James Fowler's Stages of Faith

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Curt Sunshine
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 01 Jul 2010, 06:53

SamBee (and others), here is the post on Fowler's Stages of Faith. It is one of our "foundation" posts.

Feel free, obviously, to add to the comments.
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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SamBee
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by SamBee » 01 Jul 2010, 07:33

Had a brief skance over the wikipedia site. It seems that it refers to childhood/adult development. Must admit it is hard to tie it up with anything. I don't even find these stages sequential in my own life... :|
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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Brian Johnston
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Brian Johnston » 01 Jul 2010, 08:15

Correct SamBee. Dr. James Fowler is a researcher in the field of developmental psychology (and professor at Emory University). His book/theory examines the mechanics of faith from that perspective, and discusses it in terms of normal human psychological maturation -- from infant to adult. A good section of the book describes theories of childhood development, and how children work with their cultural faith content (the actual beliefs).

Most of what we talk about, therefore, on sites like this are the typically adult stages -- Stage 3 through Stage 5 (stage 6 being only theoretical even in his own theory).

Stages 0 through 2 are largely meaningless to our problem of adult faith crisis.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 01 Jul 2010, 08:59

and most people aren't completely in one particular stage - moving totally from one to another in all things.

The best example is someone who sees everything in stark black and white who suddenly is confronted by something that doesn't fit and hits Stage 4 head-on. Many people in that situation recoil from Stage 4 and don't change their overall mindset - by simply moving from one clear persepctive (e.g., "the Church is 100% true and all else is 100% false") to a different one ("the Church is 100% false and something else is 100% true"). They remain in Stage 3, despite their encounter with something that might have pushed someone else into Stage 4 - or moved someone else through Stage 4 into Stage 5.
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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Heber13
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Heber13 » 01 Jul 2010, 09:15

I also think the podcasts make a good point that they aren't necessarily more developed or more useful than others, only different stages. So if we feel we have been forced into Stage 4, that does not always mean we are more mature than others we think are in stage 3. I do not think TBM status and Stage 3 status are the exact same thing for everyone all the time.

The danger, of course, is that these "stages" can become labels...but at least it gives us a framework to discuss how faith changes in individuals over time.
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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SamBee
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by SamBee » 01 Jul 2010, 14:44

Fair enough guys. I've heard enough about this here to check it out further. I'm not sure how it will help me - maybe someone can explain that to me please... recognition is one thing, solution another.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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SilentDawning
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by SilentDawning » 02 Jul 2010, 05:41

By now, I've listened to the first and second podcasts on the Stages of Faith. I still feel kind of baffled by level 5, and how to get there.

Here are the some of the thoughts I'm having.

1. Level 4 is a bothersome phase. I feel like a hypocrite as I go through the motions while having severe reservations. I feel kind of trapped because I've built a whole Mormon life around me with kids that believe the Church, a wife who is a level #3 person, non-member family who is always watching my commitment. I know that if they weren't in my life, and I was single, I'd be less active right now. I'm not really being authentic in my life. I'd like to BE again, and I don't feel I can. It's a terribly counterfeit state to be in, and one I'd like to get out of it.

2. I'm also bothered by the fact that Level 5 is a phase where you're thinking way outside the box -- and that tends to lead to labels of heresy. Hawkgrrrl indicated that Christ as a level 5 when it comes to Judaism, and then a Level 6. The problem is that if we all progressed in that way, we'd be a Church of people bucking the status quo. And that's not allowed in the Church. And Level 6-ers often end up being assassinated or martyred. in our Church, disciplined. I don't see progression to Level 6 as even desireable or practical for many of us.

3. To me, level 5 is just another form of rationalization like you see among Level 3 people. But it requires a higher level of intelligence and creativity.

4. To me, it's not clear what I have to do to get out of Level 4. The second podcast said to pray. The StayLDS article suggests in a few places to just stay in the Church and modify your behavior so the Church is something you can still live with...(and at points, even seems to encourage lukewarm behavior). The former seems like a return to level 3 thinking and behavior, and the latter seems like accepting that it's OK to be a half-miler (perhaps the latter has nothing to do with the stages of faith, and I'm onto a different topic there).

Hopefully you aren't offended by these statements, as Fowler's stages seem to resonate with a lot of people here, but I thought I'd share my perceptions so far. I'm going to try to listen to these podcasts again, as I never usually accept my early impressions. As a musician, I listen to a new CD 5 times before I make up my mind about whether it's a keeper or not; I like to think I'm open-minded enough to view new ideas with the same patience.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- 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."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Heber13
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Heber13 » 02 Jul 2010, 12:04

I like your honesty, SilentDawning. It is something to struggle with until it resonates or not with each person.

Don't know if it helps, but here is a quote on Stage 5
The new strength of this stage comes in the rise of the ironic imagination-a capacity to see and be in one's or one's group's most powerful meanings, while simultaneously recognizing that they are relative, partial and inevitably distorting apprehensions of transcendent reality. Its danger lies in the direction of a paralyzing passivity or inaction, giving rise to complacency or cynical withdrawal, due to its paradoxical understanding of truth.
To me, the great opportunity of Stage 5 is to learn to accept paradox and mysticism and symbolism so one can avoid being a hypocrite...and actually stay in the Church if one chooses, but live the principles for different reasons than one did when in Stage 3, and be at peace which was difficult to figure out while in Stage 4. It could take months or years to feel you are getting closer to Stage 5 (its a personal journey), and it may be some back and forth movement between stages as you go. I'm not sure I fully get it yet, but others on this site are great examples of it.
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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Brian Johnston
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Brian Johnston » 02 Jul 2010, 17:02

Not offended in the least by anything you said. That is why this forum exists -- to talk about things openly, but maintaining a positive, progressive, pro-spiritual atmosphere.

Let me address a few things about your observations.

1st off, we are not all one stage or another. I prefer to talk about our individual thoughts as being more like one stage than another. We tend to straddle several stages at times (3-4-5), even if more of our perspectives center in one framework.
SilentDawning wrote:1. Level 4 is a bothersome phase. I feel like a hypocrite as I go through the motions while having severe reservations. I feel kind of trapped ...
It is bothersome, generally, for orthodox Mormons transitioning into thinking this way (stage 4 perspectives). That is because our Church and culture are very rigid in a lot of ways and highly defined. Most Churches are targeted at Stage 3 adults. That is practical for many reasons, mostly because the vast majority of adults (according to Fowler's surveys) find equilibrium in Stage 3 and never leave it. On top of that, Stage 4 and beyond are largely a personal journey. So it is harder for a large social organization to cater to every individuals personal journey.

You are trapped, sort of, as a decision you make to keep harmony in your family. Everything has a cost and a reward. Every single decision ... It's best IMO to see this as it is, and make the best of it. Does it have to be a painful entrapment? Can you actually be free in other ways and still keep harmony with others? Many many possibilities out there. THAT IS WHY STAYLDS exists -- to talk about all that.
SilentDawning wrote:2. I'm also bothered by the fact that Level 5 is a phase where you're thinking way outside the box -- and that tends to lead to labels of heresy. Hawkgrrrl indicated that Christ as a level 5 when it comes to Judaism, and then a Level 6. The problem is that if we all progressed in that way, we'd be a Church of people bucking the status quo.<snip>
You are definitely getting the "big picture." Stage 5 types are characterized by a lack of commitment, a lack of attachment, and quite frankly seem flaky or insincere to Stage 3 and 4 types. I would argue that Christ was a Stage 6 personality. He *DOVE* into the "depths of the particular," a classic Stage 6 attitude. He was a far-out there, radical Jew, but he was supremely Jewish in his practice and preaching.

You just can't have a Church full of Stage 5 and Stage 6 people. Listen to the last podcast on Stage 5 Mormonism that John Dehlin and I did at Mormon Expression. We talk a lot about this topic in particular.
SilentDawning wrote:3. To me, level 5 is just another form of rationalization like you see among Level 3 people. But it requires a higher level of intelligence and creativity.
I have to strongly disagree with this. You'd really have to read the book. Stage 5 is a fundamentally different way of seeing the world compared to other stages (thus, each has a name and a number. they are all different). Rationalization implies a lack of discipline or making excuses for not following a set of group expectations. That is a Stage 3 perspective of a stage 5 expression. Stage 5 people just don't see it the same way. They are no longer inside their group's framework. They are standing outside looking in. They might in fact be more disciplined about "the rules," but it will be for very different reasons. I think of Rumi (the poet in Islam) and Jesus Christ as key examples. Rumi was not a naughty Muslim. He was supremely Muslim, playing with his faith like a true stage 5-er.
SilentDawning wrote:4. To me, it's not clear what I have to do to get out of Level 4. The second podcast said to pray. The StayLDS article suggests in a few places to just stay in the Church and modify your behavior so the Church is something you can still live with...(and at points, even seems to encourage lukewarm behavior). The former seems like a return to level 3 thinking and behavior, and the latter seems like accepting that it's OK to be a half-miler (perhaps the latter has nothing to do with the stages of faith, and I'm onto a different topic there).
Stage 4 is painful for most. You want to move on, or at least amp down the anger or pain -- thus the eventual "detachment" or "flakiness" of Stage 5 attitudes. The way you are looking at it is a regression back into Stage 3. I don't actually see people doing that much successfully, but it is possible.

How to you transition? You get sick of thinking in a Stage 4 way. You get tired of pulling everything apart, which leaves a big pile of broken useless pieces of symbols and faith. Dr. Fowler describes the transition from 4 to 5 as being prompted by a sense of flatness or lack of "magic" in life. The person decides to jump back in and let things speak their stories to them -- a willing naivete' . Someone asked him how to make that happen. He said "Son, if you aren't standing on the tracks, you can't get hit by the train." You have to get to a point where you can allow religious symbols and metaphors to speak to you again, just letting them tell you their story and take you where they go without trying to force them into your paradigm of "truth." Its hard, but it is worth it.

It isn't a matter of praying harder, obeying harder, pretending better or slacking. It is a fundamental shift in how you see things. Those previous descriptions are a regression to stage 3 or stagnation in stage 4. They will be painful.

EDIT: I forgot to add this. A transition between stages could also happen with a change in faith content -- leaving the Church and seeking other content. We don't really explore that fully here. Our mission at StayLDS is to find ways to transition and stay in the LDS Church, how to make that happen as easy as possible. It is totally valid to leave though. That happens a lot to people in all faiths.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: James Fowler's Stages of Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 02 Jul 2010, 17:29

They might in fact be more disciplined about "the rules," but it will be for very different reasons.
Amen.

Once more, there is NOTHING "better" about Stage 5 than Stage 3 for those individuals who function best at Stage 3 - and those people constitute the VAST majority of people in this world. Understanding that is critical to moving through Stage 4, since not understanding it continues isolation, alienation, condescension, angst, fear, etc.

Imo, going from Stage 3 to Stage 5 and Stage 6 (no matter the intensity and duration of Stage 4), in a way, is moving into and progressing within true charity.
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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