Sunday, September 09, 2007

Stages of Faith

A friend recently asked whether I had heard of James Fowler, saying he was reading a lot about him. My friend included an article my Mr. Fowler on “Stages of Faith” (see ). The rest of this won’t make sense until you read it. I found it interesting, but I immediately flipped into my Counseling Pschology mode and responded to my friend with the following.

“No I've not heard of him but it appears that his book come out in 1981. (Fowler, James W. (1981). Stages of Faith, Harper & Row ISBN 0-06-062866-9).

It is difficult to evaluate his theory since the article is completely devoid of any research data, references etc. It appears to be a psychological thesis, which is fine. But as one who firmly believes in the integration of psychology and theology (general revelation and special revelation), I would like to see him actually interact with both the psychological theory and reseearch on the topic of faith was well as the the biblical explanation of faith i.e. what it is, how it is formed, who it is formed in etc. He doesn't really do this. He lightly refers to Biblical sections without really doing the theological work. I do realize that this is a synopsis of his views. But to really know the value of this article, one would have to go much deeper into his research.

I did find a rather critical view of his work in the Wikipedia
( ). After reading it, I would counsel caution on too quickly accepting his ideas.

Having said this, I do believe that within human development, faith does progress. Information about God, usually precedes any sort of faith, although many seem to react directly to the "sense of the numinous" and begin believing in something bigger than themselves. The simple ability of a child to believe in a Jesus who loves him/her, saves him/her and what's him/her to be in heaven with him is hardly the faith of a 60 year old who has interacted with much more information, experiences, traumas, and realities. When a child passes through adolescence, the process of individuation usually causes a "crisis of faith" where the child must decide if he/she is going to believe in the faith of his parents or his church, or if he/she is going to believe for themselves.

Someone who is confronted with the existence of God either intuitively or externally usually goes through a process. I think the Engel's Scale (see ) while a bit dated, does show a progression of thinking and information as a person comes to faith and develops in faith. I think there is validity in this.

Faith, I think, is ultimately a matter of believing in God (Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.") in the way he has revealed himself. That is what I hope to point people toward."

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