The Christian Experience Inven­tory (CEI) measures believing adults’ expe­rience of their ongoing relationship with God as Person, that is, their daily “inner” experience of being in a divinely initiated, interactive relationship that affects their at­titudes and values (Alter, 1986). Five sub­ scales yield scores for one’s experience of (1) growth in faith, (2) trust in God, (3) cost of faith, (4) concern for others, and (5) justi­fication by faith.


 The CEI is a brief, 24-item scale based on the author’s three-stage model of religious development (see Alter, 1986; Alter, 1994). Development through these three stages is believed to be facilitated by an individual’s interaction with God.

This model assumes that religious devel­opment is a multifaceted phenomenon that begins with an individual’s conscious choice to enter into religious commitment. It subsequently influences a person’s atti­tudes and values about self, others, and God. It is not a natural chronological development because it requires a personal com­mitment to interact with God. Alter (1989) suggests that the human component of Christian experience can be observed, de­ scribed, and to some extent measured.

Originally composed of 106 “faith state­ments,” the process used to establish the CEI’s reliability and to develop usable sub­ scales led to the elimination of all but 21 items. A few years later, three “action state­ments” were added to the end of the inven­tory; no statistical procedures have been ap­ plied to these items. All 24 items are scored on a 4-point Likert scale, “very much like me” (3 points), “somewhat like me” (2 points), “not much like me” (1 point), and “definitely not like me” (0 points).

Three to six items load on each of the five subscales mentioned above. The CEI is scored by adding together a participant’s points in each of these five areas. A partici­pant is then said to have either a “modest,” “medium,” or “strong” level experience of God as person in that area (M. G. Alter, per­sonal communication, September 20, 1995). The five subscales were determined through factor analysis and identified as Ex­perience of Growth in Faith (items 2, 5, 7, 11, I 2, 22), Experience of Trust in God(items 8, 9, 13, 15, 17, 18), Experience of Cost of Faith (items 4, 10, 20, 23), Experi­ence of Concern for Others (items 6, I 6, I9, 21, 24), and Experience of Justification by Faith (items 1, 3, 14). Given the broad foun­dation of moral development and values ori­entation on which the CEI is based, it seems reasonable to conclude that these five fac­ tors would contribute to a person’s experience of an ongoing relationship with God as person. It seems premature, however, to conclude that these five factors are the only, or the best, factors by which to measure such a phenomenon. The small number of items loading onto each factor likewise sug­gest that any analyses based on an individ­ual participant’s scores should remain tenta­tive.

Practical Considerations:

 This pencil-and­ paper inventory requires no special exam­iner skill to administer, score, or interpret. Directions for scoring are available from the author. Participants usually complete it in IO to 15 minutes, and it can be used with in­dividuals, groups, or entire churches. The language used is specifically and intention­ ally religious, “too Christian” for some and “not Christian enough” for others in main­ line Protestant and Roman Catholic tradi­tions (Alter, 1989).


 The normative sample was composed of 125 volunteer re­spondents from two large Presbyterian churches in California. It was a highly edu­cated sample, with no respondents having less than three years of high school and two thirds of them having either college or grad­ uate-level degrees.

Reliability: Test-retest reliability data were collected from 20 volunteers from an Oak­ land (CA) church and 17 assorted seminari­ans. Intervals ranged from two weeks to three months. Pearson product moment cor­ relations ranged from .66 for the Justifica­tion by Faith scale to .91 for the Trust in God scale.


The author contacted seven reli­gious professionals (four Catholic and three Protestant) who were interested in and in­ volved with persons trying to grow in their faith. Each of these seven was asked to give the CEI to several people and to identify the respondents as “beginning,” “intermediate,” or “advanced” in their religious maturity. Response patterns were then compared to those obtained from a group of seminarians and from two church groups. Though spe­cific comparisons are not reported, the au­thor reports that higher scores on CEI sub­ scales, particularly on the first, second, and fourth subscales, indicate higher levels of Christian maturity.

Christian Experience Inventory (24)

The following items are designed to help us understand how people experience faith in their lives. The statements vary widely, and not all will apply to you and to your experience. Some may even feel offensive to you. That is expected. Simply mark them as seems correct for your experience of faith and continue on. Please answer spontaneously without pausing to ponder any one item. Most participants report that the questions took them about 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

In the blank to the left of each statement, circle 3 if the statement is very much like you and your experience; circle 2 if the statement is somewhat like you and your experience; cir­cle l if the statement is not much like you and your experience; circle O if the statement is definitely not like you and your experience.

  1. 3-2-1–0 l. My imperfections don’t bother me as much as they used to because God’s acceptance of me is more important even though it’s hard to accept.
  2. 3-2-1–0 2. I’ve found again and again that when I live in the Spirit of the Gospels prob­lems don’t overwhelm me and life is meaningful.
  3. 3-2-1–0 3. I am realizing that I have areas of “light and darkness,” or good and evil, in my life, but God’s transforming power is of greater importance.
  4. 3-2-1-0 4. I feel that I am doing something wrong in my prayer life when I can’t feel God’s closeness.
  5. 3-2-1-0 5. The goodness imdmercy of God have begun to come alive for me.
  6. 3-2-1-0 6. If I take Jesus’ teachings seriously, it makes good sense to feel concern for flood and disaster victims.
  7. 3-2-1-0 7. It seems that the Spirit of God pushes me into new cycles of learning and growth.
  8. 3-2-1-0 8. In my relationship with God, I sometimes feel like talking a lot and some­ times very little, but I always know God is there.
  9. 3-2-1-0 9. I sense that God has always been in my life.
  10. 3-2-1-0 I0. Because of my commitment to God, I am sometimes called to say hard things in spite of my reluctance.
  11. 3-2-1-0 11. I feel I know or will know what God wants our relationship to become. 3-2-1-0 12. I am learning to trust my ongoing relationship with God.
  12. 3-2-1-0 13. Even amid confusion and turmoil I find comfortable peacefulness in God’s love.
  13. 3-2-1-0 14. The Christian understanding that I will never be perfect is a relief. 3-2-1-0 15. I have no doubt that I continue to be held in God’s hand.
  14. 3-2-1-0 16. My faith leads me to an active concern for people and for the whole living world.
  15. 3-2-1-0 17. In times of greatest distress, I am most deeply aware of God’s faithfulness. 3-2,—-1-0 18. Whatever happens, I will find that the Spirit of God moves in my life.
  16. 3-2-1-0 19. To be serious about Christian values means that I take an active interest in justice for all people.
  17. 3-2-1-0 20. I feel troubled when I realize how much I participate in a sinful society. 3-2-1-0 21. My Christian faith pervades my entire life.
  18. 3-2-1-0 22. Within the past two years, I have taken a class or workshop or participated in some other activity which directly influences my faith development.
  19. 3-2-1-0 23. Within the past year I have felt it necessary to speak out on some issue be­ cause of my faith.
  20. 3-2-1-0 24. Because of my faith, I participate practically, financially, politically or prayerfully in helping people less fortunate than I am.


Alter, M.G. (1986). A phenomenology of Chris­ tian religious maturity. Pastoral Psychology, 34, 151-160.

Alter, M.G. (1989). An empirical study of Chris­ tian religious maturity: Its implications for parish ministry. Pastoral Psychology, 37, 153-160.

The scale itself is not published in either ar­ticle.

Recent Research:

Muse, J.S., Estadt, 8.K., Greer, J.M., Che­ ston, S. (1994). Are religiously integrated therapists more empathic? The Journal of Pastoral Care, 48, 14-23.


Alter, M.G. (1986). A phenomenology of Chris­ tian religious maturity. Pastoral Psychology, 34, 151-160.

Alter, M.G. (1989). An empirical study of Chris­ tian religious maturity: Its implications for parish ministry. Pastoral Psychology, 37, 153-160.

Alter, M.G. (1994). Resurrection psychology: An understanding of human personality based on the life and teachings of Jesus. Chicago: Loyola University Press.