Stages of Faith

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances,and one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” (William Shakespeare)

As Shakespeare so eloquently reminds us in As You Like It, we are always in flux, changing day to day, year to year, and not only physically.

In 1981, Dr. James Fowler published a seminal work on stages of faith, building on the work of others such as Kolberg, Erikson and Piaget, who had recognised the stages through which human beings progress in their moral, psycho-social, moral and cognitive development, respectively. This will be a brief summary of Fowler’s six (plus one) stages of faith development, much of it paraphrased from Stages of Faith.

It is important to note Fowler is not referring to specifically religious faith; rather, a dynamic, evolving process of construing and interpreting experience; a way of knowing that brings order and coherence to life. The stages described here are not meant to be used as a means of classification in faith terms; rather they have been described as lenses through which to perceive values, not pigeon holes by which to categorise them. The higher stages are not necessarily superior; people make sense of their experiences in different ways, but the intent is not to label some as better than others.

Of course, because faith develops in a continuous process; Fowler’s stages should be viewed as snapshots taken along a continuous journey; i.e., a point on a continuum.

Infancy: Undifferentiated

Stage 1 : Intuitive-Projective

Stage 2: Mythic-Literal

Stage 3: Synthetic-Conventional

Stage 4: Individuated-Reflective

Stage 5: Conjunctive

Stage 6: Universalising

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