According to James Fowler, there are seven “stages” or types of faith. These stages “attempt to describe the way faith generally develops, but do not prescribe how faith must or should develop in any individual.” It is a gradual process, that happens along the continuum, as an individual grows and matures. In other words, you can move from one stage to the next however, a certain situation may cause you to return to the previous stage.
The first stage is primal faith which occurs in young children (birth to age 3). “This stage establishes a fundamental but pre-conscious disposition which will eventually enable the child to believe that there is a God who loves and cares for them.” I personally don’t remember this stage however; I do know my dad use to read a Bible for kids before bed.
The second stage is imaginative faith which occurs between the ages of 4 and 8. This stage is a blind trust in their family’s belief. It is based solely on what the parents say and do. I grew up in a Catholic house hold and that was where my foundation started.
The third stage is literal faith which occurs between the ages of 6 and 12. At this stage, children become less naïve and begins to think critically. This is where they begin to create their own image of God “as something like a divine superhero” that “create order and justice”. I remember at that age, my parents use to always tell me to be good because God was watching and he sees everything. Which led me to believe Santa Clause was God because “he knows when you’ve been bad or good” and I would get presents if I was good for Christmas!
The fourth stage is conventional faith which occurs at the age of 13 and older. At this point in a child’s life, the need to belong and be accepted among peers and friends has great importance to them. God is now seen “as an authority figure, like a judge […].” Around the age of 20 the fifth stage occurs, personal faith. They describe this stage “as a period of rebellion or withdrawal” In my case, I feel like the fourth and the fifth stage became meshed together. When my friends became more important to me, no one seemed to be religious. It was seen as “not cool” which drew me away from God. The older I got, the more I worked on the weekend, the less I went to Church and the further I got. In the last couple of years, I started to face more difficult situations and found myself talking to God. I could see how they would say some young adults refer to it as “spiritual but not religious.” Upon deeper self-reflection of writing this assignment, I think this is where I am currently at and making my way to the next stages.
The sixth stage is mystical faith which occurs in some adults around the age of 30. They are aware of God as the Holy spirit, of his presence in everything around them. The last stage is rare and may occur after middle age. “The rare individuals who reach this level live lives of totally self-less love, uncompromised by concerns for personal status, comfort or security.” This last stage made me think about my grandparents in Lebanon. The way their entire life is centered around God and their faith.
It is clear to me that it is impossible for me to share all my experiences that linked me from one stage to another but as you can see, I can relate closely to them. Reading this article and self-reflecting on my faith has been fulfilling. I know my journey in my faith is still ongoing and I can’t wait to see where it brings me.
Stages in Faith Development. (2016). Waterloo Catholic Faith Formation Commission. Retrieved 16 October 2016, from http://waterloocatholics.org/stages-in-faith-development