Dr. James Fowler tribute cartoon

"Dr. James Fowler" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Dr. James Fowler” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Dr. James Fowler, the author of the famous book on spiritual growth and development, Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, has died.

Of all the books I’ve read, this one belongs in my top 10 influential books in my life. I read it first in the early 80’s, just after it came out. What it did for me was open my eyes to where I was at and where I could possibly go. So it was, in a way, a prophetic voice into my spiritual journey. By prophetic I mean it spoke into where I was, opening my mind to jolt me out of a kind of complacency, but it also spoke hope into where I could go, that I had lots of room to develop, grow, and mature. The sixth and final stage is eloquently and succinctly described here as a kind of “enlightenment”:

“The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.”

It is strange, isn’t it, how this stage would be repugnant and disagreeable to some of the earlier stages? So, I’ve come to the conclusion, from my own observation and experience, that there is a mixture of automatic, natural, and organic growth, and intentional growth. At some point in the journey the person becomes self-aware and participates in their development. For me, it was around this time of switching from mainly auto-pilot to mainly manual that I read this book, and it helped me to do it with wise guidance. Or, perhaps to put it better, it helped me to stop blocking my development into becoming the person I was and could be. I talk about it in my own recent book, Questions Are The Answer: nakedpastor and the search for understanding.

Whether you believe in heaven or not, I believe this cartoon is true. There is a place where we realize there are no stages and faith, although these are helpful tools and metaphors for our journey there.

I’ll be forever grateful for Fowler’s work. It changed my life.

Would you like to be a part of a community that provides resources like this and supports you while you do it? Then consider joining The Lasting Supper. I’ll personally welcome you there.


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9 Responses

  1. Harvey Joyner says:

    Yes, I agree. James Fowler’s STAGES OF FAITH proved to be very helpful to me with understanding faith
    as a dynamic developmental process, and not static belief in “iffy” things. Thanks for sharing this tribute!

  2. You’re welcome Harvey. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Matt Jones says:

    I love your stuff! I am delightfully disturbed by your memes and find myself often reposting them on FB. Of course, it sometimes gets me into hot water with those who follow my posts. Thanks for being!

  4. Haha Matt! Thanks for being as well. And thanks for being brave enough to post them! 🙂

  5. Caryn LeMur says:

    David: a place where there is no faith… I truly had never quite thought of heaven in that way.

    Sounds like a great author! I may have to add him to my list of ‘books to read’.

    Cheers! Caryn

  6. These three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. Which means to me that once the truth or reality is attained, then what use is faith or hope? But love… always!

  7. Caryn LeMur says:

    David: great points! Thank you for writing that!

  8. Ducatihero says:

    I like the principle you go by with love.

    I was a wee bit puzzled about the no faith thing but now you have explained, I see where you are coming from. I guess I would want to be open and not see everything tied down and neatly packaged. Something I have learned in life it is that if I have got the the point where I think I have it all figured out, then it’s not long before something turns up that shows me I haven’t!

    I did like Folwer’s stages of faith, it helped me to have compassion and show grace the sense being one stage not being better than another but different just as a teenager is to a mature adult. There are times when I have felt like a teenager spiritually!

    Not quite sure what you are intending with saying there are no stages of faith but this being useful metaphor? The apostle Paul talked about having been saved, being saved and will be saved. So this process of salvation of total well being being an ongoing process of maturing, growing pruning, producing fruit etc.

    Everyone has faith in something? Non – belief is a belief?

    Just questions 🙂