Sorting Out Believing

Based on a book by Michael H Taylor, Sorting Out Believing

Michael Taylor is a theology professor, an ordained minister, an active, committed Christian and a regular church-goer. From the outside, he looks like a ‘good Christian’!

He starts the book: “I often meet and talk with people whose Christian faith and churchgoing are in serious difficulties.  They are reluctant to abandon Christianity altogether, but if they are to go on with it they need a different and, for them, a more satisfactory way of doing so.  What follows has such people very much in mind ... It does not try to escape being rather personal because I recognise in those I meet a good deal of myself.”

I hope it will be helpful for us to start by sharing what we find difficult to believe - things we hear in church, in prayers, hymns and in the Bible, about which we have doubts. The aim is to acknowledge them, to accept that they exist rather than try to resolve them.

Then we can look at these doubts and difficulties, and see what we can build from them. We can share what has helped us as we respond to them.

In the second session, we will develop those ideas, and look at what we do believe – the creeds we have written, the prayers we find helpful, and also at what Michael Taylor says he believes, and finds sustaining and inspiring.

A comforting reference is the work done by James Fowler on Stages of Faith Development. Fowler described seven stages of faith development. The stages relevant to most of us are:

Stage 3

At this stage, individuals adopt an entire belief system. They accept the belief system as a complete package. They don’t look outside it, and some will not recognize that they are "inside" a belief system.  

Stage 4

People start to see outside their beliefs, and realise that there are other beliefs that command respect. They examine their beliefs critically, and may become disillusioned with their former faith. The Stage 3 people may think that Stage 4 people have become "backsliders" (even heretics).

Stage 5

People begin to realize the limits of logic and start to accept the paradoxes in life. They begin to see life as a mystery and often return to sacred stories and symbols but this time without feeling that they are stuck in a rigid set of beliefs.

Stage 6

People who reach this stage live their lives to the full, often in service of others, without any real worries about their beliefs.

Progress from one stage to another can cause people to feel that they are in crisis. They have lost the safety of the stage they were in, without yet coming to accept the merits of a new stage. Stage 4 can also feel like an extended crisis, a loss of faith.

Taken from...

Michael H Taylor, Sorting Out Believing

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