A theological critique of Christian education, with special reference to developments in Northern Ireland since 1944
The perspective adopted in this thesis is that of a Northern Irish Catholic Christian, a teacher by profession. The field is that of the theology of education. The thesis has three principal aims; firstly, to provide a justification for a confident Christian education in an increasingly secular and agnostic world; secondly, to evaluate the development and present status of Christian education in Northern Ireland in the light of its sectarian history and current situation of community conflict; thirdly, to consider the remit of Christian education and its role in promoting societal harmony. The thesis consists of eight chapters. Its overall design may be discerned in a general introduction and seven other chapters of which four engage the issue of Christian education in the Northern Ireland context. Of the other three, one chapter criticizes analytical philosophy and positivist influences in contemporary liberal education, especially where these have affected conceptions of religious education. The second attempts a validation of Christian education, and in addition promotes Christian apologetics as both a viable and needed response to relativistic agnosticism. The third consists of the conclusions to be drawn. The scope of the thesis embraces considerations of the assumptions and values of Christian education; the nature of religious education; theistic belief the Christian tradition, the nature of confessionalism; Northern Ireland confessionalism; the influence of ideologies; the separate schools system; the question of integrated education; the historical background to the divided communities; the challenge of the great Christian imperatives of love and forgiveness in respect of community reconciliation and of implementing a Christian education fully alive to its responsibilities. The penultimate chapter confronts practical issues and suggests models and approaches in Christian education with outreach towards reconciliation.