. Bass & C. Dykstra (Eds.). Theological Studies, 70, 485-486.
Paa, T. & Plane, J. (2009). Review of the book For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry, by D. Bass & C. Dykstra (Eds.). Ecumenical Review, 61, 350-351.
Wolfteich, C. (2009). Review of the book For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry, by D. Bass & C. Dykstra (Eds.). Reviews in Religion & Theology, 16, 399-402.
Cox, J. (2009). Training Pastors in life-giving practices. [Review of the book For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry, by D. Bass & C. Dykstra (Eds.). Expository Times, 120, 562-563.
Carroll, D. (2008). Review of the book Growing in the life of faith: Education and Christian practices, second edition, by C. Dykstra. Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry & Practice, 11, 401-403.
Roehlkepartain, E. (2008). Review of the book Growing in the life of faith: Education and Christian practices, second edition, by C. Dykstra. Journal of Youth and Theology, 7, 107-114.
Van Elderen, P. (2008). Review of the book Growing in the life of faith: Education and Christian practices, second edition, by C. Dykstra. Reformed Review, 61, 151-152.
Melchert, C. F. (2001). Review of the book Growing in the life of faith: Education and Christian practices (2nd ed.), by C. Dykstra. Theology Today, 58, 238.
Hodgson, P. (1999). Review of the book Growing in the life of faith: Education and Christian practices, second edition, by C. Dykstra. Cross Currents, 49, 584-587.
Marty, M. (1999). Review of the book Growing in the life of faith: Education and Christian practices, second edition, by C. Dykstra. Christian Century, 116, 974-975.
Thompson, H. (1990). Review of Faith development and Fowler, by C. Dykstra and S. Parks (Eds.). Drew Gateway, 60, 84-87.
Deconchy, J. (1989). Review of Faith development and Fowler, by C. Dykstra and S. Parks (Eds.).
Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 34, 262-263.
Gray, Joan. (1989). Review of Faith development and Fowler, by C. Dykstra and S. Parks (Eds.). Journal of Religion and Health, 28, 82-83.
Matthews, D. (1988). Review of Faith development and Fowler, by C. Dykstra and S. Parks (Eds.). The Journal of Religion, 68, 640.
Joy. D. (1984). Review of the book Vision and character: A Christian Educator’s Alternative to Kohlberg by C. Dykstra. Journal of Psychology & Theology, 12, 141-142.
Conrad. R. (1983). Review of the book Vision and character: A Christian Educator’s Alternative to Kohlberg by C. Dykstra. Currents in Theology and Mission, 10, 308-309.
Groome. T. (1983). Review of the book Vision and character: A Christian Educator’s Alternative to Kohlberg by C. Dykstra. Theology Today, 40, 250.
Wa Kasonga, K. (1983). Review of the book Vision and character: A Christian Educator’s Alternative to Kohlberg by C. Dykstra. Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 4, 133-134.
Pitts. R. (1983). Review of the book Vision and character: A Christian Educator’s Alternative to Kohlberg by C. Dykstra. Christian Education Journal, 3(2), 77-79.
Conn, W. (1982). Review of the book Vision and character: A Christian Educator’s Alternative to Kohlberg by C. Dykstra. Horizons, 9, 401-402.
Croteau-Chonka, C. (1982). Review of the book Vision and character: A Christian Educator’s Alternative to Kohlberg by C. Dykstra. Religious Education, 77(4), 461-462.
Johnson, K. (1982). Review of the book Vision and character: A Christian Educator’s Alternative to Kohlberg by C. Dykstra. Word & World, 2, 407-408.
Excerpts from Publications
Dykstra, C. (1981). Vision and character: A Christian educator’s alternative to Kohlberg. New York: Paulist.
On mystery and visional ethics:
Visional ethics might be described as a mystery-encountering ethic. When I use the term mystery here, I use it in a special way, not the one we ordinarily use in common speech. In ordinary usage a mystery is a baffling puzzle or riddle, a perplexing problem that no one seems to have the answer to. Mysteries in this sense have solutions. …
I am using the term in quite a different way, one that is biblical in nature and connects it with the idea of revelation. George Hendry writes that a mystery in the New Testament sense is a mystery “not because it offers so little to our understanding, but because its superabundant wealth overwhelms our understanding” (Hendry, 156). Here a mystery is not a problem that goes away once figured out. Instead, mystery is an enduring reality that we know only through a glass darkly and never exhaustively. …
This, I recognize, is all rather abstract at the moment. But what I want to suggest is that the moral world is a world of mystery, rather than a world of problems. People are mysteries, and being moral means treating them as such. Our world is a mystery, and being moral means encountering it that way. At the depth of being there is an Ultimate Mystery, and being moral means being properly related to that Mystery (34-36).
The importance of discipline in the moral life has become obscured in our culture and in the church as well. … But Christians have historically understood the formation of the moral life as formation in discipleship. …
There are, I am sure, many ways to describe the disciplines of the Christian life. Each different way will highlight some aspects and ignore others. But there are three disciplines that seem to me to be fundamental and generic. They are disciplines of repentance, prayer, and service. Through these disciplines, the church has trained its people for discipleship—for active engagement in the world as person formed by Christian faith. I believe theses disciplines merit our renewed attention if we are to be effective Christian educators for the moral life (89-90)
Work cited: Hendry, G. S. (19600. Mystery, in A. Richardson (Ed.), A theological word book of the Bible (p. 156), New York: Macmillan.
Dykstra, C. (1986c). What is faith? An experiment in the hypothetical mode. In C. Dykstra & S. Parks (Eds.), Faith development and Fowler (pp. 45- 64). Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
I would suggest that faith is appropriate and intentional participation in the redemptive activity of God. …
Because faith is understood here as a possibility, but no a necessity, an interesting advantage arises. This way of understanding faith helps make some sense of idolatry as an opposite of faith. In the understanding of faith that Fowler adopts, idolatry is a form of faith. We may trust in and be loyal to what is not truly God, but that is still faith in Fowler’s terms. This is because, for him, faith is in no way necessarily correlated with God. Thus he is in the odd position of having to say that in idolatry we still “faith” (to use the word as a verb). In the understanding I have presented this problem does not arise (55-56).
Nevertheless, there is at least room for mutual edification. In one essay, Fowler says that education in the church needs to be understood as “education for creative discipleship” and that this is something different from “education for faith development.” Since “creative discipleship” is very close to what I mean by faith, Fowler’s understanding of both the distinction and the connection between the two is worth exploring. … He says we “cannot afford to neglect the question of what human beings bring, by way of readiness to respond, to the encounter with the record of revelatory event and to tradition.” … To me, it is the response itself, rather than the readiness, that is faith. But I agree with Fowler that his theory can help us to understand that readiness (63).
Dykstra, C. (1991). Reconceiving practice. In B. Wheeler (Ed.), Shifting boundaries: Contextual approaches to the structure of theological education (pp. 35-66). Louisville: Westminster John Knox.
Theology and theological education are burdened by a picture of practice that is harmfully individualistic, technological, ahistorical, and abstract. This current picture, implicit in our imaginations and explicitly in our actual ways of doing things, is implicated in many of the problems that communities of faith, theology as a body and activity of thought, and theological education in all its contexts are now struggling to overcome. Unless a revised understanding of practice takes root in our endeavors, these problems will remain unresolved. But there is an alternative to the current picture available to us, one that has potential to reorient our ways of thinking theologically about practice. Then certain dimensions of our understandings and practice of theological education, not only in seminaries and divinity schools but also in congregations, might be improved (35).
Suppose that practices central to Christian life are conditions under which various kinds and forms of knowledge emerge—knowledge of God, of ourselves, and of the world; knowledge that is not only personal, but also public. Suppose that through such practices, the virtues and character and wisdom of the communities and individuals who participate in them are formed. Suppose that through participation in practices of Christian life, the community of faith comes continually to awareness of and participation in the creative and redemptive activity of God in the world. If these suppositions are sustainable, practices deserve a pivotal place in Christian formation, theological study, and theological education (49-50).
Dykstra, C. & Bass, D. (1997). Growing in the practices of faith. In Bass, D. Practicing our faith: A way of life for a searching people (195-204). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Exploring the range and depth of a single practice could take a lifetime. That is partly because each is so rich and various. Every practice has taken an astonishing variety of specific forms, in history and around the world today. Moreover, every practice is a place of mystery: a gracious vessel that can be broken by loveless acts. Practices call for a lifetime of exploration because we are constantly learning more about what it means to do them well—and learning it right in the middle of our doing.
Education in Christian practices is always going on within the life of Christian communities. It happens as parents teach children the economics of a household or as friends surround a widow in her time of grief. Our most important education for practice happens in the course of life-in-community. It is education that takes place in the ongoing patterns of life together. This is like belonging to a congregation at song: you learn, even as a child, to take your pitch from others, to clap along or not to, to anticipate certain melodies at certain times of the year. You use your whole body, and you draw on the musical tastes and training you have developed outside the church as well as in it. You may discover that you have special talent; or you may not, in which case you keep on singing along anyway but let others do the solos. This kind of learning—communal but unplanned—takes place all the time.
But there is also a place for more deliberate efforts to help one another grow in understanding and doing the practices in light of our faith. This can be the focus of graduate study in theology or, with a different approach, of youth group retreats. It will flourish most fully when trust and mutual respect are present, for the agenda needs to include an honest look at the ways in which our practices—and therefore ourselves and our world—are broken. The deepest learning will happen when people practice as well as talk, and when they are willing to look closely at the concrete acts that give a practice shape (198).
Dykstra, C. (1999). Growing in the life of faith: Education and Christian practices. Louisville: Geneva.
On the formative power of congregations:
The exploration begins with and is structured by two basic claims: (1) a basic reality of congregational life is that we are often engaged in socially acceptable (indeed, socially celebrated) patterns of mutual self-destruction; and (2) in and through congregational life, these patterns are at the same time being redemptively modified, transformed. Congregations are profoundly caught up in powerful patterns of sin and alienation. This we must admit. But despite and even within the context of its embeddedness in these patterns, the congregation mediates redemptive power. Precisely in the midst of its sinfulness, rather than apart from it, the congregation has power to mediate the gospel in such a way that the “speaking” of it can re-structure and transform human personal and social life (84).
On Sunday school teaching:
One Sunday many years ago, on returning home from church, I was having the typical what-did-you-do-in-Sunday-school-today conversation with my two sons. The younger, who was six, came up with this: “My teacher, we made bread together and I ate mine already and it was good.” I didn’t pay much attention at the time, but the line stuck with me. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that he had said something both simple and deep about what good teaching in the church is like.
“Made bread together.” The word bread, the image of bread: “This is my body broken for you.” “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry.” “Is there one among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread?” To make bread together in Christ’s name is to make life together. And this is exactly what my son and his teacher were doing. I think they bother knew it, in some mostly unsuspecting way. …
Teaching in church school is nine parts getting a weary body out of bed early on Sunday mornings, cutting out construction-paper patterns, cleaning hardened glue from tables too low to bend over gracefully, matching the right snow boot with the right foot, and keeping noise levels within moderate bounds. But those nine parts are the things that make one part possible. And if you, as a teacher, are ever fortunate enough to overhear one of the children in you class say, “My teacher, we made bread together and I ate it and it was good,” you will what that one part is (162-164). (Reprinted from Christian Century 97 (October 1, 1980) 30, pp. 901-902.
Dykstra, C. (2008). Imagination and the pastoral life: A way of seeing, in The Christian Century (April 8, 2008), 26-31.
Years ago, when I was a seminary student, I worked for a time at the local YMCA, teaching swimming lessons. My students were three-and four-year-olds. Each Saturday morning at 9:00, down the steps they would come from the locker rooms into the pool area. As their parents sat along the wall, watching warily, the little ones wandered over toward the shallow end of the pool, where I was waiting.
You know how little kids hold themselves when they are cold and at least a little bit nervous. They clutch up and shiver. They hold themselves tight and grit their teeth. Well, it is a law of nature that you cannot swim while cramping your body and gnashing your teeth. So what I would do is take one child at a time off the edge of the pool and into my arms. Holding them close, I would carry them gently into the water. As we went, we talked quietly. I tried to make them smile and ease them into relaxation. Along the way, I would dip down into the water, allowing them to feel the warmth of it and the flow of it across their skin. After a while—maybe on their third or fourth venture with me into the deep—I would sink them lower and let them feel the water buoying them up. Eventually I could lay them on their backs and, holding my hands beneath them, get them to begin to relax their knees, let loose the muscles in their necks, and slowly draw air into their lungs. At first, of course, when I would remove my hands, they would panic a bit. They would clutch up again and start to sink. But sooner or later, they would finally get the feel of what it is like to float. And at that point, they could roll over and start to swim.
The first priority in teaching children to swim is to enable them to trust the water. Somehow or another they have to come to a specific kind of knowledge. In a deeply somatic, bodily way—and in a way that is in no small part existential, for it is a knowledge that must be strong enough to address their fears—they must come to know the buoyancy of the water. Buoyancy is not something you can teach children—or anyone else, for that matter—through a lesson in physics. Objective as it is, for the sake of swimming one has to come to know it personally.
So it is with the life of faith. At the heart of the Christian life there lies a deep, somatic, profoundly personal but very real knowledge. It is the knowledge of the buoyancy of God. It is the knowledge that in struggle and in joy, in conflict and in peace—indeed, in every possible circumstance and condition in life and in death—we are upheld by God's own everlasting arms (28-29)
Dykstra, C. (1981). Vision and character: A Christian educator’s alternative to Kohlberg. New York: Paulist.
Based upon Dykstra’s dissertation, this book creates an alternative to developmental approaches to Christian education through an emphasis upon mystery, revelation, community, and disciplines.
Dykstra, C. (1991). Reconceiving practice. In B. Wheeler (Ed.), Shifting boundaries: Contextual approaches to the structure of theological education (pp. 35-66). Louisville: Westminster John Knox.
Dykstra, C. & Bass, D. (1997). Growing in the practices of faith. In Bass, D. Practicing our faith: A way of life for a searching people (195-204). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Together, this article and book chapter describe Dykstra’s understanding of practices and why they matter to practical theology as well as the life of faith. The approach to practices creates a general platform on which to create educational ministries that include but transcend the classroom.
Dykstra, C. (2008). Pastoral and ecclesial imagination. In C. Dykstra & D.C. Bass (Eds.), For life abundant: Practical theology, theological education, and Christian ministry (pp. 41-61). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
This book chapter describes the particular way of seeing that characterizes a “pastoral imagination” and its significance for congregational ministry.
J. Bradley Wigger (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) serves as the Second Presbyterian Church Professor of Christian Education at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.