Fowler's Stages of Faith.
When Fowler began writing in 1981, the concept of `faith development' was a relatively new concept to the study of psychology of religion, but Fowler was able to draw on a rich tradition of Christian Judaic thought and psychological developmental theory . He thus builds on the Judeo-Christian tradition of faith development and the psychological and educational work of Piaget, (Cognitive Structural Development theory), Erikson, (`Stages of Life theory') and Kohlberg, (`Moral Development Theory'). Fowler's theory can be used to understand the development of all religious faiths. Hence his work is not focused on a particular religious tradition or content of belief, but on the `psychological concept of faith (Fowler, 1991:1). Fowler does not concentrate on the contents of faith. He is not suggesting that people change the content of their faith at each stage, but there are differences in styles of faith. This is what Fowler calls the operations of knowing and valuing . Before Fowler introduces his understanding of the concept `faith' and the content of each stage Fowler makes a number of cautions, two of these are very important to our understanding of his theory. It will be necessary to keep these cautions in mind in using his theory. 1.
The descriptions of stages are `still shots' in a complex and dynamic process. Hence
"the process of `staging' a person should not be approached with a cubbyhole
mentality (Fowler & Keen, 1985:39)."
The staging of a person is not an evaluative scale by which to establish the comparative
worth of persons. Fowler claims, " that the stages should never be used for the nefarious
the devaluing of persons (Fowler, 1987:80)." As such the stages are
not to be seen as stages in soteriology. There are people at each stage who are persons
of serenity, courage and genuine faith 2. Faith
For Fowler faith is a universal quality of human life. Fowler says "Think if you will, of faith as `universal', as a feature of living, acting, and self-understanding of all human beings whether they claim to be `believers' or religious or not (Fowler & Keen, 1985:17)". Belief is "one of the important ways of expressing and communicating faith, but belief and faith are not the same thing (Fowler, 1991:22)". Faith is deeper than belief, it is more encompassing than the modern understanding of belief as mental assent to some proposition or propositions. 1. When Fowler speaks of faith development he is not simply speaking about religious understandings or beliefs, but the way we shape and form our lives in their totality. Faith includes the passional and the intellectual. 2.
For Fowler, the term faith has to be viewed as a dynamic, changing, evolving process not as something relatively static. In this way he credits the term with new meaning. In the English language faith is a noun. As such it is viewed as something people either have or they do not have. For Fowler faith is better understood as a verb, a way of being'. Thus faith is an active "mode-of-being-in-relation to another or others in which we invest commitment, belief, love, risk and hope (Fowler & Keen, 1985:17)". Integrity to the personal journey of faith will involve changing or abandoning previously held beliefs, and commitments. 3. Faith Development
Fowlers concept of faith development is built on two processes which, taken together, constitute, what he calls, the dance of faith development in our lives'. These two processes are conversion and development. Conversion is the radical and dramatic changes that occur in our centres of value, power and master story. This conversion process is the process of transformation and intensification of faith. The second process, that of development, involves a less radical, maturing, similar to the biological process of maturation. Faith development occurs through the ongoing dance of faith...
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