Since it was first presented, James Fowler’s faith development theory has proven influential in pastoral care and counselling, pastoral and practical theology, spiritual direction, and Christian education. However, it has also been subject to substantial critical evaluation. This article reviews the major themes within psychological critiques and considers the agenda provided by these critiques for the theory’s future development. Critical themes concern Fowler’s understanding of “faith”; the theory’s structural “logic of development”; its overemphasis on cognition and lack of attention to (emotional/psychodynamic dimensions as) processes of transition and transformation; its gender bias and cultural specificity; and its purported difficulty in accommodating postmodern trends in psychology. To address these critiques in a meaningful way, there is a need to embrace alternative existing theories of faith development and spiritual/religious change, to construct a radically revised, process-focused version of faith development theory, and to continue to develop new localized process models of faith development.
FischerK. W.BidellT. R., 'Dynamic development of action and thought', in W. Damon and R. M. Lerner(eds), Handbook of child psychology (6th edn.). Volume one: Theoretical models of human development, (John Wiley, Hoboken, NJ2006) 313-399.
JaspalR.CinnirellaM., 'Coping with potentially incompatible identities: Accounts of religious, ethnic, and sexual identities from British Pakistani men who identify as Muslim and gay' (2010) 49British Journal of Social Psychology: 849-870.
PaloutzianR. F., 'Religious conversion and spiritual transformation: A meaning-system analysis', in R. F. Paloutzian and C. L. Park(eds), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality, (Guilford Press, New York2005) 331-347.
ReichK. H., 'Stage-structural approach to religious development', in E. M. Dowling and W. G. Scarlett(eds), Encyclopedia of spiritual and religious development in childhood and adolescence, (Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA2005) 431-437.
ReichK. H., 'Extending the psychology of religion: A call for exploration of psychological universals, more inclusive approaches, and comprehensive models' (2008) 30Archive for the Psychology of Religion: 115-134.