I always find myself intrigued by the different analyses of various faith stages. I have written previously about Fowler and how used these stages in his ‘Churchless Faith’ research. Very helpful I thought.
Last week Len Hjalmarson wrote about this from a different perspective and I thought its simplicity was also quite useful.
For myself I can see the first 5 stages playing out at different points in my life and while I don’t really like the description for stage 6, I think I get the gist of what’s being said.
Unlike Fowler that has more of a cognitive approach, this schema seems to pick up on how we relate to God. I think its important to acknowledge that for many people there is a ‘stage 4’. Whether its that ‘prayer doesn’t work’, or ‘church doesn’t cut it’, or the ‘Bible seems irrelevant’, we all go thru questioning and doubting places.
In those difficult places some will retreat to earlier stages and fan the flames of nostalgia hoping to rekindle some of the old passion, while others will push on and discover a different way of living – a way of being that can only come after some displacement, frustration and confusion.
I have said it before and I’d want to say it again, that its vital we help people develop in all stages of their faith. Typically evangelicals sit more at ease with stages 1-3 (we even excel at 2 and 3!) But we often find ‘4’ to be on a par with rejecting faith and hence in that place people are extremely vulnerable to giving up on faith altogether if they are not given a space in which to air their concerns.
Equally those at later stages of the faith journey need to avoid the arrogance of looking condescendingly on those in earlier stages. Being a child isn’t something to look down on, unless of course you refuse to grow up…