Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Survey Results: Changes In Faith

The week before last I took a survey of my readers called Changes In Faith. The results are in the comments section of that post.

Everybody that responded has changed their religious affiliation to some degree or other. Nobody has remained in the church grouping of their childhood, and several don't assemble with a church. This may have more to do with the content of my blog and what type of people read it than with a cross section of society. Even so, most people I know have changed affiliation. The Billy Goat asked if I've read James Fowler's Stages of Faith. I haven't, but here's the Wikipedia link. This book seems more like an age dependent psychological development than what I'm trying to get at. Even though I asked about the faith of one's childhood, that faith isn't childish because it is held by the adults around them.

I'm interested in what makes people change churches, denominations, traditions, etc. Why would somebody grow up Catholic and then change to Protestantism? Or vice versa? Were those decisions rational? Doctrinal? Convenient? Compromise for the sake of another? Outward conformance without inward conviction? Due to bad personal experiences?

Much of the change over time for me has been in large part due to the Protestant belief in "Sola Scriptura," or Scripture alone. Church groups have claimed the bible as their authority, yet when I check what they believe with what the bible says (or seems to say to me), even at their request, I find a difference. If enough differences add up to the extent that those differences prohibit basic fellowship, then I would consider leaving that group. Maybe I should also ask if people believe all the same teachings of their church. That would be interesting, too.


  1. I think the beginning of my desire to change churches was Sola Scriptura. Having had the Bible as pretty much my only guide in life, I really thought there should be some better way to organize this "church" thing. I was really thinking that it was crazy that there were all these different churches. And if I had my way, I guess I'd have to organize my own church, because (in a non-scholarly manner, to say the least) I would surely disagree with someone about something. And which of those somethings were really of the most importance?

    So, I floundered a good deal, finally began reading historical Christian documents and books, and eventually ended up Catholic, about 21 years ago.

    Since that time, I've known of many who have struggled, and have found their place in other churches. Catholicism fit for me, though I felt at the time I was stepping off of a cliff. Scary church for a baptist. Was it a rational decision? Don't know. Seemed like the only decision I could authentically make.

  2. All of our church-hopping had to do with moving from one place to another. However, our most recent soul-searching/church frustrations is coming from another source, though we don't know yet whether it will involve changing. For my husband, it's a longing for something more Jesus-centred, more hands-on practical involved in the community, less church ministry oriented. For me, among other things, I'm relating to pennyyak--sola scriptura's wide array of differences that cause so many divisions.

  3. Steve,

    Fowler's book is not so much about what one beleives, but how one believes what they beleive. A little child beleives "everything" you tell them. A teenager can be much more skeptical, but both could still belive the same things. Fowler ties the "how" you beleive into the stages of human developemnt which continue throughout life; not ending when one becomes an adult...

    I found Stages of Faith helpful in evaluating my own journey. The actual book is pretty academic and not something to just rush through. Unfortuantly the summeries of Folowr's work that you can find on the WWW, though accurate as far as they go, don't really do the Fowler's work justice.