Friday, October 1, 2010

Psychology of Religious Faith Development Assignment 2

When comparing Fowler and Oser's developmental theories of faith, one sees that in both models, the most spiritually advanced individual is characterised by a sense of unity with the divine.  In Fowler we read of this seventh, or “universalizing” stage of faith as the fruit of a process of decentration in the subject:  “They begin to see and valuethroughGod rather than from the self” (Fowler, p. 41).  Oser writes in a similar manner of those rare persons who enter the fifth and last stage of spiritual maturation:  “...Ultimate Being informs and inhabits each moment and commitment, no matter how profane and insignificant” (Oser, p.12).  It is interesting that neither of these authors restricts the achievement of this final stage of maturation to the Christian view.  In fact, both models seem to lend themselves quite well to Eastern mystical traditions.  Fowler quotes Gandhi, a Hindu, while Oser citesbodhi, a Buddhist concept, to describe the “enlightened” soul (Oser, Table 1).
While both theories employ a progressive, almost evolutionary framework, Oser is unique in that he posits a deconstructive transition through atheism between each phase.  For, he says, it is necessary to reject the old framework before progressing to the higher viewpoint.  In rejecting the more primitive view, the subject ends up transitorily (or sometimes indefinitely, in arrested development) negating all belief in God:  “...rejecting an old structure means building an atheistic view of it” (Oser, p. 13).  Fowler does not exclude this possibility, but he does not touch upon it in such an explicit manner as Oser does.  That Fowler may in fact espouse the need for such an intermediate deconstruction is shown when he comments on the plight of Charlie, who is wrestling with his perception that God may withdraw His presence if not obeyed, in one of the more primitive stages of faith:  “Charlie is experiencing the void” (Fowler, p. 37).

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