James Fowler's Stages of Faith

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MisterCurie
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by MisterCurie » 15 Sep 2009, 11:00

I think it is important to note that Fowler's Stages of Faith are a scientist's description of a process he observed in thousands of people from many different faith traditions. There is nothing in particular to say that progression through the Stages of Faith is "God's Plan" for us, or that it is even necessarily what God wants for us. However, they do seem to provide some direction and comfort to those who feel that God is calling them on a faith journey while their former faith tradition is labeling them as apostate. Fowler, as far as I know, did not claim to speak for God or present his stages as faith as Divinely inspired, he is simply describing a natural process that he observed.

Also, as far as I can tell, Stage 5 is not defined as returning to the "true church" with an acceptance of its paradoxes (it is also not even about accepting Chrisitianity). It also doesn't seem to mean that one has to return to their Stage 3 faith tradition to attain Stage 5. So there is nothing in attaining Stage 5 that is dependent on staying LDS (although that is the purpose of this forum), and I have to accept that DW's journey will at least as likely lead her back to Catholicism (where she began her faith journey from Stage 3) as it will to the LDS faith. And she may end up somewhere else entirely.

Of course these are just the observations of someone still struggling to hold onto Stage 3 while being dragged kicking and screaming into Stage 4 . . . so my perspective may not be correct.

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Brian Johnston
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Brian Johnston » 15 Sep 2009, 11:11

For the record, I do not claim to be right. I just am the way I am. I could very well be wrong. Maybe life is a trick question just like some people portray it in Church, and I failed :-) *Shrug*
Heber13 wrote:I see the purpose of why established religions see the stage 3 faith is needed by members to function as an organization. But this is troubling to me. If the Church teaches the will of God, claiming its teachings are what God wants us to do and to be obedient to...why would God be teaching stage 3 faith and also teaching us to become like Christ that transcended Stage 3, went through stage 4 and 5 and achieved Stage 6 faith development? Why not just teach us we all need to go to stage 6?
The Church teaches the will of God. But those are Stage 3 people talking to Stage 3 people. It all sounds very good and satisfying to them. God is standing in the background listening and watching. He probably smiles sometimes when he hears us all talking about Him, telling each other "for sure" what Dad told us to do, and we better get to it or we are in BIG BIG trouble.

Stage 4 and 5 are personal journeys for the most part. Only a limited number of people go that route. They don't need a special church for them. Sometimes they don't use a church at all. It really is overall the most efficient model IMHO to have Church focus on a Stage 3 style of faith images, and an Ultimate Reality of rewards and punishments for obedience.
Heber13 wrote:I feel a personal need to journey to Stage 5 and find my peace, because I believe God felt I was ready to be booted out of Stage 3. But I don't feel any church teachings or true believing church members view my current actions as a good thing. I feel the church teaches that we should safely stay in Stage 3 with the flock. And if you leave the flock, we'll have to go find you and bring you back to stage 3 again for your own good. And if you leave the flock, you are jeapordizing eternal punishment and damnation and forfeiture of eternal glory.
Yup. That is what the Church generally teaches. I don't say that in an absolute sense, because I see a much different picture in the scriptures, and even in the teachings of people like Joseph Smith. I hear a different message than they do. We all hear what we want, and we are sure we figured it out :-). Don't look for acceptance or encouragement from anyone but God. Look, I don't know anymore what God is going to do with me. That part sucks. It was easy before when I could do A and feel sure I was going to get B. It was all nicely packaged in a neat recipe. But I couldn't stay there anymore. God wouldn't let me. So whatever He wants to do with me is up to Him. I am fine with that. I place my hope and faith in going forward and following the light. I can't go backwards. It's all dark back there now.

What they say is correct. If you stay in the flock you will be safe. Stay where you are. The shepherd will tell you exactly what to do. You do it...easy peasy, right? That works. It really does work. I heard a still small voice though as I was grazing one day with the flock. That was my problem. It said "Hey buddy. Look around. Look in your reflection in the river water next time you go take a drink." I looked, and realized I was a goat! Goats are really useful too. They eat pretty much anything, don't really listen very well to the shepherd, but they still make good milk and cheese. They also taste nice all chopped up in a curry :-) I am not sure where I am going with this anymore, lol. Anyway, my point is that I just can't hide what's inside. I am a goat. I can still be in the flock. I have a purpose. The shepherd likes me. I make cheese instead of wool now for "The Man."
Heber13 wrote:And so there is an internal struggle for me. I feel God wants me to broaden my faith and find the deep symbolic meanings Valoel talks about. And yet I feel the church I am trying to cling to that professes it teaches God's will is discouraging me from doing this, and actually teaches that the path I'm headed down is one of apostacy or heresy, that I'm on dangerous ground and am losing spiritual strength and light. I may not be worthy to baptize my son next year, or give the priesthood to my son next year, or see my daughters married in the temple (in hopefully many many years from now).
Fowler talks in other sections of the book about faith, not the development but the meaning. He talks about how us moderns have changed the meaning of belief and faith from an alignment process with the divine to a profession of acceptance in creedal ideas. You seem to be saying that you are not worthy if you see things differently, meaning you have no faith. Modern Stage 3 people are often concerned with our thoughts and faith images. It is more important to say that we obey than it is to actually obey. It is more important to profess acceptance of a doctrine than it is to explore it and practice. To Evangelicals, you must only acknowledge that Jesus Christ is your savior. That is what saves you, not trying to figure out through trial and error what Jesus was teaching.
Heber13 wrote:If the church is really true...why would they not celebrate my journey and support me? Why would they not be teaching and preaching this need to follow Christ's footsteps? Why must I try to accept the paradox, but the church not teach that is God's way? This is troubling to me. (thanks for letting me ramble).
It is troubling. No doubt. I feel it sometimes. I trouble them (when I let out a little of my thoughts). They trouble me. It is really healthy that way I think. There are reasons why shepherd keep goats around in their flocks. I hope that metaphor is valid.

I feel troubled when I get done having a real hardcore black & white discussion with a TBM. It still nags at me when I hear a long discussion of enduring to the end, and we don't want to settle for second best right? Cause that is the eternal first loser. How horrible it will be, like we will suffer for all eternity in a lake of fire and brimstone of regret if we don't make it to the highest level of the most bestest kingdom by being completely perfect and obedient in this life. One slip, and Satan has you in his jaws. You will never see God again. Not only that, you will be a servant to one of these more righteous and obedient sheep of the flock. If only you had stayed with the flock...

Yeah, I feel it sometimes too.
"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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hawkgrrrl
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by hawkgrrrl » 15 Sep 2009, 11:54

I couldn't agree more with Valoel on his 3 main points:
- The church is Stage 3s talking to Stage 3s. Most people live and die in Stage 3. The widget factory works in the majority of cases, producing widgets as designed. Stage 4s are the rejects of the widget factory. Some are angry that the Stage 3s see them as rejects. Some are angry at the widget factory. Some end up in the dumpster. A few make it out of the factory, and don't know how to get back in. Some even become something other than a widget over time. Some gain perspective and peace.
- Stage 4, 5 and 6 are personal journeys. You don't take them with others. They are personal spiritual journeys, not necessarily defined by a religion. To an extent they transcend religion, but they may also embrace religion. This is a place of perspective and peace. Stage 6s are exceptionally rare. They are radicals (like Jesus or even JS) who change the paradigm for others.
- You have to get square with not having the approval of others or being accepted by them to get past Stage 4 because you're not going to have it any more, now that you've left Stage 3. That's just the way it is. You are going to be an odd duck.
If the church is really true...why would they not celebrate my journey and support me?
Because they can't celebrate what is irrelevant to them.
Why would they not be teaching and preaching this need to follow Christ's footsteps?
When BY taught that men would have to become saviors and atone for the sins of others in order to become Gods, not just do their home teaching every month until they die, this got hidden away into the rare readings room at the Y and labelled speculative, not doctrine. We seem to have gone away from the business of becoming Christ to becoming "Christlike" or having a relationship with Christ. I suppose it's milk before meat, but it also entails an easier set of requirements. I guess I am saying that the church doesn't really teach the need to follow Christ's footsteps (literally doing what he did) as much as it once did. Does that mean it's not true? I doubt that just staying out of trouble will make one a God. Just sayin'.

Here's how Stage 3s typically view 4, 5, and 6:
- Stage 4. Bitter apostates being buffeted by Satan. Can leave the church, but can't leave it alone.
- Stage 5. Eccentrics who may seem slightly aloof or detached at times.
- Stage 6. Probably don't know any. If they do, they assume that they agree with them because someone so charismatic and insightful must know "the truth"-right?

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Heber13
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Heber13 » 15 Sep 2009, 12:10

Those are good observations, MrC. And this is why I want to understand use of Fowler's theory for me and other StayLDSers.

I guess where I'm coming from is John Dehlin's presentation (listen to the podcasts, they're great) that the stages of faith may help us realize that for those who struggle with the church and some of the historical conundrums, perhaps there is a place for us in the church still, in finding a middle-way, and seeing that perhaps one can move to stage 4 and on to stage 5 and remain in the church. You don't have to abandon organized religion (whether that is LDS or Catholic or whatever), just broaden your understanding of the symbols described by Valoel above.

If that is the premise, than it conflicts with the church teaching me that my journey to broaden my faith is actually dangerous because it leads to my losing spiritual strength and faith and leads to apostacy. If not apostacy, at least unworthiness to God. In other words, how do I have faith in the church if they say I can't baptize my son because I'm heading on my current path of faith development. Either the church is wrong, or my path is wrong.

[I wrote all that above prior to reading Valoel's last post...so I guess I should finish with thoughts about that]
Valoel wrote:I hear a different message than they do. We all hear what we want, and we are sure we figured it out . Don't look for acceptance or encouragement from anyone but God. Look, I don't know anymore what God is going to do with me. That part sucks. It was easy before when I could do A and feel sure I was going to get B. It was all nicely packaged in a neat recipe. But I couldn't stay there anymore. God wouldn't let me. So whatever He wants to do with me is up to Him. I am fine with that. I place my hope and faith in going forward and following the light. I can't go backwards. It's all dark back there now.
That was what I needed to read. And I like the analogy of the goats too.
Valoel wrote:God is standing in the background listening and watching. He probably smiles sometimes when he hears us all talking about Him, telling each other "for sure" what Dad told us to do, and we better get to it or we are in BIG BIG trouble.
That's a wonderful image, makes me smile thinking about how silly we get sometimes, huh? :lol:

The hard part is to think that God would lead me on a path that the church might actually not approve of, when I have always viewed the church as an extension of God's will and teaching of truth. Getting acceptance from God not anyone else, as you stated, is really faith. It just seems to conflict with the idea God's true church is not teaching God's truth to me personally. I just don't know why that paradox has to exist. I feel like I'm faced with the choice in the Garden of Eden...stay safe in paradise, or pursue knowledge and progression despite the rules. While we see Adam and Eve committed a transgression with their choice...aren't we all really glad they did it? Perhaps there is symbolism there for me?

[...ok, I'm way too slow...now I have to respond to hawkgrrrl's very good words...]
hawkgrrrl wrote:I guess I am saying that the church doesn't really teach the need to follow Christ's footsteps (literally doing what he did) as much as it once did. Does that mean it's not true? I doubt that just staying out of trouble will make one a God. Just sayin'.
That makes sense to me.

I guess I really am an oddball widget...no wonder I feel I don't "fit in" all the time at church. I look at things differently now and can't change that. I am who I am (i.e. tasty in curry ;) ).

I think I need to focus on the acceptance from God, not the church, its standards, or its leaders. What I want to do is continue on my path, and still be obedient so I am worthy to still participate in my son's baptism, other son's priesthood ordination, and all the temple marriages (that are hopefully a decade away or so ;) ). And from there, I'll let the chips fall where they may and learn from the experience.

(I better hurry and post this before Ray responds...) :P
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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Orson
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Orson » 15 Sep 2009, 12:25

Wow, great stuff here guys!

Hawk, loved your last post.

Valoel, just had to let you know this part made me laugh! :lol:
Valoel wrote:I heard a still small voice though as I was grazing one day with the flock. That was my problem. It said "Hey buddy. Look around. Look in your reflection in the river water next time you go take a drink." I looked, and realized I was a goat! Goats are really useful too. They eat pretty much anything, don't really listen very well to the shepherd, but they still make good milk and cheese...
I have heard the goat analogy before, but not carried this far. We do "eat" almost anything, or take it in from non-docrinal sources at least. :? And maybe the not listening part has something to with being hard of hearing! :o

Thanks for that! :D
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by bridget_night » 15 Sep 2009, 12:49

Hi All, I have been meaning to read this thread for a long time now, but you know how it is. Reverend Scotty McLennan, author of "Finding Your Relgion" drew heavily from Fowlers stages writings. He made a commentary on them that helped me understand these stages better. Here they are:

Magic: Typical of children between two and 10. In this stage the view of
God is as an all-powerful character who can do anything. In this stage,
God is sometimes seen as a "Santa Claus" God – one who can see if you
are good or bad and fly around the world on Christmas Eve to give you
presents if you are good, or lumps of coal if you are bad.
Reality: About the same time children are giving up on a literal Santa
Claus, somewhere at or after age 6, God starts to be imagined more as
the traditional Guy with the white beard and long white gown of the Bible.
Some Santa Claus notions may persist for a while, such as the notion that
it is now God and not Santa who rewards or punishes for being good or
bad.
Dependence: This stage typically sets in around the junior high ages,
roughly coinciding with the onset of puberty. Though influenced by peer
pressure there is also reliance on leadership, including in matters of faith,
by trusted authorities. God is seen as an idealized parent, often, as
McLennan says, to replace real parents who are now seen as flawed.
Independence: This stage appears in the later teen years, roughly
paralleling the broader adolescent rebellion against parents, authority
figures, and conventional rules. In its most negative manifestation, it takes
a form of wholesale rejection of long-held values and beliefs. In more
benign manifestations, it takes the form of active questioning and sifting of
beliefs and practices. McLennan sees these teens and young adults as
turning inward for spiritual centering and authority, frequently expressing
the familiar phrase, "I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious." (McLennan p. 23).
McLennan sees many such people as becoming "functional deists" at this
time. This is the picture of God as the great Clock-maker, who has started
the universe running, but who is now largely detached from it, letting it run
its own course. People in the Independence stage may fixate on the
symbols and institutions of religion, struggling to make sense of them or
outright rejecting them. McLennan offers that many adults may be delayed
in reaching this stage for many years, resulting in much internal tension
between spirituality based on dependence needs at the same time in
conflict with independent spiritual assertion.
Interdependence: This stage will appear in mid to later adulthood.
Essentially it involves the reconciliation of tensions between the stages of
dependence and independence. It is a step beyond the all-or-nothing,
black and white, dichotomous struggles seen in the dependence and
independence stages. There is a broader understanding that truth has
many facets. There is less of a tendency to ask, "Do you believe in God?"
and instead ask, "How do I experience God or the Ultimate reality." There
is a broader sense of personal responsibility for spirituality than a reliance
on dogmatic truths, or spirituality based on rejecting them.
There is a realization that there are more questions than there are
answers, and that that is OK. Such people likely realize that they are on a
journey rather than having arrived at a safe place. At their best they will be
able to sift between the elements of their spirituality based on their
religious cultural experiences hard-wired into them, and tenets of belief,
faith, and morals that they have examined and incorporated into their own
personal spirituality.
· Unity: This sixth stage is one that McLennan observes is largely
"populated by mystics." (p.26) And is one which many if most of us may
never reach. This is a much harder stage to describe because it is a place
of experience rather than definable principles or beliefs. God or the
Ultimate Reality is not a Being detached from us and our universe, but is
rather pervasive throughout us and all reality. God is both transcendent
and immanent. Those of you who participated in the Wonderful
Wednesday discussions on Marcus Borg’s visions of the "God We Never
Knew" will recognize the term "Panentheism" here. The experience of God
or the Ultimate Reality is beyond the trappings of language, dogma, ritual
and symbols. Aside from a broader experience of trans-denominational
community, People in this stage may have mystical or "peak experiences."
People like Ghandi, or the Dalai Llama, or Thomas Merton, or Mother
Teresa are individuals whom we might see as being able to reach this
state, however briefly.

I am definitely in stage 5 the past 10 years and have experienced 6 on ocassion. I love learning and experiencing and you all help give me alot of perspective and keeping my brain cells alive excerized.

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Brian Johnston
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Brian Johnston » 15 Sep 2009, 17:51

Heber13 wrote:I think I need to focus on the acceptance from God, not the church, its standards, or its leaders. What I want to do is continue on my path, and still be obedient so I am worthy to still participate in my son's baptism, other son's priesthood ordination, and all the temple marriages (that are hopefully a decade away or so ;) ). And from there, I'll let the chips fall where they may and learn from the experience.
Just keep in mind that it is all a cost-benefit analysis. Your life will be just fine if you obey the living standards of the Church. The cost is maybe the feeling that you are going through the motions. You may also feel constrained. Is it worth it? Yes. It might be, and that might be the right decision.

I personally accepted the fact that I could possibly end up not doing some of those things. That may be the cost of my exploration at times. I accept the possibility and the consequences as the cost. I may be judged by men. I don't feel very much fear of that anymore, for better or worse. I do very much still pay attention to my relationship with God. That is important to me. I am a defective widget. I have never felt shunned so far. I won't allow that. Those feelings happen inside me or not, by my choice. I choose not.
"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 swimordie » 16 Sep 2009, 12:04

Wow, I'm here a day late I guess. Incredible insight over the last 24 hours. Amazing to read all of this!!

I'm with Valoel on this too. I felt EXACTLY like heber not too long ago and then through the process of breaking codependencies, I've landed in a very similar place as valoel. I'll extend it a little. I now try to view my parenting as a stewardship. As if I were tasked to raise someone else's kids. I found that I was so affected by what others thought of my kids, I was being held back in my own personal journey.

And why not? Why should I care what others think or say of my kids? I will drown them with overwhelming amounts of unconditional love and support. Tell them what they want to hear, if that's what they need or tell them what they don't want to hear, if that's what I need. Undue pressure, or unwarranted coercion, invariably will come back to haunt me. Plus, I wouldn't do that to someone else's kids. Why would I do that to my own?

It's such a tricky minefield. But a gloriously revelatory process to life and living. On the flip-side, my parents did it the coercive way for their own image. Now, that image is destroyed and they're in a semi-constant state of mourning. Be careful what you wish for.
Perfectionism hasn't served me. I think I am done with it. -Poppyseed

Daisy
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Daisy » 07 Nov 2009, 10:55

Thanks for posting these links. They were VERY helpful and hopeful. I have a greater understand of what is happening to me. 8-)

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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 07 Nov 2009, 15:34

I have a greater understanding of what is happening to me.
and that is a wonderful start. It's hard to deal with what is not understood.
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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