As I’ve taught the material in Portals a few questions have come up repeatedly. I have since gotten them about the book itself, so I figured it was time to put up a FAQ. I will add to this if or when more questions come up.
Why isn’t Judaism included?
Because there isn’t a single Jewish worldview. Judaism itself divides into three major branches, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed, and there is a tremendous variety in each. Then there are Jews for whom their Jewish identity is largely a matter of ethnicity or culture but who are for all practical purposes Secular Naturalists. I was once told by a Rabbi that whenever you have three Jews in one place, you have at least four opinions on any subject. A different Rabbi once told me that a Jew can believe in God or believe in no gods and still be a Jew; the one thing you can’t do is believe in a different God. Those two stories pretty much sum up why I couldn’t include Judaism as one of the worldviews.
What about Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
I did not include either of these in the book. They each have their own unique worldview, but I limited my coverage to those that are the most common within America. While in some parts of the country Mormonism is a majority worldview, it doesn’t seem to have as much influence in most of the rest of the country. Were I to do a book on comparative religions, American religions, or aberrant forms of Christianity, I would include them.
The first worldview I covered, which I labeled historic Christianity, is the worldview that the overwhelming majority of Christians have held for nearly two millennia, whatever their confessional stripe. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, the word “Christian” has a definition; it is a person who adheres to a particular set of beliefs, which have been defined historically. If you do not adhere to those beliefs, you are not a Christian. It’s a simple matter of definition. Neither the Mormons nor the Jehovah’s Witnesses hold those beliefs, and thus they do not fit the definition of Christianity in the historic meaning of the term.
Are you planning to cover any other worldviews in an expanded edition?
The Eastern Religions chapter could easily be expanded to deal with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism separately, with sections on the major variations in each. Buddhism, for example, can be divided into Theravada Buddhism (the most philosophical), Mahayana Buddhism (a polytheistic system), and esoteric Buddhism (e.g. Tibetan Buddhism). If there is sufficient interest, I will expand this chapter, possibly to include other Asian religions such as Jainism or Tengriism.