Causes and problems for faith development

I would agree with the statement that is commonly made: “Everyone believes in something.” The reason I bring this up is that I just finished doing my reading for my Human Growth and Development class which was talking about James W. Fowler’s faith development stages. Fowler identified six stages and the coinciding ages that these aspects are developed. You can view an article that defines each stage here.

Stage Zero- Primal faith (Infancy)

Stage One- Intuitive/Projective Faith (Early childhood)

Stage Two- Mythic/Literal Faith (Childhood and Beyond)

Stage Three- Synthetic/Conventional Faith (Adolescence and Beyond)

Stage Four- Individuative/Reflective Faith (Young Adulthood)

Stage Five- Conjunctive Faith (Midlife and Beyond)

Stage Six- Universalizing Faith (Midlife and Beyond)

It is possible for people to get stuck in many places of these stages whether that is due to literalism that can cause extreme exclusivity from other faith expressions, egocentrism and arrogance that applies itself critically against or over a group of people who hold a belief system, and the inability to live reflectively as they progress to each stage. I was reflecting on how teenagers form their beliefs from the influences of family, friends, and other significant adults in their lives. It is a commonly held understanding that once many high schoolers graduate that they leave the church or stop believing. I’m not sure that I agree with that, but I do think that technology, increased access to information, and postmodernism could be contributing to teen’s lack of faith, confusion, and increased doubts because they are forced to grow up quicker and they have less positive adult role models.

I believe our response should be to make maturity, not just conversion, the goal of our Christian education and faith development strategies. We must model and remind people to crave the pure spiritual milk of Christ and his word (1 Peter 2:2). This won’t happen overnight, but it will happen through slow caring and sharing of individual believer’s lives. All of this will be done in relationship with one another if we are modeling ourselves in light of the reality of the Trinity. Not that God needs to grow in knowledge or faith (although Jesus did; Luke 2:52) but because the church is the work of God in the world we should strive to model our growth after the interdependence, love, and individuality of the triune godhead. I agree with Wilhoit and Dettoni (1995, 88) that,

“Fowler has offered a way of determining the relative maturity of faith, describing the stages through which a maturing faith will progress. His descriptions are not without error and theological bias, but they are helpful for describing how people grow in faith”

I recently listened to John Mayer’s song “Belief” and thought I would post it for you!

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