- Intuitive – Projective Faith: Associated with the child’s faith, based upon fantasy and imagination.
- Mythical-Literal Faith: The family faith of the early school years, which is sustained by moral rules and either/or thinking.
- Synthetic-Conventional Faith: Adolescent phase that conforms to the tradition of the community and creates the “kind” of person of faith it models or rejects.
- Individuative-Reflective Faith: The faith of the young adult who is capable of critical thinking, independent reflection, and comparative reasoning.
- Conjunctive Faith: A mid-life and old-age faith that integrates self-identity with a comprehensive world view to see the order, coherence, and meaning of life in order to serve and be served.
- Universalizing Faith: The rare faith of the world citizen who incarnates a transcendent vision into a disciplined, active, and self-giving life.
(source: James W. Fowler, The Stages of Faith (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), chap. 14.)
Dear God, some time back, I was trying to journal through the book of Job and I was lost. So many people were talking, and some of them seemed to be making good sense. Then I’d read on a little and see that they were wrong. I finally gave up, but it became a bit of a white whale for me. I was going through a personal struggle unlike anything I had known before, and I wanted to learn was you had to teach me through Job’s story.
I remembered that I have a complete set of biblical commentaries that was done by Word back in the 80s. The Old Testament commentaries are called Mastering the Old Testament, and Lloyd Ogilvie was the general editor for all of them (he is a Presbyterian pastor who was chaplain for the U.S. Senate at one point). The commentary for Job was written by David L. McKenna (there’s a bio of him on the Asbury Theological Seminary website here), who was president of Asbury Theological Seminary at the time he wrote it. I think the most useful part of the commentary for me was the Introduction. That’s where I found a reference that McKenna made to Fowler’s Six Stages of Faith. I wrote them down in my notes, and they stuck with me.
So now I’m at a point where I’m going to be preaching about this tomorrow and I want to make sure that 1.) I’m getting this theologically correct 2.) I am giving these people (and myself) the truth you want us to know.
One of the big dangers for tomorrow is to try to answer the why question. Why did God take away my loved one? Why does God allow bad things to happen? I’m not even totally sure that Job gets at the whole truth of this. I don’t think the author was a witness to God and Satan conversing so I don’t want to push the idea one way or another that God set Satan loose on Job. But he or she did want to communicate the fallacy that our blaming God for the bad things that happen is foolishness. As Rich Mullins once said, “We all have it better than we deserve.”
When you look at Job, chapter 38 just scares the heck out of me. It’s when all of my theology and philosophy burns up and I am face to face with you, hearing your words for me. It is easy to sit here and pontificate in my own wisdom and try to lift up my complaints about my life, but to hear you say to me, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?…” It goes on and on for four chapters.
Job has a short reply in chapter 40, but his real reply is in chapter 42: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Satan’s thesis in Job 1 is, God, “stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Job, in his limited knowledge of you is ultimately driven to that place of bitterness and desperation, but then he comes face with you in chapters 38-42 and he realizes just how small and foolish he is. His faith goes to the ultimate level of seeing a world bigger than himself and deciding that your role for him is to simply serve in whatever way you call him to serve, without complaint.
Father, I want to ask you to teach me this lesson, but I’m afraid to. I know you love me, but the truth is, I’m afraid of you. If a prophet knocked on my door right now (a real, verifiable prophet), I would be terrified of what you might have to tell me. I’m sorry for how I’ve complained. I’m sorry for how I’ve doubted. I’m sorry for my selfishness and my lethargy. Help me to see what you see and know what you want me to know.
In Jesus’ name I pray,