Back in the summer of 1981, I was at Princeton Seminary chasing a degree in New Testament. I finished my 7th course and realized I was just one course short of graduation. I called down to the chairman of the Elders at Fries, who I think was John Rutledge, and asked if there was any way possible for me to stay an additional three weeks in New Jersey. After consulting with the board, John said, “Go for it.” What a gift! So, I signed up for a course entitled “The Stages of Faith.” It was taught by the late Dr. James Fowler, a United Methodist from North Carolina, who was on loan to Princeton from Emory Theological Seminary in Atlanta Georgia. That course was one of the most important experiences of my life. By taking it, I discovered that faith is not a luxury or even a choice but a universal necessity. We can’t live without it. Faith is not only the proud possession of Christians of yesteryear like Billy Graham and Christians of today like Pope Francis, and Christians like you and I, it is the common possession to people of all religions, and to people of no religion at all. It is found in the life of the youngest child cradled in its mother’s arms and in the final gasp of the most skeptical agnostic on the planet. We all have faith of some kind.
Jean Piaget gave us the stages of early childhood development, and Jim Fowler, who studied under Piaget, gave us the stages of faith. There are six: Continue reading