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date: 17 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes the emergence, critiques, and some of the key implications of faith development theory as pioneered by James W. Fowler and informed by W. C. Smith, H. Richard Niebuhr, Erik Erikson, Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, Robert Selman, Robert Kegan, Carol Gilligan, and others. Faith (differentiated from belief) is described as meaning-making in its most comprehensive dimensions. Constructive-developmental psychology, the role of imagination (content), and the social field all contribute to a multi-faceted understanding of the development of faith across the lifespan. Critiques and expansions of Fowler’s work are explored including gender perspectives, the linearity of stages, and the positing of an emerging adult stage. It addresses the need for the formation of mature adult faith as integral to the practice of self-critical community and citizenship and points toward a reassessment of the purposes of education and religion in a changing world.

Keywords: faith development, meaning-making, faith and belief, formation of faith, developmental psychology, imagination and faith, stages of faith, mature adult faith, self-critical community and citizenship

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