Clearly, the children introduced their own knowledge and possibly their experience into the biblical context. Similarly, the question "Why do you think that the ground on which Moses stood was holy?" elicited "Because there was grass on it," or "He was standing on a ho" (the first part of holy, described by the child as nice, hard ground), or "It was hot ground. It would burn his shoes." Goldman gives further examples concerning the bush burning without being burnt, the parting of the Red Sea (Exod. 14:21), and the temptation of Jesus (Matt. 4:3-10, Luke 4:2-11). While the answers differ as to their content, they all reflect a particular structure of the mind, which Goldman labels "Intuitive religious thinking." At this stage, children fail to provide explanations in terms of what is relevant for understanding the meaning of the biblical story.
The next stage is "concrete religious thinking," which according to Goldman represents a different structure of the mind. Now the question, asking why Moses was afraid to look at God, is answered quite differently by older children: "Moses thought that God would chase him out of the holy ground, because Moses had not taken off his shoes," and equally the question why the ground was holy: "Because the holy would go down through God's feet into the ground, and make it holy." Now the elements of the answers are taken from the biblical text, and a concrete situation is worked out using inductive and deductive logic. Goldman's final stage is represented by "Abstract religious thinking." The same questions are now answered: "The awesomeness and almightiness of God would make Moses feel like a worm in comparison," respectively, "The presence of God would hallow it [the ground] like a magnetic field. The magnetic field is everywhere but the pole is in one spot. God is concentrated there." As is apparent from these answers, the mode of thinking has changed from concrete situations to verbal propositions that take into account the psychology and spiritual experience depicted in the biblical story.
Goldman's theory of religious understanding, then, illustrates the stage-structural approach: Whatever the religious content, it is the developing mental structure that makes for a quite different understanding according to the developmental stage reached. And this is posited to apply the world over. Yet the domain of applicability is restricted, and we have to look for developmental stage theories that cover more of religious (and spiritual) development than just religious understanding.
OSER AND GMUNDER'S THEORY OF RELIGIOUS JUDGMENT
Science never portrays "reality" in its entirety but rather concentrates on a restricted domain. This is to keep the resulting theory manageable and meaningful, and ensure that it can be tested stringently in a reasonable time, using "normally available" means.
Fritz Oser (a Swiss educator and psychologist) and Paul Gmunder (a Swiss theologian) have concentrated on the development of the relation between an individual and what represents for him or her an Ultimate Being, God for religious believers. Analogous to Kohlberg's theory of moral judgment, they call their theory a theory of religious judgment (RJ). A core assumption of RJ is that the religious structure of the psyche is sui generis, in a class of its own, and hence differs from moral structure, logicomathematical structure, and other structures. The RJ of a person conceptually refers to a religiousness, which may not necessarily be contextualized within an existing religion. RJ is not identical with religious knowledge or a simple religious emotion. Whereas a person acquires religious knowledge from socialization into a religious culture, from a particular religion, or conceptually from commonalties of various religions, in contrast, religious judgment involves one's processing of particular events, especially events that cannot be controlled by human beings, such as one's own accidental near death or the unexpected death of a loved one.
Mainly on account of their unexpectedness, unusualness, and emotional impact, such events raise questions: Does the event come from inside (my imagination, lack of understanding of what is going on) or from outside (a rather rare yet real "coincidence")? Does it make me feel free to follow my inclinations and pursue my personal aims, or does it make me dependent on a set of unchangeable circumstances? Is it part of the sacred, or part of the profane? Does it give hope for the future, or does it lead to despair? Are there any long-term implications, or should it be forgotten soon? Did some "eternal will" bring it about, or did it result by chance?