Over the years, much of the work that we’ve done at Faith Matters has tried to take into account much of the wisdom and research that’s been done in the field of faith and adult development. It’s also been important to us to share and discuss some of the existing models, including Brian McLaren’s four-stage framework, and the “creation, fall, atonement” framework that our amazing friend Jared Halverson has spoken about at Restore and on this podcast.
All that said, we’ve never done a deep dive into the model that deserves as much or more credit than any other for helping people think along these lines in the first place, and that’s James Fowler’s Stages of Faith. Fowler published a book by that title in 1981 that laid a real foundation for understanding faith development systematically. So we’re delighted that in this episode, we finally got a chance to talk about Fowler’s work specifically and in a Latter-day Saint context, and to do that, we brought on our good friend Jana Spangler.
And to be super clear upfront, and this comes out in the episode — it would be a misuse of any stages model to paint a given stage as “better” or “worse,” than others — what matters is not so much the stage we’re in, but how we approach the world around us as we see through the lens of that stage. As Jana says, each stage has its gifts and shortcomings. What these frameworks can do is help give each of us the humility to recognize that there is another way to see things, and to give ourselves enough grace to accept the stage we’re in and confidently live through it thoroughly, and without fear.
Jana Spangler is a Certified Integral Professional Coach at Symmetry Solutions, and member of the International Coaching Federation. She is an alumnus of The Living School where she studied contemplative spiritual traditions and the work of transformation under the direction of Fr. Richard Rohr. Jana’s professional and personal experience combined with her training makes her an expert in the field of faith transitions. She is a sought-after podcast guest, speaker, presenter, and retreat leader.