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Durham e-Theses
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A critical examination of the concept of Christian nurture with special reference to the work of Horace Bushnell

Attfield, D. G. (1980) A critical examination of the concept of Christian nurture with special reference to the work of Horace Bushnell. Masters thesis, Durham University.



Physical and psychological nurture are set aside and spiritual nurture as edification is distinguished from educational nurture. In Christian history the nurture approach to child- rearing, assuming the child is already a Christian, is found to predominate over the alternative conversion approach, which supposes the child is a pagan or sinner. Zinzendorf's eclectic outlook is noted. Bushnell's background and theory of Christian nurture are described in detail, including his criticism of revivalism, his view of church-growth and his concept of organic connexion of child and parent. Nineteenth century criticisms are assessed, particularly of his alleged naturalistic conception of regeneration. Modern objections are also urged, cased on the autonomy of ethics and the inappropriateness of induction as the aim of child-rearing by Christians, in the light of the controversial nature of Christian truth. Bushnell's defence of infant baptism is considered the context of the sense in which" original and actual sir -nay be properly predicated of children. Baptismal regeneration of babies is argued to be unintelligible and delayed until the child comes to faith The claim Bushnell makes that children can be church- members IS contested and similar positions in the recent The Child in the Church report are also criticised. It is denied that the young child can be a Christian and, while admitting the older child may in fact be one, commitment before adulthood is deprecated. A positive theory of educational nurture for all children is sketched. Christian communication must be controlled by truth, autonomy and the disputed nature of religious claims. Doctrine must be described, explored with alternatives, while conversion may be desired but not intended. Educational nurture has stages of Motivation, Information, Exploration and Challenge, spread over childhood. Parents and others should play roles of teacher, witness, evangelist and neutral pastor. In an appendix the evolution of Bushnell's Christian Nurture is described.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1980
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 10:33

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