Spiritual Development

It’s time to take a break from “The Story of my Life”, because I’ve got some explaining to do. First from Brad Jersak’s book, A More Christlike God, I want to give you a summary of spiritual development as described by James W. Fowler, 1940-2015, theologian and Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University. He was also director of the Center for Research on Faith and Moral Development, and a United Methodist minister.

“Stage 0–‘Primal or Undifferentiated’ faith (birth to 2 years). Early learning of the safety of their environment (i.e. warmth, safety and security v. hurt, neglect and abuse).

Stage 1–‘Intuitive-Projective’ Faith (3 to 7 years). Unprotected exposure to the unconscious. Faith is learned mainly through experiences, stories, images, and other people.

Stage 2–‘Mythic-Literal’ faith (school children). Strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their god’s are anthropomorphic. Metaphors and symbolic language are often misunderstood and taken literally.

Stage 3–‘Synthetic Conventional’ faith (adolescence; 12 years to adult). Conformity to religious authority and development of a personal identity. Conflicts with beliefs are ignored out of fear because they threaten inconsistencies.

Stage 4–‘Individuative-Reflective’ Faith (mid-20’s to late 30’s). Angst and struggle. Taking personal responsibility for one’s beliefs and feelings. Openness to a new complexity of faith, increased awareness of conflicts in ones belief.

Stage 5–‘Conjunctive’ faith’ (aka mid-life crisis) Acknowledges paradox and transcendence, reality behind symbols of inherited systems.

Stage 6–‘Universalizing’ faith, or ‘Enlightenment’ (middle to late adulthood). Treats all people with compassion. Views people as part of a universal community, according to principles of love and justice.”

So dear reader, I’m afraid you’ve caught me somewhere between mid-life crisis and trying to treat all people with compassion while telling the story of my angst and struggle about the inconsistencies of my inherited system of theology! I’m coming to the party late as I seemed to have spent way too much time in Fowler’s stage 3 Synthetic, Conventional faith where I fearfully ignored conflicts with belief because they threatened inconsistencies. But for me the threat of hell also played a big part in preventing questioning. Getting a better understanding of all the different theories of Hell helped to open me up to new possibilities and from there it seemed to snowball. I am happily falling into the liberating and infinite “knowing” of a God who only loves and always forgives. I apologize when my blog focuses solely on the negative of my past. When I do that it is not completely accurate, but instead emphasizes the struggle part that I’m trying to explain. I am processing what happened to me, through the telling of my story, stages 2 through 6. My actual life has been mostly very positive and happy, and in genuine relationship with God.

2 thoughts on “Spiritual Development

  1. I just read all 12 blogs. A fascinating, challenging, inspiring and well written blog Julee. Keep it up! Blessings on you and this work.


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