Part of the discussion that kicked off the “Hell!” article made mention of Fowler’s stages of faith. It sounded intriguing so I did a bit more digging and came up with a couple of articles which give an overview of what it’s about. The first is an article from Theology Today which covers the subject in a wider sense. The other is an overview summary specifically of Fowler’s ideas.

I think it has some merit though it’s not without its problems. I’m not convinced that it completely characterises each ‘stage’ well enough (but then, I have just been reading the overviews), but there is enough in them to see the general picture. I do think that there are indeed many people who are happy in the early stages (back to this issue of simple/simplistic faith) and I do tend to agree that moving to the ‘next level’ is pretty scary for most people. It involves letting go of what’s comfortable and embracing something that itself may still be wriggling and reshaping itself. But I have to say, in my experience, it’s a rewarding jump. And that’s perhaps my other criticism. I’m not sure that it’s a progression. I think we take leaps and tumbles, almost oscillating between lower and higher ‘levels’ until issues are resolved.

Still, it makes for interesting reading and perhaps sheds a bit of understanding on why it’s difficult to move people from a particular position.

4 responses to “Transformation”

  1. we used to use Fowler a lot to get people talking, mostly because his stages are so defined. Most people disagree with him which made for a fun ‘well if you think he’s wrong then tell us what really happens then’ kind of discussion. There are much better models around now (not that I can remember any off the top of my head!) but I’m sure wikipedia will know.

  2. Cheers Stewart,
    I’ll have a look at what the newer models are. I’d never come across it before and it sparked my interest. Really ought to wait until my workload eases off a bit though.

  3. john o–

    it was an interesting wrestle on the other site was it not? one of the things tu…ad asked me about was do i ‘idolize’ the fowler model.

    of course not! i’m highly skeptical! especially of the hierarchical nature of ‘development’ models!

    i think it would be interesting to tip the model on its side, and change it to clusters of bar graphs. then develop a questionaire, like those on-line quizzes, that would let people answer actual or hypothetical questions about their faith and see where the answers lie on the bar graphs. if the model is truly developmental, the results should be bell-shaped. if the answers are all over the place, then it’s not as useful a model for ‘development.’

    either way, it is an interesting tool for thinking about the issues that come up as we live a rich life of ‘faith seeking understanding.’



  4. Hi Scott,
    Thanks for dropping by. I’ve had to bow out of commenting at RTMM because, for some reason, I keep getting flagged up as spam so my comments end up getting lost or being too late for the discussion. I also find myself simply reacting to and that’s not a good basis for a discussion 😉 I still lurk around reading it though. I have a strange attraction to sites I don’t entirely agree with. but then, where’s the fun and challenge in reading your own opinions?

    I’ve not had a chance to dig into this but the end of semester looms so I may well do a bit more reading soon. I think my initial reaction was that it’s not as linear as the model seems to suggest. I suspect that on any given issue people are at different stages and I think we probably cycle around a few before coming out the other side. For instance, I may be ‘mature’ in my understanding of, say, baptism, but at a more immature stage for, say, the eucharist.
    But then, maybe that’s the difference when you take a micro or macro view. As you say, I think it’s the issues that it raises that are the interesting thing about it.

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