Stages of faith development

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A series of stages of faith development was proposed by Professor James W. Fowler, a developmental psychologist at Candler School of Theology, in the book Stages of Faith. This book-length study contains a framework and ideas, which have generated a good deal of response from those interested in religion.

It proposes a staged development of faith (or spiritual development) across the lifespan. It is closely related to the work of Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, and Lawrence Kohlberg regarding aspects of psychological development in children and adults.


[edit] Fowler's stages

Faith is seen as a holistic orientation, and is concerned with the individual's relatedness to the universal:

  • Stage 0"Primal or Undifferentiated" faith (birth to 2 years), is characterized by an early learning of the safety of their environment (ie. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse).
  • Stage 1"Intuitive-Projective" faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche's unprotected exposure to the Unconscious.
  • Stage 2"Mythic-Literal" faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic.
  • Stage 3"Synthetic-Conventional" faith (arising in adolescence) characterized by conformity
  • Stage 4"Individuative-Reflective" faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for their beliefs and feelings.
  • Stage 5"Conjunctive" faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems
  • Stage 6"Universalizing" faith, or what some might call "enlightenment".

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Empirical research into faith development

Fowler's model has inspired a considerable body of empirical research into faith development, although little of such research has been conducted by Fowler himself. A useful tool here has been Gary Leak's Faith Development Scale, or FDS, which has been subject to factor analysis by Leak (Leak, 2008).

[edit] References

  • Fowler, James W. (1981). Stages of Faith, Harper & Row ISBN 0-06-062866-9.
  • Wulff, D. M., Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporary (2nd ed), New York, Wiley, 1997.
  • Volume dedicated to the Faith Development Theory of James Fowler in The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. 11(3). 2001. For example:
    • Heinz Streib, "The Symposium on Faith Development Theory and the Modern Paradigm", pp. 141-142.
    • John McDargh "Faith Development Theory and the Postmodern Problem of Foundations", pp. 185-199
    • Zastrow, C., Kirst-Ashman, K. (2007). Understanding human behavior and the social environment (7th ed.) Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
    • Howard Kurtz, "College Faculties a Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds", WP, Tuesday 29 Mar 2005, p. C1.
    • Stanley Rothman, S. Robert Lichter, and Neil Nevitte (2005) "Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty," The Forum: Vol. 3 : Iss. 1, Article 2.

Available at:

    • Stanley Rothman, S. Robert Lichter, and Neil Nevitte, Fundamentals and Fundamentalists: A Reply to Ames et al.2 (July 2005)

Leak, G. (2008). Factorial validity of the Faith Development Scale. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 18 (2) pp123ff.

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