James Fowler's Stages of Faith

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Brian Johnston
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Brian Johnston » 07 Jul 2010, 11:19

cwald wrote:Jesus and Ghandi are stage 6, not stage 5. I don't understand stage 6 at all.


Don't feel bad, neither does Dr. Fowler. He openly admits in his book that his descriptions of Stage 6 are vague and unrefined at best. They are more like guesses at what probably should come next in the logical sequence of his theory. The main message I took from his ideas was an abstract concept of diving intensely back into the particulars of a faith content without reservations, and also being able to fully realize the Universal nature of that specific content, and play with it while so fully immersed in it. Pretty heady stuff...

I think Jesus was like that with Judaism. I also personally think Joseph Smith was like this at times with Christianity and European-Western World folk magic.
cwald wrote:From what I know of stage 5 and from the post I read, I dont think stage 5ers "don't care about money anymore." I don't think that was the message about stage 5.
Yup. The hardest thing for most to get their head wrapped around is that Stage Theory is totally independent of specific religious teachings or practices. Stage Theory is strictly a description of HOW we process faith content, not what we believe.

Using a religious belief that money is the "root of all evil," and a teaching that we should not care about money as an example:

Stage 3 will not care about money anymore because that is pretty much what everyone believes. The right people do this, and they want to be in that category. They ARE in that category, just like everyone else around them believes, even though this is a deeply held personal belief of theirs. They may have even had emotional and spiritual experiences to confirm this from a loving God who wants to tell them all they need to know about life, because he watches over them and loves them. A loving Heavenly Father told us through the voice of his prophets to stop caring about money, so that we won't get hurt by it.

Stage 4 will not care about money anymore because THEY figured out that money is truly the root of all evil. If this clashes with their social group/church, then they will have cognitive dissonance and begin an uncomfortable relationship with their group. I mean GEEZ Louise! Why don't they all see it???!!!! They obviously don't understand how it really is -- the truth is that money is the root of all evil. The only solution is to stop caring about it. That is logical. You can't sometimes love it and sometimes hate it. It's one way or the other.

Stage 5 will not care about money anymore because it might be interesting to see what life is like without it. God probably doesn't care much one way or the other, as long as we experience something useful by trying it. They might stop caring about money because they like how this makes them feel, not so much because it matters, or that it is the "correct" practice, or that they are getting some eternal reward or punishment for it in the afterlife.

See what I mean? I gave examples of three completely different ways of HOW people in different stages might all be doing the same exact thing. When we look at them from the outside, it might be nearly impossible to tell them apart without having a deep and long conversation with them about it.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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SilentDawning
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by SilentDawning » 07 Jul 2010, 19:05

Stage 5 will not care about money anymore because it might be interesting to see what life is like without it. God probably doesn't care much one way or the other, as long as we experience something useful by trying it. They might stop caring about money because they like how this makes them feel, not so much because it matters, or that it is the "correct" practice, or that they are getting some eternal reward or punishment for it in the afterlife.

See what I mean? I gave examples of three completely different ways of HOW people in different stages might all be doing the same exact thing. When we look at them from the outside, it might be nearly impossible to tell them apart without having a deep and long conversation with them about it.
The Stage 5 one is the explanation I'm most interested in. I haven't read Fowler, and from the use of some of his language, it sounds very academic and probably not an immediately clear read. But from what people say here, Stage 5 is where you come up with your own reasons for the living the gospel commandments, even though the SMA's don't resonate with you anymore.

I think CWald has intrinsic reasons with his approach to tithing -- he is still showing great character in giving more than 10%; it's just not directed at the Church. My newly emerging belief has me paying that 10% of gross, but to other non-selfish funds that are consistent with gospel principles and the history of tithing. So, there is still sacrifice and charity-of-character, just not in the way mandated by the Church.

I was out home teaching this evening. I usually meet non-members and invite them to learn about the gospel. This time, I couldn't. I didn't feel that same commitment to the gospel to get others involved. It was a saddening place to be....I simply took interest in the people, and moved on. One objected to the Church and the pressure she was feelling to be active, so I indicated I didnt' want to add to that pressure and that she knew where we are when she's ready. That felt right -- not only because she was feeling pressure, but also because I didn't feel I'd be pleased with myself if I got her involved as a result of my own persuasion, given some reservations I'm having now.

So, it appears I need also to get into Stage 5 when it comes to missionary work. How much easier life was in Stage 3...

By the way, I don't agree with the use of the term "stages". They are more "states" of faith, if, as the podcasts say, stage 5 isn't better than stage 3 thinking, for example.

Conceptually, rather than being presented as stages, they would be better presented as points on a circle which point to each other state. It would be interesting to analyze the perspective of a Stage 5 person on a Stage 3 person, or a Stage 6 person on a Stage 3 person -- each set of perspectives across states.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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Brian Johnston
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Brian Johnston » 08 Jul 2010, 08:44

SilentDawning wrote:By the way, I don't agree with the use of the term "stages". They are more "states" of faith, if, as the podcasts say, stage 5 isn't better than stage 3 thinking, for example.
I agree. When possible, I prefer to not use the numbers and use the names:
Mythic-Literal (2)
Conventional-Synthetic (3)
Individuative-Reflective (4)
Conjunctive (5)
Univsersalizers? (no fixed name) (6)

Unfortunately, that seems to complicated it or make it sound too academic or cold and clinical.

But the main points is they are different frameworks, different ways of processing our beliefs. The best "stage" or "state" to be in is the one that works the best for us. Dr. Fowler notes that, according to his surveys and interviews with 1000+ people, that around 60% or more of ALL adults find "equilibrium" in a generally Conventional-Synthetic style of faith. It is probably the most functional, on a social interaction level, and is probably geared best towards group survival and success. It is a group-oriented framework, so that makes sense.

I am not sure a church would function effectively, if at all, entirely made up of people focused on themselves and their own highly individual journeys (at Individuative-Reflective and beyond, in his theories' linear scale).
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Heber13 » 08 Jul 2010, 13:42

Brian Johnston wrote:The best "stage" or "state" to be in is the one that works the best for us.
Agreed.

They are not stages of belief...but stages of Faith...different ways that help us have faith to live according to divine principles of peace.

One size does not fit all.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by macalla » 08 Jan 2011, 10:54

Is it possible for someone to start out in Stage 5, completely skipping over 1-4? Or for someone to skip any of the stages, go through them in a different order, or arrive at them much earlier than most people?

I have a dear friend whose life perspective, especially when it comes to faith, is an inspiration to me. From our conversations on religion, I suspect he's in Stage 5. I'm very slowly moving in that direction. In retrospection, I can see where I've been in 1-4 throughout my life. My friend is so young, though (but maybe I'm calling the kettle black). He is not religious, but he comes from a non-church-going christian family.

I am going to show him the podcasts and ask him about his experience with stages.

I feel slightly invalidated being so young and experiencing these transitions. As a young adult, I know people my age have whims on the wind. We change our minds. I don't think that's me, though, and it's certainly not my friend.
I'm afraid my elders will chalk it up to "just another teenage phase". That could be a good thing in some ways, I guess, but it won't be so funny ten years from now. So I keep quiet.
Anyone else have a similar experience/background?
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 08 Jan 2011, 19:31

Is it possible for someone to start out in Stage 5, completely skipping over 1-4?


Perhaps, but, if so, it is really rare. My mom might fit that description, but she also has a form of schizophrenia, so I'm not sure she would count as anything but an outlier. If this question is combined with the last one, and if "start out" means "fits stage 5 from earliest conscious recollection" or "is naturally Stage 5" - then I believe it is possible, but rare.
Or for someone to skip any of the stages,


Yes, in practical terms. No question about that, imo - but it isn't common to skip one totally (without any cog dis at all).
go through them in a different order,
Yes, since I do believe it's possible to "regress" within this mode prior to Stage 5 - if that is included by what you meant. Probably not, if you mean going from Stage 5 to a lower Stage - since Stage 5 really is predicated on "overcoming" (for lack of a better word) or being past Stages 3 and 4. However, it certainly is possible to be at different stages with regard to different aspects of life.
or arrive at them much earlier than most people?


Absolutely.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by cwald » 08 Jan 2011, 20:58

macalla wrote:Is it possible for someone to start out in Stage 5, completely skipping over 1-4?
Well, I think according to the theory of Fowlers Stages of faith, it would be VERY unlikely - and the probability would be very slim indeed. But, I suppose there is always the exception to the rule.

I just don't see how the brain would ever function that way biologically speaking --how could one possibly transcend "faith" without ever having dealt with stage 3 and the cog dis that follows in stage 4 ----- and that's not even taking stage 1 or 2 into account - which really deals with "Santa Claus." And I have NEVER known a kid to plunge from the womb and sit up all blue and gooey, and declare that Santa Claus is a fraud. Have you?

Has there ever been a kid on this planet that did not believe in Santa Claus at one time in their life? If not, than no, no one can skip stage 1 and 2, and go directly to "pass go."
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

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macalla
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by macalla » 09 Jan 2011, 01:21

That's a great point; I hadn't even thought of Santa as fitting the bill there. :shock:

If that's the case, it definitely makes more sense. The Stages of Faith are something humanity deals with, not just one religion or another. Even the most irreligious people experience these things, I'm sure. Although for them, without the label of "faith," it may be a much easier transition. They might never even consciously notice this developmental progression in themselves or those around them. It never would have occurred to me. I always thought people just "grew up."

How many people still believe in Santa at age 40, only to come to a faith crisis? It's considered "normal" to grow up and learn he doesn't exist, and no one will judge a child negatively for coming to that realization. It's to be expected.
How many people in the church have a faith crisis, maybe make it all the way to Stage 5, without ever openly acknowledging it? Have these people been my teachers/leaders without my knowing? Did they go along with it because they thought there was something wrong with them, they weren't "normal," etc.?

If progressing along the Stages of faith is as normal as growing up and discovering there is no Santa, there must be an awful lot of people like us out there who are being told not to grow up :crazy:

I find this whole concept fascinating, and it explains a lot. But at the same time, it's confusing when I try to apply it to other people :lol:
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by cwald » 09 Jan 2011, 09:49

I think there are many more stage 5ers in the church than we realize. Many more. However, according to Fowler ---- MOST never leave stage 3. They merely jump around from stage 3 to a different aspect of stage 3. Some folks will also go to stage 4, only to fall back into a stage 3 again - with a DIFFERENT set of beliefs and faith. Example --- leave the church in stage 4, and get comfortable in a stage 3 environment of Protestantism where their new belief is the only way to heaven and every one else is wrong and going to hell, including and especially the Mormons. Maybe even better example is to leave the church in stage 4, and go back to a stage 3 that NO church is true so absolutely GOD CAN NOT EXIST.. That is stage 3 thinking.

Good point about Fowlers stage being a humanity deal. To me the easiest place to see it is in politics. There are a ton of stage 3ers that make up the majority of the two party system. (most people on this planet are in stage 3. It is safe and comfortable) Occasionally you will get one who goes into stage 4, and either they will transcend the party system into a stage 5 and just deal with the imperfections of the the Republican/Democrat party, or they will go back into stage 3 and switch parties OR just give up on politics out frustration that NO ONE HAS THE ANSWERS SO THEY MUST ALL BE WRONG.

That's how I see it.
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

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Brian Johnston
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Brian Johnston » 09 Jan 2011, 11:03

I think the recent discussion is perhaps focusing too much of faith content: Santa Clause real or fake? Mormon church true or false?

Stage 4 doesn't equal a disbelief or doubts about your church's teachings. Faith stages are more about HOW one processes their beliefs. Stage 4 is marked by a distinct transition of authority to the individual, a strong theme of sorting content through your new personal lens of true/false detection, and the first glimpse of observing faith as an object -- meaning you can step back and examine that people decide what to believe.

That is a more accurate description of Fowler's definition of Stage 4. It isn't about leaving or return. But that is a common reaction by LDS members because of the very strong, absolute and literal truth claims of the LDS Church.

And no, I don't think people skip straight to Stage 5. That might be misunderstood because someone might not think about their faith in these term until they reach that type of Stage 5 awareness. Stages 0 through 2 are closely tied to human developmental psychology. A baby or young child doesn't have the wiring yet to think of something like faith in such abstract terms. Like Cwald said, babies aren't going to pop out of the womb and start thinking about their faith as an object they can explore. They don't even have the language or cognitive skills to do that.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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