A Sixth Theological World?

I have come to suspect I was wrong in a previous post on this blog; specifically, I thought I could justify W. Paul Jones’s fivefold model of theological worlds despite how natural or obvious a sixfold model appeared. Now I think that my work–however tenuous, perhaps misguided, it might be–strongly implies that there is a sixth theological world which Jones does not mention concerning community and social integration.


“Dungeons & Dragons” by Ville Miettinen at flic.kr/p/84pTyQ; according to Miettinen’s description, these people have been getting together for D&D for nearly 20 years

It might be the case that this work has already been completed. For my post on autism and masks I had been on Google searching for a particular passage in Jones’s Theological Worlds (which I could not find online, alas), and during this search I discovered that there is at least one article,  Jeanene Reese and Amanda Pittman’s “Theological Worlds Investigation” in the Journal of Youth and Theology 12(1), describing a sixth world identified among female students. As it happens, that article is behind a paywall which this ex-academic can’t easily pass. I would like to see it sometime but right now I think it might be useful that I can’t: if my work comes to the same conclusions as that paper but independently of it, that should suggest that we are all on to something. Therefore I’m going to press merrily on in the hope, but not the conviction, that this will all be productive.

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Are Jones’s Theological Worlds Comprehensive?

Edit 5 May 2019: I have changed my position on the exclusion of negative problems in social organization, which I expand on in this post.

I have mentioned W. Paul Jones’s theological worlds construct more than a few times here. It is one of the constructs I use to help me understand why other people believe and assume the things that they do. But I’ve also expressed concern here about two potential problems that arise out of Jones’s very Christian emphasis: a) how useful is it to apply Jones’s construct to non-Christians and b) how comprehensive is his set of Worlds?

To an extent that last question is an empirical one which will be difficult for me to answer; Jones’s method involved surveying hundreds of people and I do not have the resources to do the same. But there is another way to attempt to answer the question about comprehensiveness which, I have discovered, might also help make his constructs more useful for non-Christians. After a bit of thought I think I have been able to schematize his Worlds so that they do, or at least might, cover all possible sources of anxiety and obsession about the human condition.


Stephane Lollivier at flic.kr/p/DnhB8H; I spent a while trying to find a Creative Commons image of a garrison town with a wooden palisade in boreal forest, but no such luck.

Let’s start with that human condition: human life is characterized by a) individual humans with their own internal dynamics b) embedded within and enmeshed with an environment which includes, but is not limited to, the facts of time and space, of the Laws of Thermodynamics, and so on, and c) associated with other individual humans (even if only their own parents) in ways more or less organized. The internal workings (understood both physically and psychologically) of any given human, which I will call human nature, has various requirements (ie. sustenance, medicine, narrative), some of which that person can only attain from the surrounding environment; when humans organize themselves into institutions, they usually do so with the purpose of making it easier for themselves to meet these needs through collective action. These organizations are necessary because it is often difficult for people to meet their needs either within themselves or through interaction with the environment. Even when it is not difficult to meet these needs alone, there is no guarantee that it will remain easy.

Therefore there are three places where crises may arise for any given person: in the environment (which, again, includes all contingent and all necessary features of existence, such as time and space and the laws of physics), in the person’s own internal workings (which might be generalized human nature or a specific person’s unique nature), or in human organization. Indeed, while all problems must necessarily involve elements of each of these three aspects of human existence, an individual person may experience one of these as being more responsible or more ultimately responsible in comparison to the other two.

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