James Edwin Loder, Jr
By Dana R. Wright
James Edwin Loder, Jr. 1931-2001. Loder developed an interdisciplinary and fundamental practical theologiccal science of the relation of divine to human action with extraordinary generative capacity to re-conceive Christian education at the meta-theoretical level as human participation in the redemptive and transforming power of the Spirit of Christ.
Influences, Education, and Teaching
The life and labor of James Edwin Loder, Jr. can perhaps best be understood as the passionate unfolding of his own answers to the programmatic questions he posed to the readers of his fifth book The Logic of the Spirit?—“What is a lifetime?” and “Why do I live it?” In this unfolding of his life and through his sophisticated articulation of the “What?” and “Why?” of human existence corem Deo we discern his relentless longing to know and articulate the ultimate intelligibility underlying the surface chaos of creation and especially of human existence, the awakening to which calls all human beings to flourish according to the nature of Jesus Christ. In and through the surprising transformations that shaped his life and generated his fiduciary and imaginative insights into, and responses to, Christ’s Presence, Loder embodied and advocated a convictional style of life that bore eloquent testimony “upward” to the One who convicts, “inward” to his own spirit, and “outward” to the ones he taught, counseled, and those with whom he lived. Not everyone responded to him or his writings and teachings in positive ways, and by some accounts he was a difficult man to know. But Loder, by all accounts a religious genius (homo religiosus), suffered divine things at the hands of One who transformed him into homo testans, the witness, one whose life and work testified to the One with whom finally all of us have to do (Heb. 2:15). In Loder the genius and the witness became one flesh in testimony to the Word made flesh!
Perhaps it is fair to say that the “What?” and “Why?” of Loder’s life and vocation took shape, providentially, at the intersection of three interpenetrating “curriculums” through which he came to know the human condition within a framework of faith. These “curriculums” might be described symbolically as: (1) the curriculum of Athens (Loder’s search for the scientific and philosophical knowledge of the “What?” of the human condition, represented by the university), (2) the curriculum of Jerusalem (Loder’s efforts to mine the depth of the theological tradition of Reformed and ecumenical Christianity to know the “Why?” of the human condition, represented by the seminary), and (3) the curriculum of Golgotha (the existentially-revealed intelligibility through which the Living Presence of Jesus Christ comes to us from the “other side” of death and non-being to transform and integrate the “What?” and the “Why?” of human life according to His own nature through convictional experience). Loder’s life signifies one whose confrontations at Golgotha revealed a Reality so life-affirming in the face of Nothingness that he was compelled to search out a kind of “unified field theory” powerful enough to integrate the wisdom of Athens and the vision of Jerusalem in the service of giving testimony to the God-man structure of reality in a scientific context. He held out for the prospect of discerning a Christian way of being human in the world that really mattered—what he called “life in the Spirit—because it participates through the Holy Spirit in the nature, structure and dynamic power of provident-contingent relationality revealed definitively in the God-man, the power that finally redeems all things. Loder was one of the “not many” to whom Paul referred in his Corinthian correspondence who, like Paul himself, had embraced Jesus Christ in spite of being learned (“not many of you were wise…”) and lived and died to tell about it.
Loder sought to witness to the Reality of Jesus Christ to the intellectual centers of our scientific culture—symbolized by his own professional proximity to representatives of “Jerusalem” (Princeton Theological Seminary) and “Athens” (Princeton University). Loder developed the basics of a critical confessional practical theological science that he thought possessed the generative power to redefine the meaning of the Actuality of Christ in relation to a scientific culture, so that the true significance of the sciences of “Athens” and “Jerusalem” found their “Amen” in their discovery of Jesus Christ at the boundary conditions where human experience becomes intelligible in the Spirit to those who become spirit through Christ’s Presence. By describing how the Spirit of Christ works redemptively in bodily, psychic, social and cultural dimensions of human action, and especially in the spirit of the mind of the knower herself, negating the negation riven into ego and the social construction of reality, Loder sought to release “life in the Spirit” in all of these dimensions in both congregation and culture. The story of James E. Loder Jr. is perhaps best understood as a unique articulation of the integration of the “curriculums” of Athens and Jerusalem through the Cross, an articulation that bears considerable promise for those living simultaneously under the call of the Gospel and under the growing conditions of despair that mark so much of contemporary life. Perhaps Loder’s life may be understood as his attempt to answer Tertullian’s famous question “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem” with an interpolation: “What has Athens and Jerusalem to do with Jesus Christ?” What follows is an attempt to narrate the unfolding of the “What?” and the “Why?” of Loder’s life and witness as a clue to the significance of his contribution to practical theology and Christian education—and perhaps beyond.
Early Life and Influences (1931-1957)
James Edwin Loder, Jr. was born in Lincoln, Nebraska on December 5th, 1931, the only son of the two children born to Edwin and Frances Loder. The Loder home was steeped in the wisdom and praxis of Athens. Edwin Loder, well educated and by all accounts a respected and likeable man, was himself an educator, the principal of his son’s elementary school, and one who took an active, hands-on interest in the life and success of his children. Frances Loder, who as a collegian won the prestigious Pi Kappa Delta National Oratory Award, possessed great dramatic and artistic talent and flair. She recited poetry to her children as they came home from school and immersed the Loder family life in the musical classics to lift their spirits. After her son left home she became a prominent professor of speech and drama at the University of Texas in Austin. Loder’s parents enjoyed a remarkable marriage (Frances never remarried after her husband’s death) and they succeeded raising their children to appreciate life and learning and to excel in all their endeavors. They did not, however, express a strong commitment to a faith tradition (Frances, according to Dr. Loder, found a living faith later in her life) and the Loder’s seldom attended church services as a family. Loder’s sibling, a sister Katherine, known as Francey Kay, six and a half years younger than her brother, was emotionally troubled as a child in spite of her wholesome upbringing. But a remarkable vision of Christ at the age of 14 (in her brother’s presence) changed her into a creative and talented young women, who, blessed with her mother’s dramatic propensities, aspired to be an actress and playwright. She even played Carnegie Hall at one point in her career! Tragically, however, she died at the age of thirty-nine from complications to diabetes.
Loder himself was a fun-loving, athletic, but also studious and artistic youngster, who seemed destined from the start to succeed in the world of the intellect. His intellectual precocity emerged very early indeed. At his memorial service his daughter Tami told the story of “little Jimmy,” whose kindergarten teacher recognized a special quality of mind that set him apart. “Every day we read a story, and after the story is over, Jimmy gets up and wants to tell us what the story means.” Loder continued to thrive throughout his school years as a top student and as a gifted athlete (track and basketball). He also got elected president of his high school’s student council. He hunted and fished and indulged in his own share of revelry with his father and uncles, the rather notorious “Loder boys.” Yet the young Loder may have also sensed very early in life the ultimate futility of constructing human answers to life’s meaning. Even though largely unchurched through his own family, he started attending the local Methodist church by himself at the age of eight or nine. This childhood quest for religious understanding persisted, and early on Loder may have had a religious encounter of some significance. But while he apparently sought a religious dimension to life’s meaning, no doubt his education in the wisdom of Athens remained dominant. He graduated from high school with a promising future in academic work.
At the suggestion of an uncle, Loder attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota in 1949, entering as a physics major. Soon his professors realized what his kindergarten teacher knew so well, that Loder’s insatiable curiosity about the “Why?” of things made him more suited for a career in metaphysics. Loder took their advice and graduated with a B.A. in philosophy in 1953. But the vision of Jerusalem continued to beckon him, and after graduating from Carleton he matriculated at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1954, oriented to becoming a professional minister with a special competence in philosophy. While at Princeton, the dynamic interrelation between Athens and Jerusalem took hold of his mind as he pursued ways to integrate faith and knowledge. One of his roommates, Charles Graves, recalled years later the intensity and devotion of Loder to learning. “I was Jim’s roommate in Alexander Hall for part of 1954-1955…I cannot forget [that he]…was often awake half the night reading philosophy and psychology while I slept. I was astounded what trouble he took to advance his knowledge—a trait that stayed with him, apparently, all his life.” At Princeton he also began, almost by accident, his lifelong engagement with Christian education as the unlikely locus of his intellectual acumen. The circumstances of this initial involvement with the field are important, for they reveal “the trouble he took to advance his knowledge.”
In his senior year he and several other students who had signed up to take D. Campbell Wyckoff’s required course in Christian education became frustrated with it, apparently because it lacked the foundational depth and breadth Loder and the others craved. They asked professor Wyckoff if they could redesign his course to address the deeper structures of the discipline itself. So Wyckoff in his wisdom gave them permission to redesign the course under his supervision in a way that satisfied both themselves and the course requirements. Meeting the challenge to redesign this course in Christian education by seeking out what might be called its inner logic in effect launched Loder (and apparently others ) on his future course to reconstruct the conceptual dimensions of what was considered at that time to be a theoretically underdeveloped discipline. Wyckoff was so impressed by Loder’s extraordinary conceptual abilities that this episode stayed with him and informed his decision some years later to support hiring Loder to be his colleague in the Christian education department at Princeton Seminary.
Confrontation with Death and Awakening to the Presence of Christ (1954).
However, during this same time Loder was confronted by a reality more frightening, and a hidden intelligibility more compelling and generative than any he had encountered before. In 1954 his beloved father became deathly ill with brain cancer and died tragically during Loder’s first year at Princeton. Loder had left school to be with his father in Austin, Texas, where the family had relocated. This confrontation with the death of one so beloved assaulted the budding philosopher with the full force of what he would later call “the Void” (i.e. the irrevocable drift of existence toward nothingness), awakening his spirit to that existential despair that comes from the shocking awareness of how empty and meaningless the social construction of reality really is when its true destiny is exposed. This awakening to the loss of intelligibility in his life left Loder depressed and reeling with a glandular infection (perhaps mononucleosis). Neither the resources of Athens nor Jerusalem had prepared him for the awful realism of Golgotha. Yet the depth of his despair only served to magnify the profound graciousness that would accompany Loder through this confrontation with the Void, and that proved to him to be stronger than death or despair. As he later recalled, while writing out a prayer to interpret his own state of mind, like any good philosophy major would do under such circumstances, his anxiety and sorrow turned to rage. Striking his pillow as a blow against the seeming finality of it all, Loder the philosopher called out from his sick-bed for God to “Do something!” Immediately he began to feel a warming sensation, like “liquid heat” enveloping his body, beginning with his feet and rising to his head. He rose from his bed and, searching for an adequate interpretation of his experience, picked up Emil Brunner’s The Scandal of Christianity and did not so much read the book as “recognize” its relevance to the depth of despair now vanquished.
Loder had recognized at some profound level that both the wisdom of Athens and the vision of Jerusalem found their ultimate meaning in the power of the One who comes to us at Golgotha and calls us to life again in Galilee (Matt. 26:18). He now knew what Luther meant: “theologians are not made by reading and studying books but by living and dying and being damned.” Loder recognized in the midst of his despair that despair itself, when pushed to the limit, gets “scandalized” by the Scandal of Jesus Christ. Soon after this experience, he and his sister both encountered Christ “transformingly” a second time, in which together they, like the disciples of old, had a vision of Christ from across a lake. These experiences of Christ reached to the core of Loder’s spirit, and having been “wised up” to Christ, he never “wised down.” He returned to Princeton with a vivid sense that his passion for learning had entered a new degree of intensity. Only later, after 1970, when the power of death and life erupted even more forcefully and personally in his life would Loder realize the full significance of these earlier experiences of the Cross, and give intellectual testimony to what he came to know for a scientific culture.
“Maybe You Can Do Something for that Field”: The Sojourn at Harvard and the “Accidental” Call to Christian Education (1957-1962)
Knowing that what he had experienced in Austin could not be explained fully in psychological terms (i.e. by the wisdom of Athens), he returned to Princeton and confessed his experience of Christ to the Swiss theologian Hans Hofmann, Professor of Theology and Psychology, who had studied with Brunner at Basel, and also with Karl Jung. Significantly, it was Hofmann who introduced the young prodigy to the importance of Kierkegaard, who became Loder’s life-long interlocutor. Kierkegaard’s own saving experience of Christ in the midst of familial chaos, and his extraordinary articulation of the significance of Christ offered Loder a way to make sense of his Golgothan experience theologically, philosophically, and psychologically. Loder immersed himself in the works of Kierkegaard, under Hofmann’s tutelage, through what became the beginning of his life-long love affair with the Danish iconoclast. Kierkegaard, Loder confessed, provided “language for my head.” Loder showed such promise that, after his graduation in 1957 with a B.D., Hofmann, who had received an appointment as Director of Harvard University’s Project on Religion and Mental Health under a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, took Loder and three other gifted students with him as his research assistants. From 1958-1962 Loder earned two more advanced academic degrees as a Harvard Fellow—a Th.M. from Harvard Divinity School (1958, with distinction) and a Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Religion from Harvard University Graduate School in Arts and Sciences (1962). In these formative years between 1957 and 1962 he also met, courted and married Arlene Carr, the daughter of a Presbyterian pastor and a student at Ratcliffe. Shortly thereafter the Loders started a family with the birth daughter Kimberly. Loder also completed clinical training at the Massachusetts Mental Health Clinic, and, though not ordained, he served pulpit supply at Hope Chapel in Lakewood, New Jersey (1957) and the North Christian Church, Fall River, Massachusetts (1959). Significantly, he did not pursue ordination at this time, apparently believing ordination was unnecessary for an academic vocation that now loomed on the horizon.
Loder wrote his dissertation, “The Nature of Religious Consciousness in the Writings of Sigmund Freud and Soren Kierkegaard: A Theoretical Study in the Correlation of Religious and Psychiatric Concepts,” as a Danforth Fellow at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, with a grant in Theology and Psychiatric Theory (1961-1962). In this study he sought “to work toward a sounder integration between theoretical points of view in the fields of religion and psychiatry” (p. 1), and so to develop the rudiments of an interdisciplinary practical theological method to correlate theories of psychiatric healing and religious transformation. He was concerned that (a) heretofore important cooperative efforts that had emerged between psychiatry and religious ministry at the level of practice would nevertheless ultimately fail unless the theoretical frameworks that guided such cooperation were given “persistent critical examination,” and (b) that attempts to correlate these disciplines often resulted in one discipline reducing the other to its own terms or, in the manner of a tertium quid, reducing both disciplines by conforming them to an alien framework (pp. 7ff). He therefore wanted to develop “an intrinsically consistent, unbiased and self-critical method for making comparisons and correlations between the disciplines of religion and psychiatry” in order to fulfill the following conditions: (a) “avoidance of the reductionistic approaches”; ( b) “maintenance of the integrity of concepts as they are employed in both disciplines”; (c) “establishment of a continuity of meaning across the boundaries of the respective disciplines”; (d) and “mutual deepening of insight in both disciplines as a result of the new continuities of meaning” (p. 2).
To carry out this intention, Loder sought to correlate two epistemologies of consciousness, that of Soren Kierkegaard representing religion (Jerusalem) and Sigmund Freud representing psychiatry (Athens). In doing so he sought to differentiate healthy (“criterional”) consciousness (characterized by “limited freedom”) from pathological consciousness in religious experience (characterized by necessity). Loder called the dynamic structure that governs the move from pathological to criterional consciousness in religious experience “the hypnagogic paradigm,” a paradigm of creativity which bore affinity to both Kierkegaard’s account of conversion and to Freud’s account of the therapeutic power of dreams. One of Loder’s first students, C. Daniel Batson, commenting in a footnote on Loder’s “strange” correlation of Freud and Kierkegaard in this dissertation, illuminates the general importance of Loder’s academic project in those years for developing a linkage to reality for interdisciplinary work in practical theology. The “reconstructive phantasies” upon which Loder bases much of his analysis are those of “Little Hans” (cf. Freud’s “Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy” 1909). The reader may think it strange to attempt a constructive analysis of religious growth through analysis of Freud’s treatment of the change process. Loder’s concern here and in subsequent writings is not to ignore the import of Freud’s critique of religion but to see this critique as applied to religious pathology and to ask if this need be the only form religion can take. Thus, for example, in The Future of an Illusion (1927) Freud juxtaposes socializing religious training to “education to reality” (p. 81). Loder challenges the necessity of this juxtaposition, attempting to explore creative religious thought which is also “education to reality” in a more profound but no less pragmatic sense than Freud’s realist assumption can recognize.
Loder challenged Freud’s reductionism of religion to neurosis through Kierkegaard’s elaboration of reality revealed in the God-man, and paved the way to conceive a “religious education to [not from] reality.” Loder hoped to “move the theoretical dialogue between the Christian religion and psychiatry away from the familiar relationship between God and the projection of the father image to the more crucially Christian question, namely, that of the ‘new birth’” (p. 34). Characteristically, he received highest honors for his work. But more importantly, during these challenging years as a Harvard Fellow, a research assistant in the Harvard University Project on Religion and Mental Health, and a Danforth Scholar at the Menninger Foundation, Loder engaged first-hand some of the greatest minds in theology and the human sciences of that day—Talcott Parsons, David McClelland, Paul Tillich, Paul Lehmann, James Luther Adams, Arthur Darby Nock, and Harvey Cox at Harvard, and Seward Hiltner and Paul Pruyser at the Menninger Foundation. The concern that dominated his academic efforts during these years was the inner integrity among the disciplines that inform a practical theology of reality-restoring religious experience. He would later recall that this kind of interdisciplinary practical theology was “in my soul.” Through it all he continued to hear Kierkegaardian echoes that would stay with him and intensify throughout his career to become the foremost Ursource out of which he would eventually construct his own theoretical framework of critical, confessional practical theological science in the years ahead.
Having studied with the many of the nation’s greatest representatives of Athens and Jerusalem, as well as with many of the brightest stars of the rising generation of scholars, theologians and theorists—like Harvey Cox, Robert Bellah, James Fowler and Donald Miller to name just four—the question of what he could do with an interdisciplinary degree loomed large. And again, Loder’s attention turned rather accidentally toward Christian education. Loder had become aware while at Harvard that the meta-theoretical foundations of Christian education needed to be reconstructed in order to integrate the wisdom of Athens (i.e. the knowledge and interdisciplinary breadth of liberal contributions to religious education) with the convictional depth and theological vision of Jerusalem (i.e. crisis theology’s contribution to Christian education). He suspected that Christian education might provide him with a proper vocational context for bringing what he called his “Harvard influence” (shaped especially by Kierkegaard) to bear on re-conceiving the foundations of religious/Christian education at a new depth. Indeed, when he told Hans Hofmann of his decision to move into Christian education rather than pastoral care, Hofmann replied, “Maybe you can do something for that field.” Though the fruit of the Harvard experience and the generative insights of Kierkegaard would mature to their fullest theological extent only after 1970, Loder’s course was now set for making a significant contribution to both Christian education and practical theology at the meta-theoretical level.
Indeed, Princeton’s Christian education department in the early 1960s provided the perfect place for someone to “do something” foundational for the field. D. Campbell Wyckoff, an expert in every facet of the curricular dimensions of Christian education, stood at the center of the department, and Freda Gardner, an experienced practitioner of congregational education, had been hired in 1961. But shortly thereafter, in 1962, Donald Butler, primarily a philosopher of education, left Princeton for Austin Seminary, leaving a void in the department’s coverage of foundational disciplines in Christian education. Seward Hiltner, who had worked with Loder at the Menninger Clinic and now taught at Princeton, asked him if he would be willing to take his interdisciplinary acumen and “put it into Christian education” at the seminary. Convinced that Loder could with integrity commit himself to Christian education, Hiltner persuaded Princeton President James I. McCord that Loder was the right choice to bring interdisciplinary depth to this discipline, even though the young scholar had little academic or practical experience in the field itself. Loder, with the support of Hiltner, Wyckoff, Dean Elmer Homrighausen, and now President McCord, subsequently received a call from the Seminary to teach the foundational courses in Christian education, with the title of Instructor of Christian Education. In an interview in 2002, Wyckoff recalled meeting Loder in Chicago to discuss his willingness to shift his focus from psychoanalysis to Christian education. He allayed Loder’s concern for having no experience in Christian education, and Loder confirmed what Hiltner had told Wyckoff, that he looked forward to taking his interdisciplinary understanding in a different direction, moving from dealing with sick people in clinical settings to working with normal people in normal (congregational) settings. In 2001 Loder recalled his early desire to bring a Kierkegaardian critique to Christian education: I wanted not only to raise people back to normal but to raise them more deeply into normal. I didn’t say it then, but I wanted to bring [people] up psychologically at a higher level. See, all this time I had in the back of my mind Kierkegaard, his critique of the aesthetic…of ordinary Christianity in Denmark. And I’m thinking, ‘This is really necessary. It has to be done.’”
Wyckoff assured Loder that he could focus his work on integrating the foundational disciplines of philosophy, psychology, educational psychology, and socio-cultural studies, and would not have to teach the courses on administration, curriculum, pedagogical method and the like, which were Wyckoff’s (and Gardner’s) forte anyway. According to Gardner, the required courses in Christian education for M. Div. students were “a disaster” in those days and needed the kind of intellectual stimulation Loder could supply. Loder reflected on these early years of his role in shaping the curriculum of Christian education philosophically, and of the vision that began to take hold of him.
I did have an inspiration about [Christian education]. I could see this thing opening up to…tremendous opportunity. I could see that through Christian education you could teach anything and everything in the seminary. It takes in the whole thing…[it] requires you to come from all these different perspective [including] theological, philosophical, psychological, social, cultural, and it was a wonderful place to be, having been trained in interdisciplinary studies. Christian education needed a better way to deal with the interdisciplinary stuff.
Thus, Loder set out to re-conceive the entire theoretical basis for the discipline of Christian education. His Harvard work provided him with a theoretical framework upon which he would begin to connect his dynamic understanding of the creativity of positive religious experience, based upon the “hypnagogic paradigm,” to social theory, theories of language and culture, and to ecclesial practices (see below). He had strong ideas of what he wanted to do, and at Princeton he was given the space and freedom to do it. When asked if Loder shared his vision with his colleagues, Campbell Wyckoff responded with droll understatement “Jim pretty well worked all that kind of thing out in his head, and didn’t particularly want to talk to anyone else…Loder went his own way.”
Going His Own Way: Conflict and Creativity through the Human Spirit in Loder’s Vision of Transformational Learning (1962-1970)
Not only were the needs of the department of Christian education relevant to Loder’s expertise, the decade of the sixties was in many ways Taylor-made for Loder to develop “his own way” in Christian education. Indeed, Loder was cut from the same cloth as the revolutionary times. First, all claims to authority were coming under question in American culture, including academic authority, with the result that students openly challenged professors in class. This blistering of authority ramified through culture, and mainline religion in particular buried itself in defensive posturing, magnifying its culpability in the eyes of many students who brought with them to seminary charges of hypocrisy and compromise. But Loder’s immersion in the exemplars of critical suspicion, like Freud and Kierkegaard, under the discipline of his own razor-sharp mind, equipped him with the perfect weapons with which to engage the intellectual unrest and the ideological warfare in ultimately positive ways. Indeed, he could out-duel any of the student provocateurs who charged his way. While many professors dreaded the contention, Loder in fact admitted to loving this kind of intellectual “duel-ism.” Even his pedagogy emphasizing “conflict learning” in religious education fit well the tenor of the times. Students flocked to his courses.
Second, many of these same protesters, especially those students who felt lost in their own rage and contempt, were looking more for understanding and acceptance than argument, more for emotional stability and mental health than heated rhetoric. And many of them gathered around Loder almost from the time he set foot on campus. Fresh from the Menninger Foundation and from Harvard, he brought mental health credentials with him to an institution almost devoid of spiritual and emotional support-structures for students or faculty—no campus chaplain, pastor, or counselor in those days. Randy Nichols, one of Loder’s first doctoral students and now Director of the seminary’s Doctor of Ministry Program, recalls that Loder had a “huge load” of counseling in those days. Loder apparently proved competent to counsel from the start of his time at Princeton. The troubled sought his counsel.
Third, as we have already noted, Christian education as a discipline was ill equipped to deal theologically or conceptually with the cultural upheavals assaulting the church and the nation. The separation of religious content and educational process in those days rendered Christian education anemic and irrelevant to the difficult task of integration that needed to be done. Compelling rationales for re-conceiving Christian education as a prophetic vanguard challenging both church and culture had difficulty coming forth in a discipline that was largely conceived as little more than technique. At Princeton in the early 60s, Christian education focused primarily on practices, attracted persons (mostly women who were not accepted to the full range of academic vocations) who sought employment as educational practitioners in congregations (Directors of Christian or Religious Education), and had little scholarly attraction.
Therefore, if true progress was to be made, the theological, critical and interdisciplinary dimensions of the field itself needed to be addressed at the foundational level and reconstructed in a way that (1) made the educational implications of the Gospel relevant to a culture no longer content to give unambiguous consent to a largely domesticated Judeo-Christian sacred canopy, and (2) made the intellectual capital gleaned from the human sciences relevant to the Gospel’s educational initiative. Like Kierkegaard of nineteenth-century Denmark, Loder believed that in American society Christian education had become a lie. A new dynamic vision of the conceptual dimensions and the experiential dynamics of Christian education begged to be discovered and articulated. The intellectually gifted sought him as their mentor.
Loder responded to the times and to the situation at Princeton by refining the interdisciplinary epistemology he had worked out at Harvard, and by perfecting his conflict model of learning based upon that work. This conflict model of learning and his paradigm of creativity (known by his early students simply as “the paradigm” ) attracted the attention of virtually everyone who came in contact with his generative mind. Loder’s classes at the seminary became extraordinarily popular because of his intellectual power and his flair for the dramatic (one of his former students likened him to the Robin Williams’ portrayal of John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society!). His courses were compelling, if often somewhat intimidating. Wyckoff recalled with amazement that 70-80 students regularly signed up for Loder’s educational psychology courses, an unheard-of number of students for an elective, especially in Christian education. Wyckoff mused, “Something was going on there that was pretty important—that’s the way I felt. I said to myself, don’t mess around with it.” Loder, according Nichols (and confirmed by Gardner), “really opened up Christian education to the M.Div. population.”
But Loder’s influence extended beyond Princeton as well, as people seemed attracted to his intellect wherever he went. He participated in the growing criticism of religious education as an intellectually under-developed discipline, interacting with and developing critiques of, the works of major figures in the field—Randolf Crump Miller, C. Ellis Nelson, James Smart, and John Westerhoff, to name a few. Wyckoff helped introduce Loder to many of these theorists by taking him (“kicking and screaming” as both Wyckoff and Gardner recalled!) to professional meetings like APRRE (American Professors and Researchers in Religious Education). In spite of Loder’s disdain for such gatherings, the young scholar became something of a sensation because of his fecund mind and profound grasp of the disciplines undergirding Christian or religious education. Loder became a speaker at some of these meetings, and at denominational gatherings and seminary forums. A major publishing company sought him out to persuade him to leave Princeton and to enter into curriculum design, based on his conflict model of learning. In all of this scholarly activity Loder proved himself to be one of the rising stars in practical theology and Christian education. More importantly, as Nichols observed, Loder was “on to something that instinctively people knew we needed…to learn about, that is, the sort of deep, experiential substrate of the theological ‘stuff’ we were kicking around on the surface.”
By the late 1960s, Loder began to attract gifted persons like Dan Batson and Randy Nichols to study with him. Although most of his doctoral students came after 1975, Loder was regarded to be a gifted and stimulating mentor from the start. One factor that made him better known was Wyckoff’s encouragement to publish his dissertation, which became his first major book, Religious Pathology and Christian Faith (1966). This book reconfirmed for the broader ecclesial and academic readership Loder’s concern to “develop an epistemology [for practical theology] that is both theologically and behaviorally sound, but that at the same time has enough integrity of its own to give it critical and constructive power both for its parent disciplines and for other interdisciplinary studies.” The principle reason for engaging in what Albert Outler called Loder’s “spelunking venture” in epistemology was his concern “that in current years diverse ‘alien’ disciplines have found their way into theological curricula without their being critically evaluated in terms of their relatedness to the classical theological disciplines.” Thus, there is an “unfinished business” in the sense of the “broader need…for interdisciplinary studies that can speak responsibly to several areas such as social ethics, public education, and psychiatric theory and practice, where theological and behavioral thought are inevitably and often inextricably involved.” Through this epistemology of religious experience Loder sought “by colligation, correlation, and functional analogy [to]…penetrate more deeply into the nature of human change in Christian experience,” the “locus” of which would be “in the patterning of the phenomenon of consciousness,” developed in relation to Freud, Kierkegaard, Harold Rugg and Herbert Silberer, “the hypnagogic paradigm.” In relation to Christian education, the conflict model of creative development addressed the problem of the separation of process and content in teaching and learning that plagued theory construction since the onset of crisis theology.
Loder wrote: The pernicious distinction that has been ruinous to a great deal of theoretical thinking in Christian education lies between content and process. One of the unique disservices that Barthiana did for Christian education was to precipitate radical opposition to the Christian appropriation of John Dewey’s thought…the distinction is false and misleading….The paradigm asserts that the aim of education is expansion of the boundaries of paradigmatic freedom. Moreover, it asserts that paradigmatic freedom is a fusion of content and process; indeed, it is precisely in the fusion that consciousness is generated.
As we have noted, Batson absorbed Loder’s conflict model and drew implications from his work for diverse application to practical theological and social-psychological domains. Nichols also found Loder’s work attractive because he felt his theory opened up insights into the creative process which, through generative conflicts, underlay doctrinal formulations about revelation and the effective Word or “saving knowledge.” These doctrinal formulations had no behavioral analogues that connected them to human experience or events of consciousness that had become the object of inquiry among secular theorists. Nichols recalls: “I thought ‘the paradigm’ could get at [these issues for preaching], that this was the sort of creative act, going through those dynamics, and that what we really wanted to happen in preaching was to lead people into an engagement of conflict, through this process…[as] a vehicle for trying to understand the experiential foundation for the high neo-orthodox theological claims about preaching—that the Word is really heard.” Others also picked up on the potential significance of Loder’s early work for fundamental issues in practical theology and theological education. Nelle Morton, for example, recognized early on that Loder’s interdisciplinary vision for practical theology bore an enormous transformational potential for Christian education, counseling, preaching, and administration, and, indeed, for re-conceiving the structure and dynamic of theological education itself.
In her review of Religious Pathology and Christian Faith, she discerned in Loder’s argument five issues that, taken together, “call into question the whole of theological education as it exists today…and plac[es] us on the verge of a new era…” Loder’s work, avers Morton, has the potential to overcome the fragmentation of theological education by (1) realigning the relations among disciplines making up theological education, (2) by focusing upon a way to preserve the integrity of each discipline in relation to the others, (3) by identifying a grammar for the imaginative process that generates knowledge so that (4) the dynamism of learning is opened up and (5) the theory-to-practice dichotomy is exposed as fallacious and is overcome.
Morton concludes: …Loder allows a new way of looking at process and form to emerge as he sets two gigantic figures in relation with one another. If the method and content of what the document is about have validity, then it is all up with the dichotomies and the splitness of learning and being. Learning content of the faith in one discipline to be applied by another becomes an illusory and fallacious approach to both theology and education. Learning techniques of perception in one situation to be applied in another situation has long since been outmoded. The method IS the content. All traditional ways of communicating may be called into question.
Clearly, no one really questioned the intellectual perspicacity of this dynamic young scholar. About the power of his mind Wyckoff acclaimed, “People stood in awe of him.” By 1964 he was promoted to Assistant Professor; by 1968 Associate Professor; and by the late 1960s Loder was traveling far and wide to lend his expertise to the educational concerns of both church and culture. The boundaries of his creative mind seemed to all who knew him to know no limits. In 1968-1969 he took his first sabbatical, receiving an American Association of Theology Schools research fellowship to do postdoctoral work at Piaget’s Jean J. Rousseau’s Institut des Sciences de l’ Education in Geneva. By then a second daughter, Tamara, had been born into the Loder household.
But the proficiency by which Loder connected the wisdom of Athens and the vision of Jerusalem according to the Harvard influence, and which inspired so many students and colleagues (and no doubt intimidated others!), had muted the existential dimensions of Loder’s own faith convictions, at least in public. For example, when one reads his 1969 Bonnell Lecture “Adults in Crisis” in light of his later, more explicit Christological and pneumatological commitments, one is struck by the manner in which Loder worked out what he called “paradigmatic madness” within an explicit psychoanalytic framework, suggesting that he then understood the power of Christian faith mostly in terms of facilitating qualitative advances in positive mental health. Furthermore, some persons were offended by Loder’s demonstrable lack of public piety in those early years. Indeed, evidence of Loder’s existential experience of Christ at the death of his father, which thrust him on to Kierkegaard and brought him to Harvard in the first place, remained tacit and largely unacknowledged, at least in the classroom and within the academic guild. Wyckoff, Gardner and Nichols all remembered that some students, overwhelmed by his intimidating intellect and under-whelmed by is demonstrable lack of piety in class, questioned whether Loder was even a Christian. Wyckoff remarked: “It was customary [at that time] to begin and end, usually to begin and often to end, class sessions in prayer. [Loder] was not about to do that. And…we accepted that. What are you going to do—force him to pray?”
Yet the image in those days of Loder being indifferent to faith, while certainly bearing some justification, is finally unfair. Loder’s colleague Freda Gardner wrote in her memorial tribute to him: Fresh from graduate work and his time at Menninger, Jim never prayed or displayed much typical interest in matters of faith. It was apparent in private conversations, however, that he was rooted in faith, but his faith did not easily surface in public discourse. His experience of assurance at the time of his father’s death had given him firsthand knowledge of the human-God connection, but he was not comfortable at his point with the personal.
Kim Loder Engelmann, his elder daughter, acknowledged that while during these years the Loder family practiced a consistent devotional life, and that her mother had experienced, through prayer, a profound healing of her abdomen while in Europe during her husband’s Sabbatical there, it is also fair to say that her father did not manifest publicly his deep commitments during this period. Prayer was not a large part of his pedagogical repertoire, and his faith was highly intellectualized. His driving concern was to make faith relevant to a scientific culture, to make religion useful for the healing of social and psychological ills. Only later did his family and his students and colleagues come to know him for his spiritual depth of experience as much as for his intellectual power, for his faith testimony as well as his academic credentials, for his prayers as well as for his scholarly achievements, for his transparent brokenness as well as for his sharp-minded critiques, for his “suffering divine things” as well as for his brilliance. An even more devastating “ruination” of his life had to occur “at Golgotha” at the hands of Spiritus Creator before Loder’s deepest intellectual grasp of divine and human action could become the bearer of joyful Good News to his students, colleagues, and friends. The 1970 transformation of homo religiosus (the religious genius) into homo testans (the witness) marks the generative turning point of Loder’s life and vocation.
Loder’s Ruination unto Redemptive: The Epistemological Significance of Convictional Experience (1970)
The full power of the Cross became generative for Loder only after 1970, and in this case the experience that shaped Loder’s life and scholarship was accidental in the literal as well as the figurative sense. That is, the experience through which this power was released in his life was an accident late that summer on the New York thruway that literally threatened his life. This experience, recorded in his groundbreaking book The Transforming Moment and re-lived with all of his students in classrooms, conferences and church gatherings since the early 1970s, became the catalyst for Loder to radically redefine his understanding and practice of Christian faith as a participation in what he came to call the “logic of the Spirit.” As the story goes, Loder, on vacation with his family driving north toward Albany, New York, stopped just short of Kingston to help two women change a tire by the side of the road. As Loder crouched in the front of the car to secure a place for the jack, a truck driver fell asleep and rammed into the car under which Loder was working, shoving it on top of him as he desperately tried to keep his head and shoulders from being crushed by the impact. The body of the car continued to drag him through the gravel, ripping off his right thumb, nearly smashing him into the rear of his own camper, before finally coming to a rest on his chest, breaking five ribs and puncturing his left lung. At the sight of the car now pinning her husband to the ground, Loder’s diminutive wife Arlene, praying “In the Name of Jesus” before momentarily losing consciousness, apparently lifted the car far enough off her husband to allow him to break free. Crushed but alive, confronted by a terrible Void rushing in to negate all of that for which he had lived and worked, startlingly Loder actually found himself more fully aware of One whose life authorized his own and guaranteed his own.
In words recorded at the beginning of his book The Transforming Moment, Loder testified of this experience in the following way: As I roused myself from under the car, a steady surge of life was rushing through me carrying with it two solid assurances. First, I knew how deeply I felt love for those around me, especially my family. My two daughters sat crying on the embankment, and a deep love reached out of me toward them. The second assurance was that this disaster had a purpose. These were the words with which I repeatedly tried to reassure my wife and children: “Don’t worry; this has a purpose.”
Walking from the car to the embankment, I never felt more conscious of the life that poured through me, nor more aware that this life was not my own. My well-being came from beyond my natural strength, and I lay down on the grass mostly because I thought I ought to….My state of being was not strictly controlled by adrenalin. The adrenalin activated aggression toward the driver who had caused the collision, but the flow of life in me was both a stronger and quieter force, so that the thought of retaliation was subdued. By far, the most significant and memorable effect was not the pain, nor the anger, but the gracious nature of the life I was experiencing.
During the next few hours as Loder entered treatment in a nearby Catholic hospital, he continued to sense another’s Presence living through him, convincing him that he couldn’t die and assuring him that all was well. In this Golgothan landscape the cruciform images [i.e. the crucifix] displayed on the hospital walls signified “the combination of physical pain and the assurance of a life greater than death” that “gave objective expression and meaning to the sense of promise and transcendence that lived within the midst of my suffering,” so that even as the pain increased and the signs of trauma asserted themselves, “the enduring essentials of love and purpose remained.” As he entered surgery he continued to experience “the power of life from beyond me [which] once again rushed into my body. Moreover, my sense was that this power was not impersonal, but emanating from the center of Another’s awareness—an awareness that positively, even joyfully, intended my well-being.” He began to sing “Fairest Lord Jesus” until nurses informed him that the attending physician was Jewish, at which point Loder conversed with him about the Hebrew Scriptures. Over the next few months he made a full recovery. He returned after some time to his responsibilities at the seminary, entering again into his familiar academic pursuits. Yet all was not the same. He was not the same! The next few years brought great agony of soul, but greater renewal of life to Loder’s spirit.
For two years following this devastating yet, paradoxically, life-affirming experience, Loder struggled to make this event intelligible to himself and to others, in the face of great temptation to repress such experiences for the sake of science and scholarship. He struggled to know how to be faithful to the Presence of Christ revealed in and through this Golgothan event, and still have integrity as a scholar in a scientific culture. Nichols recalled that Loder, already a very private person, underwent “an enormous withdrawal” after the accident, secluding himself from others and suffering embarrassment about his disfigurement, so that no one really knew for certain just what had happened to him. Moreover, Gardner recalled that Loder’s sometimes “uncontrollable weeping” when he told the story of the accident left some wondering about his mental stability. Yet the aftermath of the experience cannot be understood in strictly social or psychological terms. What seems certain is that amid the doubts that plagued him from without and from within, a new depth of conviction was laboring to come to expression through him. A dimension of the brokenness and struggle and yet conviction he experienced is reflected in a handwritten prayer Loder scribbled on lined paper, found in his office after his death, probably written in the early 1970s during this crisis of faith.
This is who I am. This is who I must be. The one who was convicted on the thruway and thus renewed [by] his “convictor” of several years before. If teaching this way is destructive to my fellows or classes who want something else, if this means I lose [my] job and esteem, then at least I do not lose my Lord. I do not by this expect to stop my intellectual work. But I do hereby stop, in the name of Jesus Christ, any effort to say that I can exhaustively deprive myself by my own efforts. Thou art holding me fast, and I am so grateful I will be obedient to the heavenly vision, as Paul said, and not fall away (Heb. 6:4-7).
In more formal terms, Loder described this convictional struggle in The Transforming Moment as follows: Although I resisted the implications of this experience for over two years, the eventual consequence was that I had to act on the growing internal necessity to identify myself with the ministry of the church and to complete ordination proceedings, which I had held in reservation for several years. This became a matter of conscience, not derived from any moral sense of obligation or abstract principles, but in the sense of knowing within oneself the necessary direction of one’s integrity….This episode, in fact, raised countless new questions, disturbed several personal relationships, and forced me to reenvision the spiritual center of my vocation—not an easy matter when one is already teaching in a theological seminary. It undoubtedly presented me with the reality to which I have had to be true and from which I have departed only with a keen sense of having violated my own soul. I had been and remain convicted.
The impact of this convictional experience compelled Loder to radically reopen the question of reality, to re-learn his own relation to things seen and unseen, to become attentive to the dimensions of intelligibility toward which these kinds of experiences pointed, and to place himself and his subsequent work in the service of the church. Loder began to see his life and work, personal and public, within a larger fiduciary framework that did not begin and end with him or anything human, but rather with what Luther called an “alien” Presence. He began to know himself, his life and his work “in the Spirit.” Two years after the accident, fighting considerable skepticism from some of his colleagues who regarded his “turn to the Spirit” a regression into some kind of experiential theology unfit for Reformed theological consumption, Loder concluded that his ministry and his scholarship must take place “in the Spirit” if they were to bear testimony to redemptive practical theology in the Reformed tradition. Not only his life had to change, but also his intellectual understanding of the underlying structures of reality redeemed in Christ had to become convictional to the core.
When asked in 2001 “What changed in your understanding and practice of Christian education after 1970?” Loder responded: That’s a good question, because before 1970 I was doing all of my teaching within a basic psychoanalytic model, that conflict learning is basic to psychoanalysis. So I was upgrading psychoanalysis a little bit. But that was the basic shape of my understanding. After 1970 I realized it was the Spirit of God who creates the problem and guides us into truth. And the whole convictional picture in four dimensions began to become a way for me to talk about what I know had happened, and what could happen. And so, it was still conflictual but now it had shifted into a much bigger perspective. And the dynamics involved were not just limited to the human spirit but also to divine redemption in action.
As a doctor of the church Loder had “to write all of this out in a book” in order to make it credible to his academic audience. As a matter of conviction he needed to verify the experience for himself as having integrity with the movement of the Spirit toward “faith seeking understanding.” This professional and convictional effort became his groundbreaking book The Transforming Moment.
An Epistemology of Convictional Experience: The Transforming Moment (1971-1981)
After 1970, Loder began to recognize that not only did “the Spirit of God create the problem and guide us into truth,” but the creativity-through-conflict pattern of the human spirit which he had been investigating through his work at Harvard and Princeton bore an analogical relationship to the affirming, crucifying and resurrecting pattern of the Holy Spirit which he had experienced in the 1970 accident and earlier at the death of his father. The One who reveals Himself to us at “Golgotha” and our experience of this One is more real than any articulation of the experience, but the pattern of interaction Spirit-to-spirit can be discerned. Thus, Spiritus Creator must be recognized and appreciated as the explicit Reality underlying and generating all knowing that is convictional. The scholar who rarely prayed in public would now have to learn to teach “in the Spirit.” The counselor steeped in the theories of depth psychoanalysis and individuation now had to place his methods in the service of the Spirit who created the context for healing in ways that may include traditional therapy but clearly did not depend on them. The intellectual who had mapped out the conceptual contours of the learning process to great advantage and success now had to relearn pedagogical science as an act of worship “in the Spirit” without losing intellectual integrity in the process. The intimidating professor who had mastered all subjects now had to bend his spirit toward One who had mastered him and to transform his scholarship into testimony, and to weep if necessary at the miracle of it all, not worrying if tears of joy and gratitude (his own or his students’) offended or embarrassed those who heard him.
So radical were the changes that Loder initiated to conform his work to the Spirit’s Presence that not only was the state of his mental health under suspicion, but also his theology. The claims Loder made for the Spirit’s power reminded many of his colleagues and students of past controversies on campus over spiritual excesses, especially regarding glossalalia. Indeed, Loder himself knew of these controversies that had rocked Princeton in the early 1960s. Peter Marshall Jr, a student in those days, had nearly split the campus over the issue of tongues, according to Randy Nichols. So Loder’s radical experience of the Spirit raised the specter of spiritual excess and disorder once again. His only defense as a scholar under the conviction of the Spirit, both to those who supported him and to his detractors, was to write a theological and interdisciplinary epistemology of convictional experience that was fully Reformed and compelling, while also recommitting himself to the Presbyterian church.
Thus, over the next decade, Loder embarked on this intellectual project-testimony while also committing himself to complete his ordination to the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church, something he had put on hold during the 1960s. Regarding the latter, Loder was ordained July 9, 1978.
Regarding the former, his efforts to seek a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit’s interaction with the human spirit, Loder mined important works like Regin Prenter’s Spiritus Creator and George Hendry’s The Holy Spirit in Christian Theology, Karl Barth’s teaching on the Spirit, along with Catholic writers, Pentecostals and mystics, for their insights into the work of the Holy Spirit in human transformation. What the accident made available to him was the convictional courage to recognize and act upon the Church’s confession that our human participation in the work of the Holy Spirit, not the transformational capacities of the human spirit alone, finally makes human transformation itself redemptive.
Of this relation of the human spirit to the Holy Spirit he wrote: …the logic of transformation participates in a much larger theme running throughout scripture, which…is characterized by the same logic. It is a theme the church has classically called “Spiritus Creator” or the Creator Spirit. Lutheran scholarship, Regin Prenter in particular, suggests that Spiritus Creator is the best way to characterize Luther’s entire theology of the Spirit. Here the process of convictional knowing is taken up into classical theological categories as the “grammar” of the Holy Spirit; here the analogy of the Spirit becomes theologically explicit…The Lutheran emphasis is that we cannot experience authentic transformation anywhere except in the work of the Holy Spirit.
Loder began to realize that when the dynamics of transformation he had associated with the human spirit come under conviction, those dynamics are taken up into the life of the Holy Spirit and are themselves transformed, so that Christ becomes the living mediator of our knowing of reality. Loder described the impact of this transformation in powerful language, noting how the “grammar” of transformation begins as the Spirit of Christ makes the Gospel meaningful for us; that is to say, it begins in “inner conflict.” To have the Gospel come to us with meaning is to be thrown into a conflict of immense proportions. The Spirit of Holiness makes us sinners, the enlightenment makes us blind, dimensions of the Holy call into play the threats of evil, annihilation, and damnation. The self and all its “worlds” are exposed as alienated from each other and within themselves. This is the intention of the Spirit to Luther: to convict through conflict and then to overcome that conflict through the Word of the Gospel.
As was mentioned, Loder sought to develop an interdisciplinary epistemology of convictional knowing that expanded his earlier work on the hypnagogic paradigm in terms of pneumatology and Christology under the theme of transformation. He identified what he claimed to be the innate, transformational pattern of the human spirit, so powerful that it generates intelligence itself in all meaning-contexts—psychological, social, linguistic, political, cultural, scientific and theological. However, the human spirit, undergoing existential anxiety over the loss of the Face of the mother early in infancy, constructs through the spirit a defensive posture grounded in negation (the ego) which serves under the aegis of socialization processes to reduce the experience of reality to two dimensions, the self and the “worlds” the self constructs, “worlds” that feedback to construct the “composing self.” This interactive developmental process governed by the defensive ego expresses the fundamental distortion of “normal” development, distortion which can be understood theologically as “original sin” recapitulated in the developmental history of every person. Yet the generative source underlying the power of the ego is the human spirit.
Loder developed the five-stage “logic” of the human spirit (conflict, scanning, insight, release, interpretation/verification) to describe dynamic structure of this generative source, claiming that “to the extent that this is the pattern governing the dynamics of the human spirit, it can be said that the developing person is spirit.” Loder went on to develop what he called the analogia spiritus (an analogy between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit), from which he asserted that the epistemological impact on the human spirit under the convicting action of the Holy Spirit is to reconstruct the contours of consciousness redemptively in four dimensions, not two as under the aegis of ego and socialization. Thus, these four dimensions—the self, world, the Void, and the Holy—define the theological contours of human existence as they come to be known “in the Spirit,” since in the normal course of human development the last two dimensions are repressed by the defensive nature of ego under the power of socialization to govern the meaning of self-world interaction. In fact the proximate destiny of ego and culture is the Void, or nothingness, which haunts being. Convictional experience guided by the Spirit of God exposes the self-world construction to the full power of the Void in order that the ego might give up its heroic but futile efforts to provide the ground for its own existence and allow the power of the Holy to ground the self transparently in the power that posits it (Kierkegaard).
Craig Dykstra made this comment on the significance of Loder’s theme of convictional experiences: In this four-dimensional context, Loder argues, conflicts of existential proportions to the self are borne and, when resolved, normatively reveal a transformed self and world related intimately to a loving God who upholds and renews the whole of being. Loder’s premier example is the story of Cleopas and Simon on the road to Emmaus. He traces the logic of conviction through this story in a way that stunningly reveals an epistemology of the work of Christ in his eucharistic presence in relation to the activity of the human self as it comes to know and be known. This is an unabashedly Kierkegaardian agenda. As Loder himself tells us, “What we have come to understand in convictional knowing is how the objective truth of the revelation in Christ may be subjectively known” (p. 122).
Loder’s description of the epistemological impact of the Holy Spirit in human transformation as the power of convictional knowing in the Spirit provided Christian educators with a credible alternative to the near normative status which James Fowler’s faith development paradigm had attained during that time. The concurrence of the release of Loder’s Transforming Moment and Fowler’s Stages of Faith led the Religious Education Association to stage a debate between the two authors in Lansing, Michigan, in 1982. The substance of the debate was published in Religious Education in March-April of 1982. In this extended dual-book review, the authors summarized the argument of the other’s book and then offered their critique of it.
Fowler summarized Loder’s central argument for the necessity of the transformation of transformation through the Spirit of Christ. Against our human efforts to secure our lives from the ever-present threat of the Void, Christ works a double negation that frees us to give love sacrificially. Fowler then lifts up several other themes in The Transforming Moment that he thought were important: (1) Loder’s emphasis upon the tragic dimension at the heart of human development and change, the ego’s participation in negation incorporated; (2) the four dimensions of convictional knowing as a fuller description of human reality under the impact of grace; and (3) the Christo-centric nature of the book which “tries to penetrate to those points of divine-human intercourse in which the possibility of faith and new being are generated” and in doing so “gets very close to the heart of what the gospel is about” (145f). He then criticized Loder’s theory for (1) overstating his emphasis on process or stage dynamics over the stages themselves; for (2) centering too strongly on Christ in a way that compromises inter-religious dialogue; for (3) his heavy commitment to Reformed and Lutheran anthropological insights that are negative; and (4) for his lack of attention to the need for giving guidance to persons “in between” transforming moments.
On his part Loder summarized Fowler’s book, then highlighted Fowler’s imaginative use of a fictional conversation among Piaget, Kohlberg and Erikson. Then he commended Fowler for his development of a superior interview procedure. But he criticized Fowler’s definition of faith, arguing (from G. Ebeling) that Fowler’s understanding was unbiblical. He then pointed out what he perceived to be the built-in contradiction of Fowler’s model, avering that the normative goal of faith development, stage six, renders an interest in stages irrelevant. Loder exposes Fowler’s obvious interest in stages to be sub-normal according to his own theory. “What kind of system,” Loder asked, “sets up as a normative goal which, if attained, exposes the whole model as invalid?” Loder found Fowler’s efforts to describe faith development more descriptive of the ego’s developing drive toward repression of the Void and the Holy in the name of social control, conforming more to the “ritualization of progress in an achievement-obsessed society.” He argued that Fowler’s Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning should have been re-titled The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning: Stages of an Aspect of Faith.
Loder’s intense search for “the logic of the Spirit” in convictional experiences and the meaning of these experiences for a scientific culture and an enculturated church began to be appreciated by the late 1970s. He was promoted to full professor in 1979; then became the Mary D. Synnott Chair in Christian Education in 1982. The Transforming Moment itself was made possible by a research grant from the Center for Theological Inquiry in Princeton and by further study at Oxford University as an advisor to the Alistar Hardy Research Center. As the decade wore on, Loder incorporated his critique of Fowler’s paradigm in his ED 216 (Human Development) and ED105 (Educational Ministry of the Church) courses, and in several doctoral seminars (Some 17 years later, he released what should be considered his full-fledged rejoinder to Fowler’s Stages of Faith called The Logic of the Spirit: Faith Development in Theological Perspective, 1998—see below). And by the late 1970s a steady stream of students flowed to Princeton to study with Loder, many of whom have taught or now teach in our major seminaries and divinity schools, including Craig Dykstra (Princeton Seminary now Lilly Foundation), Sharon Parks (Harvard, now the Whidbey Institute), Frank Rogers and Carol Hess (Claremont), John McClure (Louisville, now Vanderbilt), Daniel Schipani (Mennonite), Susanne Johnson (Perkins, SMU), Marilyn Adams (Yale, now Oxford), Ronald Cram (PSCE now Columbia), Anabel Proffitt (Lancaster Seminary), Margaret Krych (Luther Seminary of Philadelphia), and Ernie Hess and Elizabeth Frykberg (pastors). Loder provided these students with a radically different way to understand and talk about the Spirit in human development. But he also had larger concerns to share with them, the core of which was to work out a relational logic for interdisciplinary methodology grounded in Jesus Christ, “the God-man structure of reality” (P. Lehmann). He wanted to create an epistemological model of relational knowing in the Spirit with the generative power to integrate the wisdom of Athens and the wisdom of Jerusalem at the level of spirit. We might call this development in Loder’s work his effort to create a neo-Chalcedonian practical theological science of provident-contingent relationality.”
Loder’s Neo-Chalcedonian Science of Provident-Contingent Relationality (1981-1995)
During the 17 years between The Transforming Moment and the appearance of The Logic of the Spirit, Loder worked to deepen his theological understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit for fundamental practical theology in a scientific culture. His study of the Council of Chalcedon, at which the early Church discerned the normative status of divine-human relationality revealed in Jesus Christ, led him to believe that Chalcedon thereby set the parameters for understanding the relation of Christ to culture and the nature of interdisciplinary studies. But Chalcedon’s insights into “the consequences of the Spirit’s actions” or “the results of the Spirit’s mission” largely ignored “the character or nature of the Person [of the Spirit] to their own spirits.” He suspected that “theological reflection on the person and mission of the Holy Spirit” was deficient because it had “not taken sufficient notice that spiritual action in the world may require somewhat different forms of reflection…the Holy Spirit, interpreted as Divine self-knowing, is more elusive than Source (Father) or Manifestation (Son), since it presupposes them both but dynamically returns each to itself and both to each other in deepening illumination.” An alternative form of rationality that allied itself with God’s self-knowledge had to be constructed in order to illuminate the nature of life in the Spirit.
Meanwhile, his study of Michael Polanyi’s philosophy of science led him to believe that the “grammar of transformation” in convictional epistemology worked out in The Transforming Moment corresponded to the “stereoscopic” and “kinetic” nature of scientific discovery (a relationality of focal and tacit dimensions), including the hard sciences of physics and mathematics. Loder discerned that when human reason in science is pushed to the ultimate limits of understanding, paradoxical forms of observer-determined knowing emerge and call out for articulation. Thus, the more Loder indwelt the theological nature of the God-man as discerned in Kierkegaard and as revealed in experiences of convictional knowing, the deeper he felt himself moving into the inner nature of created reality itself, and he began to connect his own work to the natural science of physicists like Niels Bohr, an enthusiast of Kierkegaard who developed the notion of complementarity to discern the nature of quantum “worlds.” Again, the circumstances which led Loder on this journey to overcome the dualism between science and faith by connecting them both to life in the Spirit, resulting in his fourth major publication, seem almost accidental.
In 1984, Loder returned to Harvard for a Sabbatical as a visiting scholar to the Divinity School, during which time he planned to work on the problem of pluralism. But when the move proved unworkable, he returned to Princeton, where he applied to and was accepted at the Center for Theological Inquiry. There, his explication of a neo-Chalcedonian science began to take shape, primarily through his dialogues with theologians T.F. Torrance and Harold Nebelsick, and in particular with physicist Jim Neidhardt, with whom he would later co-author the The Knight’s Move: Relational Logic in Theology and the Sciences (1995). Loder met Neidhardt on the elevator at the Center for Theological Inquiry, while the latter was in conversation with Nebelsick and Torrance. Neidhardt informed Loder that he had read The Transforming Moment and appreciated Loder’s use of Polanyi in that book. Neidhardt had developed an understanding of bi-polar relationality in relation to the doctrine of perichoresis and human action, and had written about it for The Asbury Theological Journal in an essay entitled “The creative dialogue between human intelligibility and reality: Relational aspects of natural science and theology.” But while the model was compelling formally, the kinetic and existential dimensions of it were lacking. It had no “living” movement. As Loder and Neidhardt conversed about the issues raised in this paper, and in Loder’s work, the two men discovered an academic and spiritual kinship which “took on a life of its own.” Kay Vogen, longtime secretary, administrative assistant, and primary typist of just about every Loder manuscript, remembers the two men disappearing for hours at a time into Loder’s office, out of which peels of laughter, heartfelt prayers, and the unalloyed joys of camaraderie and collaboration echoed forth unashamedly.
The physicist Neidhardt taught Loder some of the finer points of physics in relation to theological concepts, and the practical theologian Loder in turn tutored Neidhardt in the dynamism of the analogia spiritus and its analogues in psychology and psychoanalysis. In a lively, six year-plus interchange, which Loder regarded as the richest professional relationship he was to enjoy in his life, Loder and Neidhardt made connections between theology and the human and natural sciences in pursuit of a generic model of spirit they called “the strange loop” (patterned after the image of the Mobius strip), a generic epistemological lens which they argued bore incredible promise for integrating scientific culture, and for relating Christ to culture in a way consistent with both Chalcedonian reality and postmodern science, especially the notion of complementarity.
In The Knight’s Move the authors drew on insights from natural scientists like James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Polanyi, Albert Einstein, Nels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Illya Prigogine; from human scientists like Sigmund Freud and Jean Piaget, and from theologians like Karl Barth, T.F. Torrance, Wolfhart Pannenberg, the early Church fathers, and especially the ever-present Kierkegaard, to develop “the strange loop model,” a generic, asymmetrical version of complementarity they hoped would enrich the theology/science dialogue and testify to the nature of reality as relational, according to the definitive revelation of relationality in Jesus Christ. Loder/Neidhardt described their purpose and scope in The Knight’s Move as follows:
…theology and science qua science need to find new grounds for dialogue that will reach into their common epistemological concerns and restore what once was, contrary to popular opinion, a profoundly rich reciprocity between theological concepts of creation and the scientific study of nature…the underlying theological premise of this entire study [is]…that relationality is revealed to us definitively in the inner nature of Jesus Christ. In Christ’s nature as fully God and fully human, we have the definition of relationship through which all other expressions of personal, social, and cultural relatedness are to be viewed. This applies as well to the model we are using in the methodology of this study; the inner nature of Jesus Christ ultimately defines the scope and limits of the relational model; not the reverse. Our use of the model is intended to reveal the illuminative and explanatory significance of viewing all creation through the eyes of faith in Jesus Christ.
This statement reveals that the authors’ concern to develop an asymmetrical model of relationality (complementarity) structurally consistent with the nature of relationality revealed definitively in Jesus Christ, is also the generative clue for discerning the nature of relationality in every domain of human action, and beyond human action to the natural order. In doing so, the authors provide Loder’s convictional epistemology developed in The Transforming Moment with its proper Christological grounding, while at the same time connecting it more securely to discussions in postmodern science. In essence he and Neidhardt argue that the closer one gets to the mystery of God-in-the-flesh, the closer one gets to discerning and elaborating scientifically the nature of human reality as a contingent and unfolding order of meaning and purpose that is able to render the nature world as creation. This knowledge is scientific and confessional, and no less scientific because it is confessional.
For Loder and Neidhardt, the sciences become sub-disciplines of theology when discerned convictionally at the level of spirit, and they find their ultimate meaning and value in that sub-disciplinary role, just as human beings find their ultimate meaning and value in the service of the Gospel. In a 2001 interview Loder interpreted his concern for the priority of theology in interdisciplinary practical theology, which he believed had guided his life’s work from the beginning, even when the full implications of this concern were not fully evident to him. Loder responded to a question about his critique of developmentalism by moving to Chalcedon:
Question: “Did you have any sense that something was at stake in the discipline of Christian education itself? Did you have a concern that the developmental paradigm would lead us into error or a loss of something vital?” Answer: “Yes. Well, the concern that I had that came more and more into focus was, [originating in my critique of] C.E. Nelson [in the 1960s], that the definitive discipline is theology, and not anything else. The point is that we are not trying to work theology into our behavioral sciences or our philosophy. And that shift was definitive for me. The Spirit made that definitive for me, I knew that…Basically, I learned what I continued to learn more profoundly from Torrance. ‘You have to start with the answer.’ You know the answer. Don’t try to work up to it. Go from the answer. Start there. And then do the rest…You always think it’s not legitimate to start with the answer. You [think] you have to get to it from somewhere. No. Start with the answer. And unpack it so that it can be appropriated. Because you can’t get from nature to grace. So if you start from grace as the only theological premise that you can work with, then everything is continuity in reverse. And about the Chalcedonian model. When I began to try to work out the interdisciplinary thing theologically, obviously, that’s already worked out. The nature of Jesus Christ, the relationship [of divine to human action] is already established. You don’t get into that [from somewhere else]. That’s the power of the Spirit. So it all began to unfold, and the significance of the Spirit into the testimony of the Spirit through Christ, and the interdisciplinary material is already given to us. That’s again starting from the answer.”
One could reasonably assert here that for Loder, to begin with the Answer is also, and always, to begin with the Question, for the “God-man structure of reality” revealed in Jesus Christ places the human community ever under radical question as to the meaning of its existence. Loder’s neo-Chalcedonian science marked his attempt to propose a way to think about the integration of theology and the human and natural sciences in a theological manner consistent with the nature of Jesus Christ and relevant to the cultural crisis of the West. T. F. Torrance saw the promise for integrating science and theology in his review of the book, which became the book’s forward.
This is an altogether remarkable book with unusually fresh creative thinking about the relations of Christian theology and science which seeks to do justice to the unanalysable nature of divine truth disclosed to us through the Spirit, and to the elusive dynamic nature of created reality and its subtle contingent rationality increasingly brought to light in modern science. One of the distinctive features of this work, written by a theologian and a physicist in intellectual and spiritual harness, is the brilliant way in which basic forms of thought, taken and developed from theological and scientific thinkers like Kierkegaard and Einstein, are allowed to interpenetrate one another with a creative feed-back fruitful for both theology and science.
From this standpoint, we must regard The Knight’s Move as a programmatic effort by Loder and Neidhardt to set something of an agenda for practical theology in witness to the dominant culture. This agenda is discernable in his early work at Harvard and in an interview during the last year of his life. When asked in 2001 if he was generally hopeful or pessimistic about the contribution of practical theology to human existence in the years ahead, Loder responded:
I think that it is absolutely crucial that practical theology flourish. But I think it has to be somewhat reconceived according to the great themes of the 21st century, which are on the one hand “science” and on the other hand “spirit.” And it is not my idea that the 21st century should emphasize these things. But the practical theology that is going to last is going to show the relevance of those two themes to what we want to talk about in the church and in the teaching of pastors, and in theological seminaries. There is so much to be done in the interplay of those two driving forces. So, I am hopeful because [a] we need it and [b] because I think it is possible for practical theology to adapt to these emerging needs of the church put on it by the changing of culture. And “science” of course applies to technology and “spirit” implies the Holy Spirit not just human spirit. But I think we will adapt to that. I mean we’ll adapt [practical theology] to the transforming work of the Spirit.
It is important to understand that for Loder, this crisis of the relation of spirit to science included but went far deeper than the contemporary call in practical theology for “public” relevance that guides so much of the imaginative energy of the guild at this time. Christianity has the conceptual and convictional resources to engage scientific culture itself and to move scientific culture to discover hidden orders of intelligibility that participate in the life-giving power of Jesus Christ, who became “life-giving Spirit.” Loder’s fertile imagination had traced the provident-contingent relational thread that ties the universe together, stretching from the inner nature of Trinitarian relations (perichoresis) to cosmology (the anthropic principle), to the relation of transformation to socialization in cultural contexts, to the mind-body relation in philosophical anthropology, to the quantum world, and finally to the spirit of the mind transformed by the Spirit that allows us to see all of the above. This theme of provident-contingent relationality as a theological reality provides Loder’s answer to the core problematic of practical theology:
The core problematic [for practical theology] is that such issues [like practices, programs, organizations, spiritual life, etc.] require that two ontologically distinct realities, the divine and the human, be brought together in a unified form of action that preserves the integrity of both and yet gives rise to coherent behavior. This paradoxical problematic implies that God’s action and human action, although ontologically distinct, are not ultimately dichotomous.
Loder insisted that this core problematic and the provident-contingent relationality that answers it are convictions revealed to the transformed mind by the Spirit of Christ. In all science the nature of the knower determines what can be known, and for practical theology the nature of the knower means knowing reality as Christ’s Spirit knows it, which is relationally according to the nature of Jesus Christ. The same concern applies to the interpretation of the human sciences, and in particular the developmental sciences. The importance of tracing the work of the Spirit in human nature and human development is never far from Loder’s heart. After the publication of The Knight’s Move, Loder set about to get his mature reflections on human development in theological perspective published. In 1998 his fourth major book, The Logic of the Spirit: Human Development in Theological Perspective, was released.
Human Development as the Journey of Intensification into Christ’s Nature: The Logic of the Spirit and the Transformation of Human Nature (1995-2001)
By the 1990s, Loder continued to attract doctoral students to Princeton, including Bradley Wigger (Louisville Seminary),Robert Martin (St Paul’s School of Theology), Kyoo Min Lee (Semang Seminary), LeRon Shults (Bethel Seminary), John Kuentzel (Teacher’s College, Columbia University), Kenda Dean and Dana Wright (Princeton Seminary), Ajit Prasadam (India), Tom Hastings (Tokyo Union Theological Seminary),Russell Haitch (Bethany Seminary) and Lisa Hess (Continuing Education, Princeton Seminary). For many of these students, the importance of theological anthropology for thinking and doing practical theology came to the forefront. Under Loder’s tutelage they read early renditions of The Knight’s Move in relation to Pannenberg’s magisterial Anthropology in Theological Perspective. They also proctored two of Loder’s long-standing courses at Princeton, out of which Loder wrote his final two books: ED216 Human Development, from which developed The Logic of the Spirit (1998), and ED105, Educational Ministry, from which Educational Ministry in the Logic of the Spirit was constructed (unpublished). In relation to the former, Loder had taught human development in theological perspective for many years in diverse places and settings. His refinement of these lectures resulted in what may someday be regarded as a classic, The Logic of the Spirit: Human Development in Theological Perspective (1998). This book, which expands Loder’s shorter treatments of transformation and human development in The Transforming Moment and The Knight’s Move, centers on his understanding of, and insights into, the Holy Spirit’s redemptive relation to the human spirit through the life span. “What is a lifetime?” and “Why do I live it?” mark the generative psycho-social and theological themes which unfold through its chapters.
Toward the end of The Knight’s Move Loder had written: The Absolute Paradox of the God-man, Jesus, works in three ways to increase passion and thus to allow the inner vision of Christ to emerge with wholistic (sic) power. First, it contradicts the existential dichotomy that…pertains between human finitude and the infinite God….[Second] it declares all that led up to this paradox to be the passionate discovery of Error….third, he presumes to bestow himself upon the individual and recompose the individual’s nature in accordance with his own. In the language of the intensification model, the God-man will become the inner vision in whom God and humanity form a complex bisociation…It is the passion for this coherence that represents a transformation of all other passions and visions….It is impossible to enter even partially into the wholeness of Christ’s nature—fully Divine and fully human—without finding that same asymmetrical polarity of the incarnation grasping the polarities of one’s own being and calling for the wholeness for which human nature was created to be released as re-creation. This is the calling to spiritual maturity.
Now, in The Logic of the Spirit, Loder takes his Chalcedonian framework and his transformational grammar and develops an interdisciplinary study that seeks to catch the power of “the transcending human spirit generating and inspiring human intelligence” in all its glory and tragedy, and to argue for the need for the spirit’s “transparent grounding in the Power that posits it” in order to know truly “What is a lifetime?” and “Why do I live it?” He argues that we answer these kinds of questions according to “the central driving force in human development,” the human spirit. It is the spirit which makes us “uniquely human” and which legitimates in the first place, the act of studying the human enterprise, an act which requires the generative power of the human spirit. Loder argued for a kind of “mirror” relationship between the human spirit generating and inspiring human intelligence according to certain structures in the mind, and the hidden structures of order in the universe. More important still is the analogy between the self-transcending and self-relating human spirit and the actions of the Holy Spirit.
…the human spirit searches the human mind, and so the human mind comes to know itself through its spirit. Analogically, the Spirit of Christ searches the mind of God. This is to have the mind of Christ: the disclosure by God of the mind of God Spirit-to-spirit. Apart from the Spirit-to-spirit communication of the mind of God, the attempt of the human mind to know itself, to say nothing of knowing the mind of God, is utter foolishness, says Scripture…the human spirit…must be grounded beyond itself if it is to become intelligible even to itself…The human spirit makes all acts of human intelligence self-transcendent and self-relational. When God acts, Spirit-to-spirit, then human intelligence is transformed into a “faith seeking understanding” of God’s self-revelation…the disclosure of God’s mind in the Face of God in Jesus Christ.
But the process of human development unto knowledge of the self in Jesus Christ is a perilous journey. Loder marshals insights from theology and the human sciences to trace the recapitulation of the Fall in normal human development, laying the foundation for ego and the social construction of reality on the profound negation that underlies all human existence. Loder shows how “normal (adaptative) human development” is subnormal from a theological point of view, for such development inevitably places children, youth, and adults in insoluble double-binds which can only be undone through acts of liberating grace. He articulates in detail how the developing ego competencies supported by society engender a structural loss of intimacy in every stage, supported by a false sense of ultimacy that blinds us to the meaninglessness of human existence apart from God. He explicates the developmental origins of many of the cultural pathologies that plague our society, and how the crisis of spirit lies at the heart of all our social problems and potential solutions. Human development inevitably tells the story of the “triumph of negation.”
Yet the inevitable “triumph of negation” in human development is not final in relation to the Spirit of Christ, a truth he illustrates programmatically by citing he case of “Helen.” “Helen” is a women who had undergone horrific emotional, psychological and spiritual disfigurement that placed her on the precipice of suicide. But in a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit she found herself fully and joyfully restored to her true identity in Christ. Loder argued through this story that the human spirit’s restless search for meaning and purpose comes to nothing unless the Holy Spirit seizes the human spirit in a relational bond that liberates the person to be spirit, a bond that is prefigured in the infant’s experience of the mother’s face. He avers that “human nature is so constituted that built into its ego structure and implicit in its achievements is a cosmic loneliness that longs for a Face that will do all that the mother’s face did for the child, but now a Face that will transfigure human existence, inspire worship, and not go away, even in and through the ultimate separation of death.” Christ’s Presence is the “bond that liberates” the human spirit by calling it to participate in the dual nature of Christ, who “mediates relational unity Spirit-to-spirit, without mixing or confusing the two spirits, holding the divine above the human, but eliminating neither one in favor of the other.” For the Holy Spirit is working within, under, through, and around human development to awaken all of us to the redemptive transformation actual in Jesus Christ. The struggle of the spirit leads, under the Spirit’s power, to the release of the spirit in human experience as humans awakens to, and abide in, the Holy Spirit. On Loder’s understanding T. F. Torrance commented, “No writer or thinker, to my knowledge, has penetrated so deeply, illuminatingly, lovingly, and convincingly into the often tortured tangles of the human spirit, at different stages of its development, and brought to bear upon it the creative and healing presence of the divine that characterizes the logic of the spirit.” Loder took up the call of an evangelist in this book, calling all who read it to risk abandoning their lives to the only One who gives it back to them, filled with his nature.
A Practical Theology of Christian Education: Educational Ministry in the Logic of the Spirit
Toward the end of the decade of the 1990s Loder continued to teach at Princeton and lecture and teach in other settings, most notably Fuller Theological Seminary, South Korea, and in India. He also worked to complete a fifth major book, to be titled Education Ministry in the Logic of the Spirit, which he had submitted to a publisher only days before his untimely death (it was never published). This work, based upon his perennially popular course ED105 at Princeton, was to complete what might be called a trilogy (along with The Transforming Moment and The Logic of the Spirit), one that would outline his radical revisioning of the nature and dynamic power of Christian education, integrating the wisdom of Athens and Jerusalem according to the deep conceptual contours revealed to convictional knowing. This book represents Loder’s only completed manuscript on Christian education per se. It consists of a compelling argument that the “crux” of Christian education is the proper alignment of two powers that govern every dimension of human action, socialization and transformation, powers which find their definitive relationship in the Presence of Jesus Christ. This book is important for a number of reasons.
First, it addresses one of the criticisms Loder has received throughout his career, that he is focused only on the individual. Loder shows, in this text, the relevance of redemptive transformation in Christian education in terms of bodily, psychological, social, and cultural dimensions. He begins his study with an apology for the privileging of theory in academic science, against the grain of current wisdom. He elaborates the nature of the two powers of socialization and transformation that undergird the study, and their relationship to one another. He defines socialization as “a tension-reduction, pattern-maintenance process designed to serve the purposes of adaptation and incorporation into larger and more complex social milieu.” Transformation, on the other hand, is “a patterned process whereby in any given frame of knowledge or experience, a hidden order of meaning emerges with the power to redefine and/or reconstruct the original frame of reference.”
He argues that the task of the Holy Spirit is to empower the transformational dynamics of the human spirit to participate in the Spirit’s transformative redemption of every domain of human action. Using a theological modification of Talcott Parson’s action theory to elaborate the dialectical movement of socialization and transformation under the power of the Spirit, Loder creates a chiasmic structure to this book that initially shows the dominance of socialization in cultural, social and personal dimensions of the social construction of reality. He avers that the power of socialization dominates human initiatives in each of these domains of human action and cuts off the power of the human spirit to create a transformational life style. Therefore, theorists like C. Ellis Nelson, who try to conscript socialization dynamics as the clue to Christian education finally do not take socialization seriously enough.
Loder writes: To take the action of God’s Spirit and the action of God in the community, and bring them under the canons of social science is in these very fundamental ways a violation of what we would want to say theologically about God’s action. God stands over and against the socialization process. When God uses socialization, it is to transform it, which means that socialization is in the service of transformation. But if we take Nelson’s premise, experiences and events which bring us into relationship to God socialize transformation at best. The theological premise regarding the priority of transformation over socialization makes all the difference.
He then traces how the power of the Spirit of Christ works to transcend socialization dynamics transformationally in each of these domains—personal, social, and cultural—by negating the negation riven into the dynamics of ego formation (the core of personal transformation), role structure formation (the core of social transformation), and symbol formation (the core of cultural transformation), liberating the human spirit to embrace four dimensional reality revealed according to the nature of the Spiritual Presence of Christ.
For example, in the social domain, Loder asserts that …the “communion-creating reality of Jesus Christ,” the koinonia, frees us from the double-binding conditions that role structures place upon us. This is because the koinonia relationship is grounded in and secured by the spiritual Presence of Christ. So, as Lehmann understands it, koinonia is a four-dimensional phenomenon. It exists only because the power of Christ as the fourth dimension creates and sustains a set of relationships among us. By love, the Holy Spirit is transforming us into each other, while building up in us a corporate awareness of Christ’s Presence; the fourth dimension is here at work transforming the other three. It is making us aware of the inherent negation in role structured and role determined institutional life. It is putting us into a two-dimensional world with a four-dimensional perspective so we can mutually create each other. As one student suggested, this is a corporate version of our dialectical identity in Christ… “we, not we, but koinonia.”
The purpose of Christian education from this convictional standpoint is therefore to construct a Christian style of life in response to the work of the Spirit, in which each domain of human action learns to intentionally participate in the Spirit’s redemptive initiative to conform human reality to the nature of Christ. Loder concluded this study by placing worship at the center of redemptive transformation, showing how the structure of the liturgy is an enactment of the transformation of transformation through which a community of faith participates redemptively in the life of God.
The Last Years: Loder’s Passion for “Pressing Toward the Infinite in All Directions”
In the final years of his life, Loder seemed to be pushing the practical theological guild to recognize the need for a richer theological approach to the discipline. In “Normativity and Context in Practical Theology: The ‘Interdisciplinary Issue’” (1999) Loder argued that practical theology must “establish systematic procedures for remaining accountable to the phenomenon [it investigates] as well as to the disciplines involved in disclosing the inner substance, structure, and dynamics of that phenomenon.” While “disciplines stay alive and potentially transcend their enculturation limitation…by being open to change…the key to understanding the core of a discipline is to grasp what does not change or what maintains the continuity of a discipline as it unfolds historically.”
In practical theology, “the core of the discipline is not its operations, procedures, practices, roles, congregations, and the like. Rather, its core problematic resides in why these must be studied; why these are a problem.” Thus, practical theology is a problem because it “requires an inclusive theory of action” that “combines two incongruent, qualitatively distinct realities, the Divine and the human, in apparently congruent forms of action.” He then offers his own Christomorphic relational model of complementarity as one that takes a required “critical perspective” on transpositions among the disciplines that inform practical theology. Such a model “calls forth a transformational dynamic which is repeatedly awakening us to contradictions between theology and the human sciences, intensifying oppositions until there is a new insight, finally bringing about a re-appropriation of the original situation as parabolic of the new relationality in Christ.”
In his essay “The Place of Science in Practical Theology: The Human Factor” (2000), Loder again addresses the core problematic in practical theology but this time focuses upon the self-involvement of the knower. The fundamental claim of the essay is as follows:
In the theology-science dialogue, science, as distinct from technology, is the primary dialogue partner with theology. However, no view of science is adequate that fails to recognize that all knowledge of the universe is incomplete and probably misleading until it includes the person, the knower himself or herself. Indeed, it is precisely through persons that the universe becomes conscious of itself.” He then cites in some detail three revolutionary discoveries in the natural sciences during the twentieth century—general relativity (Einstein), complementarity (Bohr), and chaos theory (Heisenberg) to illuminate the significance of self-involvement not only in the natural sciences but also in the theological sciences.
Loder contended that just as human rationality reaches its logical limits in all of these scientific discoveries, compelling the knower to reconfigure the structure of rationality itself, so in the Church’s confrontation with the reality of the God-man, her ability to know reaches its logical limits and compels her to reconfigure theological rationality accordingly. Loder is pushing the practical theological guild to commit itself to doing good science, and his remarkable correlations between physical and theological sciences serves to warrant this concern. This essay is also important because (1) it shows Loder’s relevance to corporate (business) culture, and (2) because it elaborates Loder’s re-interpretation of the anthropic principle in relation to human development under the theme “relationality precedes rationality.” One passage from this text provides us with an appropriate conclusion to this survey of his life’s concern to “press toward the infinite in all directions.”
Relationality supercedes rationality both ontologically and developmentally. As the anthropic principle taken in its strong sense makes very clear, the moment of the big bang initiated immensely powerful relationships which had to remain in an infinitely delicate balance for the physical universe to give rise to human intelligence by which the universe becomes conscious of itself…the natural order unfolds according to its power to create the relational condition in which new order may emerge…relationality is an essentially consitutent, ontologically prior to and a condition of the emergence of human reality as we know it…The development of a child replicates en nuce the themes articulated above. The rationality by which we learn to think scientifically is an emergent resultant of transformational dynamics operative in the context of human relationships. Delicately balanced relationalities are prior to the creation of conscious rationality by a series of transformations which bring new order out of disequilibrated states exemplified by birth, adolescence, middlescence and senescence…”quantum weidness” …points to the ontological priority of relationality at the subatomic level and thus to the necessity for all rational conceptualizations to understand itself (sic) always as an open system. Human nature, like physical nature in an expanding universe, presses toward the “infinite in all directions…”
Honors and Memberships, Death and Memorial
Loder anticipated working many more years. He had finished considerable research for a serious examination of the potential impact of Kierkegaard on practical theology, connecting a concern for responsible breadth and convictional depth in theological education which has defined his career with Kierkegaard’s critical genius. He also wanted to write a commentary on the Gospel of John to show the hermeneutical significance of the transformational pattern for biblical studies. Furthermore, a massive outline and one 82 page chapter of another major work in Christian education entitled Transformational dynamics in Christian education: A study in practical theology, have been recently found. These visionary projects did not get finished, and only time will tell whether these significant works will ever get published posthumously. Loder has much more to say to us, and the need to study his work critically and appreciatively remains of paramount importance (see the contribution essay). What we do know about him is that for over forty years, Dr. James Edwin Loder, Jr. worked at the highest academic levels to achieve a significant body of work worthy of serious and sustained attention by established scholars.
During his education at Princeton Seminary, Harvard University, and at other significant centers of intellectual investigation, and during his almost 40 year ministry at Princeton Seminary, he interacted with “the best and the brightest” scholars of his generation and he taught a generation of church leaders to risk living “in the Spirit” in a scientific age. Though never a “joiner,” he belonged to several academic guilds: the American Scientific Affiliation, The International Academy of Practical Theology, the Center for Theological Inquiry, the Religious Education Association, the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education, and with the Professors of Religious Education on the Eastern Seaboard. And in 1992-93 he served as the chairman of the Practical Theology department of Princeton Seminary.
Loder died on November 9, 2001, of a heart attack. He was survived by his beloved wife, Arlene, two daughters, Kim Engelmann a pastor in California, and Tamara Tiss, a lawyer in Minnesota, and three grandchildren, Christopher, Julie, and Jonathan Engelmann. He was buried in the Princeton Seminary plot at the Nassau Presbyterian Church cemetery in Princeton, New Jersey. His life and work were celebrated in a Service of the Resurrection on November 14, 2001, at Miller Chapel on the Princeton Seminary Campus.
References used in the writing of this biography came from the published and unpublished corpus of Dr. Loder’s writings, especially The Transforming Moment and The Logic of the Spirit, from several audio and video taped courses or interviews, from my transcribed interview of him in April, 2001 and from my tribute to him (2002) Ruination unto redemption: A short biography of a reformed ‘wise Guy’,” Princeton Seminary Bulletin, XXIII (1), from memorial tributes to him by Thomas Gillespie, William Gaskill, Tamara (Loder) Tiss, Kim (Loder) Englemann (in that same issue) and from Freda Gardner, (2002) James Edwin Loder, Jr: A tribute, Princeton Seminary Bulletin, XXIII (2); from taped and non-taped interviews of several of Dr. Loder’s family, friends, colleagues, and former students, including Marilyn Adams, Kim (Loder) Englemann, Beth Frykberg, Frank Rogers, D. Campbell Wyckoff, Margaret Krych, Randy Nichols, Matthew Frawley, Ken Kovacs, Daisy & Ajit Prasadam, Freda Gardner, Tom Hastings, Theresa Latini, Michael Lansford, Andrew Root, Wesley Brown, and from many other informal conversations with many others who knew and loved him. My thanks to Daisy Prasadam and Margo Dudak for help transcribing these several interviews, and especially to Ajit Prasadam, who helped me so faithfully and joyfully with this whole project.
Contributions to Christian Education
The task that lies before us—to write a succinct but meaningful essay on the nature and significance of James E. Loder Jr’s contribution to Christian Education—is problematic in the extreme. Three sets of problems initially present themselves. The first set lies with the fact that Loder directed most of his scholarly efforts to re-conceiving the fundamental conceptual contours of practical theology as an interdisciplinary science, so that his labors in relation to Christian education centered on meta-theoretical and methodological issues where few scholars are content to linger very long. The practical “payoff” for reading Loder on Christian education does not come quickly or easily, or without mind-bending effort. One first must believe that Loder was getting at something vitally important, something “below the surface” of common sense or conventional thinking that most people miss. One does not “get” Loder casually because his work is simply too complex. Second, one must be motivated to stay “with” Loder long enough to learn his language and to indwell his conceptual framework if his challenge to practical theology and/or Christian education is to become discernable and compelling. Loder is simply not an easy read for anyone.
To compound this problem set, much of this work in fundamental practical theology oriented specifically toward Christian education remains unpublished, including two major manuscripts: Educational Ministry in the Logic of the Spirit, a major treatise outlining a practical theology of Christian education directed towards church leaders, and an even larger, thus-far-not-fully-located manuscript entitled Transformational Dynamics in Christian Education: A Study in Practical Theology, presumably directed towards scholars, a work I would judge to have been Loder’s magnum opus. Hence, a quick perusal of Loder’s bibliography reveals that during the almost 40 years he taught in the Christian education department at Princeton Theological Seminary he actually failed to publish even one major book on Christian education itself, and very little on the “craft” of Christian education. One might be tempted to conclude from this ostensive lack of production (compounded by the complexity of what he did write) that Loder’s contribution to the field of Christian education was negligible at best. Such a conclusion, of course, while understandable, would be an egregious error.
No doubt we could bypass this negative conclusion by setting aside intellectual criteria like publications as the only measure of Loder’s contribution, and appeal instead to anecdotal evidence of his significance. From this standpoint, Loder was influential because of (a) the consistent popularity of his basic core courses at Princeton Theological Seminary—Human Development (ED216), Philosophy of Education (ED215), and Educational Ministry (ED105); (b) the steady stream of doctoral students who studied under him, who now teach in major institutions around the world; (c) the hundreds of students and lay persons who received the wisdom of his professional-level counsel through the years, and (d) the many enthusiastic responses to the lectures he gave and to the sermons he preached in seminaries and congregations around the world. In this regard I have lost track of how many students told me during my years as his student, teaching assistant, and finally colleague on the faculty at Princeton Seminary that his courses and/or his counseling were the most important influences they received while matriculating there. And almost every student I met at Princeton who had not yet taken a course from him announced to me, at the very mention of his name that s/he intended to take a Loder course before graduating. Thus, one might simply appeal to his unmistakable influence on an entire generation of church leaders at the flagship Presbyterian seminary as evidence of his significant contribution to Christian education during the last half of the 20th century.
But such an appeal to anecdotal evidence, while surely noteworthy in itself, begs the question as to the actual nature and significance of Loder’s contribution. Why? Because it ignores the overriding intention of Loder himself to make a difference in the arena of his obvious expertise—i.e. to reconstruct the conceptual contours of the field of Christian education at the meta-theoretical level. We must ever keep in mind that in relation to assessing Loder’s contribution, that he was the Mary Synnott Professor of the Philosophy of Christian Education, hired first and foremost to address fundamental issues in the field. Therefore, we must assess Loder on his own terms. That is, we must fully engage his intellectual efforts to conceptualize the nature, structure and dynamics of divine accommodation to human action at the level of fundamental practical theological science—and discern the ability of this science to deepen our understanding of the redemptive and re-creative power of the Gospel—if we are to talk at all about Loder’s potential significance to Christian education. And the difficulty intrinsic to making this kind of critical assessment of a body of work so complex but partially unpublished will take great pains and a long time. This fact brings us to a second major set of problems judging the nature and significance of Loder’s contribution to Christian education.
This second reason is simply that few scholars have actually attempted a sustained analysis of his work as a whole. Almost no established scholar, to my knowledge, has hazarded a truly educated guess as to what Loder was really up to during his 40+ years at Princeton, a guess that might help us render a credible judgment of any kind, positive or negative, as to the substance of his project. Few scholars have attempted to discern the significance of his efforts in practical theology to “think things whole” (Kierkegaard). Moreover, what interest he has generated has generally centered on only one, albeit vital, aspect of his total vision—the dynamic “grammar” of transformation he discerned in the context of convictional experiences, which he argued was central to the nature of the human spirit’s creativity in various domains of human action and problem solving. Even his former students have, with few exceptions, only appropriated this single aspect of his work as a major contribution to Christian education—i.e., as the “grammatical” key to identifying the power of the human spirit in profound religious experience and in generating creativity in various forms of ministerial praxis. Almost no one seems to have discerned that this “transformational grammar” requires radical reconsideration of many of the epistemological and ontological assumptions we bring to practical theology and to religious education, not to mention those we bring to a theological understanding of scientific culture in general.
Thus, Loder’s work as a whole has not received the critical attention it deserves from the practical theological guild, or from Christian and religious educators. Compare, for example, the scrutiny James Fowler’s developmental paradigm has enjoyed since 1980 with the attention paid to Loder’s redemptive transformational paradigm over that same time period. Both theorists, along with Thomas Groome, published a significant work with Harper & Row in the field of Christian education over twenty years ago—Fowler’s Stages of Faith (1981), Groome’s Christian Religious Education (1980), and Loder’s The Transforming Moment (1981). Since that time, the developmental approach championed by Fowler has generated probably three times as much attention from practical theologians and Christian or religious educators than Groome or Loder. And Loder in particular has received only modest attention to limited aspects of his visionary work. Furthermore, the dominance of critical correlation methodologies in practical theology that privilege apologetic concerns for judging theology’s relevance to culture over the theological or prophetic challenge the Gospel brings to culture, bends the ears of practical theologians away from the critical confessional science Loder developed. No doubt, the failure of Loder to publish the aforementioned two books on his practical theology of Christian education has contributed mightily to this lack of attention to his thought as a whole. Ironically, his death now makes his work more available than ever before, now that his papers are being catalogued. This brings us to a third set of problems.
A third set of problems that hinders our assessment of Loder’s potential contribution must be laid squarely at his feet. As we noted in the biographical essay, Loder was a private man in many ways, who worked largely by himself and who did not seem to be in a hurry to get his work out into the public. He also showed a general disinterest in the organizational or institutional aspects of scholarship, those that necessarily impact the “marketing” of one’s academic interests. Loder did not mix casually with others, nor was he comfortable attending professional gatherings to “network.” He refused to jump on popular intellectual band-wagons, or to take up particular causes d’ jour just because they were in vogue. And potential collaborations with other theorists rarely materialized, for one reason or another. His only truly collaborative relationship, a seven year intellectual-spiritual harnessing with Jim Neidhardt, the physicist with whom he wrote The Knight’s Move, ended when Neidhardt died prematurely in the early 1990s, just after their book came out. When I asked Dr. Loder in 2001 about his friendship with Neidhardt, he responded, with a wistful smile, that Neidhardt uniquely appreciated what he (Loder) was getting at.
Loder had “something on his mind” that few others discerned fully, even to a large degree his own students. Now that Loder has passed, and his archive is being prepared at the Luce Library on the campus of Princeton Seminary, perhaps both established scholars and the next generation of practical theologians will have a chance to look more carefully at his fundamental proposals and begin to appreciate more fully the substance of this “something” Loder had on his mind for so long. The question I will try to answer in this essay is, “Why should they bother?”
We must remember, of course, that because Loder’s work as a whole has yet to be examined critically by the guild of professional practical theologians and others (like Kierkegaard scholars ), it remains premature to give a definitive answer as to its significance. In this essay I see myself representing a small cadre of scholars whom I have gotten to know and with whom I have spoken at some depth over the past few years. Like me, they suspect that Loder’s work does indeed offer to the church and to the academy profoundly generative meta-theoretical lenses for radically transforming our understanding of the nature of human participation in divine action for practical theology and Christian education, as well as for the relation of Christ to scientific culture, as we move into the next millennium. My efforts here should not be seen as sour grapes recriminations from one defending his dearly departed Docktovater against the tyranny of neglect by an ignorant guild. Rather, my purpose is grounded in the conviction that Loder’s work is, at the very least, as profound and compelling as that of Groome or Fowler or Don Browning, or any other major theorist of the past 40 years.
In this essay I merely seek to keep the proverbial ball (of potential interest in Loder’s work) rolling, as well as to generate new interest. I want to entice scholars to take a sustained look at Loder’s project by offering them my best educated guess as to its overall significance, at this stage of my understanding of it. That is, I want to try to articulate what I think lies at the heart of Loder’s theory, and from there to articulate summarily its possible significance to Christian education—and beyond. But the question lingers—“Why should anyone bother with Loder?” This brings us to a fourth problem for evaluating Loder’s significance, one that requires more elaboration and the risky use a provocative metaphor.
James E. Loder Jr.: Post-foundational Alchemist of Spirit and Science
As we have already stated, almost no one has analyzed in depth the core themes and central concerns of Loder’s overall theory, nor picked up on the larger implications of his vision for reconstructing the nature and dynamics of theory and practice in practical theology and Christian education, nor for the critique that his work makes available for re-conceiving implicitly (as in science) or explicitly (as in theology) just about every dimension of the kinetic interrelation of divine to human action. Almost no one has identified a conceptual thread that “connects the dots” of his work in a way that brings his whole vision into view. Moreover, few have even attempted to assess his transformative understandings of the “dots” themselves. For example, few psychologists, educators, or researchers in the human sciences have taken notice of his profound and highly original critical re-interpretations of Freud, Piaget, Kohlberg, Erikson, Kegan, or Fowler, all of whom he read and re-read through his convictional imagination for their insights into the nature of the human.
Social theorists and theologians of culture have not appreciated Loder’s insights into the nature of psycho-social and socio-cultural dynamics, especially his reconstruction of classical Parsonian action theory in terms of the reciprocal relation of socialization and transformation as it expresses implicitly a “religious thematic” (Pannenberg) that pervades human experience within every domain of human action. Nor have his unique insights (his theological and interdisciplinary reading of) the way in which existential negation gets incorporated into bodily existence and subsequently permeates intra-personal, inter-personal, communal and symbolic-religious dimensions of experience to generate pathological lifestyles or ethoi that dehumanize and destroy the fabric of the body politic and insulate us from the politics of God: i.e. obsession with achievement (as in corporate [business] culture), protean relativism (like in Generation X), unreflective submissiveness to, or bind rage against, systemic oppression (like the oppression the once-oppressed inflict upon those they now rule), or authoritarianism (as in fundamentalisms of the left or right).
Furthermore, practical theologians have not appreciated fully the profundity of Loder’s single-minded devotion to discerning and explicating the core problematic of the field theologically, which he described as the persistent theological “Why?” the field is a problem. Nor have they considered the generative capabilities of his generic models of relationality centered on his analogia spiritus, which he conceived in Christomorphic detail, like “the strange loop” model (his reconstruction of complementarity) that can be transposed to discern patterns of relationality in different domains of scientific research according to the nature of Christ. Moreover, systematic theologians have not thought to assess his persistent claim that the underdeveloped theology of the Holy Spirit in Christian tradition must now be reconstructed and deepened by attending to self-relational structures intrinsic to, and constitutive of, spirit—not only the human spirit’s movement outward but the Holy Spirit’s own movement human-ward.
The Holy Spirit, averred Loder, requires a unique epistemology that conforms itself to the kinetic nature of the self-involved knower under conviction by the Self-involved Spirit. Nor have theologians taken time to appreciate the depth of Loder’s re-appropriation of Kierkegaard and Barth (through Torrance) for engaging the human and natural scientists who remain over-dependent upon misguided stereotypes of these two magisterial figures. Nor have scientists really appreciated Loder’s efforts to enhance the theology-science dialogue through his Christological yet scientific reconstructions of (1) convictional epistemology (along with its ability to overcome “eikonic eclipse,” as he called it ), (2) the anthropic principle, (3) the theory of complementarity (his insistence on asymmetry in the complementary relation), and (4) the power of his Chalcedonian imagination to address a scientific culture at the level of spirit.
This rehearsal of the depth and breadth of Loder’s intellectual horizons makes it obvious that the unique nature of Loder’s practical theology remains difficult to catalogue or classify, although Richard Osmer’s intuition of him as a post-foundationalist scientist is quite appropriate, I think, if not quite adequate. Different taxonomies of the field of Christian education (Burgess, Seymour and Miller, Brueggemann, Boys ) and of practical theology (Mudge and Poling, Browning, Osmer ) are generally not comprehensive enough to do justice to the scope and complexity of Loder’s imaginative project, not only because Loder’s emphasis on spirit tries to reach back into the generative source of conceptualization itself, but also because he tried to take full account of the impact of the Holy Spirit’s work on the spirit of the one who conceptualizes. To my knowledge no other practical theological approach makes this kind of radical theological, epistemological and ontological claim about the necessary convictional transformation of the nature of the knower by the Holy Spirit for re-conceiving practical theological science.
Loder sought to conform his practical theological science to the movement of the Holy Spirit in a scientific culture, a work conceived to be both supremely orthodox and wholly scientific at the same time, while grounded beyond both theology and science in the Trinitarian life of God. And perhaps this is the real reason Loder’s work as a whole has not compelled interest—it sounds like fantasy in a scientific culture still largely dominated by the reality principle. That is, perhaps the real reason Loder’s work remains “unknown” is that his project conjures up images of the hermetic alchemist working by himself in his secret laboratory on some arcane formula that promises to make gold out of lead, thus uniting elements that have no intrinsic common bond (like spirit and science, or faith and knowledge, or God and humanity) into a unified whole. Furthermore, his claims concerning the need for the Christomorphic transformation of the knower herself in order to discern the nature of reality appears maddeningly alchemical to some who are committed to a more pluralistic and neutral or “objective” science.
Loder opted to take seriously, for scientific investigation itself, Paul’s assertion that natural intelligence and/or systems of rationality cannot discern the things of the Spirit until the human spirit as the generator of intelligence is reconstituted onto-relationally in Christomorphic dimensions (“I, yet not I but Christ” taken as a scientific epistemological and hermeneutical principle!). Thus his claim that human knowing “in the Spirit” approximates how the Spirit of Christ knows the human condition, sounds pretty far-fetched to many theorists, and perhaps downright elitist to others. Indeed, Loder’s insistence on the necessary transformation of the spirit of the mind of the practical theologian to enlarge the epistemological framework of the human knower takes the control out of the theorist’s own hands and places it squarely in the work of Spiritus Creator, while paradoxically it demand more rigor (and risk) from the practical theologian herself to learn how this dialectical knowing in the Spirit can effectively address a scientific culture that routinely represses the things of the Spirit. Simply put, Loder’s practical theological science “in the Spirit” sounds too oddly alchemical to be true science, and too scientific to be spiritual.
So my intentionally provocative thesis is that Loder was an alchemist in the service of Spiritus Creator seeking to persuade a skeptical scientific world that the epistemological key for gaining true knowledge of the human condition is Spirit-to-spirit relationality revealed convictionally to those reconstituted ontologically according to the nature of Christ. I am arguing that Loder’s alchemic search for faith seeking understanding in a scientific culture at the level of spirit fired him into the world of human experience under God with a velocity not his own, and allowed him, on analogy to the Word of God, “to pierce the division between soul and spirit” (Heb. 4: 15) in order to be liberated from the “spiritlessness” of so much scientific work in the contemporary world, especially manifest in the intellectual centers of our culture, and from the irrationality of so much contemporary spiritualism. One can discern his relentless commitment to know reality through the spirit of the mind on several levels.
First, Loder refused to rely on secondary sources or “paraphrases” of classical works in the scientific disciplines he studied, I think because (1) he wanted to get as close to the core generative insights of contemporary science as he could (his tremendous confidence in the human spirit to discern the nature of things—especially at the boundary conditions where the spirit came under conflict); and (2) because he wanted to avoid as much as possible the homogenizing effects of making the complex insights constructed by the human spirit more palatable for public consumption (his profound suspicion of the socializing impact on the integrity of the human spirit, what Frank Lentricchia called “the social grammar of confinement” pervasive in liberal societies).
Second, he always tried to get to the underlying relational structure of concepts to critique them from the “inside-out” (according to their explicit claims and tacit assumptions) and from “outside in” (i.e. according to their tacit or implicitly religious meanings). For example, when Loder began his work in the late 1950s and early 1960s, practical theology and religious education were caught in a major impasse between psycho-social insights into the process of development (the great contribution of the liberal religious educators) and the theological claims centered around the content of divine-human relations (the equally great contribution of the crisis theologians). Loder intuited that this impasse could be addressed more successfully for practical theology by attending to the creative fusion of process and content in therapeutic and religious experiences that restore persons to mental and moral heath, which he began to work out in his dissertation on Freud and Kierkegaard.
Third, Loder was ever alert to the problem of tertium quid, the introduction of alien conceptual frameworks that distort the relational integrity of interdisciplinary work. Thus, for example, when socialization and enculturation were in vogue during the 60s and 70s claiming to provide the language and grammar of communal faith formation, Loder argued precisely why these unredeemed dynamics, representing the powers of death and entropy, could not finally be Christianized until and unless the death (negation) in them was itself negated by Christ’s Presence. When the developmental paradigm surged into prominence during the 70s and 80s, again Loder penetrated to the underlying structures of that theory and argued why “normal” human development could not be considered “normal” if we took Christ’s Presence in relation to human development as Normative. He argued that the “negation in the ‘normal’” had to be negated if human development was to be “normalized” (i.e. transformed) in the service of Christ’s Spirit. When praxis modes of conceptualizing attracted the attention of theologians and educational theorists in the 80s and 90s, Loder proposed, against that trend, that theory must always have priority in relation to praxis (they are linked in an asymmetrical, bipolar relational unity with theory in marginal control) because (1) the relational unity of theory and practice is embodied in undifferentiated or primal wholeness in the infant’s experience of the mother’s face, so that relationality always precedes and generates differentiations like meaning, rationality, intelligence, and practice out of a tacit sense of wholeness; (2) the theoretic pole of the theory-praxis relationship always represents (tacitly if not explicitly) this prior relationality as the larger frame of reference required by intelligence, one that is tacitly religious; and (3) the relation of the humanity to the divinity of Christ reveals the definitive relational structure by which all other relational structures are finally determined, including the relation of theory to practice.
Thus, Loder always sought to render interdisciplinary integrity through the mind of Christ. Whatever theories became available to his critical mind—multiple intelligence theory (Gardner), object-relations theory (Winnecott et al), post liberal theology (Lindbeck et al) or process thought (Whitehead to Cobb to Griffin)—Loder tried to discern the presence of frames of reference that he thought were “alien” to the revealed nature of Jesus Christ under the redemptive transformation of the Holy Spirit. Of course, Loder’s judgments may have been inadequate for constructing practical theology according to his own intention to avoid such alien frameworks, and he may not have escaped the tertium quid himself.
Nonetheless, Loder sought out a post-foundational practical theological science, one that was grounded beyond all human foundations in the deep grammar of Spiritus Creator, who alone makes theoretical work redemptive. He ever sought to do fundamental practical theology “in the Spirit.”
Loder’s choice of dialogue partners needs to be mentioned here in light of his single-minded devotion to the alchemy of the Spirit-to-spirit relations revealed in Christ. Significantly, Loder really never deviated intellectually from the trusted interlocutors he had encountered early in his academic career whom he critically appropriated—the ever-present Kierkegaard in philosophical theology and psychology, Freud, Erikson and Jung in depth and ego psychology, Piaget and Kegan in genetic epistemology and developmental psychology, Talcott Parsons in sociology, along with Einstein, Bohr, Polanyi and Prigogine in the natural sciences. He also largely stayed theologically attuned to the neo-Reformed tradition of Brunner, Karl Barth & Tillich, and, after 1970, to re-constructors of Barth’s work, especially T.F.Torrance and Wolfhart Pannenberg. He distinguished his work from other re-constructors of orthodoxy, notable the post-liberals (Lindbeck et al) and from the radical orthodoxy now associated with John Milbank.
He also drank deeply from pre-modern sources—the Gospels and Paul, from the Greek Fathers (especially the magisterial work of Chalcedon)—and from Lutheran and Reformed understandings of Spiritus Creator (through Regin Prenter and George Hendry ). Here it must be noted that Loder did not fail to engage and learn from those with whom he disagreed. It is not that Loder believed he was superior, or that he could not learn from anyone. But like Bunyan’s pilgrim on the journey of faith seeking understanding, Loder maintained a vigilant course to reach the goal he had set for himself to get to the heart of practical theology at the level of spirit as a clue to getting at the nature and meaning of human participation in the divine life. He never wanted to get seduced from this singular concern to plumb the depths of divine-human relationality, the hidden orders of meaning and purpose that are revealed to the eyes of faith and to the well-prepared mind, because I think he believed the Gospel demanded nothing less from those who professed Christ, whether in academic settings or in ordinary life. His relentless Christocentrism has opened him up to the charge of being too narrowly focused on the Christian tradition to be of any good for the pluralistic times in which we live. On his part, Loder believed Jesus Christ scandalized all well-intentioned efforts to be relevant to the Zeitgeist by any other means than the Spirit of Christ.
My selection of the metaphor of alchemy for Loder is provocative for another reason, related to the legacy of the Enlightenment and the so-called disenchantment of the world that came about in the West, arguably starting with Descartes, and its affects on modern science (including practical theological science). Morris Berman argued in his book on the origins of modern consciousness called The Reenchantment of the World that “disenchantment” in the Western world (i.e. the separation of faith and knowledge, or in Loder’s terms, spirit and science) can be dramatically revealed in the psychic history of foundational thinkers like Isaac Newton who represent the modern mindset. Berman argued that Newton’s life and work in particular was motivated out of a deep sense of absence originating from the tragic early loss of his father and the neglect that ensued thereafter from his mother.
Drawing on important studies of Newton by Frank Manuel and David Kubrin, who showed the devastating impact of this parental absence on Newton’s development on his life and on his work in science, Berman argued that Newton’s true longing, buried under repression of this existential loss, was never to construct the mechanical universe in absolutist dimensions for which he became immortalized in the annals of science, but rather to discover the arcane hermetic secrets integrating all knowledge in the universe, a destiny for which Newton felt himself to be uniquely chosen. That is, Newton was a closet alchemist all the time he was revered as a rational scientist! Manuel and Kubtrin argue that Newton “cleaned himself up” for public consumption, having been seduced by the notoriety and enthusiasm his mechanistic views received by the Cartesian juggernaut that pervaded European culture at the time. Therefore, he was “forced” to abandon (at least in public) his alchemical enterprise in order to retain his reputation as a scientist in the scientific ethos of the times.
Closer to our own concerns in this essay on the alchemist James Loder, one should recall that a similar reductionistic confinement of religious sensibilities by rational science (leading to the repression of a religious thematic in their work) took hold of two important figures in the history of religious education in the 20th century. Both Jean Piaget and George Albert Coe, contemporary theorists whose works remain today a source of insight for practical theology and Christian/religious education, were “forced” to abandon the at-one-time more explicit religious concerns that initially motivated them to think about the world holistically, succumbing to the seduction of rational scientific ethos. Both theorists, in their formative years, entertained seriously the power of religious experience to impact the meaning of their lives and their choice of vocations.
Coe agonizingly sought a Methodist-styled conversion that would authorize his search for understanding the human condition, while Piaget seriously considered a career as a theologian because of his early religious experiences and the influence of Henri Bergson. But both of them finally abandoned and repressed their religious longings in order to keep faith with the scientific ethos that beckoned and rewarded them. For Piaget and Coe, as with Newton, the alchemical longing of the human spirit to connect spirit and science was repressed in order to conform to the conditions of modern scientific assumptions and to carve out a reputable vocation in the modern world. If we return to the biographical essay of James Loder for a moment, we see that he struggled with the same kind of repression calling him to abandon alchemy for rational science.
As the biographical essay makes clear, Loder too had an early religious experience (the death of his father) that motivated his initial search for faith seeking understanding at Princeton and Harvard. But seduced by the ethos of Harvard and science, he too constructed his early work within the framework of acceptable scientific limits defined by the academy, repressing the deeper spiritual motivation that launched his practical theological vocation in the first place. However, his second convictional experience, the accident in 1970, re-awakened in Loder, at a much stronger level, the alchemical link between spirit and science according to their intrinsic relations as revealed to faith. Loder’s work on the transformational intelligence of the human spirit was itself transformed under the conviction of Loder’s own spirit by Spiritus Creator.
Under conviction, Loder discerned that divine and human actions were inevitably linked together in what he called an “asymmetrical bipolar relational unity” grounded in Jesus Christ, who revealed the God-man structure of reality to human intelligibility. This convictional realization guided Loder’s subsequent work in what might be considered his search for “a scientific alchemy of the spirit” in which the interrelation of spirit and science that is proleptically unified and generative in the primal experience of every infant with the face of the mother in the power of the human spirit becomes ultimately unified and generative through convictional experience of the God-man, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Scientists since Newton have been wary of the alchemical charge, and modern science is ever more alert to resisting lapses into alchemy.
Though Loder was as careful a theoretical scientist as can be imagined, who always made his thought public through carefully crafted books, articles and lectures, the substance of what he tried to do in his life-work remains a mystery to most, tainted by the alchemic charge that I think secretly works against its acceptability. No one really picked up on Loder’s project, not only because, as Campbell Wyckoff put it, “nobody really knew (and I would add “knows today”) what Loder was up to,” but also because what he was suspected of being up to was not acceptable within the ethos that mainline practical theology and Christian education has created for itself, one that was primarily concerned about healing the “two culture” dualism that plagues modernity by seeking a non-theological base-line to overcome that dualism. This bias toward the apologetics of relevance has little tolerance for Christological convictions that seem to run contrary to the social grammar of confinement that wants to keep confessions of Christ secluded from public discourse.
As Brian Gerrish wrote, in reference to Barth’s confessionalism, “Anyone who believes that theology is possible and meaningful in the church alone, that it begins with God in his revelation in Jesus Christ, and that it is scientific just insofar as it corresponds to the word of God through obedience of faith, will need to come up with a quite different account of theology’s credentials as a university discipline, or may prefer to pursue it somewhere else.” Loder, taking up just this challenge, was foolish enough to believe that “a quite different account of theology’s credentials as a university discipline” was possible from a confessional stance, one that was compelling enough to speak with integrity to the modern university out of a Christological concentration, despite the alchemical connotations of such a position.
What Might Loder have been Up To: An Educated Guess about Loder’s Fundamental Practical Theological Science of the Structure and Dynamics of Provident-Contingent Relations. In what follows I want to elaborate what I believe Loder was up to as an alchemist of spirit and science. Perhaps if we could get a sense of the direction and substance of Loder’s alchemy as a whole we could come up with a tentative surmise about the significance of his 40 plus years at Princeton, and we might yet be intrigued enough by what we see to guess also why he took the alchemical risk that so many like Newton, Piaget and Coe have forsaken. I offer this surmise of the substance and direction of Loder’s alchemical science as a vehicle for others to take a second look at this vision and to mine its potential contribution to Christian education—and I would argue, to a whole lot more!
Out of his reconstruction of the source, structure and dynamics of convictional knowing according to what Paul Lehmann called “the God-man structure of reality,” I think it can be argued that Loder constructed a fundamental practical theological science of provident-contingent relations with the power to illuminate the nature, dynamic structure, and power of the actual relational Reality that holds all things together and apart according to the nature of Jesus Christ. Loder imagined that this asymmetrical but reciprocal relationality he constructed out of his neo-Chalcedonian integration of wisdom and science bore credible (not infallible) witness to certain essential dimensions of the actual Reality that bridges the incommensurable gap between divine and human action revealed through the Church’s deepest reflection on the Incarnation. Loder created conceptual lenses and an interpretative framework for the Church that he thought would “cut the world at its [relational] joints” so to speak, including for example:
- the perichoretic relational structure constituting Trinitarian relations (the Norm and Generative Source of all relationality)
- the cosmological structure inferred from the Big Bang (with its asymmetrical relation of gravity to energy that makes the life of the observer of the universe possible in the first place—the anthropic principle)
- the nature of light, the universal constant in science (wave and particle relationality)
- the bipolar structure of the social construction of reality, constituted by a reciprocal relationality of socialization-transformation
- the paradoxical structure of Israel and the Church, both communal paradigms of simil iustus et peccatore and the relation of koinonia to ecclesia
- the canonical relational structure of divine revelation in human words that constitutes Scripture
- the revelation of the Christ Event (definitive relationality revealed to and accommodated within human experience)
- the Chalcedon’s doctrine of the hypostatic union
- the Reformation affirmation of a transformative relationality between Christ and culture
- the dis-relational impact of Modernity (where relationality is pervasively distorted and in which faith and knowledge are split apart)
- the turn to relationality in postmodern science and theology
- the core generative experiences of all human development, including the tacitly religious experience of the mother’s face imprinting on the child and the explicitly redemptive impact of the Spirit of Christ on human development
- the central generative reality in human existence, the human spirit (powerfully revealed when confronting the intrinsic limits of intelligibility at the quantum level (complementarity) or at the theological level (Chalcedon).
This relational structure of reality Loder sought to trace from the “big infinity” (his euphemism for cosmology) and beyond (the Trinity) to the ‘little infinity” (quantum reality) and beyond (the human spirit), characterizes, I believe, Loder’s unifying theme and potential contribution to fundamental practical theological science on multiple levels. I would argue here that Loder’s fundamental practical theological science of provident-contingent relations effectively responds to the call John Webster, an authority on Barth, gave to theologians, in particular theologians of hope—to elaborate the central structure of the ontology of grace revealed in Christ.
A Christian theology of hope will be disoriented from the outset unless it is securely anchored in an account of grace as constitutive of created being and action. Modern Christian thought…leaves us seriously deficient in this regard: eager to establish connections with worlds outside the gospel, it rarely takes the time to explore the primacy of grace in its ontological dimensions…modern Christian theology is rarely committed to articulating the ontologically definitive status of that which is confessed in the Christian credo. As a result, the descriptive force of Christian convictions is blunted…If we are to make some headway…it will have to be by taking with great seriousness the Christian confession that the new reality brought about in Jesus Christ is reality.
Loder’s sojourn into the wilderness of scientific rationalism, postmodern relativity and academic repression under the discipline of the Spirit in search of alchemic connections resulted in a body of work that tried to discern and to articulate the relational structure of the ontology of grace that reveals in every level of human action contingent created-ness as it participates in Spiritus Creator, and the convictional epistemology that allows human creatures transformed by grace to know their own lives as creatures and the natural universe as creation. This is a contingency that can only be discerned when the Spirit of God acts convictingly on the human spirit and reconstitutes the knower, so that in knowing the universe through convictional experience we make the universe understandable and articulate to itself as created and sustained by grace.
In a sense Loder’s work is an extraordinarily complex commentary on Barth’s intuition: “Covenant is the internal basis of creation” while “creation is the external basis of the covenant.” What the convictional experiences Loder suffered did for him was to “awaken” him to the provident-contingent relationality revealed in Jesus Christ as the structure of created reality, including the mind that grasps that reality. To be known and to know contingently is to be able to trace this relational structure that stretches from the inner life of the Trinity to the spirit of the mind which grasps all things from the standpoint of the conviction by the Spirit of Christ. In and through the Mind of Christ revealed to the convicted knower, alchemy becomes an actuality because Christ the Alchemist has determined to bestow his Spirit and Nature on all things that exist.
To attend to the generative source of human knowing (being known by God!) and to learn to think out of that intimate connection is to be restored to the imago Dei as “new creation in Christ.” Out of this generativity one begins to integrate a lifestyle that participates in the perichoretic relationality that unites divine and human action, thus restoring oneself and one’s community to “sanity,” not by adapting to the religious conventions of cultures (which are finally “insane” in relation to the Gospel’s judgment of them) but by being reconstituted according to the Trinitarian culture that is the ground of all being—including all social constructions of reality. Loder discerned the inner dynamic structure of contingent creation in relation to divine action as the analogia spiritus, arguing that this contingent ontology can only be known “Spirit to spirit.” When we are known in the Spirit, we testify with that Spirit that we are children of God, in both personal and public spheres.
Loder sought to extrapolate the diverse ways in which this testimony played out as practical theology in a scientific culture. His whole alchemic project can finally be understood as testimony, witness, or even evangelism. To be recreated in the Spirit so as to accept our contingent creaturehood as the central core of our humanity, what I call homo testans, is to participate fully in the True Witness, Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of His Testimony to a world that can only be saved by Grace. Loder sought to bear witness in a scientific culture to the One who holds all things together and apart according to the provident-contingent relationality revealed to the human spirit by Spiritus Creator. Perhaps Loder’s efforts to bear prophetic testimony to Jesus Christ through his practical theological science is the fifth and major reason his work fails to find its intended audience in the professional guild—he stayed too close to the Stone of Stumbling upon which all things human suffer shipwreck.
If this is an adequate, if all too brief, description of Loder alchemic project, how might the potential significance of his work be delineated in terms of its implications for redemptive transformation in practical theology as a challenge to practical theologians and others?
Potential Challenges of Loder’s Convictional Science to Practical Theology and Beyond
A. Loder’s work compels practical theologians to reconsider the meta-theoretical contours of their discipline as a science of Spirit-to-spirit relations, a reconsideration that is faithful to the Trinitarian God of the Gospel, to the postmodern turn in science towards relationality, and to the dynamics of the human spirit.
Loder loved the discipline of Christian education because it demanded interdisciplinary work that tries to discern the nature and impact of redemptive transformation by the Spirit of Christ in virtually every dimension of human action and to the whole universe of discourse in a scientific culture. In his Christomorphic reconstruction of the conceptual coordinates of these disciplines at the level of Spirit-to-spirit relations, Loder reached “inside” the core problematic of practical theology to discern what God was doing in the world to make and keep human life human (Paul Lehmann), and to articulate the nature of this relationality to a scientific world. If Loder has indeed brought fundamental insight into the true nature and structure of provident-contingent relations to describe the core dynamic of divine-human interaction, as well as to discern analogues of that provident-contingency in the human and natural sciences, then his work is significant because it requires a radical reconsideration of the meta-theoretical contours of Christian education according to the movement of the Holy Spirit human-ward.
For Loder, both the content of faith and the process of faith are inextricably united according to the dynamics and structure of provident-contingent relations revealed in Christ. In classical theological terms, Loder’s work reconfigures the debate over Anknupfungspunkt (point of contact between the Divine and the human) because it preserves divine initiative (the ontology of grace) without diminishing the full participation of the human knower by showing how that initiative in convictional experiences accommodates to the knower without destroying the integrity of the knower but by transforming her to a higher level of integrative thinking, one demanded by the Object of her investigation.
Furthermore, Loder addresses the point of contact issue by insisting that his efforts to integrate the disciplines of practical theology take place not through the “products” of the generative spirit (ego, rationality, intelligence, praxis, symbolic experience, etc.) but through addressing and explicating the kinetic relational dynamics that give rise to these “products”—the generative human spirit in intense dialectical relations with the regenerating Presence of Christ. By getting to the generative source of creativity constituted in the human spirit as the locus of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work, transformation according to this provident-contingent relational pattern becomes redemptive transformation into the nature of Christ, the ontological basis for the scientific knowing of reality.
B. Loder’s convictional epistemology, unique in Christian education theory, lays the groundwork for offering to the Church a compelling way to integrate insights into the human condition (both experiential and scientific) and revealed confessional commitments (tradition) through profound religious experiences that transform the meaning-making capacities of homo poeta into the faith seeking understanding of homo testans, uniquely uniting the subjective and the objective in a scientific cultural context through faith.
Loder’s fundamental work on the nature of spirit as a self-transcending and self-relating reality, which under the convictional impact of the Self-Knowing Spirit of God leads to human knowing of reality that approximates knowing according to the Mind of Christ, is powerful because it unites being and thinking, process and content, spiritual passion for continuity with scientific attention to discontinuities, etc., in a way that gives both certitude to existence while at the same time inspiring the courage to grasp meaning in an open universe.
Thus, Loder’s convictional epistemology provides not only an experiential basis for overcoming the dualism between faith and knowledge, or spirit and science, into which we are socialized and out of which we normally learn to think in a highly differentiated society, but also for recovering the intrinsically subjective nature of all serious objective thinking. Loder redefines objectivity and subjectivity in epistemology by placing both of them in the service of a relational continuum that is implicitly religious (and therefore calls out for ultimate intelligibility) and which becomes explicitly theological under conviction as the vital structure for knowing all things “in the Spirit.”
C. Loder’s analogia spiritus and his “strange loop” model of complementarity, derived from and reflective of, his convictional epistemology, demonstrate the power of convictional imagination to generate disclosure analogies as conceptual resources designed not only to overcome the dehumanizing dualisms in modern culture that separate faith and knowledge, spirit and science, imagination and rationality, etc., but also for overcoming the equally dehumanizing monisms of popular spiritualities that collapse or confuse the divine and the human.
Loder created uniquely generative models of relationality for theology, science, and human experience based on his convictional epistemology. As was noted, these models of relationality compel us to discern that the crucial factor in knowing anything truly lies not in the mind of the knower (Kant) nor in the object of investigation (naïve realism) but in the relationality between them, especially when the nature of the knower as human is taken at full force. These models of relationality are particularly relevant to knowing that necessarily reaches beyond common sense and logical rationality, where the human spirit reaches its own intrinsic limits of intelligibility and is compelled to create qualitatively new modes of reason that are intrinsically relational and observer influenced, like in quantum physics or in Chalcedonian theology. Out of these limit situations the human spirit creates “classic” resources that reveal the hidden intelligibilities that hold polar opposites together and apart, like time and eternity (the finite and the infinite) in the structure of the human spirit (Kierkegaard), like particle and wave in the structure of the light (Bohr), and like divine and human in the structure of revelation (Chalcedon).
Loder not only discerned the nature of convictional epistemology, but he demonstrated how the convicted imagination creates models of disclosure with tremendously generative power to make life intelligible.
D. Loder’s work advocates reconstructing and deepening the Church’s understanding of the dogma of the Holy Spirit in onto-relational terms, according to the self-relational dimensions of the analogia spiritus, with enormous implications for calling mainline, evangelical, and charismatic or Pentecostal traditions to consider a new basis for dialogue and mutual discovery of our common participation in the nature, power and truth of the Holy Spirit.
Loder’s work on the relation of Holy Spirit to human spirit calls us to reconsider the dogma of the Holy Spirit at the creedal level, by taking into full account the self-relating nature of spirit on both sides of the analogia spiritus. In drawing upon the Patristics (mostly the Greek Fathers), the Reformers (Luther and Calvin), and their modern interpreters (Kierkegaard, Barth, Hendry, Prenter), Loder argued that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Christian tradition requires a unique epistemology, grounded in revelation, to discern theologically the nature of human participation in the kinetic structure and power of God’s Self-knowing as it is accommodated to human reality. Thus, Loder’s work could revolutionize the larger Church’s understanding of the Holy Spirit and in particular how the Holy Spirit works transformationally on the human spirit in order to make divine reality in relation to human reality knowable to human beings.
The implications of this contribution are profound in terms of (a) the recovery of the Spirit in the life in evangelical and Reformed congregations that tend to intellectualize or moralize faith, and in terms of (b) correcting the excessive or sometimes reality-denying claims of charismatic and Pentecostal spiritualities. In relation to the tendencies of the former, Loder asserted that the Holy Spirit puts us into the life and mind of God in a way that resists objectifying faith morally or intellectually. In relation to the tendencies of the latter, Loder contended that the Holy Spirit puts us into the world and into the life of the mind in a way that overcomes the irrational fideism and escapism of so much that passes for spirituality today.
E. Loder’s work addresses the historical impasse between the Religious Education Movement and Crisis Theology out of which the current renaissance in practical theology and Christian or religious education has arisen, one that offers a major meta-theoretical proposal for uniting a century’s worth of scientific insight into the “What?” of human reality (the contribution of liberal theorists) with a near century’s worth of convictional insight into the “Why?” of human reality corem Deo (the contribution of the Barthians), without compromising the integrity of either science or theology.
Loder was on the ground floor of the renaissance in practical theology that continues to day, including the near century-long debate about the theories that give order to religious or Christian or Christian-religious education practice. He not only re-envisioned theologically a dynamic model for integrating the disciplines that inform practical theological science in general, but he also provided the conceptual resources to overcome specifically the century-long impasse in religious education theory that failed to adequately integrate liberal and neo-orthodox contributions to the discussion. He did this by directing his attention to the generative source of all creative thinking (liberal or conservative) the human spirit, the power of which is released most fully when confronting realities that stretch the spirit’s intense desire to know to its intrinsic limits.
Out of these confrontations at the outer limits of human experience, limits that were not sufficiently appreciated by either liberal or neo-orthodox theorists, Loder’s work places religious or Christian education theory under question at a new depth, even requiring theorists to construct radical new forms of rationality. Perhaps no other practical theologian of his generation has indwelt at such depth and breadth the core generative problematic at the heart of practical theology and religious education to discern the inner structural relations that hold divine and human action together and apart according to the nature of Jesus Christ and our best scientific readings of human reality known convictionally. F. Loder’s appropriation and reconstruction of Kierkegaard and Barth for a scientific cultural context provides an important and possibly revolutionary resource for developing a critical and confessional practical theological science of human participation in divine reality, while at the same time perhaps helping other scholars to recover the crucial importance of these two programmatic thinkers for understanding the meaning of the postmodern world.
Loder reconstruction of contemporary Reformed faith (Barth through Torrance) and especially his appropriation of Kierkegaard (in dialogue with Chalcedon, Pannenberg and the human and natural sciences) serves as a major interpretation of the relevance of these two prophetic figures for a scientific world. In particular, the way Loder brings both Kierkegaard and Barth into dialogue with postmodern science is perhaps unparalleled for its potential contribution to the Church’s prophetic witness to a scientific culture, especially from a Reformed convictional stance. No other practical theologian has, to my knowledge, made such a comprehensive and compelling argument for critical confessional practical theology in the Reformed tradition, reconstructed through Kierkegaardian and Barthian (i.e. neo-Chalcedonian) lenses, with the potential for both deepening the insights of the secular academy while also equipping the Church in its prophetic witness to culture.
G. Loder’s work offers up new conceptual coordinates for challenging and deepening the theoretical contours of evangelical Christian education and practical theology, especially in relation to his convictional epistemology (which resonates to the evangelical emphasis upon conversion) while at the same time it pushes evangelicals to discern the epistemological and ontological implications of conversion for life in the world, helping to overcome the ambiguity within evangelicalism concerning the Christ-culture relationship.
Loder’s emphasis upon convictional experiences (his language for conversion) and the way in which he integrates his convictional epistemology into every domain of human action (organic, psychological, social and cultural) offers to evangelical scholars a splendid and perhaps uniquely important resource for taking evangelical practical theology and Christian education theory to the next level of complexity. Loder’s vision offers a significant conceptual re-orientation to evangelical practical theologians and Christian educators that gives to them a more solid, nuanced, and generative understanding of the kinetic relation of Christ to culture revealed through convictonal experience.
Furthermore, the integration of process and content in Loder’s thought helps overcome the tendency of evangelical practical theologians to focus primarily on pragmatic and applied concerns to the neglect and under-development of hard thinking at the meta-theoretical, methodological, and interdisciplinary levels. The possible impact of Loder’s vision for re-conceiving the conceptual contours of evangelical practical theology and Christian education theory may be the most significant implication we can draw from this rehearsal of his potential relevance on the field, given the general failure of evangelical practical theologians to develop a convictional science that is adequate to illuminate conceptually the theological claims evangelicals make for the transformational power of the Holy Spirit in evangelical experience (conversion).
H. Loder’s understanding of the nature and dynamic movement of human development from a theological perspective and the journey of intensification that marks maturity in the faith offers a profound resource for practical theologians, educators, and those involved in spiritual direction or counseling, who depend on their ability to discern rightly the nature of the relationship between so-called “normal” human development (under the power of negation) and spiritual re-development in the Spirit of Christ.
Loder’s reconstruction of human development in theological perspective, which (1) placed emphasis on the dynamics of stage transition not the stages themselves, which (2) took seriously the recapitulation of the Fall in unredeemed human development through the triumph of negation centered on the socialized ego, which (3) offered theological re-interpretations of classic theorists like Freud, Erikson, and Piaget to explicate a “thick” description of normal human development as a “truth producing error,” and which (4) accounts for the impact of the Holy Spirit’s power to negate the negation of human development at any stage of development, is perhaps unrivaled in practical theological breadth and depth. Loder’s account of human development in theological perspective is neither occasionalistic or conversionistic (God only “zaps” persons in remarkable experiences of discontinuity) nor reductionistic or Pelagian (God reduced to human dynamics “writ large”), but it is fully dialectical and intensive (God and human in a tensive dialectical relationality) in a way that takes both the human spirit and the Holy Spirit with utmost seriousness. In doing so Loder argues, in the tradition of Athenasius, that the glory of God is humanity fully alive.
I. Loder lays a non-foundationalist basis for constructing a dialectically-structured theological anthropology by grounding it in a Living Actuality that reveals through convictional experiences the human condition corem Deo as a four dimensional reality (self, “world,” the absence of being, and New Being), calling the disciple community to live into the New Being as the New Being transforms the other three dimensions in the service of the Politics of God.
Ever since Calvin opined that the human knowledge of the divine and the divine knowledge of the human are the essential parameters of Christian understanding, one might argue that the central theological task has been to discern, between the “theology as anthropology” of Feuerbach and the “humanity of God” of Barth, an adequate ground for theological anthropology. Loder’s work brings this search for a compelling ground into focus for a scientific culture by showing that the God-man structure of reality in relation to human reality is a Living Actuality that cannot be fully “captured” by comprehensive systems of thought or action, because such illusory “foundations” blind the thinker/actor to (a) the pervasive Nothingness underlying all human constructions of reality, theoretical or practical, and to (b) the Spirit’s power to overcome the Nothingness through convictional experience.
Loder is, in my judgment, one of the few practical theologians who take the third dimension of human experience—what he called “the Void”—with penultimate seriousness in terms of both living and thinking “in the Spirit,” and therefore he is one of the few practical theologians who take the fourth dimension—what he called “the Holy”—with ultimate seriousness.
J. Loder’s transparent theological commitments and his penetrating insights into the hidden intelligibility underlying the human and natural sciences compel practical theologians and religious educators to “come clean” concerning their own theological assumptions, tacit or explicit.
Loder’s concern for re-conceiving practical theology at the meta-theoretical level is an example of John Milbank’s challenge to theologians to overcome their “false humility” by seeking to understand and affirm theology properly as “metadiscourse.” Milbank wrote that “an ultimate organizing logic” for theology “cannot be wished away,” and if theology doesn’t supply one self-consciously, some other discourse will. Loder’s forty-year effort to avoid the conscription of alien frameworks to integrate theology and the sciences (the problem of tertium quid) calls all practical theologians and Christian educators, as well as scientists, to be more conscientious about making their theoretical assumptions as explicit as possible. Whether he himself was successful in avoiding the tertium quid or not, his concern to “come clean” with theological and meta-theoretical commitments is exemplary for practical theologians, Christian educators, and others.
K. Loder’s work provides a new theological baseline for re-conceiving the nature of theological education itself and its relation to secular culture, including rethinking the place of theology in university discourse that is scientifically credible, and thereby provides a powerful witness to the dominant culture for re-conceiving the philosophical contours of culture itself as a proximate testimony to God in Christ. Loder’s work is potentially powerful and sophisticated enough scientifically and conceptually to provide Christian scholars with resources for engaging the highest echelons of intellectual culture and for re-considering the place of theology in culture.
The pluralistic times in which we live are ripe for introducing comprehensive and credible proposals for discerning the nature and structure of reality from various viewpoints, and Loder’s work could aid Christian scholars whose vocation is to witness to Christ in the intellectual centers of culture, like academia. Furthermore, Loder’s work challenges the century-long hegemony of secular prophets (innovators like Freud, Piaget, Skinner, Erikson, Parsons, etc.) to determine the intellectual parameters of true science, parameters often grounded in reductionistic versions of rational science and limited imagination (what Loder called science under “eikonic eclipse”). Loder took seriously the Lordship of Christ in relation to every challenge and alternative claim from the Empire, but he did so in a way that gave full if de-limited play to culture itself.
L. Loder’s work provides resources for constructing comprehensivel critique of the social construction of reality, and especially of the ruling distortions of the human spirit that shape contemporary culture in dehumanizing and unjust ways.
Loder’s trenchant critiques of various lifestyles in the United States—obsession with achievement as the distortion of love, authoritarianism as the distortion of power, proteanism as the distortion of freedom, and oppression as the distortion of justice—are directed at the generative source of distortion or dis-relationship in the human spirit—the triumph of negation or existential despair that permeates the social construction of reality. These distortions of the spirit plague not only culture but the Church as well, destroying the integrity of the best efforts to teach and preach the faith (i.e. to teach right doctrine in an authoritarian or achievement spirit is to distort the doctrinal integrity as well as the pedagogical integrity of the process!). Loder’s critique moves deeper than most approaches because he gets at the source of the distortion—the dis-relation of the finite-infinite structure of the human spirit recapitulated through every dimension of the social construction of reality—not at just the inevitable “manifestations” of this relational distortion (i.e. modernization or globalization).
M. Loder’s work has potential for re-conceiving the relationship of koinonia (the body of Christ) to ecclesia (the church as institution) in a way that neither separates these dimensions of a unified reality nor confuses or conflates them, liberating the church to be a living demonstration of redeemed relations according to the nature of Jesus Christ.
Loder’s project is perhaps underdeveloped in terms of ecclesiology. Nevertheless, his fundamental insights into theological anthropology in terms of Spirit-to-spirit relations offers practical theologians a uniquely dynamic understanding of the core dialectical structure of the Church in the world (simul iustus et peccator). Loder argues that the Church is a social reality that at the same time is not the product of socialization. The Church in the power of the Spirit is one in which the socialization dynamics have been affirmed, crucified and resurrected by the dynamic Presence of Christ.
In Loder’s construction, the role structures that lie at the heart of socialized reality and that distort the intimacy which the Holy Spirit seeks to create, must be transformed redemptively (the Spirit makes role structures reversible in Loder’s theory) so that the role structures now serve, rather than distort, the intimacy of the Spirit. Loder’s call for churches to live “in the Spirit” and to be centered beyond themselves through worship contains the seeds of recovering the Church’s prophetic and living vocation in a culture of despair—i.e to demonstrate koinonia-ecclesia as a visible enactment of, and witness to, Trinitarian-human relations in a fallen world.
N. Loder’s understanding of the impact of the Holy Spirit on the body, on ego, on social roles, and on culture has implications not only for redeeming personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal relations within primary and secondary socialization of specific cultures, but also for re-conceiving international relations among cultures and ethnic groups.
In a post/9/11 world in which relations are distorted at all levels of interchange, new understandings of inclusive identity that accept the otherness of the other are needed now more than ever. Loder’s insights into the transformation of human action by the Holy Spirit in bodily, psychological, social and cultural dimensions toward the restoration of relationality according to the nature of Christ provides valuable resources for re-conceiving international relations as well under the impact of the Spirit. Loder’s vision for redeemed relations complements recent proposals by philosophers like Emmanual Levinas and theologians like Miroslav Volf who are addressing, in very different ways, how we might transform our understanding and practice of identity-formation in order to overcome both the overly-centrifugal forces of exclusion and the overly centripetal forces of inclusion that threaten life together in a globalized world community. Here, Loder’s definition of love as “the non-possessive delight in the particularity of the other” articulates the intended outcome of the Holy Spirit’s work in every dimension of human life under God, including international relations.
O. Loder’s work provides conceptual resources for constructing a four-dimensional, convictional hermeneutic of divine-human relations, one that is interdisciplinary and can be used to “exegete” both written texts and living “texts” according to the nature of Jesus Christ.
Loder’s imaginative reconstruction of human action in relation to divine action through convictional experience provides a basis for developing a convictional hermeneutic, one that allows Scriptural texts and congregational “texts” to be interpreted within a dynamic, four-dimensional framework that conforms to the Mind of Christ acting convictionally on the mind of the hermeneutist. Such a hermeneutical framework can incorporate with integrity higher critical concerns (“behind the text”), literary meanings and structures (“within the text”) and theological concerns (“in front of the text”) in a comprehensive interpretative movement that gets “inside” the four-dimensional conflict that gave rise to the classic or canonical texts themselves. Similarly, through this framework one gets “inside” congregational con-“texts” in order to help congregations interpret their life together and their symbolic world in four dimensions, so that congregations so engaged might become “canonical” expressions of life in the Spirit.
This convictional hermeneutic is manifest in Loder’s reading of Scripture (i.e. his programmatic interpretation of Luke 24, the Road to Emmaus) but it is not developed as a hermeneutical approach. Similar hermeneutical intuitions are visible in a curriculum project developed for Indian Christians by Beth Frykberg and Ajit Prasadam, two of Loder’s students. A full-blown convictional hermeneutic begs to be developed out of insights from his work.
P. Loder’s work is beginning to be discovered by certain well-known organizational theorists and adult educators in the Unites States who recognize the potential in his thought for discerning the spiritual nature of leadership and of creativity in business settings or for re-conceiving andragogy and curriculum theory.
Loder’s understanding of transformation as a constitutive element of the nature of reality itself parallels the discovery of transformation in postmodern science—such as the emergence of new order out of chaos associated with chaos theory. Scholars in business schools and in teacher colleges are appropriating these understandings of the nature of reality as transformative for rethinking the nature of leadership and creativity in the business world and in secular adult educational theory. As business leadership and adult education theories move from models of mastery and control and transmission of information and authority to models of self-organization through transformation, Loder’s thought may become an important resource in the secular academy as well as in congregations.
No doubt there are many other implications of the practical theological science of provident-contingent relations developed by James Loder to challenge practical theologians and Christian educators, but these will have to suffice. My hope is that, taken together, they provide the reader with an incentive to investigate his work as a generative resource for practical theologians, Christian or religious educators, and theorists of Christ-culture relations. The concern here is not to become Loderites, or to establish a Loderian “school” of practical theology, but to allow Loder’s close contact with the “things of the Spirit” and with the spirit of science to compel practical theologians and Christian educators to live closer to the center of divine-human relations revealed in Jesus Christ, where alchemy in the Spirit becomes a real possibility.
Loder’s practical theological science of provident-contingent relations was designed to take practical theologians, church leaders, Christian educators, and all disciples of Christ on a journey of intensification into the heart of the human condition where the boundaries of human knowledge are confronted by the dread of non-being, and then also by a Life so compelling and pure that they cannot but help see all things, including themselves and their disciplines, as if for the first time as a work of the Spirit, and as a work uniquely their own. Loder’s practical theological science could be propaedeutic for learning to think and live “in the Spirit” in the 21st century compelled by the themes of “science” and “spirit” and by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Who knows, it might, as Basil Mitchell warned, even choose us by “its sheer impressiveness” and demand to be imitated by us in a way that “radically revises our previous notions about what is worth imitating.”
- Loder, James E., Jr. (1965). Religion in the public schools. New York: Association Press.
- _______________. (1966). Religious pathology and christian faith. Philadelphia: Westminister Press.
- _______________. (1979). Transformation in Christian education. Princeton Theological Seminary (from inaugural address delivered Dec. 12, 1979, includes response from James Lapsley).
- _______________. (1982). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
- _______________. (1990). The transforming moment (revised 2nd edition, including two additional chapters and a glossary. Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard.
- _______________. (1993). The holy spirit and human transformation (Korean translation of The transforming moment). Seoul: Yonsei University.
- _______________. (1998). The logic of the spirit: Human development in theological perspective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
- _______________. (to be published). Educational ministry in the logic of the spirit.
- _______________. (to be published). Transformational dynamics in Christian education: A study in practical theology.
- Loder, James E., Jr. & Neidhardt, Jim. (1992). The knight’s move: The relational logic of the spirit in theology and science. Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard.
Chapters in Edited Volumes
- Loder, James E., Jr. (1966). Sociocultural foundations for Christian education. In M. Taylor (Ed.), Introduction to Christian education (pp. 71-84). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
- ________________. (1972). The medium for the message. In J. Westerhoff, III (.Ed.). A colloquy on Christian education (pp. 71-79). Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press.
- ________________. (1974). The fashioning of power: A Christian perspective on the life-style phenomenon. In A. McKelway & E. D. Willis (Eds.), The context of contemporary theology (Festschrift in honor of Paul Lehmann) (pp. 187-208). Atlanta: John Knox.
- ________________. (1976). Developmental foundations for Christian education. In M. Taylor (Ed.). Foundations for Christian education in an era of change (pp. 54-67). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
- ________________. (1979). Creativity in and beyond human development. In G. Durka & Smith (Eds.). Aesthetic dimensions of religious education (pp. 219-235).
- ________________. (1980). Negation and transformation: A study in theology and human development. In Christaine Brusselmans, et al., Toward moral and religious maturity (pp. 166-190). Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett Co.
- ________________. (1994). Incisions from a two-edged sword: The Incarnation and the soul/spirit relationship. In B. Childs & D. Waanders (Eds.), The treasure of earthen vessels: Explorations in theological anthropology (Festschrift in honor of James N. Lapsley) (pp. 151-173). Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.
- ________________. (1996). Transformation in Christian education. In Astley, J., Leslie Francis & C. Crowder (Eds.), Theological perspectives on Christian education: A reader on theology and Christian education (pp. 270-284). Leominster, England/Grand Rapids, MI: Gracewing/Eerdmans (a reprint of Loder’s inaugural address).
- ________________. (1999). Normativity and context in practical theology: The ‘interdisciplinary issue’ (pp. 359-381). In Practical theology:International perspectives, Schweitzer, F. & van der Ven, J. A., (Eds.). Sonderbruck.
- ________________. (2002). The Golgotha mirror. In The international Kierkegaardian commentary. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press (Note: I was unable to locate this reference in that volume. A rough draft of a paper entitled “The Golgotha mirror” exists, but Dr. Loder’s death may have precluded its publication in the commentary).
- ________________. (?). Sociocultural foundations of Christian education. In. P. Mitchell & D. Rogers (Eds.), Christian education: The basic text series (pp. ). Dayton, OH: United Seminary Publication (a reprint of Loder’s 1966 article in M. Taylor (Ed.) Introduction to Christian education). Loder, James E., Jr. & Neidhardt, Jim. (1996). Barth, Bohr and dialectic (including a reply by Christopher Kaiser). In W. Richardson (Ed.), Religion and science (pp. 271-298).
- Loder, James E. Jr. (1964). Conflict resolution in Christian education. The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, LVII (3) old series, pp. 19-36.
- _______________. (1965). The other mystique (reply to M.F. Pierson). In Theology Today, 22 (July), pp. 283-284.
- _______________. (1966). Dimensions of real presence (sermon). The Princeton Seminar Bulletin, LIX (2) old series, pp. 29-35.
- _______________. (1967). Acts and academia (chapel talk). The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, LX (2) old series, pp. 60-62.
- _______________. (1970). Adults in crisis. The Princeton Seminar Bulletin, LXIII (1) old series, pp. 32-41.
- _______________. (1976). The corrective: An educational mandate (chapel talk). The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, LXVIII (3), pp. 77-79.
- _______________. (1980). Transformation in Christian education (pp. 11-25). In The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, III (1) new series (inaugural address, Dec. 12, 1979 (includes different introduction from the Religious Education reprint below).
- ________________. (1981). Transformation in Christian education (pp. 204-221). In Religious Education, 76 (2).
- ________________. (circa 1980s). Transformation in liturgy and learning (pp. 39-41). In Liturgy, 4 (4), pp.
- ________________. (2000). The place of science in practical theology: The human factor. In International Journal of Practical Theology, 4 (1), 22-44.
- ________________. (2001). A meditation on evangelism in a scientific culture. The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. VIII (2/3), pp. 8-12.
- ________________. (2001). The great sex charade and the loss of intimacy (pp. 81-87). In Word & World, 11 (1).
- Loder, James E. & Laaser, Mark. (1973). Authenticating Christian experience: A research request. The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, LXVI (1) old series, pp. 120-124.
- Loder, James E., & Fowler, James W. (1982). Conversations on Fowler’s Stages of Faith and Loder’s The Transforming Moment (pp. 133-148). Religious Education, 77 (2).
Articles in Dictionaries or Encyclopedias
- Loder, James E., Jr. (1984). Creativity. In Sutcliffe, John M. (Ed.), A dictionary of religious education. London: SCM Press Ltd. in association with The Christian Education Movement, pp. 101-102.
- ________________. (1990). Theology and psychology. In Rodney Hunter (Gen. Ed), The dictionary of pastoral care and counseling, Nashville: Abingdon, pp. 1267-1270
- ________________. (1990). Epistemology; Existentialism; Interdisciplinary studies. In K. & I. Cully (Eds). Harper’s dictionary of religious education. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
- ________________. (1998-2001). Affekt (Affect); G. Allport; Angst/Furcht (Anxiety and fear); Behaviorism; Karen Horney; Pragmatism vs practical theology. In Hans Dieter Betz, Don Browning, Bernd Janowski & Eberhard Jungel (Gen. Eds.) Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Handwortenbuch fur theologie und religionwissenschaft. Tubingen: Mohr/Siebeck, six volumes.
- ________________. (2001). Paradox; Self-reference. In J. W. van Huyssteen (Gen. Ed.), Encyclopedia of science and religion, 2 Vol. New York: MacMillan Reference USA, Vol. 2, pp. 648f, 799.
- Loder, James E., Jr. (1966). Learning in theological perspective, by Charles Stinnette, Jr. In Religious Education, Vol. LXI, September/October, (5), pp. 400-402.
- ________________. (1971). Pastoral care come of age, by William Hulme. In Interpretation, 25 (Apr.), pp. 248-250.
- ________________. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity, by B. F. Skinner. (Note: I have been unable to locate this review—D.W.).
- ________________. (1974). The psychology of religious doubt, by Philip Helfaer. In Religious Education, 69 (Ju-Aug), pp. 511-512.
- ________________. (1975). Origin of the idea of chance in children, by J. Piaget & B. Inhelder (trans. by Lowell Leake, et al). In Review of Books and Religion, 5 (Oct.), p. 13.
- ________________. (1975-1976). After therapy what: lay therapeutic resources in religious perspective, by Thomas C. Oden. In Drew Gateway, 46 (1-3), pp. 134-136.
- ________________. (1981). Parents and Peers in Social Development: A Sullivan-Piaget Perspective, by James Youniss. In Religious Education, 76 (Ja-F), pp.108-110.
- ________________. (1984). The human mind and the mind of god, by James B. Ashbrook (Note: I have been unable to locate this review—D.W.).
- ________________. (1986). The human mind and the mind of god: Theological promises in brain research, by James Ashbrooke. In Religious Education, 81 (4), pp. 655-656.
- ________________. (1987). Religious thought and the modern psychologies: A critical conversation in the theology of culture, by Don Browning. In Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 8 (2) new series, pp. 76-79.
- ________________. (1988). Otherworld journeys: Accounts of near-death experiences in medieval and modern times, by Carol Zaleski. In Theology Today, 44 (Jan), pp. 525, 528-529.
- ________________. (1991). Kierkegaard in golden age Denmark, by Bruce H. Kimmerse. In Theology Today 48, pp. 378-379.
- ________________. (1991). An introduction to systematic theology, by Wolfhart Pannenberg. In Theology Today, 49 (Ja), pp. 557-558.
- ________________. (1993). A fundamental practical theology: Descriptions and strategic proposals, by Don Browning. In Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 14 (3) new series, pp. 327-330.
- ________________. (1995. Between Athens and Berlin: The theological education debate, by David Kelsey. In The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 16 (3) new series, pp. 387-390.
- ________________. (1995). To understand god truly: What’s theological about a theological school?, by David Kelsey. In The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 16 (3) new series, pp. 387-390.
- ________________. (1997). Crisis in the church: The plight of theological education, by John H. Leith. (Note: I have been unable to locate this review—D.W.).
- ________________. (1997). Kierkegaard as humanist: discovering my self, by Arnold B. Come. In Theology Today (54), pp. 130-134.
- ________________. (1999). Faith of our foremothers: women changing religious education, by Barbara Anne Keely, ed. In Journal of Presbyterian History, 77, (2), pp.135-136.
- ________________. (1999). The postfoundationalist task of theology: Wolfhart Pannenberg and the new theological rationality, by F. LeRon Shults. (Note: I have been unable to locate this review—D.W.).
- ________________. (2000). Kierkegaard's vision of the incarnation: by faith transformed, by Murray A Rae. In Theology Today, 56 (Ja) pp. 638-641.
- Loder, James Edwin Jr. Papers. Partially catalogued papers and manuscripts, Luce Library, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, N.J. (In process of being fully catalogued by Kay Vogen, Loder’s long time secretary (available for access by mid-summer of 2004).
Theses and Dissertations
- Loder, James E., Jr.. (1962). The nature of religious consciousness in the writings of Sigmund Freud and Soren Kierkegaard: A theoretical study in the correlation of religious and psychiatric concepts (Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University).
- Loder, James E., Jr. (1969). Adults in crisis. John Sutherland Bonnell Lecture in Pastoral Psychology, New York: Fifth Ave. Presbyterian Church (Delivered Sunday, Nov. 9, 1969).
- Allen, Diogenes & Loder, James E., Jr. et al. (1994). An open letter to Presbyterians: Theological analysis of issues raised by the re-imagining conference. Princeton Theological Seminary.
Audio Tapes (Princeton Seminary)
- Loder, James E. Jr. (06/06/63). Meaning in the middle years of life. Current Issues in Ministry.
- _______________. (07/08/68). Sex identification and education. Presuppositions about education: Sex in theological context. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/09/68). Sex identification and education. The problem of authority: That which is inside a person. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/10/68). Sex identification and education. The issue of achievement orientation. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/11/68). Sex identification and education. Communicating with adolescents. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/06/70). Aggression and reconciliation: A psycho-social perspective. The aggression factor: Its nature and role in reconciliation. Institute of Theology
- _______________. (07/07/70). Aggression and reconciliation: A psycho-social perspective. Patterns of socializing aggression. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/08/70). Aggression and reconciliation: A psycho-social perspective. Ways to reverse self-destructive socialization patterns. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/09/70). Aggression and reconciliation: A psycho-social perspective. Teaching the transformation of aggression into creative patterns of behavior and interaction. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/07/75). Experiential theology. The structure of convictional experience. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/08/75). Experiential theology. The dynamics of convictional experience. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/09/75). Experiential theology. The nature of the enemy. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/10/75). Experiential theology. Our fear of grace. Institute of theology.
- _______________. (04/06/79). God and psychotherapy. C. S. Lewis Society of Princeton.
- _______________. (11/28/79). Religious experience in theology. Theological Forum.
- _______________. (12/12/79). Transformation in Christian education (Inaugural Address).
- _______________. (07/01/80). Faith and human development, part I. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/02/80). Faith and human development, part II. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/03/80). Faith and human development, part III. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (07/04/80). Faith and human development, part IV. Institute of Theology.
- _______________. (12/08/82). The holy spirit vs. the seminarian. Theological Forum.
- _______________. (5/04-06/83). Wyckoff Symposium (Reigner Reading Room Media)
- _______________. (09/13/83). Sermon (untitled). Small Church Symposium (Reigner Reading Room Media).
- _______________. (05/30/91). Lecture I (Alumni/ae reunion).
- _______________. (05/30/91). Lecture II (Alumni/ae reunion).
- _______________. (05/31/91). Lecture III (Alumni/ae reunion).
- _______________. (5/5/97-5/7/97). Seminar given at University Presbyterian Church, Seattle WA
- _______________. (5/5/97-5/7/97). Holy spirit and human transformation: Lect. I, Dimensions: Damascus reality; Lect. II, Dynamics: Emmaus vision.; Lect. III, Direction: The Golgotha mirror; Lect. IV, Denouement: Betrayal betrayed; Lect. V, Discernment: The eye of god.
Audio Tapes (Academic Technology Center, Fuller Theological Seminary)
- Loder, James E. (n. d.). Theology of faith and human development (CN531). Tape one, #2844ab.
- ____________. (n. d.). Theology of faith and human development (CN531). Tape two, #2845ab.
- ____________ & David Augsburger. (2000). Interdisciplinary reflections on Kierkegaard, July 19th. Tape #2943.
Audio Tapes (miscellaneous)
- Loder, James E. (1988). The creator spirit and faith formation. Five part course given through Continuing Education. Seattle, WA (tapes held by Dana Wright)
- _______________. (June/July 1997). The holy spirit and human transformation (5 parts). India Sunday School Union, Bangalore, Coonoor, Bombay, Calcutta and New Delhi. Lecture 1, The dimensions of transformation, Lecture 2, The dynamics of transformation, Lecture 3, The direction of transformation, Lecture 4, The denouement: Betrayal betrayed, Lecture 5, The discernment: The eye of GodVideo Tapes
- Loder, James E., Jr. (1985). The transforming moment (videocassette, 24 min.). Interview by Laura Lewis (Austin Theological Seminary) at Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Video Education Center. One copy held in Reigner Reading Room, Princeton Theological Seminary, #1232.
- _______________. (1998). Christmas party @ the Loder home, Dec. 5, 1998. One copy held at the Reigner Reading Room, Princeton Theological Seminary (n.n.).
- _______________. (2001). James E. Loder on prayer (seven part series). Taped for Mountain Views, a television program of Drew Seminary, Madison, N.J., Oct. 23/30 (Approx. 1 hour), with Angela Pak Sun. Held in Reigner Reading Room, Princeton Theological Seminary (n.n). 1. The prayer of thanksgiving (shown 11/17/01), 2. The prayer of confession (shown 11/24/01), 3. The prayer of covenant (shown 12/01/01), 4. The prayer of petition (shown 12/08/01), 5. The prayer of intercession (shown 12/15/01), 6. The prayer of adoration (shown 12/22/01), 7. The prayer of healing (shown 12/29/01)
- Loder, James E. Jr. (n.d.) Annotated bibliography of the educational disciplines. Unpublished
- Loder, James E. Jr. & F. LeRon Shults. (1999). Annotated bibliography for practical theology and interdisciplinary method.
Unpublished Addresses, Sermons, Lectures, etc
- Loder, James E. Jr. (1966). Unpublished and untitled address, delivered at the annual spring meeting of the Professors and Researchers in Religious Education section of the National Council of Churches, detailing the hypnagogic imagination
- _______________. (1976) Whitworth Institute (Unable to locate lecture)
- _______________. (1983). The Christian education of our times (paper delivered at the Wyckoff colloquium, May 5, 1983, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- _______________. (1990). The journey of intensification and Christian education. Paper delivered on April 27, 1990 (Unable to discern where this lecture was given).
- _______________. (1992). Research in theology and human development, two volumes (transcription of doctoral seminar PY902 by Dana Wright).
- _______________. (1992). Case study model from PY902
- _______________. (1992). Theology and the human sciences (transcribed discussion from a doctoral seminar by that title, by Dana Wright).
- _______________. (1992). The holy spirit and human transformation (four part lecture delivered at Yongsei University, Seoul, Korea: (1) The dimensions of transformation: The Damascus reality; (2) The dynamics of transformation: The Emmaeus vision; (3) The direction of transformation: The Golgotha mirror; (4) Discernment and transformation: The eye of god).
- _______________. (1993). The crux of Christian education (faculty seminar paper of Princeton Theological Seminary).
- _______________. (1993). Philosophy of education (Transcribed lecture notes from ED by Dana Wright.
- _______________. (1993). Pressing issues facing practical theology in the 21st century. Unpublished lecture given on Oct. 21, 1993 in the Reigner Reading Room.
- _______________. (1993/2000). The educational ministry (unbound ED105 lecture notes, several editions).
- _______________. (1994). Theology of faith and human development (summer course at Fuller Theological Seminary.
- _______________. (1995). Christian education in the spirit of Christ (paper delivered at the annual conference of the National Association of Professors of Christian Education, [NAPCE], Chicago).
- _______________. (1996). Casebook for ED215 (a folder of verbatims)
- _______________. (1999). Theology and human development (ED216 lecture notes).
- _______________. (1999). The relevance of Kierkegaard: Attack on Christendom (1854-55).
- _______________. (1999). Training in Christianity (Seven articles by Loder and his students for ED583, Princeton Theological Seminary). Includes: 1. Works of love, attack on Christendom (M. Riviera), 2. Introduction to Philosophical Fragments (author unknown), 3. Fear and trembling (unknown), 4. The concept of anxiety (unknown), 5. The relevance of Kierkegaard (J. Loder), 6. Training in Christianity (M. Riviera), 7. Jerry Seinfeld and Soren Kierkegaard: Mastering irony: A critique of a classic television show (M. Koenig)
- _______________. (n.d.). Christian spirituality in Christian education.
- _______________. (n.d). Revelation as a way of knowing.
- _______________. (n.d.) Teaching as the act of creation (paper on file for Ed15 course, Educational Psychology).
- _______________. (n.d.) Transformed dialectical hermeneutic (an outline of a method of interpreting experience in relation to Christ’s presence).
- _______________. (n.d.). From organism to universe: Nature and the constructive capacities of the human spirit in Jean Piaget: (A) Piaget, (B) Polanyi (unpublished chapter 5 of Transformational dynamics in Christian education: A study in practical theology).
- _______________. (1993). The educational ministry in the logic of the spirit (bound edition). (Note: There are several unbound drafts of this manuscript in the Loder archives which he developed from his lectures in ED105. These manuscripts are simplified versions of a projected larger work, see below—D.W.).
- _______________. (n.d.). Transformational dynamics in Christian education: A study in practical theology (10 Parts, 22 chapters). (Note: These chapters constitute the original work Loder had in mind for his comprehensive discussion of his fundamental practical theology of Christian education. The manuscript Educational ministry in the logic of the spirit, previous noted, is apparently a simplified version of this work requested by publishers—D.W.).
Section I. From Aristotle to Acts: An introduction to practical theology
Chapter 1. Praxis reenvisioned as Praxeis Apostolon
Chapter 2. Patterns and process in practical theology
Section II. From socialization to transformation: Practical theology in Christian education
Chapter 3. The crux of Christian education
Chapter 4. Historical perspectives on Christian education
Section III. Nature, humanity and god: Foundational positions in practical theology
Chapter 5. From organism to universe: Nature and the constructive capacities of the human spirit in Jean Piaget (A) Piaget; (B) Polanyi
Chapter 6. From ego to spirit: Humanity (A) Freud and Erikson; (B) Luther and the life span
Chapter 7. From human spirit to holy spirit: God (A) Pannenberg; (B) Torrance
Section IV. Life style: The basic unit of Christian education
Chapter 8. Socialized lifestyles: (1) Achievement-orientation; (2) Authoritarian-orienation; (3) Protean-orientation; (4) Oppression-orientation
Chapter 9. Transformation and a Christian style of life: Introduction to an alternative
Section V. The turning point: Transformational dynamics
Chapter 10. The analogy of the spirit
Chapter 11. Transformation of oppression-orientation
Section VI. Transformation of personality
Chapter 12. Theological reinterpretation of ego-psychology
Chapter 13. Transformation of achievement-orientation
Section VII. Transformation of corporate life
Chapter 14. Theological reinterpretation of social behavior
Chapter 15. Transformation of authoritarian-orientation
Section VIII. Transformation of symbol and value
Chapter 16. Theological reinterpretation of enculturation
Chapter 17. Transformation of protean-orientation
Section IX. Transformation in Christian education
Chapter 18. Worship: Liturgy and learning: (1) Learning theory; (2) Liturgy in Reformed tradition
Chapter 19. Teaching and learning: (1) Current approaches; (2) Education of the human spirit for holy spirit
Chapter 20. Curriculum: (1) Current approaches; (3) Vision and design in tension
Section X. Conclusion
Chapter 21. Conclusions for Christian education
Chapter 22. Conclusions for practical theology
Continuing Education Events (*denotes off Princeton campus events)
- _______________. (02/20-23/67). Adult education and the problem of prejudice.
- _______________. (09/30-10/03/74). The place of experience in theology.
- _______________. (02/2-5/76). Experiential theology.
- _______________. (01/31-02/03/77). The place of experience in theology.
- _______________. (01/09-12/78). Relating theology to experience (also titled The place of experience in theology).
- _______________. (11/23-25/81). Aesthetics and Christian education (with Campbell Wyckoff & Freda Gardner).
- _______________. (01/11-14/82). Christian learning and faith formation.
- _______________. (10/25-28/83). *Human development and faith formation (Minneapolis, MN).
- _______________. (01/16-19/84). Kierkegaard’s vision of Christian education.
- _______________. (03/18-22/85). *Human development and faith formation (Winter Park, FL).
- _______________. (01/05-08/87). *Human development and faith formation (Newport Beach, CA).
- _______________. (01/12-15/87). Theology and human development
- _______________. (05/03-06/88). *The creator spirit in faith formation (Seattle, WA).
- _______________. (01/30-02/02/89). Seminar in biblical, spiritual and communication growth (with Patrick Miller and Tom Long).
- _______________. (01/08-10/90). Christian education in a scientific culture.
- _______________. (11/05-07/90). *Christian education and American lifestyles, achievement, authoritarian, the protean and the oppressed (Tulsa, OK),
- Loder, James E. Jr. (n.d.). Belonging to God: A first catechism (with biblical references)
Interviews - Audio-tape
- (2001). Interview of Dr. James E. Loder by Dana Wright (Approximately 8 hours). Held by Dana Wright (transcribed by Daisy Prasadam & Margo Dudak).
Interviews - Video-tape
- (1985). The transforming moment. Interview of Dr. James E. Loder on his book The transforming moment, by Laura Lewis (Austin Theological Seminary) at The Presbyterian School of Christian Education (Approximately 1/2 hour). Held in Reigner Reading Room, Princeton Theological Seminary.
Unpublished Work on Kierkegaard
- Loder’s considerable research on Kierkegaard is held in the Loder Archives at Luce Library and needs the scrutiny of Kierkegaard scholars. There may even be a publishable posthumous work of Loder on Kiekegaard in this vast file.
- Ph.D./D. Min. Dissertations/Theses focused in whole or in part on Loder’s Work Bateson, C. Daniel. (1971). Creativity and religious development: Toward a structural/functional psychology of religion. (Th. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Nichols, John Randall. (1971). Conflict and creativity: The dynamics of the communication process in theological perspective (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Conrad, Robert Leroy. (1975). Christian education and creative conflict: Relations between creative intra-psychic conflict as understood in Luther’s experience and theology and as understood in social psychological theories with conclusions for Christian education principles and practice (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Dykstra, Craig. (1978). Christian education and the moral life: An evaluation of and alternative to Kohlberg/Piaget? (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Schipani, Daniel S. (1981). Conscientization and creativity: A reinterpretation of Paulo Freire, focused on his epistemological and theological foundations with implications for Christian education (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Goldstein, Robert Morris. (1982). On Christian rhetoric: The significance of Soren Kierkegaard’s “Dialectic of Ethical and Ethical-Religious Communication” for philosophical and theological pedagogy (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Tiller, Darryl J. (1983). Pastoral counseling: A means through which god brings salvation to the lives of the people (Doctoral dissertation, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, advisor David Steere.).
- Johnson, Susanne. (1984). Religious experience as creative, revelatory and transforming event: the implications of intense Christian experience for the Christian educational process (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Moyer, David Lloyd. (1984). Making Christ our head: the transformation of a parish environment (D. Min. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Krych, Margaret Anne. (1985). Communicating ‘justification’ to elementary-age children: A study in Tillich’s correlational method and transformational narrative for Christian education (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Harkey, Martin Luther, III. (1985). A theology for the ministry of volunteers: with reference to Calvin’s doctrine of vocation, and with particular focus on developing leadership for Christian education in the congregation (Moltmann, Laity, Calling) (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).Heywood, David S. (1989). Revelation and Christian learning (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Durham).
- Frykberg, Elizabeth Anne. (1990) Spiritual transformation and the creation of humankind in the image of God, male and female: a study of Karl Barth’s understanding of the “analogia relationis” correlated with psychosexual and psychosocial developmental theory (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Hess, Carol Lakey. (1990). Educating in the Spirit (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Hess, Ernest P. (1991). Christian identity and openness: A theologically informed hermeneutical approach to Christian education (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Rogers, Frank, Jr. (1991) Karl Barth’s faith epistemology of the spirit as a critical constructive framework for Christian education (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Wigger, James Bradley. (1992). Texture and Trembling: A theological inquiry into perception and learning (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Cook, Carol Jean. (1994). Singing a new song: relationality as a context for identity development, growth in faith, and Christian education (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Martin, Robert Keith. (1995). The incarnate ground of Christian education: the integration of epistemology and ontology in the thought of Michael Polanyi and Thomas F. Torrance (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Reese, Daniel Brian. (1995). The feast of wisdom: Thomas Merton’s vision and practice of a sapiential education (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Lee, Kyoo-Min. (1996). Koinonia: A critical study of Lewis Sherrill’s concept of koinonia and Jurgen Moltmann’s social understanding of the trinity as an attempt to provide a corrective to the problems of the Korean church and its educational ministry (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Pooler, Alfred D. (1996). Images that move us: The power of metaphor in spiritual transformation (Doctoral dissertation, Catholic Theological Union, Robert Schreiter, advisor).
- Spencer, Gary Allen. (1996). A study of the founders at Suntree United Methodist Church (Congregation, Florida) (D. Min. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Turner, David. (1996). Story and vision: shared praxis in service to an institutional mission (Roman Catholic, Rule of St Benedict, values) (D. Min. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Brown, Sanford Webster. (1997). Creating and testing a church curriculum resource for the study of men’s spirituality based on the Jacob to Israel story (D. Min. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Kuentzel, John Douglas. (1999). The ethic of care and Christian education: implications for the theory and practice of Christian education (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Wright, Dana Rogan. (1999). Ecclesial theatrics. Toward a reconstruction of evangelical Christian education theory as critical dogmatic practical theology: The relevance of a second ‘Barthian reckoning’ for reconceiving the evangelical Protestant educational imagination at the metatheoretical level (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary (especially chapter four).
- Fredrickson, Johnna Lee. (2000). Iconic Christian education: Pointing to and participating in the reality of God (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Fairless, John Patrick. (2001). The meaning of the meal (D. Min. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Forster-Smith, Lucy Ann. (2001). A grammar of transformation: Language used by non-religiously affiliated college students in describing life-changing experiences (D. Min. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary)
- Hess, Lisa Maguire. (2001). Practices in a new key: Human knowing in musical and practical theological perspective (Edwin Gordon, Howard Gardner, Hildegard of Bingen) (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Frawley, Matthew J. (2001). Soren Kierkegaard’s Christian anthropology and the relation between his pseudonymous and religious writings (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Buckles, Susan, M. (2001). The perichoretic ministry of the holy spirit in formation and transformation of persons in the thought of James E. Loder and Thomas F. Torrance (Doctoral dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary).
- Kovacs, Kenneth. (2003). The relational phenomenological pneumatology of James E. Loder: Providing new frameworks for the Christian life. (Doctoral dissertation, St. Andrews University).
- Hastings, Thomas. (2004). Practical theology and the one body of Christ: Toward a missional-ecumenical model (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Boyd-MacMillan, Eolene. (2004). Christian transformation: An engagement with James E. Loder, mystical spirituality, and James Hillman (Doctoral dissertation, Cambridge University).**Boyd-
- MacMillan, Ron. (200?). Untitled, the theme being transformation in preaching, with special reference to the void (Doctoral dissertation, University of Aberdeen).
- **Prasadam, Ajit. (200?). Untitled, the theme being transformational curriculum in the context of caste systems in Indian context. (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary (In progress)
Discussions of Loder’s Work in Books, Chapters, Journals & Unpublished Papers or Notes from Loder’s Lectures
- Adams, Marilyn McCord. (2004). Biting and chomping our salvation: Eucharistic presence, radically reconceived. In D.R. Wright @ J.D. Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter two.
- Anderson, Paul. (1995). The christology of the fourth gospel: Its unity and disunity in light of John six. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International Press, chapters 3 & 4,esp. pp. 148-151 & 185-186.
- Barker, Patrick. (1995). The relevance of James Loder’s grammar of transformation for pastoral care and counseling. In Journal of Pastoral Care, 49 (summer), pp. 158-166.
- Batson, C. Daniel, Beker, J. Christiaan, & Clark W. Malcom. (1973). Commitment without ideology: The experience of Christian growth. Philadelphia, PA: Pilgrim Press. “The seeds for many of our ideas lie in the work of James E. Loder” (from the acknowledgments, p. 9).
- Batson, C. Daniel & Larry Ventis. (1982). The religious experience: A social-psychological study. New York, NY: Oxford Press.
- Batson, C.D., L. Ventis & P. Schoenrade. (1993). Religion and the individual: A social-psychological perspective. New York, NY: Oxford Press. A reprint of The religious experience.
- Berryman, Jerome, Richard Davies & Henry Simmons. (1981). Comments on the articles by Eugene J. Mischey. In Character potential: A record of research, 9 (n.), pp. 175-191 (Reprinted in Astley, J & Francis, L. (1992) Christian perspective on faith development (Pp. 192-200). Leominster, England/Grand Rapids, MI: Gracewing/Eerdmans.
- Boyd-MacMillan, Eolene. (2004). Loder and mystical spirituality: Particularity, universality and intelligence. In D. R. Wright & J. D. Kuentzel (Eds.) Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter 14.
- ____________________. (2004). Birth pangs of a new discipline. In Journal of the Council of the Societies for the Study of Religion (forthcoming).
- ____________________. (2004). Ego-relativisation in mystical theology. In The Way (forthcoming).
- Bube, Richard. (1993). The “strange loop” of complementarity (review essay on The knight’s move). In Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 45 (Dec.) pp. 270-271.
- Dean, Kenda Creasy. (2004). Practicing passion: Youth and the quest for a passionate church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
- Dykstra, Craig. (1981). Vision and character: A Christian educator’s alternative to Kohlberg. New York: Paulist Press, (chapter three)
- ____________. (1982). Transformation in faith and morals (review article on The transforming moment). In Theology Today, 39 (Apr.), pp. 56-64.
- ____________. (1999). Growing in the faith: Education and Christian practices. Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, especially chapter three).
- Dykstra, Craig & Sharon Parks. (1986). Faith development and Fowler. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press, pp. 41, 42, 63, 151-154.
- Erdman, Daniel (1983). Liberation and identity: Indo-Hispano youth. In Religious Education, 78 (1), pp. 76-89 (see in particular page 86).
- Faber, Heije. (1982). Zicht op de structuur van de godsdienstige ervaring: twee boeken (J. E. Loder; J. Scharfenberg and H. Kampfer). In Nederlands Theolische Tijdschrift, 36 (Oct.), pp. 311-331.
- Frawley, Matthew. (2000). Loder on Kierkegaard. In Princeton Theological Review, Spring/Summer, pp. 8-16.
- Frykberg, Elizabeth. (1993). Karl Barth’s theological anthropology: An analogical critique regarding gender relations. Studies in reformed theology and history, 1 (3), 1-54.
- Gaventa, William C. (1986). Singing the lord’s song in a foreign land: A theoretical foundation for growth and education in the CPE process. In Journal of Supervision and Training in Ministry, 8, pp. 21-32.
- Grannell, Andrew. (1985). The paradox of formation and transformation. In Religious Education, 80 (Summer), pp. 384-398.
- Groome, Thomas. (1983). Old task: Urgent challenge. Response to William Kennedy, Pursuing peace and justice. A challenge to religious educators. In Religious Education, 78 (4), pp. 477ff.
- Haitch, Russell. (2004). Teaching in the spirit: James E. Loder’s theory of Christian education. In D. R. Wright & J. D. Kuentzel (Eds.) Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter eleven.
- ____________. (2004). Trampling down death by death: Double negation in developmental theory and baptismal theology. In D. R. Wright & J. D. Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter one.
- Hastings, Thomas. (2004). George Lindbeck and Thomas F. Torrance on Christian language and the knowledge of god. In D.R. Wright & J.D. Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr.. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter nine.
- Heywood, David. (1986). Piaget and faith development. In the British Journal of Religious Education, 8 (2), pp. 72-78, reprinted in Astley, J & Francis, L (1992) Christian perspectives on faith development (pp. 153-162). Leominster, England/Grand Rapids, MI:: Gracewing/Eerdmans.
- Hess, Carol Lackey. (1991). Educating in the spirit. Religious Education, 86 (3), pp. 383-398.
- _______________. (1996). Educating in the spirit. In Christian Education in Theological Perspective. Astley, Jeffrey, Crowder (eds) Leominster: England/Grand Rapids: MI: Gracewing/ Erdmans (reprint of Educating in the spirit).
- Johnson, Susanne. (1985). Christian spiritual formation in the church and classroom. Nashville, TN: Abingdon (chapter 7).
- ______________. (2004). Remembering the poor: Transforming Christian practice. In D.R. Wright & J.D. Kuentzel (Eds.) Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter seven.
- Kaiser, Christopher. (1996). Quantum complementarity and Christological dialectic (pp. 291-298). In W. Mark Richardson & Wesley J. Wildman, Religion and science: History, method, dialogue. New York: Routledge.
- Koenig, Matthew. (2000). Essays in honor of James E. Loder (introduction). Princeton Theological Review, p. 3.
- Krych, Margaret. (1987). Teaching the gospel today: A guide for education in the congregation. Minneapolis: Augsburg (esp. chapters four and five).
- _____________. (2004). Transformational narrative in a non-transformational tradition. In D.R. Wright & J. D. Kuentzel (Eds), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter ten.
- Kuentzel, John D. (2004). The Heidegger in Loder (Or, How the nothing became the void): Provoking wonder in education, In D.R. Wright & J.D. Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter thirteen.
- Kunz, Sandra. (circa 1975). Notes on Loder’s course on Christian marriage.
- Lumsden, Scott. (2000). Theology that matters! James Loder’s significance for pastoral ministry. Princeton Theological Review, pp. 4-7.
- Martin, Robert K. (2004). Leadership and serendipitous discipleship: A case study of congregational transformation. In D.R. Wright & J.D. Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter five.
- McClure, John S. (2004). The way of love: Loder, Levinas and ethical transformation through preaching. In D.R. Wright & J.D. Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr.. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter three.
- Mezirow, Jack. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
- ____________. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 26-27, 163-164.
- Morton, Nelle. (1967). Review Article: James Loder: Religious pathology and the Christian faith. Princeton Seminary Bulletin, LX (2) old series, pp. 74-83.
- Nelson, C. Ellis. (1989). How faith matures. Louisville: Westminister/John Knox, p. 94.
- Osmer, Richard R. (1990). James W. Fowler and the Reformed tradition: An exercise in theological reflection in religious education (pp. 51-68). Religious Education, 85 (1).
- _______________. (1997). Rationality in practical theology. A map of the emerging discussion. In the International Journal of Practical Theology, 1 (1), pp. 11-40.
- _______________ & Fredrich Schweitzer. (2003). Religious education between modernization and globalization: New perspectives on the United States and Germany. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
- Parks, Sharon. (1986). The critical years: Young adults and the search for meaning, faith and commitment. San Francisco: Harper & Row, pp. 116-132.
- ___________. (2000). Big questions, worthy dreams: Mentoring young adults in their search for meaning, purpose, and faith. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, chapter 7, 104-126.
- ___________. (1986). Imagination and spirit in faith development: A way past the structure-content dichotomy (Pp. 137-156). In Dykstra, C & Sharon Parks (Eds), Faith development and Fowler. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press, esp. pp. 151-2.
- Pazmino, Robert. (2001). God our teacher: Theological basics in Christian education. Grand Rapids: Baker (pp. 47, 60, 88, 101, 109).
- Rhodes, J. Steve. (1986). Conversion as crisis and process: A comparison of two models. In Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 5 (3), pp. 20-27.
- Schipani, Daniel. (1984). Conscientization and creativity: Paulo Freire and Christian education. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
- ______________ (1988). Religious education encounters liberation theology. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press, especially chapter 1 & pp. 109, 114, 152, 208, 247 and 260.
- ______________. (2003). The way of wisdom in pastoral counseling…Get details Schneider, Stephen V. (1988). “Eucharistic knowing.” Unpublished paper, from Loder’s reserve reading list.
- Shults, F. LeRon. (1997). Structures of rationality in science and theology: Overcoming the postmodern dilemma. In Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Vol. 49 (4), pp. 228-236.
- ______________. (1997). “Holding on” to the theology-psychology relationship: The underlying fiduciary structures of interdisciplinary method. In Journal of Psychology and Theology, Vol. 25 (3), pp. 329-340.
- ______________. (1999). The postfoundationalist task of theology: Wolfhart Pannenberg and the new theological rationality. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, especially chapter 4.
- ______________. (1999). Pedagogy of the repressed: What keeps seminarians from transformational learning? In Theological Education, Vol. 36 (1), pp. 157-169.
- ______________. (2000) One spirit with the lord. In Princeton Seminary Review, Vol. 7 (2), pp. 17-26.
- ______________. (2003). The faces of forgiveness: Searching for wholeness and salvation. With Steven Sandage. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, pp. 45-51; 121f.
- ______________. (2003). Reforming theological anthropology: After the philosophical turn to relationality. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, especially chapters 3 & 4.
- ______________. (2004). The philosophical turn to relationality and the responsibility of practical theology. In D.R. Wright & J.D. Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr.. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter twelve.
- Thomas, Harold R. (1999). Conversion process: James E. Loder in missiological perspective. In C. van Engen, N. Thomas, & R. Gallagher (Eds.), Footprints of god: A narrative theology of mission (Pp. 5-18). Monrovia, CA: MARC World Vision.
- Webster, Derek. (1984). James Fowler’s theory of faith development. British Journal of Religious Education, 8 (2), pp. 79-83, reprinted in Astley, J & Francis, L (1992) Christian Perspectives on Faith Development (pp. 77-84). Leominster, England/Grand Rapids, MI: Gracewing/Eerdmans.
- Welton, Michael. (1993). Seeing the light: Christian conversion and conscientization. In Peter Jarvis & Nicholas Walters (Eds.), Adult Education and Theological Interpretations (105-123). Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Co.Wright, Dana. (2004). Afterward: The potential contribution of James E. Loder to practical theology. In Wright, Dana & John Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Festschrift in honor of James E. Loder Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
- _________________. “Are you there?”: Practical theology as comedic interrogation in the life and witness of James E. Loder. Introduction to Wright, Dana & John Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Festschrift in honor of James E. Loder Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
- ___________. (2002). The contemporary renaissance in practical theology in the United States: The past, present and future of a discipline in creative ferment. International Journal of Practical Theology. Vol 6 (3), pp. 289-320.
- ____________. (2004). Paradigmatic madness and redemptive creativity in practical theology: A biblical interpretation of the theological significance of James E. Loder’s Neo-Chalcedonian Science for the postmodern context. In D.R. Wright & J. D. Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr.. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter eight.
- ____________ (with Kenda Creasy Dean). (2004). Youth, passion and intimacy in the context of koinonia: James E. Loder’s contribution to a practical theology of imitatio Christi for youth ministry. In D.R. Wright & J. D. Kuentzel (Eds.), Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr.. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, chapter six.
- Wright, Dana R. & John D. Kuentzel (Eds.). (2004). Redemptive transformation in practical theology: Essays in honor of James E. Loder, Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (includes select bibliography).
- Research Entries (CD Rom)Wright, Dana R.. (2004). James E. Loder Jr. (1931-2001). Research entry, in Kevin Lawson (Gen. Ed.), Christian educators of the 20th century. Includes biographical essay, exhaustive bibliography, annotated bibliography, essay on the contribution of Loder to Christian education, and photographs.
Reviews of Loder’s Books
- Stendahl, Krister. (1963). Summaries of doctoral dissertations. In Harvard Theological Review 57, p. 89.
- S. Rosen. (1966). Religion in the public schools. In Journal of Church and State, 8 (2), pp. 299-300.
- Green, John R. (1966). Religious pathology and the Christian faith. In The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, LIX (2) old series, pp. 66-67.
- Rosen, S. (1966). Religion in the public schools. In Journal of Church and State, 8 (Spr.), pp. 299-300.
- Morton, Nelle. (1967). Review Article: Religious pathology and the Christian faith. In The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, LX (2) old series, pp. 74-83.
- Deconchy, Jean-Pierre. (1968). Religious pathology and Christian faith. In Archives de Sociologie des Religions, 13 (Ja.- June), pp. 211-212.
- Outler, Albert. (1968). Religious pathology and the Christian faith. In Theology Today
- Gay, Volney. (1981). The transforming moment. In Living Light 18, pp. 276-77.
- Smith, J. (1981). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. In Religious Education, 76 (Nov./Dec.), pp. 676-677.
- Brownell, T. (1982). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. In Epiphany, 3 (1), pp. 90-93.
- Dykstra, Craig. (1982). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. In The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 3 (3) new series, pp. 339-341.
- Hunt, R. A. (1982). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. In Pastoral Psychology, 30 (Summer), pp. 194-196.
- Philibert, P. J. (1982). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. In Horizons, 9 (Fall), pp. 390-391.
- Russell, J. F. (1982). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. In Theological Studies, 43 (Mar.), p. 185.
- Faber, H. (1982). The Transforming Moment: Understanding Convictional Experiences. In Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 36, pp.311-331.
- Dorrien, G. J. (1983). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. In Sojourners, 12 (Fall), pp. 36-38.
- Dunlap, P. C. (1983). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. In Journal of Supervision and Training in Ministry, 6, pp. 234-235.
- Fuller, R. C. (1983). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. In Zygon, 18 (Dec.), pp. 463-464.
- McClendon, J. W. (1983). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. In Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 51 (Mar.), p. 127.
- Fiet, Thom. (1990). The transforming moment (2nd ed.). In Reformed Review, 44 (Wint), p. 170.
- McKenna, John. (1991). The transforming moment (2nd ed.). Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 43 (Summer), pp. 199-201.
- Rogers, Frank. (1991). The transforming moment (2nd ed.). Religious Education, 86 (Spr), pp. 323-325.
- Wright, Dana R. (1992). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In Koinonia, 4 (Fall), pp. 273-276.
- Bube, Richard H. (1993). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 45, 270-271.
- Buis, Harry. (1993). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In Reformed Review, 47 (Autumn), p. 64.
- Carlson, Richard. (1996). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In Zygon 31, pp. 731-735.
- Durbin, William. (1993). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 5 (1 & 2), pp. 193-195.
- Reich, K. Helmut. (1993). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In CTNS Bulletin, 13 (spr), pp. 20-23.
- Alsford, Mike. (1994). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In Science and Christian Belief, 6 (Oct) pp. 133-134.
- Palmer, Michael (1994). The Knight's Move: The Relational Logic of the Spirit in theology and science. In Paraclete 28 (Spr), pp. 30-32.
- Haught, John F. (1995). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 63 (pring), pp. 168-169.
- Richardson, W. Mark. (1995). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 16 (3) new series, pp. 345-347.
- Torrance, Thomas F. (1995). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In The Scottish Journal of Theology, 48 (1), pp. 139-140.
- Ivy, Steven S. (1999). The logic of the spirit: human development in theological perspective. In Journal of Pastoral Care, 53 (Wint) pp. 495-496.
- Torrance, Thomas F (1999). The logic of the spirit: human development in theological perspective, In Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 20 (3), pp. 316-317
- Carlson, Richard (2000). The knight’s move: Relational logic in theology and science. In Zygon, 31 (pp. 731-735).
- Flett, Eric G (2000). The logic of the spirit: human development in theological perspective, In Christian Scholar's Review, 29 (3), pp. 622-623
- Frohlich, Mary (2000). The logic of the spirit: human development in theological perspective. In Horizons, 27 (1), pp. 213-215.
- Bregman, Lucy (2000). The logic of the spirit: human development in theological perspective. In Journal of Religion, 80 (4), pp. 689-691.
Recorded Audio Interviews on James E. Loder and his work (all transcribed by Daisy Prasadam and held by Dana Wright)
- Marilyn Adams (June 12, 2002) with Dana Wright.
- Kim Loder Engelmann. (June 26, 2002) with Dana Wright.
- Elizabeth Frykberg. (June 27, 2002) with Dana Wright.
- Margaret Krych, (August 2, 2002) with Dana Wright.
- Randy Nichols. (July 29, 2002) with Dana Wright.
- Frank Rogers. (June 28, 2002) with Dana Wright.
- D. Campbell Wyckoff. (July 2, 2002) with Dana Wright.
Announcements, Tributes or Memorials
- Alumni News. (1981). Synnott chair (announcement of Loder’s appointment to the Mary Synnott Chair).
- __________. (1981). Transformation (announcement of the publication of The transforming moment), p. 4.
- Chaapel, Barbara. (2002). A Transforming Life: James Edwin Loder, December 5, 1931-November 9, 2001. Inspire, 6 (3), p. 18.
- Englemann, Kim (Loder). (2002). Remembering Dr. James Loder as father: Reflections on the moments we shared. Princeton Seminary Bulletin, XXIII (1) new series, pp. 67-70.
- Gaskill, William. (2002). A work of love in the presence of an absence. Princeton Seminary Bulletin, XXIII (1) new series, pp. 65-66.
- Gillespie, Thomas. (2002). Words of welcome. Princeton Seminary Bulletin, XXIII (1) new series, p. 64.
- Gardner, Freda. (2002). Memorial minute, Princeton Seminary Bulletin, XXIII (2) new series, pp. 188-194 (Based on the tribute to James E. Loder, given at the faculty meeting, February 13, 2002).
- Hess, Lisa. (2002). A Transforming Life: Apostle of the living light. Inspire, 6 (3), p. 19.
- Tiss, Tamara (Loder). (2002). James Loder: Our Christlike father and gracious friend. Princeton Seminary Bulletin, XXIII (1) new series, pp. 71-74.
- Wright, Dana. (2002). Prophetic practical theology as testimony: A Loder legacy? Inspire, 6 (3), pp. 20-21.
- ___________. (2002). Ruination unto redemption in the spirit: A short biography of a reformed Awise guy. Princeton Seminary Bulletin, XXIII (1) new series, pp. 75-85.
- ___________. (2002). What has Athens and Jerusalem to do with Galilee? A tribute to James E. Loder. Templeton Foundation/Princeton Seminary workshop on Spirituality and the Adolescent (unpublished).
Dissertations Supervised by James E. Loder
- Roberts, William Lloyd. (1970). The supervisory alternative to the custodial contract in the educational ministry (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Batson, C. Daniel. (1971). Creativity and religious development: Toward a structural/functional psychology of religion (Th.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Nichols, J. Randall. (1971). Conflict and creativity: The dynamics of the communication process in theological perspective (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Conrad, Robert Leroy. (1975). Christian education and creative conflict: Relations between creative intra-psychic conflict as understood in Luther’s experience and theology and as understood in social psychological theories with conclusions for Christian education principles and practice (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Dykstra, Craig. (1978). Christian education and the moral life: An evaluation of and alternative to Kohlberg/Piaget? (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Schipani, Daniel S. (1981). Conscientization and creativity: A reinterpretation of Paulo Freire, focused on his epistemological and theological foundations with implications for Christian education (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Goldstein, Robert Morris. (1982). On Christian rhetoric: The significance of Soren Kierkegaard’s “Dialectic of Ethical and Ethical-Religious Communication” for philosophical and theological pedagogy (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Johnson, Susanne. (1983). Religious experience as creative, revelatory and transforming event: The implications of intense Christian experience for the Christian education process (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Cram, Ronald Hugh. (1984). Cultural pluralism and Christian education: Laura Thompson’s design for anthropology and its use in Christian education for ethnic groups. (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- McClure, John. (1984). Preaching and the pragmatics of human/divine communication in the liturgy of the word in the western church: A semiotic and practical theological study (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Ford-Grabowsky, Mary E. (1985). The concept of Christian faith in the light of Hildegard of Bingen and C.G. Jung: Critical alternatives to Fowler (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Krych, Margaret. (1985). Communicating “justification” to elementary-age children: A study in Tillich’s correlational method and transformational narrative for Christian education (Doctoral dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Ruiz, Lester Edwin Jainga. (1985). Toward a transformative politics: A quest for authentic political personhood (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Croteau-Chonka, Clarisse C. (1987). Intuition: A paradigm of the wholeness necessary for holiness and its relationship to Christian education (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Shoberg, Georgia Helen. (1987). Salvation, sanctification, and individuation: A study of the relationship between Jungian individuation and new testament views of salvation and sanctification (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Frykberg, Elizabeth A. (1989). Spiritual transformation and the creation of humankind in the image of God, male and female: A study of Karl Barth’s understanding of the “analogia relationis” correlated with psychosexual and psychosocial development theory (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Hess, Carol L. (1990). Educating in the Spirit (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Proffitt, Anabel C. (1990). The technological mindset in twentieth-century American religious education curriculum (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Hess, Ernest P. (1991). Christian identity and openness: A theologically informed hermeneutical approach to Christian education (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Rogers, Frank. (1991). Karl Barth’s faith epistemology of the spirit as a critical and constructive framework for Christian education (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Reese, Daniel Bryan. (1995). The feast of wisdom: Thomas Merton’s vision and practice of a sapiential education (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Martin, Robert K. (1995). The incarnate ground of Christian education: The integration of epistemology and ontology in the thought of Michael Polanyi and Thomas F. Torrance (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Lee, Kyoo Min. (1996). Koinonia: A critical study of Lewis Sherrill’s concept of Koinonia and Jurgen Moltmann’s social understanding of the Trinity as an attempt to provide a corrective to the problems of the Korean church and its educational ministry (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Kuentzel, John D. (1999). The ethic of care and Christian education: Implications for the theory and practice of Christian education (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Wright, Dana. (1999). Ecclesial theatrics: Toward a reconstruction of evangelical Christian education theory as critical dogmatic practical theology. (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary), esp. chapter four.
- Fredrickson, Johnna Lee. (2000). Iconic Christian education: Pointing to and participating in the reality of god (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- *Frawley, Matthew J. (2001). Soren Kierkegaard’s Christian anthropology and the relation between his pseudonymous and religious writings (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary)
- (*NOTE: By special arrangement, Loder supervised this dissertation even though Dr. D. Allen was technically the advisor).
- *Haitch, Russell. (2002). Baptizing and preaching: Three theological positions and their educational significance (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary) (*NOTE: Haitch finished his dissertation under the advisorship of R. Osmer).
Other Dissertations/Theses with Loder on the Committee
- Long, Thomas Grier. (1980). Narrative structure as applied to biblical preaching: A method for using the narrative grammar of A. J. Greimas in the development of sermons on biblical narratives (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Childs, Brian Henry. (1981). Forgiveness in community in light of Pauline literature and the experience among pre-school children (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Miller, Cynthia Sexton. (1992). Pastoral care and counseling with adult children of divorce: the mediation of faith as a basis for intimacy after betrayal (children of divorce) (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Bulkley, Patricia. (1996). Pre-death dreams and visions: a study of their religious significance (D. Min. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary)
- Berryman, Jerome Woods. (1996). Re-centering Christian communication for children: the parables (Kindergarten, Fifth Grade) (D. Min. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary).
- Brown, Sanford Webster. (1997). Creating and testing a church curriculum resource for the study of men’s spirituality based on the Jacob to Israel story (D. Min. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary)
- Shults, Fount LeRon. (1999). Sub ratione Dei: Wolfhart Pannenberg’s theological anthropology and the postfoundationalist task of theology (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary).
Curriculums based upon Loder’s transformational paradigm
- Frykberg, Elizabeth (Chief Ed.) & Ajit Prasadem (Assoc. Ed.). (1997-2000). Windows to encounter. Workbooks and teacher’s guides for grades k-10. India Sunday School Union.
Excerpts from Publications
(1982/1989). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. San Francisco: Harper & Row. (revised 2nd edition, including two additional chapters and a glossary. Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard).
On the need for transforming the ego to understand transformation itself theologically
Transformation is not merely a synonym for positive change. Rather, in occurs whenever, within a given frame of reference or experience, hidden orders of coherence and meaning emerge to alter the axioms of the given frame and reorder its elements accordingly…the human spirit [generally operates] under the agency of the human ego, which does not itself undergo transformation. Let us suppose that the conflicted situation, vacuum, or void was endemic to the ego itself. Then, would this patterned process still pertain? The basic answer…[is] “yes,” but in such cases the logic of transformation is transposed to the level of divine action. In this the Holy Spirit as Spiritus Creator, whose mission begins and ends in the inner life of God, transforms the human ego—and by implication, then, all human transformations which issue from the ego are themselves transformed (4, second edition).
On the need to focus on the “how” of the Holy Spirit’s transforming work
Theology, in contrast to the human sciences, has concentrated on what to believe and has paid relatively less attention to how one comes to believe what is theologically sound. Most of the theological answers to how have either been subtly turned into questions of what or they have been relegated to the Holy Spirit. However, of all doctrines central to Christianity, that one is the most ill-defined, fraught with mystery, and lost in confusion. How the Holy Spirit teaches, comforts, afflicts, and leads into “all truth” is largely a theological blank. Yet, notice—it has substance enough to be threatening. If one claims to have had an experience of the Holy Spirit, he or she is immediately suspected of becoming theologically unsound. This sort of threat and suspicion is a case of ignorance controlling orthodoxy and indicates a state of affairs that ought not to continue (20, second edition).On the analogia spiritus as the theological link between divine and human action ….an analogical relationship between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit is the key to convictional knowing, yet it is not a relationship that has often been spelled out. Between two things considered to be analogous, there is both a likeness and a difference. I am suggesting that between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit, the likeness is established by the logic of transformation. The same pattern applies to both, but it is transposed from one level to another, making the human spirit conformable to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit intelligible to the human. The difference is that on the human level, the ungrounded self is seen as the origin and destiny of the human spirit, but on the divine level human transformations are transformed and the origin and destiny of the Holy Spirit is the Holy One. The process of transformation characterizes spirit generally…, but this analogy becomes actual and historical only through Christ…(94, second edition).
On intimacy with Christ as the core constituent of convictional experience
The essence of convictional knowing is the intimacy of the self with its Source. The breakdown of the eternal distance between them, the establishment of the internal dialogue, the illumination of Christ, the shared joy of Christ and the thrust into the people and culture of Christ, together constitute the shape of that intimacy. This is the form of the ongoing spiritual communion into which convictional experiences call the believer, not once but again and again throughout life (122, second edition).
(1992). The knight’s move: The relational logic of the spirit in theology and science. Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard. On the need to enhance dialogue between theology and the human sciences
…the central concern behind this study is not a critique of culture. It is rather an interdisciplinary search for ways, models, and patterns by which we can approach the inherent order of creation and facilitate some reintegration of the fragmented fields of study in our culture. Specifically, theology and science qua science need to find new grounds for dialogue that will reach into their common epistemological concerns and restore what was once, contrary to popular opinion, a profoundly rich reciprocity between theological concepts of creation and the scientific study of nature (7)….The indisruptible unity of God and humanity in Jesus Christ requires that the spiritual and the material, visible and invisible, the transcendent and the immanent be understood together and as mutually corrective, enriching, and informing of each other (9).
On the need to develop a fuller doctrine of the Holy Spirit in relation to God’s self-knowing
Historically, when the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was formulated, it was not brought as fully into expression as were the doctrines of the Father and the Son….we suggest [reflection on the Holy Spirit remains neglected] because theological reflection on the person and mission of the Holy Spirit has not taken sufficient notice that spiritual action in the world may require somewhat different forms of reflection than are required for talk of the Father or the Son….the Holy Spirit, interpreted as Divine self-knowing, is more elusive than Source (Father) or Manifestation (Son), since it presupposes them both but dynamically returns each to itself and both to each other in deepening illumination (1 Cor.2:10). The Spirit is…the “go-between God” who participates in the Trinity as the third person who, proceeding from both the Father and Son, is also the relationship between them. For human nature, to partake in this Spirit is to participate in the inner life of God. Thus, statements of dialectical unity (e.g. one person, two natures; three persons, one essence; creatio ex nihilo of the natural order as simultaneously contingent and independent; human nature as both dead yet alive; God fully present yet coming; human relationships as mutual creation of each other in mutual coinherence) only genuinely illuminate creation, human existence, and the Divine nature if they are understood from within the inner life of God; that is, by God’s Spirit according to God’s self-knowledge…Historically, those devout minds of the conciliar church…did not so perceptively turn back and catch their Mentor in the act of teaching. They saw more clearly the consequences of the Spirit’s action, the results of the Spirit’s mission, than the character or nature of the Person in relation to their own spirits (21f).
On living in the complementarity between eternity and time according to the nature of Christ
In terms of human nature, Kierkegaard stated the opposition between thought and being in temporal terms: “We think backward but we live forward.” For him this was overcome only in “the leap,” and it was overcome decisively for continuing life only in “the leap of faith.” That is, if we are to think in a way that simultaneously catches the forward movement of the living Agent of thought, we will have something like a 180 [degree] twist of timelessness at the center of our being. Around this point we can leap forward and turn backward at the same time, simultaneously using the past to catch hold of the future even as the future makes the past obsolete…To live in the complemenarity between eternity and existence, which only faith makes possible, is to live fully embedded in time and always beyond it but without a sense of contradiction. This is to live in the Spirit of Christ, whose transcendence and immanence constitutes a perfect unity (119).
On the impact of the God-man to intensify the human passion for coherence
The Absolute Paradox of the God-man, Jesus, works in three ways to increase passion and thus to allow the inner vision of Christ to emerge with wholistic (sic) power. First, it contradicts the existential dichotomy that…pertains between human finitude and the infinite God…second….it declares all that led up to this paradox to be the passionate discovery of Error…[human existence]…is a fault…third, [the] offensiveness of the God-man is this: he presumes to bestow himself upon the individual and recompose the individual’s nature in accordance with his own. In the language of the intensification model, the God-man will become the inner vision in whom God and humanity form a complex bisociation….It is the passion for this coherence that represents a transformation of all other passions and visions….Further, if the God-man vision does bestow itself, the result is the self-transcendence of faith. The self is disembedded from the ego’s world and transparently grounded in the imageless Unity of God: the “Power that posited the self,” to repeat Kierkegaard’s language….the God-man has…become his inner vision. That is, he manifests a detached involvement with his world that allows him to have a non-possessive delight in particularity and a fascination with the ordinary as a bearer of the extraordinary, which is characteristic of the fourth phase of intensification as it returns transformed to reappropriate the Aesthetic, the ego’s world, in light of the vision (278f).
(1998). The logic of the spirit: Human development in theological perspective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. On the new creation in Christ as the criterion of human transformation
…the analogy of the Spirit that ultimately calls for a transformation of the human spirit makes it clear that beyond imago dei and sin as basic anthropological categories, a third category must be added: the new creation in Christ. Although this might seem to be a sub-category under imago dei, the image restored, from an anthropological standpoint, significant changes in the structure of human nature occur that need to be accounted for both theologically and psychologically. Whether one speaks of justification and sanctification, conversion and walking in the Spirit, or new being and the life in Christ, a category in which nearness to God and distance from God are combined in a dialectical identity, such as “I-not-I-but-Christ” or “I-not-I-but the Father,” must be laid out and discussed. Indeed, it is only from this standpoint that we can finally, freely, and adequately address the issue of the “I” in the dominant question of this book, “Why do I live it?” (36).
On Loder’s definition of true love and the purifying power of love
…love implies a nonpossessive delight in the particularity of the other one (266)…. What seems evident from the standpoint of the dialectical identity as moral agent is that agape is not the highest form of love because it is self-sacrificial but because it is holy and pure and has the power of purity in its encounter with the impurities in creation, including death. Thus, the transforming power of love has its integrity not in sacrifice but in the purification of any context where the impurities of human existence have stifled the human spirit, choking off the prospect for experiencing the communion-creating presence of Jesus Christ (270).
(1974). The fashioning of power: A Christian perspective on the life-style phenomenon. In A. McKelway & E. D. Willis (Eds.), The context of contemporary theology (Festschrift in honor of Paul Lehmann) (pp. 187-208). Atlanta: John Knox. On conviction as the core of life-style
In the achievement-oriented style theological culture characteristic of the Protestant reformed tradition serves to sacralize a distinctively self-destructive pattern. Christian symbols are important to other styles as well. To speak of a Christian style of life is not simply to speak of a particular symbols system which may be case like a sacred canopy over a variety of dynamic patterns. Rather it is to point to a particular alteration of the core structure which changes the total pattern (194).…Christian conviction is more than awareness. It is the act of God which does not alter the achieving potential so much as it restores the freedom to choose for or against achieving. In Christian conversion the achieving ego does not collapse, but latent patterns such as those demanding achievement lose their compulsive tendency and their power to suppress choice. The definitive core of the Christian style is conviction (195).
(1980). Negation and transformation: A study in theology and human development. In Christaine Brusselmans, et al., Toward moral and religious maturity (pp. 166-190). Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett Co. On double negation as central to the transformation of transformation
A central notion of this chapter is “negation of negation” as the key to transformation. But this is meant the fashion in which problematic times, periods of infinite difficulty and void, are met by an integrative power of sufficient magnitude to bring the fragments of the original brokenness into a new and higher state of wholeness. Christ’s redemptive action upon the sinful condition of human nature is the paradigm case of such a transformation. This chapter attempts to demonstrate the inherent logic of transformation, both as it participates in and effects a corrective of the so-called “normal” course of human development. In a sense, this corrective takes the “norm” out of normal and frees the study of human development to be as descriptive as it claims to be ( ).
(1994). Incisions from a two-edged sword: The Incarnation and the soul/spirit relationship. In B. Childs & D. Waanders (Eds.), The treasure of earthen vessels: Explorations in theological anthropology (Festschrift in honor of James N. Lapsley) (pp. 151-173). Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press. On divine accommodation to human nature
…the incarnation has two aspects, condescension and accommodation, and both are essential. However, the reformers’ position so over stressed condescension that it overlooked accommodation. The aim of the incarnation is not to obliterate what is essential to human nature, otherwise the end term of the incarnation (“…was made man”) would lack definition. Rather, the incarnation must accommodate to human nature, transform it, and restore it to its origin in God… the accommodation aspect of the incarnation…is accomplished spiritually as the relationality between Holy Spirit and human spirit recapitulates in human experience the relationality between the Divine and the human in the nature of Christ. In other words, the relationality which pertains to the ultimate bipolar nature of Christ is experienced proximately in a bipolar relationship which pertains when our spirits testify with the Divine Spirit that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16).
(1999). Normativity and context in practical theology: The ‘interdisciplinary issue’ (pp. 359-381). In Practical theology: International perspectives, Schweitzer, F. & van der Ven, J. A., (Eds.). Sonderbruck. On the centrality of methodology in practical theology
….disciplines stay alive and potentially transcend their enculturation limitation, not through new recruits primarily, but by being open to change, via gradualism or by paradigm shifts, through time. The key to understanding the core of a discipline is to grasp what does not change or what maintains the continuity of a discipline as it unfolds historically. The core of a discipline is not its object of study nor its techniques, skills, etc. for studying such an object. Continuity resides in the generative problematic which, functioning almost like a “strange attractor” in chaos theory, brings the object and ways of knowing it together in a concern that unites but transcends them both…the point is that grasping the generative problematic of a discipline is what enables one to transcend the enculturated structure of the discipline and invent new paradigms which depart from, but are nevertheless legitimate heirs of, what has gone before. In practical theology, the core of the discipline is not its operations, procedures, practices, roles, congregations, and the like. Rather, its core problematic resides in why these must be studied; why these are a problem…what drives this discipline forward and generates its issues, is that such phenomena or events combing two incongruent, qualitatively distinct realities, the Divine and the human, in apparently congruent forms of action. Because this field requires an inclusive theory of action, even the methodology for approaching this problematic cannot itself be detached from its claims about action in the field at large. The methodology that attempts to come to terms with this problematic, and to bring it (including the self-involvement of the methodologist) into a form that can guide and govern the field as a whole, is the centerpiece of practical theology as a discipline.
(1980). Transformation in Christian education (pp. 11-25). In The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, III (1) new series (inaugural address, Dec. 12, 1979. Reprinted as Transformation in Christian education (pp. 204-221). In Religious Education, 76 (2) (quotes here are from the RE reprint). On learning through convictional experiences
The form of learning I believe we understand least is perhaps most crucial to the transformational process; namely, learning from convictional experiences or from insights that reach the proportions of convictional significance…When such experiences do their educational job, they serve a prophetic role; symbolically and substantively they preserve the sense of the reality of “uncreated grace,” and make the decisive break with the human order and the human spirit. They declare that Grace is God’s alone to give and so move one through the dialectics of transformation into the worship and glorification of God, the supreme end of the transforming work of Christ’s Spirit. As such they are signs of the presence and power of the Kingdom of God and they belong not to the convicted person but to God’s people. They expose however momentarily and partially the nature of reality into which all of life is being integrated (220).
(2000). The place of science in practical theology: The human factor. In International Journal of Practical Theology, 4 (1), 22-44. On the core problematic in practical theology
…It becomes increasingly incumbent on theological thinking to overcome the false dichotomy between Christian faith and natural science…It is even more pressing for practical theology whose very business is the mutually enriching and deepening interplay between theology understood as the studied participation in God’s action in various forms of culture,…and…human action embedded in the created world which science seemingly interprets so much more effectively than theology. In the following essay, certain comparisons and analogies between how we conceive reality in science and in theology will help to focus the theology-science dialogue as it impinges on practical theology…[But] the contribution of this essay is not directed to practical theology in general but specifically to the generative core of the discipline…the core problematic…The core problematic is that such issues require that two ontologically distinct realities, the divine and the human, be brought together in a unified form of action that preserves the integrity of both and yet gives rise to coherent behavior. This paradoxical problematic implies that God’s action and human action, although ontologically distinct, are not ultimately dichotomous. Moreover, it implies that anyone formulating such a coherence for practical theology must at the same time find that coherence to be profoundly self-involving….This brings us to the fundamental claim of this essay: In the theology-science dialogue, science, as distinct from technology, is the primary dialogue partner with theology. However, no view of science is adequate that fails to recognize that all knowledge of the universe is incomplete and probably misleading until it includes the person, the knower himself or herself. Indeed, it is precisely through persons that the universe becomes conscious of itself…three great scientific revolutions of this century will help us to illustrate the pervasive influence of the human factor in science and set the context for connecting divine and human action as it lies at the core of practical theology (22f, 26).
(1962). The nature of religious consciousness in the writings of Sigmund Freud and Soren Kierkegaard: A theoretical study in the correlation of religious and psychiatric concepts (Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University).
Loder sought to discern and illuminate the inner structure of healthy religious experiences, those that restored convicted persons to mental stability and generativity. In the process he sought to identify a point of contact for interdisciplinary practical theology that preserved the integrity of both religious accounts of conversion experience and psychoanalytic theory. This model of the inner structure of restorative consciousness he called “the hypnagogic paradigm,” which he derived by correlating the insights of Sigmund Freud on therapeutic healing and Soren Kierkegaard on the Christian experience of the God-man. The hypnagogic paradigm laid the human science foundation for his later work on the human spirit’s transformational nature and for Loder’s analogia spiritus by which he understood human participation in the transformation by the Holy Spirit in convictional experiences. Loder’s powerful interdisciplinary method of correlating psychiatry and religious experience demonstrated a way to do practical theology with integrity in a scientific culture. It shows that Loder was on the ground floor of a renaissance in practical theology that continues today.
(1964). Conflict resolution in Christian education. The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, LVII (3) old series, pp. 19-36.
This essay explicates Loder’s early understanding of the basic task of Christian education as it is informed by a paradigm of conflict-resolution in psychodynamic perspective. He focuses in particular on the “middle years” of life using a creative appropriation of the Beowulf epic to give shape to how nuclear conflicts in early, middle and late middlescence might be understood to inform the dynamic process of conflict-resolution at the heart of human development. Loder insists that the very vitality of the human capacity to resolve conflicts subjectively must be seen as a foundational component of Christian education theory and that the subjective consciousness must maintain priority over empirical, interpretative or moral consciousnesses that often capture the educator’s attention.
(1965). Religion in the public schools. New York: Association Press.
Loder wrote this book on behalf of the New Jersey Committee for the Study of Religion in the Public Schools, which met during the winter of 1962-1963 in Newark and which “left the conceptualization and writing of this book in the hands of one person.” The study was written “to provoke responsible thinking” about a “hot topic” in a way that avoided reducing it to a question of legality or moral taste. Loder demonstrates in this book his broad-based reflective approach for addressing problems of faith and culture, an approach that was characteristic of Loder’s own life-long efforts to “think things whole.” Using synchronic (psychological, social, cultural, legal) and historical (diachronic) forms of analysis, including ideology critique, Loder demonstrates his ability to use human action theory to illuminate the inner meaning of a critical social problem like religion in the public schools, which occurs at the complex intersection of interdependent religious, educational and cultural-ideological forces. This kind of descriptive analysis and ideology critique is crucial in our highly differentiated society in which the wholism of primitive experience is repressed but from which “the retained primitive mentality works toward the reunification of institutions and the blurring of modern boundaries” (30). But Loder insists that the movement toward differentiation and the countermovement toward unification must take place at a higher level—i.e. “it must relate without losing the advantages of specialization with our primitive proclivity for unity” (31).
(1966). Religious pathology and christian faith. Philadelphia: Westminister Press.
This book is Loder’s dissertation reworked for publication. As with his dissertation, Loder’s concerns to overcome “sloppy” thinking in relation to the interdisciplinary task of practical theology comes to the forefront. He seeks to develop “an epistemology that is both theologically and behaviorally sound, but that at the same time has enough integrity of its own to give it critical and constructive power both for its parent disciplines and for other interdisciplinary studies.” Loder found common theoretical ground between Freud’s critique of pathological experiences and Kierkegaard’s critique of the Aesthetic existence (of Christianized Denmark) as pathological, by identifying a common “grammar” of imagination (the hypnagogic imagination) central to both the process of therapeutic healing (Freud) and to the dynamics of conversion experiences (Kierkegaard). In both processes the boundaries of personal freedom were expanded in such a way that persons were liberated to choose, either for or against the neurosis in Freud or for or against Religiousness B in Kierkegaard, toward the establishment of what Loder called “criterional consciousness” leading to the restoration of persons to reality. This book demonstrates (1) that Loder sought to overcome the content-process dichotomy that had plagued practical theology and Christian education for most of the century, and (2) that what Loder said at the end of his life concerning his commitment to practical theology was true—i.e. “that it was in my blood.”
(1966). Dimensions of real presence (sermon). The Princeton Seminar Bulletin, LIX (2) old series, pp. 29-35.
Loder emphasizes in this sermon given at opening chapel the central place of the body in Christian experience as it pertains to discerning and experiencing the Lord’s presence in communion. Both human uniqueness and human solidarity with human history, including death (commonality) are held together in the body. “When…we celebrate the flesh [in communion], we celebrate the body as the concrete link between spiritual remembrance and the community which is constituted by our common contract to do the work of this institution (35).
(1966). Sociocultural foundations for Christian education. In M. Taylor (Ed.), Introduction to Christian education (pp. 71-84). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
This early essay shows Loder’s profound fluency in the social sciences and in “systems” theory for the task of interdisciplinary analysis as basic to thinking theoretically about Christian education. Set in the tradition of Talcott Parsons’ action theory, Loder shows how socio-cultural analysis of role structures and transactions in family patterns, public education, and religion together provide at least a partial understanding of Christian education as a socio-cultural phenomenon in American society. Loder ends the article by outlining seven implications for Christian education derived from his analysis.
(1967). Acts and academia (chapel talk). The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, LX (2) old series, pp. 60-62.
A short reflection on the acts of God giving meaning to human activities. Quoting T.S. Eliot’s “The Family Reunion” Loder muses that “the Eliot passage describes so well the desolate semi-illusory character of activity which has lost its meaning because it stands apart from rather than as a part of the act of God” (61). “The point is that the fundamental polarities are not thought versus action. Rather they are: a reality plagued with semi-illusory meanings, full of demons and false gods, capricious and sometimes depressingly absent, versus a reality in which all our activities—including thinking—are made meaningful by the act of God” (62). Note here Loder’s emphasis on the act of God (singular). Does the Act of God, Jesus Christ, contain subsequent human history in such a way that all human actions find their meaning only in the Event of Christ? That is, we make up “meanings” for our actions but these “made up meanings” are not meaningful because they do not have their origin in the Act of God, the Meaning. The Event of Christ, the Act of God in Christ, is the Meaning-Act or the Act-Meaning of human history, the “protological” determination of human history to self-determination.
(1969). Adults in crisis. John Sutherland Bonnell Lecture in Pastoral Psychology, New York: Fifth Ave. Presbyterian Church (Delivered Sunday, Nov. 9, 1969). Reprinted in 1970 in The Princeton Seminar Bulletin, LXIII (1) old series, pp. 32-41.
This brochure is a reprint of a lecture Loder gave in NYC, which shows again his fluency in the human sciences and his early correlation of those sciences to religious themes. Loder addresses the “generation gap” problem plaguing American society, discerning in it as a massive crisis of care. He argues that young Americans cannot care because they suffer from “the ambivalence of openness” in that their desire to overcome establishment hypocrisy is embedded in an “anxious fear of set-patterning” which blinds them to the oppressiveness of their self-righteous assertion for unlimited openness. Meanwhile, older Americans cannot care because they suffer from “the ambivalence of closure” that represses their desire for ascriptive worth under the bonds of their moralistic insistence on conformity. Underneath the establishment insistence is the rise of secularism brought about by the “triumph of the reality principle” in American society and the “well-structured ego” that supports institutional roles and that controls spontaneity, so that religious beliefs and practices can only be valued in conformity with the reality principle concerns for security and order. What is needed is neither the “triumph” nor the “abandonment” of the reality principle but its “radicalization,” paradigmatically revealed in the Incarnation and the mind of Christ. Thus, the reality principle can be “radicalized” in the name of Christian care so that “one can take it or leave it and re-compose the world along entirely new lines,” that is, “transform…it from necessity to a live option” without either neurosis or sterility.
(1973) “Authenticating Christian experience: A research request” (with Mark Laaser). Princeton Seminary Bulletin LXVI (1) Old Series, pp. 120-124.
Loder and Laaser call for students and others to bring their stories of transcendent or mystical experience, those that contain a “sense of sacredness” in order to be authentic instances of a relational encounter with a holy Presence, “an Otherness that is not simply an extension of human capacities” (what they call a ‘synthetic’ experience on analogy to drug induced experience). Loder/Laaser argue that in authentic Christian experience one must make both “a critical distinction” between divine otherness and human objectivity as well as involve “a positive relation.” The significance of this appeal is that it comes shortly after the 1970 accident critically injured Loder but opened up his spirit to the larger dimensions of Christian faith. (NOTE: I have not found any record that the results of this inquiry into transforming experiences ever bore fruit directly in research or scholarship—D.W.).
(1974). The fashioning of power: A Christian perspective on the life-style phenomenon. In A. McKelway & E. D. Willis (Eds.), The context of contemporary theology (Festschrift in honor of Paul Lehmann) (pp. 187-208). Atlanta: John Knox.
In this important essay, written in honor of theological ethicist Paul Lehmann, Loder outlines his understanding of the “structural continuities” of human development and life-style formation that lie behind the “fashion[ing of] the total energy of a lifetime.” In American society a core structural style of life is achievement, a ubiquitous structure that pervades primary and secondary socialization processes, processes sanctioned by core cultural values at all levels. However, from a theological perspective, the primary tendency of achievement lifestyle is to repress the deep human longing for ascriptive worth. This pervasive achievement style of life is made personal through the work of imagination, the power of the psyche to produce meaningful integrations out of the fragments of human experience. Loder argues that to liberate this personally-created, socially-sanctioned lifestyle from its ultimately self-destructive destiny requires “a particular alteration of the core structure which changes the total pattern.” This necessary change comes through convictional experience, the act of God in human experience “which does not alter the achieving potential so much as it restores the freedom to choose for or against achieving” (195). In convictional experience, one accepts existentially the negation underlying achievement structures, a profound sense of absence at the center of the personality that previously made achievement obsessive or threatening, and the convicted person accepts [herself] as a carrier of “absence.” When the presence of the Convictor fills the void, the convicted Christian no longer needs to evade or overcome the “not-I” of his/her existence because the “not-I” becomes ontologically constitutive of her/his identity (I yet not I but Christ). Thus, “the Christian style of life may be seen as rooted in [this]…structure of conviction, and…by this convictional structure the Spirit of God is given human formation” (198). Loder then goes on to show how Christian culture (symbols, semantics) and Christian ethics (action) bear this same convictional structure when they participate in the freedom of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
(1976). Developmental foundations for Christian education. In M. Taylor (Ed.). Foundations for Christian education in an era of change (pp. 54-67). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
This article summarizes Loder’s understanding of human development, in which he uses Freudian, neo-Freudian (E. Erikson), and structuralist (Piaget, Kohlberg, Goldman and Fowler) lenses to show both the contributions and limitations of these theorists to a Christian reconstruction of human development. He argues that integrative studies are much needed for Christian education, and especially that theological views of human development need to be developed that address all age levels and that can play an active part in guiding research and evaluating the significance of that research. “When theology and the study of human development engages formally and systematically, then we can begin to build an integrated foundation for Christian education that is both developmentally sound and theologically informed” (66). Loder’s works as a whole offer a major proposal for building just such an integrated foundation for Christian education.
(1979). Creativity in and beyond human development. In G. Durka & Smith (Eds.). Aesthetic dimensions of religious education (pp. 219-235). Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
Loder develops his interdisciplinary paradigm of creativity here in a way that illuminates the core dynamism of human identity development to be primarily process-centered, existentially conflictual, and religiously convictional. In dialogue with Freud, E. Erikson (especially his psycho-historical interpretation of Luther), and Luther himself (his self-understanding of his experience of the Presence of Christ), Loder argues that “the creative dynamics operative in human development may be seen from a theological standpoint as a human figure for the person-creating, person-revealing work of God’s Spirit,” in which “the dynamics of creativity find their ultimate ground and explanation in the dynamics of revelation” (233). Loder argues that the Christian transformation of creativity lies in human beings participating in a “living paradoxical bisociation” of the human ego with the spiritual Presence of Christ (“I-yet not I, but Christ”), a participation which has the effect of negating the negation riven into “normal” human development and thereby liberating human creativity to be more creative in the way Spiritus Creator is creative.
(1980). Transformation in Christian education (pp. 11-25). In The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, III (1) new series (inaugural address, Dec. 12, 1979. Reprinted in Religious Education, 76 (2), pp. 204-221.
This essay articulates the central of Loder’s mature scholarship focus on the generative structure of the human spirit as transformational, which for Loder provides the core theme that promises an intelligible way for integrating several disciplines (psychological, social, and cultural) that together are foundational for Christian education. Loder sets forth his “grammar of transformation” in five stages (conflict, interlude, insight, release of energy, and interpretation), illustrates the grammar at work in classic forms and in the human sciences, and then addresses the theological meaning of transformation under the theme “transformation transformed.” In Christian convictional experience transformational potentials of persons or communities are awakened to “the ongoing transformational activity of Christ’s Spirit in the world.” Loder concludes by outlining several educational implications for making transformation in both its penultimate (psychological, social, cultural) and ultimate forms (the transformation of transformation) the “guiding principle” of Christian education, focusing on the “learning tasks” implied by each of the five stages in the transformational pattern.
(1980). Negation and transformation: A study in theology and human development. In Christaine Brusselmans, et al., Toward moral and religious maturity (pp. 166-190). Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett Co.
In this carefully-articulated article Loder discusses in concise terms a major theme that pervades his oeuvres, the problem of negation in relation to human development and its relation to the powers of transformation. Loder argues that negation is intrinsic to human experience, not only externally but in terms of the developmental dynamics (transformational dynamics) that give rise to intelligence itself. Existential negation is built into human experience through the early experiences of the loss of the mother’s face, which functions prototypically as the loss of God’s presence. This loss underlies and gives shape to the infant’s emerging structures of subject/object relations and fills this relational structure with defensive or self-destructive patterns, patterns all-to-readily reinforced by the triumph of the reality principle at all levels in a technological society. The ego’s efforts to meet the existential loss with functional solutions implies a pervasive in-completed transformational longing that ever fails to overcome the “Nothingness” which “haunts being” (Sartre). What is needed is an existential negation of this existential negation by the power of being itself. This double negation unto existential transformation is a gift of the Spirit of Christ’s Presence. Thus, “…once the center [of the personality] is invested in God’s Presence, the ego’s anguish at absence and abandonment is dissipated and its defensive energies can now be poured into its competencies.” Loder then illustrates the power of existential transformation with three case studies, and concludes the essay by summarizing several theological, developmental and educational implications.
(1982). Conversations on Fowler’s Stages of Faith and Loder’s The Transforming Moment. In Religious Education, 77 (2), pp. 133-148.
This “conversation” summarizes the respective reviews Loder and Fowler gave on each other’s book, and reflects something of the substance of the debate Loder and Fowler engaged in under the aegis of the Religious Education Association at Michigan State University in 1981. It illuminates the kind of vital interchange that is needed in the field of Christian education, especially regarding the theological meaning of human development (NOTE: See my comments on the substance of this debate in the biographical essay—D.W.).
(1982). The transforming moment: Understanding convictional experiences. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
The book was revised in 1989 with the title The transforming moment, in which two additional chapters and a glossary were added to make the book more accessible. Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard.This book is a groundbreaking treatise in the area of epistemology. Loder argues that experiences of the Holy Spirit, what he calls “convictional experiences,” are generative of profound insights into the nature of reality and of our participation in reality. Such experiences, while generally considered too subjective to be scientific, should rather be considered profoundly relevant to scientific inquiry and indeed intrinsically scientific in the best sense of the word. Loder argues that convictional experiences should be interpreted in their own right “as sources of new knowledge about God, self, and the world, and as generating the quality and strength of life that can deal creatively with the sense of nothingness shrouding the extremities and pervading the mainstream of modern living.” He continues: “This book explores an approach to convictional experiences, or experiences of potentially convicting significance, with the aim of bringing them into perspective where they can be examined, unpacked, and interpreted, both for insight into God’s action in the world and for informing our response to what he is doing (xi, second edition). He developed what he called the “analogy of the spirit,” which he described in terms of the book’s central aim. The aim of this book is to set forth a patterned process that describes the inner generative source of knowledge on several different levels of human experience. That pattern characterizes—though does not exhaust—the nature of the human spirit, and in a very different but analogical way it also characterizes the work of the Holy Spirit in human experience…the generative sources of human intelligence abhor a vacuum. Beneath our educated and scholarly ways of knowing, another dynamic moves to explore “the deep things of the person,” and to generate from hidden resources new, and sometimes powerful, insights that transform the horizons of intelligibility…Kierkegaard called this generative dunamis the human spirit…Essential to the spirit’s nature is its wind-like quality; it often takes us by surprise and leads us where we would not otherwise go. Its deeper characteristic, however, is its integrity in driving toward meaning and wholeness in every complex and variegated context. Thus, in an understanding of the spirit, continuity and discontinuity must be combined in a patterned process that does justice to both in the context of a single act or event. (1-3, second edition). In The Transforming Moment Loder makes a theological interpretation of the meaning of “transformation” that goes far beyond how this word has been, and is being, used in practical theology and Christian education to denote qualitative changes in a positive direction. From a Christian standpoint, “transformation” as the creative dynamic of the human spirit under the aegis of ego must itself be transformed by the Holy Spirit, resulting in a self that knows convictionally according to its redemptively transformed dialectical identity (I yet not I but Christ). Loder argues that this “transformation of transformation” unto convictional personhood is accomplished through human participation in the Holy Spirit according to the analogia spiritus. In the similitude of the analogy, the human spirit and the Holy Spirit share a common “grammar. In the dissimilitude of the analogy the human spirit’s creativity begins and ends within the boundaries of the defensive ego, while the Holy Spirit’s redemptively creative movement begins and ends in God. Thus, the thrust of the Spirit’s work in human development is to negate the negation underlying and determining the meaning-making capacities of the human spirit by transparently grounding the human spirit in the power that posits it (Kierkegaard), releasing the spirit to know convictionally in the Spirit. The book concludes with guidelines, both theological and psychological, for discerning the nature of authentic convictional experience.
(1984). Creativity. In Sutcliffe, John M. (Ed.), A dictionary of religious education. London: SCM Press Ltd. In association with The Christian Education Movement, pp. 101-102.
Loder argues that in a Christian context, the ultimate significance of creativity comes from the biblical notion of divine creation. He writes, “In bringing the created order into being out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo), God provides the definitive creative act with respect to which all human creativity is contingent and relative.” But this means also that as a free human act, human creativity “has the potential of being directed either towards God, reflecting and glorifying him through his creation, or towards self-glorification and manifold forms of idolatry (101). Loder describes the basic “grammar” of creativity (preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification (a curious divergence from the fives stages in most of his other work) and argues that all persons are creative of their own lives according to this pattern. Furthermore, creativity requires (1) a positive value to be placed upon stress and conflict, (2) a support of fantasy, imagination, and inner feelings or emotions as a source of truth, (3) a non-authoritarian environment, (4) a valuing of complexity rather than simplicity “except when simplicity masters a wide range of complexity,” and (5) an appreciation of particularity and diversity. He concludes, “The unique value of creativity for Christian education lies in its inherent potential for reflecting in human terms the nature and purpose of the on-going creative work of Christ’s Spirit (Spiritus Creator)” (102).
(mid 1980s). Transformation in liturgy and learning. In Liturgy 4 (4), pp. 39-41.
This short reflection traces the theme of transformation in worship as the paradigmatic form of learning Christ in the world. Loder draws on the dissertation of John McClure, who outlined four basic phases of liturgy in the history of the church,which together constitute the pattern of Christ found in Scripture (esp. Hebrews and Carmen Christi), and shows how this pattern of transformation is analogous to a unique view of learning as creativity in science, literature or art. Thus, “the unique form of learning in the liturgy of the word can be described as the intentional replication in the act of worship of the creative or transformational process that moves the human spirit in any context to recognize and affirm new forms of transcendence and grounds for conviction and courage” (41). Learning through liturgical replication is not a form of socialization or tension-reduction in support of the status quo, but rather our participation in the redemptive transformation of all reality which exposes the self-destruction of social patterns and establishes the koinonia’s identity transcendently as the interceding and witness-bearing community in the world but not of it (NOTE: This theme is expanded in detail in the last chapter of Loder’s unpublished work on Christian education, Educational ministry in the logic of the spirit—D.W.).
(1990). Theology and psychology. In Rodney Hunter (Gen. Ed), The dictionary of pastoral care and counseling, Nashville: Abingdon, pp. 1267-1270.
Loder sets out in succinct form several paradigms offered by practical theologians over the past 40 years through which psychology and theology have been correlated, starting with Seward Hiltner’s programmatic work in the 1950s. This article shows Loder’s fluency with the theoretical discussion of practical theology as a field of scholarly inquiry that developed dramatically during the course of his entire 40+ year career.
(1992). The knight’s move: The relational logic of the spirit in theology and science. Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard (with Jim Neidhardt).
This book is Loder and Neidhardt’s effort to establish a dialogue between theology and science at the deepest possible level, the level of spirit which is the generative source of human intelligence and the human point of contact with the divine Spirit. The authors develop a generic disclosure analogy for creativity called the “strange loop” model which illuminates the power of the “relational logic of the spirit in theology and science” to discern truth in human experience when reason reaches its intrinsic limits in both science (complementarity) and theology (Chalcedon), and when the knower is taken account of as a definitive dimension of the knowing act (the need for meaning and purpose in all true knowing events). As T.F. Torrance announces in the book’s forward: “This is an altogether remarkable book with unusually fresh creative thinking about the relations of Christian theology and science, which seeks to do justice to the unanalysable nature of divine truth disclosed to us through the Spirit and to the elusive dynamic nature of created reality and its subtle contingent rationality increasingly brought to light in modern science” (xi). The book is written with the intention of fostering a new approach to the integration of science and theology by generating a readership (both scientists and theologians) that longs to discern hidden orders of intelligibility necessary for healing a fractured postmodern culture. The authors argue finally that the spiritual life of the scientist and theologian, grounded in tacit and prototypical or explicit and definitive experiences of existential relationality (scientific conviction or theological conviction) inaugurates “journeys of intensification” that result in “classic” expressions of the human spirit in any dimension of human endeavor.
(1994). Incisions from a two-edged sword: The Incarnation and the soul/spirit relationship. In B. Childs & D. Waanders (Eds.), The treasure of earthen vessels: Explorations in theological anthropology (Festschrift in honor of James N. Lapsley) (pp. 151-173). Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.
This essay, written in honor of Loder’s colleague in Practical Theology, James Lapsley, seeks to make a theological interpretation of the relationship between psychology’s emphasis on “soul” (human development under the aegis of ego and socialization) and theology’s emphasis on “spirit” (human development under the power of transformation and upheld by the Holy Spirit) using Hebrews 4:15 as a locus classicus of the distinction. He argues that these kinds of distinctions can only be made through the power of the Word of God to generate disclosure analogies (like complementarity). Through this analysis Loder seeks to provide a foundation for practical theology that includes both soul and spirit in a bipolar, asymmetrical unity analogous to the Chalcedonian “grammar” of the nature of Christ. Thus, not only does Loder read Scripture itself through this Chalcedonian lens, but also through this same lens he seeks to order the proper relationship of soul to spirit—and thus psychology to theology—for practical theology. A response to Loder’s essay is given by Lapsley in the last chapter of the work.
(1996). Barth, Bohr and dialectic (with Jim Neidhardt & including a reply by Christopher Kaiser) (pp. 271-298). In W. Richardson (Ed.), Religion and science (Publisher?).
In this essay Loder and Neidhardt portray the surprising structural similarities between the persistent dialectic in Karl Barth’s theology and the concept of complementarity in the quantum physics of Niels Bohr, and attribute this similarity to their mutual dependence upon Kierkegaard’s “qualitative dialectic.” In both theology and physics, an epistemological realism is demanded of the inquirer who must allow the object of investigation to dictate the terms by which it can be made known. The structural patterns of Barth’s dialectic and Bohr’s complementarity are, accordingly, “embedded in the relationality between investigator and the phenomenon under investigation.” What is implicit in Barth and Bohr becomes explicit in Kierkegaard Christomorphic imagination, and leads the authors to propose, beyond the merely structural analogy, that “the theological notion that all creation bears the mark of Christ’s nature” is a reasonable conclusion. Indeed, “theology does make a claim about the ultimacy of the relationality described here.” This essay is also valuable because it illumines the way Loder reads (1) the history of philosophy (especially the place of Kierkegaard in that history), (2) the career of Barth in relation to Kierkegaard and the law of non-contradiction in Aristotle, and (3) Barth’s later openness to the full play of natural science (through the influence of Torrance). This essay provides a good introduction to many themes discussed in detail in the authors’ The Knight’s Move.
(1997). The journey of intensification (unpublished paper delivered April 27th).
Loder develops here “a frame of knowledge for approaching and appropriating intense experiences of convictional significance with a view to examining their implications for healing, for reconceptualizing human development, and for education in a Christian way of life.” He is concerned that such convictional experiences require a much more focused attention than has been heretofore given them, because such lack of understanding leads to these experiences remaining isolated from the common life of congregations that continue to lack “the power to speak of God with conviction” in a scientific culture. To develop this “frame of knowledge” Loder interrelates a major theme from his work, the structural dynamics of discovery in science, and brings this theme into dialogue with anthropology (Anthony Wallace’s understanding of revitalization in cultural contexts), neurology (Barbara Lex’s understanding of dual brain functions), and theology (Kierkegaard) to argue that convictional experiences initiate an intensification process in human life with “an urgency toward establishing inner coherence between the Divine Presence, the accompanying vision, the consuming passion, and the public world of ego equilibration” more powerful than socialization-unto-cultural conformity. This “urgency to find the coherence among [Presence, vision, passion and public world]…makes this journey of intensification…a powerful force in human experience.” Spiritual life must take place along this axis of intensification rather than so-called “normal” ego development, with the result not that ego will be eradicated but rather that it will function with the heightened sense of meaning and purpose under the aegis of the Spirit. Thus, the journey of intensification liberates one to live more fully into the inner life of God and at the same time more fully into the passion God has for the world (in the world but not of it). Loder concludes this essay by developing in some detail several important implications of his proposal for the personal and corporate life of faith and the witness of such faith in the scientific culture.
(1998). The logic of the spirit: Human development in theological perspective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
This book is a major interdisciplinary interpretation of human development from a Reformed Christian perspective, that can be understood as Loder’s alternative construction to James Fowler’s Stages of Faith. Loder expands the discussion of transformation in human development and the analogy of the spirit found in The Transforming Moment to trace the human spirit’s generative power through the life span to make sense of human experience. Beyond this generative power, Loder conceptualizes the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to the major crises of human life, showing how the pattern or logic the human spirit works to make sense of human experience, and especially how the human spirit interacts with, and indeed participates in, the logic of the Holy Spirit to bring about the experience of redemptive transformation (the theological transformation of human transformation) at each stage of the life span. Loder integrates the insights of major theorists in human development (Freud, Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, Rizzuto, Fowler, Kohut) within a theological and Christological framework (drawing on Chalcedon, Luther, Kierkegaard, Barth, Torrance and Pannenberg) to show how “normal” human development based on the ego’s adaptative competence is “subnormal” from a Christian point of view because it operates on a functional axis that suppresses the deep sense of Nothingness pervading the social construction of reality. In the transformation of transformation by the Holy Spirit, the full force of the Nothingness is embraced but relativized by the convicted person who now knows reality in four dimensions. In the logic of the Spirit working redemptively in human development, one learns to live “intensively” in these four dimensions according to what God is doing in the world to make and keep human life human according to the nature of Jesus Christ.
(1999). Normativity and context in practical theology: The ‘interdisciplinary issue’ (pp. 359-381). In Practical theology: International perspectives, Schweitzer, F. & van der Ven, J. A., (Eds.). Sonderbruck.
This essay provides the reader with perhaps the most succinct account of Loder’s overall vision of the field of practical theology. Loder argues that the systematic or methodological dimension of practical theology—i.e., “the formulation of a methodology for interdisciplinarity which systematically relates theology and the human sciences”—lies at the heart of practical theology when that methodology takes most seriously the “core generative problematic” lying at the heart of a Christological interpretation of practical theology. This core generative problematic, essentially combining “two incongruent, qualitatively distinct realities, the Divine and the human, in apparently congruent forms of action,” ramifies throughout every aspect of practical theology as a discipline in terms of the relational logic of Chalcedon, a logic characterized by the “indissoluble differentiation,” “inseparable unity,” and “indestructible (asymmetrical) order” of dual nature of Jesus Christ. Loder shows how methods in practical theology that are not congruent with this “core generative problematic” or that try to seek out a “neutral or non-theological baseline for meeting the interdisciplinary issue” “tend to lead the whole enterprise of practical theology tacitly, if not explicitly away from its theological center.” To bring Chalcedonian relationality into scientific culture, Loder adopts the model of complementarity that preserves “the primacy of relationality in the context of rationality” and that “provides an analytical and critical perspective on bipolar limit situations so as to determine when they are and are not parabolic expressions of the Chalcedonian model.” He shows how the dual forces of socialization and transformation in all domains of human action are transformed by the Spirit of Christ to bring them into conformity with the nature of Jesus Christ.
(2000). The place of science in practical theology: The human factor. In International Journal of Practical Theology, 4 (1), pp. 22-44.
This article summarizes much of Loder’s mature reflections on the meta-theoretical framework he brings to the practical theological science. He argues that significant developments in the physical sciences—general relativity, complementarity, and chaos theory—have opened up new and exciting warrants for dialogue between theology and the human sciences focused on the primacy of what he calls “the human factor” or self-involved knowing. Self-involvement in epistemological understanding is essential because it forces the knower to ask questions of meaning and purpose according to the way the object under investigation reveals itself. For Loder, the “core problematic” of practical theology in view of the Incarnation is precisely the question “why” this discipline remains ever problematic as a theological problem. For those convinced (i.e. convicted) that the demands Christ’s Presence places on their own self-involvement through faith is essential to knowing His reality, Loder argues that Christ also places those same demands for self-involved knowing of divine-human relations at the center of practical theology itself.
(2001). A meditation on evangelism in a scientific culture. The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. VIII (2/3), pp. 8-12.
Loder avers that in a culture that has radically replaced Creator with creation, the magnitude of Christian faith-claims needs to be upheld, and this concern lies at the center of evangelism. The power that comes from intimacy with Christ is the power to redefine the boundaries and meaning of human experience according to the magnitude of God’s love. “Evangelism means opening human eyes to the ultimate light that defines all lesser lights…The true evangelists dwells night and day in the ultimate paradigm shift where ordinary reality is decisively redefined by the living presence of Jesus Christ” (12).
(2001). The great sex charade and the loss of intimacy (81-87). Word & World XXI (1).
Loder argues that in the context of a sex-obsessed society, the subtext of much counseling needs to turn on the problem of intimacy and the fear of intimacy that lies at the heart of interpersonal relations. Defining intimacy as a deep, interior self-knowing hidden from others (people can know what it is like to be me but they can’t know what it is like for me to be me), Loder argues that only a theological dimension of the issue of intimacy can finally succeed, for in relation to the Spirit of God one comes to the conviction that God alone knows better than oneself what it means for the self to be the self. Apart from experiencing the intimate knowledge of God’s knowledge of us, we languish in despair, “a disrelationship in the self due to a profound failure of intimacy with the divine presence who creates the appropriate relationality which is the self” by “grounding it transparently in the power that posits it” (Kierkegaard). Loder concludes the essay by looking at the impact of spiritual intimacy in relationship to the issue of homosexuality.
(2002). The Golgotha mirror. Unpublished manuscript.
This article, which was to be published in the International Kierkegaardian Commentary contains Loder’s succinct commentary and outline of the essential message of Kierkegaard’s Practicing Christianity in which he (Loder) argues that this book corresponds to and participates in the Holy Spirit because it portrays the Cross as a mirror in and through which human beings discern what they are doing to themselves in their rejection of God in Christ. The Spirit’s task in Kierkegaard’s understanding is to bring us before the Cross so that we might see ourselves in all our depravity. “The inner logic of Practicing Christianity is fundamentally the logic of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit permeates the whole of Kierkegaard’s authorship, but in this work which comes late in his authorship he sets it forth in its conclusive Christocentric form.”
(to be published). Educational ministry in the logic of the spirit.
This book, yet unpublished, can be considered an alternative vision for Christian and/or religious education to the influential projects articulated by major theorists in the field during the latter half of the 20th century, like C. Ellis Nelson, Thomas Groome, James Fowler, John Westerhoff, and others. The book sets forth a vision of Christian education (a comprehensive theory) that interrelates human action in bodily, psychological, social, and cultural dimensions of life with the work of the Holy Spirit in those domains, to suggest how the Spirit fashions a Christian lifestyle in the midst of personal and socio-cultural pathologies contributing to the despair that dominates American life. Under the power of Loder’s convictional imagination, Talcott Parsons’ theory of human action (what Loder takes to be a comprehensive theory of the structure and dynamics of socialization in any socio-cultural setting) is re-conceived from “the inside out” to show an alternative hidden order of intelligibility—transformation—at work creatively in human experience to humanize and expand human life. However, for transformation to continue its humanizing potentiality, human transformation or the “logic of the human spirit” must itself participate in the “logic of the Holy Spirit” (the power of Christ’s Presence) in human experience. Provoking this kind of transformative action in concert with the work of the Spirit is the ultimate task of Christian education. The implications of this vision of Christian education are spelled out in this book with a chiasmic structure that discusses each domain of human life under the impact of socialization (cultural, social, and personal/biological) and then under the impact of transformation by the Holy Spirit (personal/biological, social, and cultural). Christian education seeks to provoke a Christian style of life (the fashioning of power) that participates in the life of God as the Spirit of God brings four-dimensional transformation to every realm of human action. The book ends by emphasizing that the liturgy is the church’s enactment of these transformational dynamics, signifying to the world that the beginning and ending of human life takes place in God.
Dana R. Wright
Dana R. Wright, Ph.D, has taught Christian education at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary. He now resides with his wife Judy in Seattle, Washington.