Sophia Lyon Fahs: A theology and philosophy of transformative religious education

Lucinda A Nolan, Fordham University


Sophia Lyon Fahs pioneered in both theory and practice in the religious education movement of the twentieth century. Her long and distinguished career led to international recognition as an innovator in the religious education of children. Fahs's life spanned several periods of theological development in the United States over the course of which her own theology underwent radical revision from evangelical orthodoxy to religious liberalism. Seven decades of service in the areas of teaching, lecturing, writing and editing culminated in her ordination into Unitarian Universalist ministry. This study revisions the theology and philosophy of religious education of Sophia Lyon Fahs through the contemporary framework of transformative pedagogy set forth in the work of Peter C. Hodgson of Vanderbilt University Divinity School. Historical documentary analysis of her writing indicates a strong late modern tendency in her theology and an intensive strain of transformative theory throughout her philosophy of religious education. The main body of the research examines the theology and philosophy of Sophia Lyons through ten categories proposed by Hodgson as elements of a revisionary postmodern liberal theology and a transformative pedagogy. The study identifies the curriculum for children edited by Fahs, The New Beacon Series in Religious Education, as a culmination of her life's work, weaving together theology, progressive educational philosophy, science, child development, mysticism and historical biblical criticism. The study concludes that the work of Sophia Lyon Fahs transcended the classic period of liberal religious education in its universality and scope. Her thought has much to contribute to a contemporary understanding of the meaning and purpose of religious education. Fahs's approach serves as a model of transformative religious education for children that goes well beyond traditional church school programs in both theory and practice.

Subject Area

Religious education|Religion|Religious history

Recommended Citation

Nolan, Lucinda A, "Sophia Lyon Fahs: A theology and philosophy of transformative religious education" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3142872.