James W. Fowler's theory of faith stage development has received widespread attention and general approval, especially in religious education circles. The first part of this paper examines the stage theory of Fowler, concentrating on the concept of faith assumed by this theorist. The second part applies the theory to secondary religious, education, following the concept of "readiness" inherent in Fowler's work.

The research procedure for the first part consists of a survey of literature in three areas: 1. Fowler's published work from 1974, when he began, to the present; 2. critiques of Fowler's work; 3. the writings of selected theologians who have dealt with the meaning of faith. The second part of the paper is based on a survey of religious educators who have written on readiness and the application of Fowler's theory.

This study determines that Fowler defines "faith" too narrowly. He has made two errors. First, though faith can be understood as universal, as such it remains separate from content. Fowler sets faith within a specific content, assuming a Judea-Christian tradition while claiming universality. Second, he has divided faith into parts, basing his stages on only a fraction. He thus reduces it to something less than faith.

Yet the stage theory does describe human growth, albeit not faith development. What Fowler has described is readiness for learning and more specifically, religious learning. Those involved in the education of adolescents can gain much as they use Fowlers findings, especially his Stage 3, to better understand their students.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

V. Bailey Gillespie

Second Advisor

Richard Rice

Third Advisor

Roger Bothwell

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Faith; Learning; Fowler, James W., 1940-2015



Page Count

iii; 86

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives