Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
253: Revisiting Fowler’s Stages of Faith:  Stage Three – A Synthetic-Conventional Faith:  Sara Hughes-Zabawa

253: Revisiting Fowler’s Stages of Faith: Stage Three – A Synthetic-Conventional Faith: Sara Hughes-Zabawa

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk: Flickr: CC

Sara Hughes-Zabawa rejoins me to discuss Fowler’s Stages of Faith:  The Synthetic-Conventional Stage.

Stage Three is usually entered into during adolescence.   It’s that stage in which we imagine that our views represent an accurate and faithful totality of truth.   This stage also sees us looking at institutions as the bearers of that truth, and we reward those institutions with our agreement and consent to their authority.  During this stage, we come to believe that there are goals to accomplish and in meeting those goals we’ll please God and receive blessings.  But, as we’ll discuss, stage three also has its complications.

Music was generously provided by Roots Rising.



  1. Dot

    The absolute least I got from this discussion, was permission to be pissed at those people who have wanted me to show up as somebody else. I hope to be more loving towards them, but suddenly I don’t feel obliged to. Thank you so much for helping me to understand better how stuck people are, and have to be, because of the children who are safely in Stage 3. And these are the people who converted me, and feel betrayed by my moving away in body and spirit. Some of these folk have not been able to shift, even though there are adult children who are non-heterosexual who live outside the bubble. One came out, and one didn’t – and feels unable to because of fear of rejection. Thank you for helping me so much in my search for further light and knowledge.

    Haikonada! How the hell do you spell that?

  2. Violadiva

    I loved this podcast and found myself nodding and “mm-hmm” -ing to almost everything you both said. I relate to feeling like I’m acting a part at church, that I’m only allowed to be a filtered version of me. It breaks my heart and makes me wish I had gone to the beach instead.
    The biggest dilemma I’m facing, and something I hope the two of you address in a future podcast, is what do I do with my kids?!? Keep raising them in the faith until such time as they go through the natural arc of these stages on their own, or teach them to think “out of the box” to begin with? Do children need to pass through these phases, or could I pull my kids from church activity, so long as I provide other sources of community and belonging for them?
    Advice needed.

  3. Ruy

    I want you to know that this episode was exactly what my wife and I needed. I’ve been in stage 4 for only 4 weeks now. I had read about Fowler’s stages briefly a week ago, but didn’t exactly understand. Now I see clearly through the shroud for my stage 3 view. I feel like a huge shadow has been lifted from my eyes. I’m in my 30’s now, so I was in stage 3 for way too long.

    I don’t understand stage 4 entirely, and I have no idea what 5 and 6 are, so I’m very excited for those episode.

    Thank you so much

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