Birthing a New Theory

Have you ever thought to yourself, “How mature is my faith?”The Road Less Traveled

Yeah, me either.

It’s not the question we usually ask ourselves. Often, when we consider how far we’ve traveled down the road of sanctification, “How mature is my faith?” is not the question that comes to mind. However, the question posed in research often moves in this direction.

As I ran painstakingly through my doctoral research, I spent a lot of time studying faith development and working toward a deeper understanding of faith maturity. I read about faith maturity looking at two primary directions. First, I looked at what it means to have mature faith, which led to the questions, What is faith? and What is mature faith? Then, I investigated faith development in order to answer the question How do we get there?

What is faith?

Grabbing a deeper understanding of faith, can only start with the Bible. If we are truly working toward attainment of a deeper understanding of Protestant faith, that Scripture is the place we must begin. In the New Testament, the word commonly translated faith is the Greek word pistis (n) or pisteuo (v). Across Scripture, faith is described across a range from basic belief to being synonymous with obedience. Fleshing this notion out more thoroughly is a necessity for growing in our understanding of faith development.

What is mature faith?

Here, some deeper investigation into God’s Word is necessary. There is no place in Scripture where faith development or mature faith is described per se. Nonetheless, the notions of adding to our faith, developing endurance/perseverance/steadfastness is described in varying levels. Certainly examples are evident that Jesus expected that the longer He was with the apostles, the more He relayed the expectation that their trust in Him was expected. Illustrating these points helps provide a biblical view of faith and how it develops into a more mature faith over time.

How do we get there?

For decades, the name James Fowler has been synonymous with faith development, although not he alone. M. Scott Peck and others developed their own perspectives on the growth of faith. While these theories have been widely held for quite some time, they are not without their drawbacks. One commonality between the theories is that faith develops in a stage-based manner, unidirectionally, across lifespan. Additionally, most measures of faith development look only at beliefs and actions which presents a linear understanding of faith that may be oversimplified to present a good understanding of an individual’s faith location at a given time.

Why something new?

As I did my research, I recognized a few challenges in the previous conceptions of mature faith. For one thing, in my work with people, I regularly encountered some who moved back and forth in their faith. Standard, stage-by-stage forward progression isn’t the case as often as one might think. Similarly, as I considered measures of mature faith investigating only faith and action, I recognized potential shortcomings in determining where someone might actually be in their faith given the ebb and flow of life that happens to us all. Not only that, but coming back to my original question, I started to wonder whether or not How mature is my faith? is the right question at all.

These thoughts and questions combined to create a searching desire in me to discern an answer, and I believe I may have found one. That, is how my theory was born. The question I leave you with at this point is this.

What question has been burning in the back of your mind that you should be spending more time investigating?