In the last post, I introduced Michael Horton’s helpful categorisation of worldview (from chapter one of his ‘The Christian Faith’). In consideration of God as an ontological ‘stranger’, he shows that every worldview ever encountered is going to fall into one of three basic categories.
The first category is called: “Overcoming Estrangement”.
This grouping includes any approach that says, “I don’t know who God is, but I can solve this problem by my own efforts”.
Of course, legalism falls nicely into this category (e.g., Islam, Judaism etc). The goal, in any of these legalistic approaches, is to climb the ladder of good works, and so find right standing with God.
Beyond obvious legalism however, is the more subtle kind of ‘overcoming’. For instance, this would include many of the ancient Greek philosophers who postulated that through their contemplation of things, and through their dissection ideas, they could lift themselves to higher levels reality. Certainly this would include any proto-gnostic, or gnostic approach. In all of these ideas the goal is to elevate oneself to beyond that which is apparent in the material world, until eventually one is in contact with ultimate reality (or God himself).
Of course, this could easily include ideas like pantheism or panentheism too. According to these kinds of approaches, the goal is to become one with the energy of the world (think Star Wars); getting in tune with the force that runs through all things. The only way to do this, of course, is by spending many hours meditating and developing your Jedi skill set. You have to climb the high-mountain, so to speak. You have to contemplate for ‘7 years’ before anything will happen. But if you work hard, then finally, maybe, hopefully, you will achieve that moment of enlightenment, and your soul will become one with God.
Of course, we could keep going with this. And it’s fairly easy to see how many religions and ideas would fall into this category. Certainly, there are a few big well known religions that easily fit the bill. However, the more daunting reality is that there are literally thousands of lesser known sects that do as well.
The comforting thing, however, is that by knowing this one category, we don’t have to study all of these sub-sects individually. All we need to know is that if they are trying to overcome their estrangement with God, their idea is subsumed by this category, and falls into this greater worldview: “overcoming estrangement”.