Stages of Faith

In chapter 3 of Finding Faith, Brian McLaren answers the question, How Does Faith Grow?.  He gives us a rich description of four stages of faith, with each subsequent stage being a transition from the previous.  I will summarise these stages below.

Stage 1: Simplicity
This appears to be the majority position in Christianity – fundamentalism, being right, authoritarianism, dualistic.

Stage 2: Complexity
This stage is concerned with pragmatism; efficiency; achievement.  It’s more focused on ways of living than on right doctrine.  It can be moved to through disillusion with the previous stage.

Stage 3: Perplexity
I’d say I sit here.  This is where questions are asked, where uncertainty takes the stage.  This tends to be relativistic, as it finds no universal or absolute truth.  It occurs through finding the previous stages to be superficial and lacking of substance and depth.

Stage 4: Humility
This stage is a synthesis of the previous stages, concerned with wisdom and some basic truth.  However, it is a different relationship to authority, living, and certainty.  There seems to be with this stage an openness to life within a depth of trust in God.

As I consider these stages, I am wondering whether I have known anyone personally who has moved through all stages.  The groups I have been amongst would have sat primarily in the first two stages.  I have been dabbling in that second stage lately, though I am coming to a realization that it is just too superficial for a rich life.  One group, leaning more on the liberal side, was pretty much stuck in stage 3.  McLaren, Pete Rollins, and others within the emergent crew seem to display stage 4 characteristics.  To me, this stage embodies what I have always dreamed faith could be.


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