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James Fowler Research Papers

Research papers on the psychological aspects of faith can explore any number of theologians or theories that are popular. One such topic is the theologian James Fowler and his stages of faith. Paper Masters will compose a custom written project on Fowler or any of his theories you need explicated.

James W. Fowler (1940-2015) was an American theologian, a former Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University in Atlanta. He was also the director of both the Center for Research on Faith and Moral Development and the Center for Ethics until his retirement in 2005. James FowlerHis best known work remains his 1981 book Stages of Faith, which attempted to discern faith development along the lines of two prominant psychological theories:

  1. Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development
  2. Lawrence Kohlberg’s stage of moral development

After graduating from Duke University and the Drew Theological Center, James W. Fowler completed his Ph.D. in Religion and Society at Harvard University in 1971. He taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Divinity School, and Boston College before joining the faculty at Emory University in 1977. Ten years later, he was named the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Theology and Human Development.

In Stages of Faith, James Fowler listed six stages of faith development throughout a person’s life. Stage 0, that of primal or undifferentiated faith, lasts through age 2, akin to Piaget’s sensorimotor stage. Other stages include the following:

  • intuitive-projective
  • The mythic-literal
  • The synthetic-conventional
  • The individual-reflective
  • The conjunctive
  • The universalizing (stage 6). Stage 6 is often characterized as having attained enlightenment.

Fowler has created a theory about the stages of faith that a person goes through as that person ages. He maintains that, as people mature, they pass through five (or possibly six) stages of faith. After having read his theory, I am left wondering how accurate his assessments are about the role of faith in the life of all people. I have several reactions to Fowler’s theory about faith. First, I am interested in how much research Fowler did when creating his categories.

  • Did he conduct numerous interviews with people?
  • Do most people even remember how they felt about these topics when they were adolescents?

He writes that people pass through transition phases and that these phases are difficult to go thru.

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