Cloud’s 4 Stages (or Types) of Faith

As part of the program that I’m a part of this year in Orlando I attend a weekly connection meeting where we continue to process our lives and the situations and relationships that brought us to this point – both good and bad. Many people (myself included) have arrived immediately after or in the midst of difficult parts of life – team dysfunction, former bosses who had irresponsible leadership styles, family turmoil and personal burnout are just a portion of the types of things that have landed some of my new friends here.

Today we had Sam Osterloh the national director of Ethnic Student Ministries for Campus Crusade for Christ speak to us about things that he learned through and in his 10-year-long “desert period.”

He shared something that he attributed to psychologist and prominent relational-health speaker Henry Cloud, this is something that (as far as Sam knows) is not in any of Dr. Cloud’s books nor in any of regular talk subjects. It has led Carrie and I to suspect that he may have related it from a third party whose name has been lost in the telling.

The 4 Stages of Faith

  1. No Faith
  2. Institutional Faith
  3. Desert Faith
  4. Mature Faith

These “faiths” may apply to a person’s faith on the whole or to individual areas of that faith – to situations and the subject’s faith-reaction to them.

No Faith

This is the initial stage in an life or situation. It’s not necessarily a disbelief, but more of a lack of application of any type of faith in relationship to a situation or life in general.

Institutional Faith

This is, for most people, the first stage of any sort of life-changing faith. It can be something that is accompanied by a significant experience or life-change because life that once was lacking direction now has meaning and direction. It’s not “institutional” because it’s necessarily attached to a larger organization, but because it’s primarily concerned with finding the right answers – the faith itself is the institution that is re-ordering the subject’s life around it.

In its infant stage this is the faith that is asking a lot of questions due to a re-alignment of world-view and a need for linchpins to tie it to. As this stage gets older it hardens and becomes a strict black and white only faith. There must always be an answer to every question – it cannot abide open-ended questions or gray-area. The annealed Institutional Faith is unyielding even to the person and character of God – it’s the proverbial faith that puts God “in a box”.

“God is the great iconoclast, He is always shattering my view of him.”C. S. Lewis

Desert Faith

This is the illustration of the most-identifying story of the Hebrew scriptures.

This is the faith that comes when God utterly destroys the box that we have “placed” Him. In doing this he has smashed the icon that we have placed in His placed. We make idols of God in our lives every time we think we understand exactly what God is like and what He will and even more what He definitely will not do.

This is what happens when our children die, our job evaporates, our spouse leaves us or we hear the doctor say the words “untreatable.” This is the place that the theologies of J.O. and other prosperity preachers have no place for. Deserts in their views are only “opportunities to prove to God our faith.” (I actually heard these words come out of J.O.’s mouth on Sunday night.) The problem is that these deserts may not only last a week or a month or a decade – how about 40 years? How about God allows everything you own be destroyed, your children to all be killed and your body to be infected with sores that are never without a sting?

Where do we go from here?

That’s the important question, because the Desert Faith can only be a transitional faith. From here we can go one of three places. We can go backward to “No Faith” and abandon the God that we’ve come to believe has abandoned us. We can go back to our old and cold Institutional Faith; stuff the hurt & questions, ignore the pain and try harder and don’t let your heart change – become even more rigid in your faith and the answers than you were before. Own the faith of a Pharisee and a Fundamentalist.


Or you embrace the freedom of the Desert. Embrace the fact that you don’t have all the answers, that God is not encompassed by your maxims of Truth and allow Him to become new and fresh for you.

As Job said toward the end of his eponymous book:

2I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job comes away from his trial with no answer as to why these things had taken place, but with a new type of faith – a faith that was willing to wrestle with a God that he trusted was good and powerful, but One that did things that were too “wonderful” for him to begin to understand. This is Mature Faith.

Mature Faith

This is the only place that we can land after tragedy with any hope of growth.

He smashes our images of Him because it’s only through that destruction that we can have any hope of knowing Him. This is His stated reason for sending Israel through their Desert.

In his final book A Grief Observed, Lewis writes a curious line, “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time.” In the loss of his beloved wife his faith is shattered, but reconstituted into a faith that follows after a God who is no longer an idea, but One whom he knows.

This may be summed up in the positive name that God gives His people: Israel. “Those who wrestle with God.”

This is what he calls us to as well – to interact, to wrestle with God knowing that what is important is not winning, but holding on to Him even if we’re injured by it and barely holding on anyhow.

All of this is not about the answers, it’s about the wrestling.

Francis Sheaffer Quote Time

…in a post-Christian world and in an often post-Christian church it is imperative to point out with love where apostasy lies. We must openly discuss with all who will listen, treating all men as fellow men, but we must call apostasy, apostasy. If we do not do that, we are not ready for reformation, revival, and a revolutionary church in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are all too easily infiltrated with relativism and synthesis in our own day.

We are all too easily infiltrated with relativism and synthesis in our own day. We tend to lack antithesis. There is that which is true God, and there is that which is no god. God is there as against His not being there. That’s the big antithesis. And there are antitheses in relation to his revelation from Genesis 1 on. There is that which is given which is antithetical to its opposite. When we see men ignore or pervert the truth of God, we must say clearly  – not in hate or anger – “You are wrong.”

Francis Schaeffer
Death in the City (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press: 1969) 39

Darwinism, Gambling & God

Two things have been mixing in my brain this morning…

Last week while we were back in  my hometown my step-brother turned 21 so we went out with my parents and took him to the “casino” to have him play $5 worth of slots. I’m not going to go into my thoughts on the morality of gambling, but it did get me thinking – we’ll get to that.

Recently a lot of the theology-heavy blogs that I read have been talking about Darwinism, neo-Darwinism & Theistic Evolution. One that I just read talks about evolution in terms of design versus chance and argues that evolution cannot be reconciled with design because evolution is inherently based on random chance . I think he’s arguing from a definition of evolution that is over-specific and therefore does not address the real debate, but I’m going to ponder on a spin-off point.


As I drove away from the casino I pondered “chance” and its relationship to the sovereignty of God. It’s important to remember that “chance” is only descriptive, not prescriptive. We say that a coin has a 1:1 chance of coming up heads or tails because when we flip a coin that is what happens. Chance itself does not exist, what we call “chance” is only a description of reality – an article on talks about this:

Perceptions of risk factors can change over time simply because more is learned. The chances of an Earth-impacting asteroid killing you have dropped dramatically, for example, from about 1-in-20,000 in 1994 to something like 1-in-200,000 or 1-in-500,000 today.

Notice the language that the author uses, “the chances… have dropped.” Reality hasn’t changed, only our ability to accurately describe it. The likelihood of outcomes on a coin-toss being 50% only describes the perfect coin, but if actually tested each coin may be 50.000001:49.999999 or something similar. So, my question is whether God is actively working in that .000001%

Here are some questions to ask… which I don’t have an answer for:

  • In what way is God sovereign in chance-related situations?
  • Is his involvement based on the gravity of the win or loss or on every throw? Is he actively the muscles in the hands & arm (as well as every detail the dice-manufacturing process) to guide the number to come up in every throw? If he does influence/control every throw does it go all the way back to our DNA and his choosing of each molecule that would control our hand’s development?
  • If he does choose each gene, does he do it with an “eye to” every movement that muscle will ever make therefore influencing/controlling every pen stroke we make, every handshake, every die-throw and every catch we make (or drop) in every sport we ever play?
  • Our DNA is determined by every generation that has ever come before us. Did he have an “eye to” our DNA and it’s dice-rolling implications as all 128 of our great-great-great-great-great grandpas’ gametes merged with each of our great-great-great-great-great grandmas’ gametes? (And every generation before and after that?)
  • Does God choose to work within finite rational “chance” paradigms on things like coins & dice? (This one feels like a silly question, but I feel that it should be asked as well.)

How you answer these questions does influence how you perceive the validity of Theistic Evolution as a Biblical/Christian creation model.

Any feedback or ideas?