A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE THEOLOGICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL, EDUCATIONAL, AND ORGANIZATIONAL DIMENSIONS OF WESTERHOFF'S SOCIALIZATION - ENCULTURATION PARADIGM

JOHN PATRICK NICHOLSON, Fordham University

Abstract

John H. Westerhoff III has proposed a paradigm of faith-enculturation, or socialization, based upon the interactive Christian community. He states that an alternative to the schooling-instructional paradigm presently in use is badly needed, as schooling is unable to address the demands of radical faith education. The small intergenerational Christian community is proposed as the only alternative, since it alone can provide the means, and the context, of faith's communication.^ The community which Westerhoff recommends is found to be strongly gemeinschaft in character. The theory has a strong theological foundation, for it is Westerhoff's contention that Christian faith education, or catechetics, is a theological discipline; its exercise, catechesis, is a work of Christian ministry. The theology underpinning Westerhoff's theory, upon analysis, is determined to be principally Neo-Orthodox in character, although there are also expressions of Liberation theology. He relies heavily upon the Neo-Orthodox dialectical philosophy.^ The paradigm is analyzed, from the sociological perspective, in terms of the religious culture of the proposed community, and its relationship with society. Analyzing the religious system from the perspective of its components--religious experience, myth, ritual, ethics, and organization--the rational and institutional dimension of each component is found to be lacking, but the concept of the Christian religion as culture is highly developed. An anthropological model, the ethnographic model, provides the framework for the structure of the enculturation paradigm.^ Regarded from the viewpoint of the three constant processes of rationalization, institutionalization, and secularization, it seems that little recognition of, or provisions for, those inevitable processes, is made by Westerhoff. The dilemmas associated with the three processes are not addressed in terms of the community. The most notable lack is an organizational dimension, and associated components, such as leadership, authority, administration, and rational goals. In view of the deficiency of an articulated organizational element, there are foreseen problems related to change and freedom.^ As an educational paradigm, the community of faith-enculturation lacks the elements of intentionality, and reconstruction. It is a nurturing-maintenance socialization paradigm, rather than an educational paradigm. It fails to take into account the configuration of contemporary educational institutions, and tends to regard its educational activity as isolated and self-contained. Throughout, the lack of provision for rationality results in the absence of vital self-critical review elements; there is, however, an attempt to provide such an element from a source outside the paradigm. The liberation theology component, also provided from another model, and considered, by Westerhoff, to be an important component in the educational process of the community, seems to introduce a foreign element to the gemeinschaft paradigm.^ Although the analysis found many theoretical deficiencies and inconsistencies associated with the paradigm, particularly when it is viewed as an education paradigm, the study gives recognition to the value which it represents as a prophetic statement about community and relationships during a time which is marked by the proliferation of bureaucracies and the phenomenon of narcissism. ^

Subject Area

Education, Religious

Recommended Citation

JOHN PATRICK NICHOLSON, "A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE THEOLOGICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL, EDUCATIONAL, AND ORGANIZATIONAL DIMENSIONS OF WESTERHOFF'S SOCIALIZATION - ENCULTURATION PARADIGM" (January 1, 1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8109066.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8109066

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