Building Construct Validity for a New Measure of Christian Spiritual Maturity

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This study (N = 672) develops further a model of Christian spiritual maturity based upon two dimensions of Bernard of Clairvaux’s staircase of godly love: Step 2 (Loving God for Self’s Sake) (α ≥ .89) and Step 3 (Loving God for God’s Sake) (α ≥ .88). Data were collected in two waves: (a) undergraduates at a private Christian university in the Midwest (Watson, 2011) and (b) undergraduate theology majors, graduate students, and graduate professors from the same university. Principal axis factor analysis supported a two factor solution with low inter-factor correlations (r = .08). While mature volunteers were under-represented, significant differences by academic major were detected between groups when controlling for unequal variances. Brown’s Forsythe ANOVA and Tukey’s HSD post hoc tests indicated that undergraduate theology majors scored lower on Step 2 than undergraduate non-majors (p = .000) and the graduate non-major group (p = .007). Further, the graduate theology group scored higher on Step 3 than undergraduate non-majors (p = .009) and undergraduate majors (p = .040). Mean scores suggested that all participants scored lower on Step 2 than Step 3, reflecting an intrinsically motivated devotion to God over an extrinsic focus on benefits derived from God. Moreover, the graduate group’s scores were higher than undergraduates’ scores on both scales, providing tentative support for an interpretation based on Object Relations Development and Attachment theories, postulating that the more mature dimension of Step 3 is built upon secure attachment to God reflected in the less mature dimension of Step 2.