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)." 2. 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 comparison or 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
For Fowler faith is a universal quality of human