An analysis of Kohlbergian moral development in relationship to biblical factors of morality in seminary students

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An analysis of Kohlbergian moral development in relationship to biblical factors of morality in seminary students

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Title: An analysis of Kohlbergian moral development in relationship to biblical factors of morality in seminary students
Author: Powers, Kimberly Dawn
Advisor: Simpson, Mark Edward
Abstract: The concern for discovering relationships between Kohlbergian moral development (KMD) and biblical factors of morality in seminary students was explored through an analysis of demographic variables and the Defining Issues Test 2 . A history of moral thought was developed to show the gradual, but certain, shift from an objective view of truth to a subjective view and from faith to reason. Differing views on the nature of man and on the authority over what is moral also reveal the foundation for a relative view of morality. After considering the influence of moral philosophies on American culture, Kohlberg's theory of moral development was explored. An analysis of KMD began with the cultural origination of the theory and continued with an analysis of the theory itself, to include Kohlberg's view and the views of his theory's critics. A thorough examination revealed the legitimacy of using Kohlberg's theory to analyze moral development in seminary students.

Through a discussion of James Rest's development of an objective instrument for measuring KMD, it was clear that his Defining Issues Test 2 was an appropriate instrument of measure for determining levels of principled moral reasoning. By examining the factors educators and behaviorists consider influential, it was evident that experience and observation generally confirms what the Bible teaches about moral development. This work also gives a brief treatment of Kohlbergian versus biblical moral development to show the ways in which the views are in accord and are in discord.

From the discussions on biblical morality, on the criticisms of Kohlberg's theory, and on factors influencing moral development five primary factors emerged, to include salvation, formal ministry education, spiritual nurture provided by parents, spiritual disciplines, and various demographic characteristics. In this study, those primary factors were examined in relationship to levels of principled moral reasoning.

The results of this work may indicate that lower levels of principled moral reasoning are a function of the decay of morality in American culture. Culture in the United States is different from what it was when Kohlberg developed his theory for moral development. The findings of this research seem to consistently show that the quantity of time spent in spiritual activity does not influence moral development in seminary students, rather it is the quality of time spent that may influence moral development.

By changing program design, educational methodology and course content, the quality of seminary education may be improved and may result in promoting moral development in seminary students. Biblical moralists may challenge the applicability of KMD to conservative evangelicals; however, the psychology of moral development accords with biblical morality. It may be helpful to analyze the results of future studies by a comparative analysis, evaluating principled moral reasoning on the basis of Kohlberg's philosophy and also on the basis of a biblical worldview.

Description: This item is only available to students and faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. If you are not associated with SBTS, this dissertation may be purchased from or downloaded through ProQuest's Dissertation and Theses database if your institution subscribes to that service.
Date: 2006-05-19

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