Stages of Faith Development: Maturing SDAs

Speaker: Categories: Apr 13, 2002


[55min, 27sec / 43min, 19sec]


When James W. Fowler's book, Stages of Faith, made its debut more than twenty years ago, it both answered and raised a host of questions. Some saw it as a pallid endeavor to explain the Christian spiritual growth experience. Others viewed it as a credible depiction of the process all persons go through as they seek to make sense out of the changes encountered in becoming more mature.

John Testerman, in the April 13 San Diego Adventist Forum presentation, will expand our understanding of Fowler's historic research and conclusions as the stages concept is applied to the Adventist experience.

Dr. Testerman notes:"The stages of faith are the different lenses through which we experience the world as we pass through life. Your faith stage determines what you see as important questions, how you go about finding answers, what counts as evidence, and who or what is the final authority in matters of truth. Issues such as how one relates to the authority of the faith community versus the evidence of science play out differently, depending on a person’s faith stage.

“In the presentation,” he continues, “we will track the life of the typical SDA growing up in the church, from the point of view of Fowler’s six faith stages. We will see that certain personal faith crises are inevitable and that conflicts between church members in different faith stages arepredictable and common. These conflicts can easily turn ugly when people do not understand the dynamic that is going on. Specific historical confrontations, such as the Des Ford conflict in the 1980’s, will be cited as examples. We will see that some church conditions make it possible for membersto undergo faith stage transition crises while remaining in the church, and other church conditions make it difficult or impossible to remain as a member.”

"It is the hope of the speaker,"Dr. Testerman assures,"that we will use Fowler's stages of faith concepts to improve understanding and tolerance of diversity within the church community, and to better understand our own faith journeys."

Might it be, as our April speaker seems to imply, that tensions within Adventism, whether in matters of doctrinal interpretation, behavioral standards, or even worship or music style, are both inevitable and totally healthy - for any organization made up of individuals who are experiencing intellectual and spiritual growth? If so, what mechanisms might be identified for helping to cope with such realities?


John Testerman is a graduate of La Sierra University, Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at UC-Irvine, and MD at Loma Linda University. He is currently Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Loma Linda University and has a long-standing interest in spiritual growth and development. This will be his first presentation at a San Diego Adventist Forum meeting.

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