Kohlberg’s theory of moral development lends itself well to the anthropological model of human spirituality (might he have borrowed from Holy Writ in the genesis of his representation?).
Early in the history of the people of the Bible, there is a preconventional obedience-and-punishment morality apparent, notably with Adam and Eve, when they are told by God not to eat from the tree of knowledge. As Crain explains, Kohlberg presents this first stage as exactly such, a law imposed by ‘big people’.
When we look at stage 2 of Kohlberg, the element of exchange brings early covenants to mind. God will provide blessings in return for devotion and obedience. It is notable that while Kohlberg characterizes this as an individual morality, covenants such as the Mosaic were made with a community.
In the consideration of conventional morality, Kohlberg asserts motive is key at stage 3. Thus while King David could attack and kill enemy soldiers, God said of him that his heart was pure. Nabal, on the other hand, got drunk and died, for his heart was greedy, thus his wife, Abigail, went to David. Here we see that action cannot be rightly judged apart from intent, and those who loved God were free.
In stage 4, social order forms the matrix for concern and action. We recall that when Queen Vashti refused to dance before the guests of the king, she was exiled so that her action not spread among the other women of the land. Kant’s categorical imperative springs to mind.
In postconventional morality, social norms come into question as theoretical utopias (or at least improvements to the status quo) come to the fore. Kohlberg’s stage 5, social contract, finds a potential parallel in the ordering of church. Jesus, speaking to the disciples, gave freedom in the formation of appropriate values and norms, “I give you the keys to the kingdom” and “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven”. Presumably, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, only virtuous and communally-beneficial laws would be adopted. We see in this a loosening of strict adherence to dietary law, when the apostles wrote to Paul that gentile believers need not keep kosher but rather that they abstain from immorality and from blood. Grace triumphed over formal law... questions beyond rote regulations could now be viably and successfully explored.
In stage 6 morality, universal principles which account for the viewpoint of others, allow for creative acts. The example of Gandhi (peaceful resistance) is given as well as that of civil disobedience. What Crain neglected to mention was the martyrdom of Christ and of His followers, out of love. It is here that a belief in an afterlife is most appropriate, for as Paul says, without this hope, we are the most foolish of men.
Thus it is clear that in Kohlberg’s stages, there is a framework for spiritual journey, as we, both as individuals, and as a race in process of growing up with, and towards God, move from preconventional fear of punishment, through conventional legal obligations and contractual lifestyles, to postconventional other-centred, lives of sacrifice.