Kegan, Robert. In over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.
Kegan is a professor of Adult Learning at Harvard, specializing in cognitive developmental psychology. He has dedicated his career to studying what he has come to call “the evolving self.” Prior to his quest, which began in the 1980s, the conventional wisdom regarding human cognitive development was that all significant cognitive development ceased in late adolescence. In other words, a person’s ability to change the way they think stops at the onset of adulthood. The only type of change that an adult can expect is technical change. Adults can learn more, but they can’t change the way they learn or perceive the world. Kegan’s research has demonstrated that this is not true. He studied hundreds of people over a number of years and discovered that adults can and do develop—evolve—cognitively beyond adolescence.
I have already stated several times that one key assumption behind the DITB project was that theology is not the process of constructing an abstract, systematic model of God. At least, it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, much theology is just that. Modern academic theology has tended toward the pursuit of constructing grand systems of theory that attempt to explain God and the universe. The end result of this endeavor is inevitably the construction of an idol made, not of gold, wood, and stone, but of human ideas. A reasonably adequate Christian theology, on the other hand, is the observation and reflection (theological praxis) of what God is doing in, with, under, against, and for the local congregation. The DITB project was an attempt to embody this statement and observe what would happen if a group of ELCA suburbanites—who have had no traditional, academic theological training—engage in what many consider to be one of the most difficult and abstract theological concepts: the Trinity. Further, I wanted to see what would happen if we tried to connect the Trinity—traditionally a conversation reserved for the conversation of the intellectual elite—with the practice of spiritual formation—something traditionally considered a matter of “practical” theology.
The DITB project is a story of people in formation. The research question itself has both explicit and implicit implications for how we should frame this project with regard to how people are formed. It explicitly names the term spiritual formation, thus it will be necessary to discuss and define this term in the context of the research. The question also implicitly refers to adult education in that it asks how an increased awareness and understanding of the social Trinity might impact ideation and praxis of spiritual formation. Therefore, it will be necessary to frame the project within a particular theoretical perspective on adult learning and pedagogical methodologies.
Toward a Missional Spirituality in the Suburbs