“A Concise Christian and Biblical Philosophy of Words and Terms… a Virtual Textbook”
The Best and Most Complete Dictionary of Its Kind on the Web*
*If you find one better, let me know, and I will link to it!
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
This glossary is more extensive than the remainder of this site. Here, I can summarize words and concepts briefly that will give you an idea of what I think on a subject that I have not addressed more fully elsewhere. Thus, this glossary is more likely to address your queries which may also be addressed to me at my email: email@example.com.
The length of definitions in this Glossary will differ, as some need more clarification, and still others are more important to this philosophy. After all, this site is about the Bible, theology, and philosophy. Thus, definitions are basic to this area of study—as they are in any area of serious study. Every effort will be made for coherence in these definitions and elsewhere on this site. This Glossary will essentially be a capsule summary of this website (which I began in August 2008). Therefore, this Glossary is under construction and many words will be incomplete and expanded as the site is developed. The author welcomes comments as this construction develops. Also, I will use my Glossary at BiblicalWorldview21.org to supplement this one.
This glossary is a work in progress. As my thinking and reading progresses, definitions may be modified or added. This glossary is not intended to be comprehensive of philosophical terms that have little or no correspondence to a Biblical theology. It is not a theological dictionary—many theological terms are addressed, however, as they correct or more fully develop philosophical terms. One goal here is to reflect the entire website in miniature, focusing on those words and terms that are essential to a truly Christian and Biblical philosophy. Thus, this Glossary could be considered “A Concise Christian and Biblical Philosophy in Words.” A cross-reference alphabet allows you to quickly move about the Glossary.
The problem with many glossaries of philosophy by Christians is their neglect of explicit theology, especially that which is consistently and thoroughly Biblical. Philosophy should be the “handmaiden” of theology, the “queen of the sciences.” All philosophy should be viewed under the authority of, and logical coherence with, Special Revelation. Theology is philosophy, and philosophy is theology. Their concerns are identical and therefore, are either complementary or competitive. However, sound, believing and Biblical theology must always govern any philosophy with which the regenerate Christian engages.
A great supplement to this Glossary is Webster’s 1828 Dictionary which by its date, the brilliance of its author, and his Christian commitment avoids much of the trivial and secular changes in American vocabulary. It was written before the later modern period began to distort definitions and grammar.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
A priori: knowledge that precedes or is otherwise given prior to, or apart from, experience. This knowledge may be innate or given supernaturally later, as in “your faith (notitia component) has made you well” (Matthew 9:22). “Every non-Christian has an a priori. And the a priori of every non-Christian is different, radically different, from that of the Christian.” (Van Til quoted in Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, page 107). It is regeneration that accounts for this “radically different” a priori—Ed. Kant relegated his “synthetic” a priori over the a posteriori, but William Van Orman Quine in recent times demonstrated the fallacies of Kant’s argument.
Abduction: see hyothesizing, imagination. Charles Sanders Peirce should be read on this subject.
To communicate sufficiently, we give expositions about abduction as guessing, inspired guessing, inference to the best explanation, retroduction, hypothesis of convergence to immutable truth, affinity of mind to nature, intuition, analysis, fallibility, logic, feeling, faith, reason, immersion, surprise, suspect, belief, habit, doubt, attitude, expectation, attention, intention, context, pragmatism, architectonic, triadic relations, semiosis, commens, consensus opinion, truth, reality, percept, perceptual judgment, imagination, archetype, structure for meaning-making, scientific method, problem framing, problem solving, Humble argument, Scientific argument, Musement, model-based reasoning, valorization, uberty, security, justification, warranted assertion, discovery, creativity, economy, hypothesis, syllogism, enthymeme, transformation, duration, etc…(Reference here.)
Abortion: the intentional killing of unborn life. Spontaneous abortion (also called miscarriage) is sometimes applied to pathophysiological losses of the unborn, but miscarriage does not carry the connotations of “abortion.” Abortion is the most serious and most heinous ethical issue of modern times. It is one of the most serious economic issues of modern times for various reasons: loss of talent, labor, creativity, and spending. It is the ultimate strike against the image of God in persons and protection of the innocent and defenseless. Abortion is the bloody sacrifice of pagan culture.
Absolute: “The exact opposite of relative. The context is very important for understanding the meaning of this term. (1) As a noun, it is sometimes used with reference to God. (2) More often, the noun refers to a concept (in particular, a moral value) that is not modified by cultural circumstances; a concept[t that is universal and unchanging. An absolute is not limited by anything outside itself. (3) As an adjective, it describes that which is unconditional, uncaused, and is totally independent. (4) In Hegel’s philosophy, the Absolute is a term that conveys Hegel’s idea of the greatest, most complete concept of ultimate reality. Hegel’s Absolute can and does grow, but it cannot diminish. It is the impersonal sum of all thought and being. (5) Biblical philosophy is built upon the affirmation that all truth is God’s truth. God is (and His Word reveals) the absolute standard for truth and morals. God’s knowledge is complete, exhaustive, infallible, and perfectly true. God’s knowledge is the standard by which a Christian defines truth. Therefore, truth itself cannot change. Truth is always and forever the same. Thus, truth is an absolute.”
“What God has revealed is to be believed because it is God’s truth. The fact that ‘God has spoken and thereby revealed some of His knowledge’ is a central affirmation of all Christian theology. The Bible, as God’s Word, may be said to have truth without mixture of error for its matter. In other words, God’s revealed character and his eternal purpose has not and will not change. The cultural situation, however, is constantly changing. The culture of the Biblical world is very different from the culture of the modern world. Truth speaks of the universal and the unchanging. We must be careful that we do not hastily identify our ever-changing cultural opinions and interpretations with God’s absolutes. God has spoken to particular people at particular times in particular places. Recognition of God’s truth, which is eternally valid at all times and in all place, is the primary hermeneutical task of the Biblical expositor. We must seek to discover cultural situations (to which to apply the absolutes of Scripture).” (L. Rush Bush, A Handbook for Christian Philosophy, 215-6—numbers added by Ed)
Absolute Personality: Cornelius Van Til’s basic characterization of God. Unlike any non-Christian view, the biblical God is both absolute (a se, self-existent, self-sufficient, self-contained) and personal (thinking, speaking, acting, loving, judging). (John Frame, Cornelius Van Til: an Analysis of His Thought, 51ff)
Abstract idea, abstraction, abstract art: “The process of forming a general concept by omitting every distinguishing feature from our notions of some collection of particular things; thus, substantively, an abstraction is the concept or idea that results from this process.…. Thus, for example, the idea of “green” could in principle be derived by abstracting from one’s specific experiences of a summer lawn, the leaves of trees, and emeralds.” (philosophypages.com) A synonym would be a universal or concept. Abstraction is supposed to exist apart from the concrete, as Locke’s triangles. And, the debate between abstraction and concrete continues. However, it seems clear to me that an abstraction does not really exist. While there are categories (chairs, for examples) and universals (green), they are only applied to actual objects. If I envision a chair in my mind, it is quite specific—I could draw it on paper or describe it to someone else. I cannot picture “green” as just a color; it is always a green object (for example, a tree) or green splotch which is still a concrete picture in my mind.
Even ideas that seem “abstract” are not. For example, “justice” seems abstract. But one person cannot talk to another or write about the subject without reference to specifics of right and wrong. For example, it is always wrong to steal from others. Even if one thinks that there are exceptions to stealing, these are concrete, definable exceptions, not abstractions. The number “two” does not exist apart from “two” objects. Even as printed or painted, the number two is just a symbol that has no meaning apart from application to two objects. Finally, there is abstract art. But what does one do with abstract art? Just listen to conversations in an art gallery. As spectators look at the splay of paint on a canvas, they inevitably say, “That looks like ____.” Or, “Down there in that corner, that looks like a ____.” A thought of nothing that exists is not possible. The idea of abstraction, as it is usually used, is really an idea of nothing. Sometimes, it may even be a conscious or unwitting attempt to avoid being concrete! For the mind to think, it must have content. An “abstraction” of something that does not exist concretely simply does not exist. Nay, it cannot exist either for idealists or materialists. An abstraction is simply a universal that is common to two or more things or propositions. A thought is always intentional—thought about a particular object, term, or concept.
There was a vigorous debate between Locke and Berkeley about abstraction which the reader can research on his own. This Ed thinks that Berkeley demolished Locke’s arguments.
Absurd: The “absurd” is always relative to an individual’s perspective, point of view, or worldview. Kierkegaard’s “absurd” was from his or his character-writers’ point of view which differed from book to book and subject to subject. The Apostle Paul speaks of the Cross of Christ being “absurd” (foolish) in I Corinthians 3. The “absurd” person has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). See foolish, foolishness.
Acts 17:22-32: Paul’s speech to the Athenians at the Aeropagus is possibly the most focused encounter between Biblical and pagan philosophy. It can also serve as a model for apologetics. For a more substantive review of Paul’s speech by Greg Bahnsen, see here.
Addiction: a term used by professionals (physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.) and laymen to refer to problems of a repetitive nature that dominate a person’s life, usually in a severely destructive way. The term is used so loosely as to be of little value. Its modern denotation began with addiction to heroin, and as such, included a physical dependence on a drug, as well as its severely habitual nature. However, it is now commonly used for such things as “sexual addiction” and “gambling addiction” that clearly have no drug dependence inherent to the problem. Apart from the drug dependence, addictions are better labeled as “besetting sins.” Also, see Additional Comments. For a comprehensive exploration of philosophical, theological, medical, and psychological issues, see this book, Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice by Kent Dunnington.
Aeropagus: the hill where Paul addressed Greek philosophers and theologians. See Acts 17:22-32 above.
Affection: While I would not quibble too much with “affection” as a synonym for emotion, affection has a more permanent, deeper presence: joy, hope, peace, patience, etc., i.e., Biblical values or “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Agnostic: one who withholds belief in a god or the orthodox God of Christianity.
Agreed-upon Bible: the 66 books of the Holy Scriptures that is “agreed-upon” by the orthodox Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox churches. While translations differ, and apart from modernistic and fanciful influences in them, they are based upon the same surviving documents. That God has superintended these documents is demonstrated in the almost 100 percent agreement of these old texts as “the word of God written.”
Aided reason: a term that dates back to the Enlightenment which intended for mankind to achieve his fulfillment and destiny without knowledge from the Bible (God’s revelation) or the Church, that is, without that “aid.” Essentially, this move was a conclusion that man did not need God or the church to achieve his highest ambitions; an acknowledgement that he was not a sinner in need of salvation or sustenance by the Church.
All: Yes, you see correctly, “all.” A pesky word that has wreaked havoc in Biblical theology. Sometimes, “all” does not mean all. We use it in a limited way in everyday conversation. “All” people everywhere watched the Super Bowl. Well, not “all” even have TVs or neighbors with TVs. Caesar Augustus decreed that “all” the world should be taxed—were the American Indians or Indian Indians taxed? I Timothy 2:4 says that God desires that “all” men should be saved—is universalism then inescapable? Could Paul mean only the elect? Dear readers, that “all” is not “all” is basic language usage, but what havoc has been wrought by trying to make all every particular of a class in the universe.
“All truth is God’s truth”: a frequent term among Christians in philosophy, psychology, and other areas who believe that truth is found outside of Scripture. There are at least two major problems with this approach. (1) All knowledge outside of Scripture is empirical, and empiricism (induction) is by definition a fallacy. (See A Critique of Empiricism.) (2) Scripture is the ultimate authority on all areas of knowledge. While the Bible does not speak in detail to all areas, it is the controlling authority for all study. Far and away, the common error among Christians in the “academy” and in churches is to limit the breadth and depth of Biblical knowledge by either by assuming its limitations or by not investigating it comprehensively. Almost without exception, those who use “all truth is God’s truth” restrict the application of Scripture and give false truth-claims to knowledge outside of the Bible.
American Association of Christian Scholarship: see Dooyeweerd.
Amsterdam philosophy: see Dooyeweerd and the Word of God.
Analogy: “Analogy … must depend on some sort of similarity; but if so, that similarity can be designated by a single term, however broad in meaning; and unless this broad term has one meaning equally applicable to the two things in question, the similarity does not exist and there is no analogy at all.” Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey, page 278.
Anarchism, scientific: see Scientific anarchism
Anathema: statements in the Council of Trent and other church councils (most particularly Roman Catholic) remind us of the great importance of theological and other propositional statements. If such a statement is believed to be true, the consequences of an opposite belief is to be condemned to Hell! See Galatians 1:8-9, where Paul the Apostle sets the example. In today’s world, these issues are rarely taken seriously, but truth has consequences for earthly life and for eternity. At the very least, “anathema” demonstrates how series one’s beliefs are.
Animal brain to human mind: “It is quite natural to expect that a concern for language will remain central to the study of human nature, as it has been in the past. Anyone concerned with the study of human nature and human capacities must somehow come to grips with the fact that all normal humans acquire language, whereas acquisition of even its barest rudiments is quite beyond the capacities of an otherwise intelligent ape – a fact that was emphasized, quite correctly, in Cartesian philosophy. It is widely thought that the extensive modern studies of animal communication challenge this classical view; and it is almost universally taken for granted that there exists a problem of explaining the “evolution” of human language from systems of animal communication. However, a careful look at recent studies of animal communication seems to me to provide little support for these assumptions. Rather, these studies simply bring out even more clearly the extent to which human language appears to be a unique phenomenon, without significant analogue in the animal world. If this is so, it is quite senseless to raise the problem of explaining the evolution of human language from more primitive systems of communication that appear at lower levels of intellectual capacity. The issue is important, and I would like to dwell on it for a moment.” The quote from Noam Chomsky is found here.
Anthropology: the study of the nature, origins, purpose, and destiny of man. This area of study in a Biblical system rises to great prominence in that man is not just another evolved creature, but made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Further, he lost his close identity with God in his Fall into a sinful and inimical status to God. But this Fall instituted God’s great plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ to save many of those who would otherwise be condemned forever. This anthropology includes The Creation Mandate and man’s eternal destiny to heaven or hell. In contrast to any non-Christian anthropology, one can readily see how creation, purpose, fall, redemption, and eternal destinies form a huge dimension in a Biblical philosophical system. For more, see here. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism #1). See worship.
Antinomy: literally, against (anti-) law (nomos). For Kant and others, antimony was the status of two contradictory propositions, both of which have equal proofs within their philosophical system. (2) For others, this contradiction may be only apparent … one that can be eventually solved or the solution of which rests in God’s knowledge, but unknown to man. Paradox is a rough synonym.
Antithesis: (1) the dialectic of Hegel and Marx: thesis-antithesis-synthesis. (2) The opposite of truth—the application of the law of noncontradiction—the opposite of truth is falsity. Lack of antithesis is one of the great errors of many 21st century Christians in philosophy. There is philosophy of religion which blurs the boundaries between Christianity and other religions. There is classical theism which posits a god not of the Bible, but a “god of the philosophers.” There is little talk of regeneration which structures a human mind to become “the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16). Instead, the Bible posits “light” and “darkness”—an antithesis for which there can be no synthesis!
Apologetics: An organized defense of the Christian faith, based upon I Peter 3:15-16. There are primarily three approaches. (1) The evidentialist in classical apologetics takes a position on the evidence of Christianity, for example, the historicity of the Gospels, the unity of the Bible, and the findings of archeology. These evidences will convince the unbeliever of the truth of Christianity and his need for salvation in Christ. (2) The presuppositionalist takes the position that the unbeliever cannot be convinced by evidence, but must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit so that his presupposition becomes that of the Gospel and the truth of Scripture. (3) The evangelist or preacher simply preaches or tells others about the truths of Christianity. He is usually an evidentialist, but he may never have adopted a formal position. In all these approaches, Christianity must be defended as a whole. This lack of defending the whole is where apologists often fail. See a review of the book, Classical Apologetics which is an evidentialist or classical approach.
A comprehensive study of apologetics and Christian (Biblical) philosophy are virtually identical, as faith and reason have been at the center of philosophical arguments since they were begun. See Apologetics. Also, see Alvin Pantinga’s book: Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project.
“Apostles to the intellectuals”: John Frame coined this phrase for those who address philosophical and other intellectual issues. (Apologetics to the Glory of God, page 74) This endeavor is extremely important to demonstrate the intellectual coherence and logical system of Biblical Christianity. However, each Christian in this endeavor, especially the philosopher, must be careful that Biblical truth governs his work. Else, he may be guilty of another phrase coined by Frame, “philosophical imperialism.”
Aquinas, Thomas (1225-1274): “Thomas Aquinas was a quiet and great scholar, a stupendous author, a constructive though not very original thinker, an excellent teacher; he was not a dynamic, even less a demonic, personality as Origen, …, and other Christian philosophers were. He was prone to reconcile diverse and even opposite tendencies of thought. He did not have the mystical vein of his forerunners, Dionysius or Erigena, or of his succors, Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa. For the church, his victory quickly turned to tragedy, for it promoted the revolutionary undercurrents that finally led to the Reformation and the destruction of the glorious medieval harmony of antiquity and Christianity.” Richard Kroner, “Aristotle Conquers Christian Philosophy,” in Speculation and Revelation in the Age of Christian Philosophy (1959), p. 212.
Concerning the transition from Augustinianism and Platonism early in Aquinas’ career, “Thomas strategy, well-developed in his mind, from his days with Albertus Magnus, was first to produce an interpretation of Aristotle less hostile to religion than that of Averroes. He also disguised his break with Augustine by claiming that Augustine had cited but hand not adopted various Platonic or Neo-platonic views; the same purpose was served by clever reinterpretation of Augustine’s words and, if necessary, by silence. Der klarste Kopf won the battle…. He was canonized in 1323.” Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey, p. 270.
“It also seems evident that (Aquinas) has changed the context for a discussion of God’s character and has left the biblical portrait of God far behind. Thomas appealed to Exodus 3:14 (“I am that I am”), but the philosophical elaboration of this passage only highlights the fact that Thomas was developing his doctrine of God through rational exploration in an Aristotelian mode, rather than through exegesis of Scripture. Clearly, Thomas’s philosophical claim was not elaborated in terms of the narrative of the text but instead a single phrase is pulled from its narrative context in order to be made the foundation for philosophical speculation. In form, if not yet in content, this is onto-theology—a theology that works within guidelines set by an alien philosophical system.” Peter Leithart, “Medieval Theology and the Roots of Modernity,” Revolutions in Worldview, W. Andrew Hoffecker, pp. 166-7
“Calvin… and most of his followers with him, have taken exception to a number of things in St. Thomas–among them his too uncritical endorsement of Aristotle as the paradigm of the philosopher; his too rigid distinction between philosophy and theology; his denial of the possibility of a Christian philosophy; his rationalistic arguments for the existence of God; his uncompromising empiricism; his ethics of natural law; and the like. What all this comes to is well stated by H. Reinhold Niebuhr: Aquinas confesses a Christ above culture, while Calvin confesses a Christ transforming culture.” (Henry Stob, Theological Reflections, p. 130)
Arché: see principle.
Argument: Neither a “hostile encounter, as the term is sometimes used in ordinary language… nor … an acrid, purposeless discussion of abstract or theoretical issues—the concept that some people associate with the word…. rather … in the logical sense… a group of premises which the arguer claims, imply a conclusion…. roughly synonymous with reasoning…. Every sermon, every Bible study, every witness to Christ seeks to warrant a conclusion (faith, repentance, obedience) and thus has an argumentative aspect. (John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God, page 16)
Arminianism: see the note on this term under free will.
Art: the creative or imaginative application of rules, laws, skills, and otherwise rational knowledge and reasoning. What is a painting? The creative application of the rules of art. Why else does a student of art have to learn basics? In an orchestra, if one violates the rules of music, cacophony results. Art is advanced by the application and synthesis of new patterns and arrangements without violating the old first principles of the particular craft of the artist. Art is found is any scholarly endeavor: medicine, law, economics, history, etc. The mystery of art is its variety of appeal to some individuals and communities and not to others, as well as, the difference of art from culture to culture. See abstract art above.
A se, aseity of God: A se means “from himself.” Aseity, then, means that God is complete within Himself. And, since “In the beginning, God …,” only God can be a se. That is, only God is without derivation, without source, and without beginning. Everything else “is” at the direct creation of God or secondarily through agents that he has created. God is the original and only true substance— Greek ousia. In His essence, God does not “need” anything—He is complete within Himself. He did not need to create or to “save” men. He is and always has been complete within Himself. Further, God’s attributes are not a comparison or analogy with something else, but synonymous with His being. He is His attributes: holiness, righteousness, justice, love, faithfulness, truth, etc. God has no “intention”—His thought and His will are one in decree. Self-contained, self-existent, self-sufficient, and truly independent are synonyms for a se.
Atheist, honesty: “I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religions itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It is not just that I do not believe in God and naturally, hope that I am right in my belief. It is that I hope that there is no god! I do not want there to be a God; I do not want a universe like that.” Thomas Nagel, The Last Word, 130.
Attributes of God, Priority of the: The most common attribute of God in evangelical groups and churches today is that “God is love.” But, God must first be understood as truth or His love cannot be believed. Second, God’s righteousness must be posited, else His love cannot be understood. For example, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” One of His commandments is that of capital punishment by the state (Genesis 9:6). Also, John 3:16 cannot be understood without knowing that God is both righteous and just. Jesus Christ as a perfectly righteous sacrifice, satisfied God’s requirement of justice, which He gives to sinners that they might have “eternal life.” John 3:16 is not the simple “love of God” that is so facilely presented from pulpits and public arenas today. All God’s attributes must be equally considered to have a knowledge of His Person. See the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, Sections 1-3. See omnipotence, love, will (declarative and decretive),
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.): The most extraordinary intellect in history outside of Scripture. Every philosopher, theologian, and historian must study Augustine because of his stature in their respective fields. He was regenerated at age 32 after becoming a recognized rhetorician and scholar, although his diligent studies never satisfied neither his mind nor his soul. His works that survive (the majority probably did not) include 113 books and treatises, over 200 letters, and over 500 sermons. Amazingly, he is one of the great fathers of the Roman Catholic Church and is also considered the father of the Protestant Reformation (often considered as the revival of Augustinianism). While his writings and sermons are prolific, his lacked the precision of modern systematic theology. Thus, there continues to be vigorous debate about his precise formulations. Incidentally, he wrote the first autobiography in history!
He is commonly referred to as just “Augustine.” Thus, his work is often referred to as the “early” and “late” Augustine because his Neo-Platonic and other pagan philosophies were gradually replaced by a Biblical understanding. His theology was central to the Reformation and was systematized by John Calvin and others. Any modern theologian, philosopher, or historian cannot neglect study of his influence in these subjects. His life is often considered to be the beginning of the Middle Ages.
Augustine’s epistemology: the best summary which is also very readable and concise is B. B. Warfield’s book, Calvin and Augustine; another good source is Ronald Nash’s book, The Light of the Mind.
Author of sin, evil (God as the): God in His omnipotence “who works all things after the counsel of His will,” is the cause of everything that happens in His universe, including all the thoughts and actions of His creatures. He is the potter an they are the clay (Romans 11). God cannot be both omnipotent and “permit” anything, including the Fall of Satan and the Fall of man. He predestined the death of His own Son (Acts 2:23). He cannot be both omnipotent and “passive” to any thought or event in His creation. See compatibilism and omnipotence. See evil below. For more a more lengthy explanation, see here.
Authority: all knowledge (epistemology) is inescapably based upon one of two authorities: (1) an absolute authority or (2) the authority of self. Sometimes, a third authority, that of the majority of a group, is named. But in reality, that position is limited in practical application and always falls back into one of the two first named here. One could further conclude that there is only the authority of self, as it must yield completely to the absolute authority without picking and choosing what instructions that he will obey.. This complete yielding never happens, but it becomes the goal of the Biblically-oriented Christian, the Koran for the Muslim, and the Old Testament for the Orthodox Jew. There are no other absolutes which are as widely recognized as these. The only true and ultimate authority is God Himself speaking through the 66 books of the agreed-upon Bible See ultimate concern. All knowledge is self-authenticating.
Possible ultimate authorities for various Christians: (1) the individual Christian instructed by his own conscience and any other Christian authority that he chooses; (2) the Roman Catholic instructed by the Bible, tradition, the Pope or the magisterium; or (3) the individual Christian instructed by his conscience in what the Bible says, systematically and comprehensively understood. Only the latter is God-ordained.
All decisions are based upon authority: One cannot investigate knowledge for every decision: asking directions, studying history, making purchases, raising children, gardening, etc. These authorities may be parents, friends, “experts,” books, magazine, the Internet, etc. So, making decisions by authority is commonplace to person’s lives, not unique to religious decisions.
Autonomy, epistemological: “The suggestion that disagreements between believers and unbelievers can(not) be settled by an appeal to ‘religiously neutral’ principles of reason.” (James Anderson here.) This idea is similar to that of Abraham Kuyper who posited that knowledge of anything is never isolated from its relationship to a whole system. Thus, while the regenerate and unregenerate may use the same language, their propositions correspond to antithetical systems. This antithesis among the respective communities of Christian and pagans is Augustine’s city of God and city of man.
Axiom: “A proposition formally accepted without demonstration, proof, or evidence as one of the starting-points for the systematic derivation of an organized body of knowledge.” From philosophypages.org All metaphysics, epistemology, religion, worldview, and philosophy begins with one or more axioms–which is also a position of faith. See synonyms at first principle.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Baptismal regeneration: simply, the sacrament of baptism by an official of the Church is the equivalent of being “born from above” in John 3. It is one of the most far-reaching errors of the Christian Church. John 3 says that the Spirit operates unpredictably—that statement alone means that He is not tied to a scheduled event, even a sacrament. Baptismal regeneration welcomes into membership, and even offices within the Church, those who remain, not only unregenerate, but as such, are actually enemies of the Church. Granted, his issue is more complicated than my singular statements here. However, all Biblical texts that refer to “baptism” should be evaluated by the possibility that each refers to regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and not to the sacrament. For example, Titus 3:5 is not the sacrament, but baptism by the Holy Spirit (not in the Pentecostal sense, either). See the chapter on baptism in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Baconian fallacy: “The idea that a historian (or philosopher—Ed) can operate without the aid of preconceived questions, hypotheses, ideas, assumptions, theories, paradigms, postulates, prejudices, presumptions, or general presuppositions of any kinds. He is supposed to go a-wandering through the dark forest of the past (or various philosophies) gathering facts like nuts and berries, until he has enough to make a general truth. Then he is to store up his general truths until he has the whole truth. This idea is double deficient, for it commits a historian (or philosopher) to the pursuit of an impossible object by an impracticable method.” (David Hackett Fischer, Historians’ Fallacies…, 1970, page 4, quoted in D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, page 104)
“Bad News”: see “Good News.”
Barth, Karl: See Critics of Karl Barth.
Basic belief: Sometimes called “properly basic belief.” A proposition that needs no prior belief—it is justified within itself; it needs no “proof,” as in fact proof is impossible because proof belongs to a system based upon these basic beliefs. No two systems with basic beliefs can ever necessarily cohere. Synonym of presupposition, first principle, axiom, fundamental principle, premise, assumption, and many other terms.
“While a Christian can prove that his Christian position is fully as reasonable as the opponent’s view, there is no such thing as an absolutely compelling proof’ that God exists, or that the Bible is the word of God, just as little as anyone can prove its opposite.” (Greg Bahsen, Van Tils’ Apologetic, page 79. From the text, it is not clear whether Bahnsen is quoting Van Til, George Mavrodes, or himself.)
Beatific vision: an ancient concept of the Christian’s highest experience of God, presented in I Corinthians 13:1 and I John 3:2. A common mistake, however, even among the best theologians and philosophers is that this “seeing:” is an actual vision. However, since God is Spirit, He cannot be “seen” except with the “mind’s eye,” that is, with understanding or with intellectual comprehension. In our spiritual bodies (I Corinthians 15:44) without sin and with an increased ability, we will comprehend God intellectually in a way that seems “face to face”–a greater clarity of understanding that can be imagined in our earthly state of body and mind.
Begging the question: petitio principii; synonym of circularity.
Being: See essence, true (truth)
Belief: synonym of faith. To state a difference between belief and faith is a failure to understand the English language which has no verb form for “faith.” In the Greek, the stem pist- is the same for both noun and verb. There is no other stem to correspond to a difference between “faith” and “belief.” Plato in his Theaetetus pushes the arguments of his protagonist to demonstrate that “justified true belief” is insufficient to the problem of knowledge. Without belief, reason would have no propositions with which to apply its processes.
Belief and behavior: what a person does is not necessarily what they believe. For example, “70 percent of people who had an abortion self-identify as Christians.” (Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body, p. 11) Yet, I seriously doubt that few of these women belief that abortion is moral (Biblical). Greg Bahnsen has written extensively on the subject of self-deception that is common practice for both Christians and non-Christians.
Besetting sin: see addiction.
Besetting sin of the theologian, philosopher and scholar: The besetting sin of scholars et al is to make mistakes. See here.
Big Bang: Perhaps the most irrational of non-theistic beliefs. In man’s experience, especially since the invention of gun powder, the bigger the bang … the bigger the destruction and chaos. And they want us to believe that the grand order of the universe from gigantic galaxies to sub-atomic structures acquired their complex systems from an explosion? This conclusion is beyond rational, it is silly, childish, and should be ridiculed, rather than considered as possible truth. See chance.
Bible: See Scripture.
Biblical ethics: right and wrong based upon God’s decretive will, as revealed in the Bible. See Euthyphro dilemma and voluntarism. For a more substantive discussion, see Summary Principles of Biblical Ethics.
Biblical philosophy: the philosophy of this website that places the authority and understanding of the Bible above any philosopher or philosophical proposition. See How Is This Site Different?
Biblical presuppositionalism: See dogmatism.
Biblicism: See dogmatism…
Binary: an either/or, only one of two possibilities exists, e.g., light or darkness, truth or falsehood, worship of Creator or His Creation, predestination or total chance (which is nothingness), etc. Much of philosophy (and theology) would be demonstrated false, if all Biblical and philosophical binaries were applied logically.
“Blind” faith: This term is false. Faith, by definition, cannot be blind. All actions are based in faith (whether generic or Biblical), that is, action taken according to what one knows to the extent (certainty) that he is willing to take action. While the origin of the knowledge upon which faith operates may be unclear, the action and its expected result are quite definite. See faith, especially generic faith herein.
Body: See dualism.
Boethius (477-524 A.D.):
Brain: the physical organ through which the mind works in the physical world. See mind. Thinking (cognition, judgment, reflection, imagination, etc.) takes place in the mind (a spiritual entity) and is not an “epiphenomenon” of the brain. Under the concept of occasionalism, a substantial relationship of cause and effect does not have to exist. Modern neuroscientists err greatly in their belief that cognition can be understood on the basis of brain physiology. Many Christians in science, psychology, theology, and other disciplines have bought into this error. See animal brain to mind above.
“By faith alone”: I have a problem with this shibboleth of the Reformed camp. It is the ordo salutis in its entirety that saves individuals. Rather, faith is the instrument “whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their soul” (WCF 14:1). Faith is process by which Biblical truths are understood and enacted as the full obedience of love to God and to fellow men.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Calvinism: The basic teachings of John Calvin in breadth of particulars, not just casual association. Reformed and Presbyterian theology are close synonyms. The tenets of Calvin were the central doctrines of the Protestant Reformation, but overt and covert Arminianism has greatly diluted the understanding of these central doctrines. Often, the Five Points of Calvinism or the Five Solas of the Reformation are used as shorthand to represent Calvinism, but these misrepresent the breadth and depth of Calvin’s teaching, as well as that of the Reformation. The best summary of Calvinism would be the Westminster Confession of Faith along with its Larger and Shorter Catechisms, although it and Calvin would differ on some matters.
Canon, canonicity: the issue of what books should be included as Holy Scripture. Actually, this issue is settled. There are 66 books that are orthodox to all Christians. Sometimes, on this website I refer to these books as the “agreed-upon Bible.” This issue is foundational to a Biblical epistemology, ontology and ethics, as the canon determines what is truth (the included books) and what is not truth (all other writings). Truth is not found anywhere else.
Capitalism: the term does not appear in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the American Language, in spite of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations being written in 1776 which demonstrates that the concept is quite modern. Essentially, capitalism is the free exchange of goods and services without government interference (an ideal which may never have existed). Prior to the Declaration of Independence, the “inalienable rights of man” were “life, liberty, and property.” Without ownership of property, any man is only debtor (slave) to another. The modern idea of a commune is a violation of the Eighth Commandment, for how can theft occur without ownership? Markets can never be entirely free, as there are obligations of individuals and businesses to the state, e.g., taxes for a just war, but these should be minimal and the obligation placed upon the state to prove their interest overrides those of the governed. One obligation that Christians often overlook are the moral obligations of “superiors” to “inferiors” and vice versa. (For a great explanation of these interests, see the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q/A 123-133.) But, neither is the system itself inherently evil, as many postmodernists are want to deconstruct. The godless elevation of individuality and capitalism of Ayn Rand is to be condemned, as well as, impractical. Thus, her tragic personal life illustrates.
Cartesian dualism: see dualism.
Categorical imperative: see Kant’s categorical imperative.
Category: see classification.
Cause and effect: One of the most interesting and complex concepts in philosophy. Cause and effect in everyday life seems straightforward: the world rotates and the sun comes up, one flips the electric switch and the light comes on, and “what goes up, must come down.” Each day would be chaos, if these events and hundreds of others were not predictable. However, these events are far more complicated than they appear. Virtually the entire solar system, even the universe must be in almost perfect balance for the “sun to rise” each morning—an almost endless series of causes and effects in themselves. Then, consider the complex structures necessary for the light bulb to receive electricity and “burn”—the generator, power lines, and the light bulb: their manufacture and continual operation. Then, electricity becomes even more complex at a cellular, atomic, and subatomic level. Any of these links in the chain can prevent the particular “cause and effect.” Indeed, one finally has to see an “invisible hand” that keeps all these forces in balance—the hand of God. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:25). “All things are upheld by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).
Four particular problems are present in “cause and effect.” (1) Mind and body. How mind (immaterial) affects body (material) is an ongoing mystery in philosophy. However, as we have seen, God’s power and plan and sustain all that is, making the relationship between mind and body simply another relationship in this plan. Indeed, in God’s universe the spiritual world is foundational to physical world, “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 12:1-2). (2) Miracles. Miracles interrupt cause and effect. The conception of Jesus Christ was a miracle that superceded the normal union of egg and sperm. Miracles within God’s universe are simply His choosing to override His own “cause and effect” for His own glory. They are “supernatural” from our vantage point, but not from His. (3) The black swan. All swans are white… until one encounters a black swan. Black swans are interruptions of usual cause and effect. There are 50,000 airline flights a day around the world—rarely do they crash—but they do. In humans, most conceptions are a smooth transfer of maternal and paternal genes—but there are genetic defects that do occur. (4) Chaos and quantum theory. These concepts have virtually destroyed an historical understanding of cause and effect. These events are seemingly random and unpredictable, yet there is an incredible, but not absolute, orderliness and predictability in the universe to the extent that man is able to (mostly) know what to expect from nature from day to day.
Cause and effect is severely problematic in humans. Some adults follow evil behaviors in spite of “normal” upbringing. A man divorces his wife after 25 years of marriage. A penicillin injection cures most patients when used properly, but an allergic reaction may maim or kill. There are virtually no drugs or procedures that are one-hundred percent effective. In an impersonal universe, cause and effect can only be seen as “fate” or random events. In a Personal universe of the Biblical God, nothing is random but worked together for His will (Ephesians 1:11).
Certainty: a psychological and possibly reasoned state in which one will have varying degrees of willingness to speak or act. Certainty was a major goal of the Enlightenment Project based upon empiricism and/or rationalism, of which Descartes is considered the “Father.” Fro a more thorough discussion, see Certainty by John Frame.
Certainty of death. The greatest certainty in life is the impending death of every person. Philosophers can speculate at length about epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics, but death is the great issue of life. Whether one speculates about creation or evolution, reason vs. faith, realism vs. idealism, materialism vs. spiritualism, or any other of the ongoing debates within philosophy, death is always reality—up close and very personal. Not only is death the specter towards the end of one’s life, but disease and death in babies, children, and young adults remind each person that even the remainder of a current day has no guarantee, regardless of age. If death is recognized for what it is, then the sober-minded person will seriously consider the various possibilities of the meaning of life and what happens after death. “It is appointed unto to man once to die, and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Certainty of salvation: Since regeneration is an act of God, it has a virtual certainty like no other. Can a leopard change his spots? Can a regenerate Christian act other than what is his nature?
Certitude: the subjective condition of being certain, as opposed to certainty which concerns coherence of argument for a belief. While philosophers make a distinction between certainty and certitude, there is really no difference. Michael Polanyi in his book, Personal Knowledge, and in other books, destroys the notion of any knowledge being objective, even the “hard science” of physics! All knowledge is understood by a person, not a book, computer, or other thing. Persons have degrees of certainty; nothing else does.
Chance, blind chance or pure chance. Total randomness without order or law. The evolutionists have been granted too much with their concept of chance. In common language, chance has prescribed boundaries, as in games of chance: cards in a deck are limited to 52, a roulette wheel has 39 slots, dice have 6 sides, etc. Or, the chance that it might rain tomorrow is limited to weather patterns. The chance of a stock market crash has a limited number of factors. However, chance “in the beginning,” there would be nothingness. But “in the beginning,” there would be no organization of any atom or molecule and no possibility that there would ever be any structure of any kind. “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.” The importance of Biblical creation as ex nihilo destroys evolution before the idea can ever even be conceived! Probability (as in “statistically significant”) has no place in a chance universe. Chance and probability are incoherent, yet probability is the basis of modern science, especially in medicine. Thus, evolution by chance is antithetical to the very basis of modern science—that past data can lead to accurate predictions. That most modern scientists have a dogmatic belief in evolution contradicts their own science! Thus, the supposedly “most rational” endeavors of modern scholarship, that of the natural sciences, believes that their system has its origin in irrationality.
Belief in anything! “If you believe in chance, you will believe that anything is possible, except God, Who is the antithesis of chance.” (Rousas Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 498)
Person or mind: Another way to think of chance is the absence of mind or control. A person plans and tries to control his universe. If that person is omnipotent, then chance disappears. Chance cannot appear in a universe controlled by an omnipotent person. All actions (movement of power) are controlled by definition and by necessity. Thus, a universe of chance is a universe without an omnipotent Person and without mind. Actually, on this basis total chance is nothing—as God created ex nihilo—out of nothing.
Chaos theory: a theory developed in the latter 20th century because the laws and “regularity” of the universe had been long known to have variations from the supposed “norm” that were entirely unpredictable on a long-term basis. Thus, laws and regularity are operationally useful, but they can produce powerful unpredictable effects far removed from their immediate effect. The frequent example is the flapping of a butterfly’s wings that contribute to a major weather disturbance on the other side of the earth. Another example are weather forecasts which are fairly accurate out to 7-10 days only. Biblically, if true, chaos theory destroys the Newtonian-Lamarkian mechanical determinism that has dominated science for several centuries. Chaos theory, along with quantum theory, are perhaps the most powerful arguments from naturalistic science for forces that do not entirely conform to natural laws. It is not an explanation for free will because human decisions are influenced far more powerfully by spiritual factors, than physical factors. For more, see this article.
Cheung, Vincent: virtually independently operating theologian with great insight, wisdom, and logical thought. Go to www.vincentcheung.com.
Chomsky, Noam: a modern linguist whose theory and research stand solidly for an a priori or innate structure of language that would be most coherently explained by man’s being created in the image of God, Christ as logos, and other principles of Biblical anthropology. Chomsky is a convinced naturalist and political activist, so his generative grammar should in no way be considered an endorsement of any of his opinions outside of his expertise in language. Nevertheless, a Biblical theism must acknowledge the science that best conforms to its principles. ( For an excellent discussion of language and its relevance to Biblical theism, see Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, Vol. III, 325-346)
Christian: See discussion here.
Christian philosophy: the work of Christian philosophers which may or may not be Christian (Biblical). See What Is Christian?
Christian rationalism: see Dogmatism and Gordon H. Clark
Christianity: (1) A broad classification that includes beliefs from the humanism of Universalism, the false testimony of Joseph Smith (Mormon), the re-sacrifice of the mass in Roman Catholicism, the Biblical Christianity of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and everything in between. All except the last one represent some degree of error or heresy. (2) Belief in the infallibility and total sufficiency of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible. As a system, it is best represented in the Westminster Confession of Faith and its catechisms. The central message of this system is The Creation Mandate and The Great Commission.
Church: the church is related to philosophy as: (1) a body of regenerate people whose orientation is to follow the ethical teachings of the Bible (righteousness) in families, institutional churches, and society; (2) an institution with sovereign powers of admission and excommunication according to right or wrong beliefs and actions of its members, which is made up of the regenerate and unregenerate (“wheat and tares”)—the other sovereign institutions being the family and the civil government; (3) the primary teacher and organizing force of the regenerate in their understanding of the universe (metaphysics) and knowledge (epistemology); (4) should always, as an institution, be separate from civil government (while individual members should help shape legal policy); (5) consists of all institutions and denominations with orthodox beliefs (Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, Creed of Chalcedon, etc.)., primarily belief in the agreed-upon Bible. Every Christian philosopher should be an active member of a Bible-preaching local church in its various functions of evangelism and edification.
Church-science conflict: see Galileo-Church controversy.
Circularity, circular reasoning, circular argument: A process that is inescapable when a person argues from basic beliefs with another person who has different basic beliefs. Both a Biblical system and a naturalistic system are antithetical to each other. Arguments that are acceptable within one system can only be seen as circular. See basic beliefs for more discussion. Thus, all arguments are circular and dependent upon the worldview that the individual or group accepts. Thus, all arguments are circular in that they rest on unprovable basic beliefs, as in Euclidean geometry.
Civilization: “the sum total of a society’s spiritual, intellectual, ethical, and institutional values, which in varying degrees will permit those living in it to develop as completely and harmoniously as possible.” See What Is Civilization? Civilization is a concept which must be re-thought within a Biblical worldview. Great architecture, substantive writing, structured government, and other entities (the commonly accepted criteria of “civilization”) along with the presence of human sacrifice and child abandonment (as was present in “the grandeur that was Greece and the glory that was Rome”) does not qualify as being “civilized.” A civilization must have some consistent application of Biblical Justice.
Clark, Gordon H. See dogmatism and Gordon H. Clark. I believe that Dr. Clark will someday be recognized as the greatest Christian philosopher—ever! (Unless God raises up someone after his time.)
Clark-Van Til controversy: This episode is one of the great tragedies of Christian history. Gordon Clark was ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of which Cornelius Van Til was a teaching elder in the 1940s. Van Til with twelve others made a complaint against Clark’s ordination on disagreements over the “incomprehensibility” of God primarily and secondarily over other issues. John Frame states that neither Clark nor Van Til was “at his best,” personally nor in their explanations. Frame further states that “truth was the great loser in this battle.” Working together, Clark and Van Til could have been far more powerful than working independently. Their failure at reconciliation both personally, theologically, and philosophically says much about personal pride prohibiting rational thinking and discourse. Most certainly, if the pride had been overcome on both sides, the rational issues could have been resolved. (John Frame, Cornelius Van Til, 97-114; Herman Hoeksema, The Clark-Van Til Controversy)
Classical education: see Greek civilization
Classical foundationalism: see foundationalism.
Classical theism: See theism, classical
Classification: “On one major base, some sort of theory of Ideas stands impregnable. Unless we can use concepts and talk of groups of things, philosophy (nay any communication at all—Ed) would not be possible. If only individual things existed, and every noun were a proper name, conversation and even thinking itself could not be carried on. Neither the medieval nominalists nor Bishop Berkeley, who tried to get along without abstract ideas, were able to explain the reason why we classify men as men and horses as horses. Classification requires ideas, and zoology requires classification. So does mathematics. Cubes vary infinitely in size, but they all have the same identical shape. Not only are the ellipses and parabolas, but there is also an invisible, eternal, unchangeable general conic. Theology, too, uses the classes Jew and Gentile, saint, and sinner, not to mention God and man. All thought and speech depend on classification, and no epistemology can succeed without something like the Platonic Ideas.” (Gordon Clark, Philosophy of Gordon Clark, page 28.) Synonyms: category, universal.
Climate change: largely a hoax perpetrated by leftists, progressives, and liberals. This term was adopted by these people from the original “global warming” because the late 1990a and early 2000s did not show global warming, as they predicted. For a Biblical approach to these issues, see Cornwall Alliance.
Foundational Principles of Biblical Earth Stewardship
Cognition: all actions of the mind (judgment, memory, reflection, imagination, etc.). See mind, brain, soul, spirit..
Coherence: the internal consistency of a system of thought (mind), as determined by all the processes of reason (definition, logic, grammar, etc). Interestingly, only a system that is based upon a Biblical epistemology meets this criteria. Unfortunately, few Christians ever understand this Biblical system in a complete form that will demonstrate its coherence.
Coherence test of truth: a traditional test of truth based upon the logical agreement, consistency, and coherence within a worldview or philosophical system. Only knowledge and truth that are coherent with a Biblical system can meet this criterion. All other systems will have a considerable degree of incoherence, especially against reality and ethics. For example, the Biblical idea of marriage is solidly proven to be far and away the most healthy state of sexual and civil union of all the varieties of this situation that are found in the 21st century.
Common ground: the knowledge and ability of both regenerate and unregenerate persons to communicate and function together within social and civil arrangements. This situation is only possible by the fact that both are created in the image of God and restraint of sin and unbelief in the unregenerate.
Common sense, common knowledge, common sense philosophy, common sense realism, Reidian philosophy: “Some knowledge is ‘self-evident’—that is, forced upon us simply by the way human nature is constituted. As a result, no one really doubts or denies it. It is part of immediately, undeniable experience. For example, no one really doubts that he or she exists (not in practice, at least).. No one doubts the material world is real (we all look both ways before crossing the street). No we doubt our inner experiences like memories or pain…. if anyone does deny these basic facts, we call him insane or a philosopher.” (Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, 297) See Scottish Realism. (Ed: The problem is that there is no composite standard by which to determine which common sense beliefs are valid and which are not. No two people, much less the entire human race, agree on what the common sense principles are. One wonders how this approach ever had the influence that it did.)
“Good sense is of all things in the world the most equally distributed, for everybody thinks himself so abundantly provided with it, that even those most difficult to please in all other matters do not commonly desire more of it than they already possess.” (René Descartes, A Discourse in Method, quoted in Irving Copi, Introduction to Logic, page 17. (Ed: Does more need to be said about the invalidity of common sense or its philosophy? Common sense philosophy is an extreme fallacy.)
One thing needs to be said in defense of this approach—it works quite well. We carry on conversations, even as you are reading this definition, and communicate quite well. Without it, daily discourse would fail. But the process itself fails to establish truth, just as any other form of pragmatism does. Pragmatism does not work for the same reason—there is no common agreement on what “works” means in the sense of right and wrong (ethics). Common sense does not tell you specifically what is “right” (good or moral) and what is wrong (evil or immoral).
Communication: see language
Compatibilism: The belief that free will (in its common and philosophical use) and God’s Sovereignty are “compatible.” This position is Biblical and logical nonsense. If God is omnipotent, then no “effect” can occur without His “cause,” else He has given up some of His “all” power to someone or something else, making Him no longer have it “all.” Fore-seeing is not “compatible” with “fore-directing.” Biblically, God works all things according to His own will (Ephesians 1:11), and as the Potter demonstrates His wrath on those whom He decides should receive it for His glory (Romans 9). See author of sin, evil (God as) and free will.
Comprehensibility of God: Too many systematic theologies, other books, and teaching start with the in-comprehensibility of God. However, with several hundred names of God in Scripture, His plan of salvation, and His eternal plan revealed in His Word, surely “we have (a great deal of) the mind of Christ” (II Corinthians 2:16). And just as surely, we do not want to minimize how “high his thoughts are above our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). But from a Christian perspective, the comprehensibility of God should be our focus, more than His incomprehensibility. “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). Many errant philosophies and theologies could and should be corrected with what is comprehensible about God and His Word to mankind. For a great discussion of this issue, see here.
Concept: simply a statement, proposition, or definition. A concept is not abstract, although the process of forming a concept may be called an abstraction.
Conflict thesis: “Conflict thesis is the theoretical premise of an intrinsic conflict between science and religion. The term was originally used in a historical context: its proponents claim the historical record is evidence of religion’s perpetual opposition to science. Later uses of the term may refer to an epistemological rather than historical opposition between religion and science. Both popular and academic texts at times conflate these two uses of the phrase.” (From absoluteastronomy.com) Ed—Christians will recognize the extreme falsity of this thesis, as many, if not most of the early modern scientists (Newton, Galileo, Pascal, Kepler, Descartes, Leibniz, etc.) were Christians. Some factors of this thesis are. (1) The conflict of Galileo and the Church was an error of the position of the Church, both scientifically and theologically. (2) Science has often overstated its epistemology, e.g., atheistic evolution, requiring the Church to counter this false philosophy. (3) Since God created the universe, how can there be any conflict, when Biblical truth and science are properly understood? See science-religion conflict.
Conscience: Conscience is simply, the act of thinking (judging) about moral norms. It does not differ from other acts of rational thought except in its subject matter. (See Gordon Clark, The Biblical Doctrine of Man, page 55.)
Contextual absolutism: “in each and every ethical situation, no matter how extreme, there is a course of action that is morally right and free of sin…. the moral absolutes of Scripture need to be understood and applied within their proper context.” (John Jefferson Davis, Evangelical Ethics, 20-21) One Biblical example is that of the apostles preaching, in spite of Jewish prohibition (Acts 5). Another might be voting for one of two or more politicians, none of whom are really desirable, but one may have a few moral qualities or do less less damage than other candidates.
Continuous creation: a theory of Augustine and Jonathan Edwards that God creates ex nihilo every moment of experience, there being no link between each creation except for the connected flow of history and experience.
Conversion: the movement of a person from one belief system to another. (1) For most Christians, conversion is the observable act that follows regeneration: a pagan changes his belief from a former way (atheism, agnosticism, egoism, Buddhism, etc. or even an unorganized, mixture of beliefs) to the Scriptures as the truth that reveals God’s plan for mankind and his world. (2) Michael Polanyi, perhaps more than any other epistemologist, discusses “conversion” in a non-Christian, scientific context. On a multi-person or community level, there are many similarities to Thomas Kuhn’s “paradigm shift.” While the subject matter of this latter form of conversion is entirely different, and perhaps without the emotional components, the psychological mechanism is the same. See regeneration.
Correspondence test of truth: The proximity of a thought to reality (truth), or “what is.” Truth is God’s revelation in Scripture with its application to every area of knowledge, so truth can be tested by its “correspondence” to Scripture. In secular philosophy, correspondence has traditionally been one test of truth, but since there is no agreed-upon reality, there is no standard by which any thing or moral truth can be judged to “correspond.”
Cosmic personalism: the true character of the universe. The universe is not a cold, stark, blind product of chance, but the creation of a Person, therefore, personal. This omnipotent, omniscient, and all-wise God “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). “All things are upheld by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He is personally in control, avoiding fatalism. He is immanent in the cosmos, yet transcendent (avoiding pantheism and panentheism). (I give credit to Gary North for this term in his book, The Creation Mandate. See fatalism.
Two religions (belief systems): (1) cosmic personalism or (2) the autonomy and self-creation of the universe. One is personal; the other is a stark, naked, purposeless, and viciously void of conscience. Either the universe is omnipotent or the God of the Bible is omnipotent. The autonomous universe is random purposeless (thus, evolution by chance). God has purposed all things. The universe is uncaring and merciless; God is long-suffering with his loving-kindness (hesed). For more on these two religions, see here.
Cosmological Argument: “An attempt to prove the existence of God (a Necessary Being) from the empirical fact that some contingent things exist. Since the universe is composed of individual contingent things, the universe as a whole must also be contingent. Therefore, it requires a non-contingent source of existence, that is, God. In other words, all things appear to be related to or to be a result of some cause; therefore, the universe that exists is not self-explanatory or self-existent. There must be a first or uncaused cause to account for the actual universe that exists.” (Russ Bush, A Handbook for Christian Philosophy, p. 239) Aquinas proposed a five point system to “prove” this Argument, but all five points are invalid, as presented here.
Cosmology: the study of the origin and workings of the universe. Biblical cosmology is cosmic personalism. (See above.)
Cosmos: see kosmos.
Creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” ex nihilo—out of nothing. But, He is still immanent in the ongoing events of the material universe and all living things. See cosmic personalism.
Creation Day: the designation for the “evening and morning” of Creation Week, coined by this Ed. The first six days of Creation were miraculous. Miracles are not subject to time and other natural “laws.” Therefore, there is no “length” of time for each day. Each Creation Day should be defined by the events of that day, not by a period of time. See Bible Verses – Genesis 1:5 for a little more explanation.
Creation, Biblical: (1) the act, or (2) the product of the act. Christian orthodoxy declares that God created all things ex nihilo: spiritual (angels, demons, worshipping creatures in Heaven), physical (the universe and plants), and spiritual-physical beings (humans and animals) in six days. Genesis 1:1 establishes Biblical metaphysics, ontology, cosmology, and any other term relatively synonymous with this concept. This creation is sustained by Him and He is immanent in it, but He remains distinct from it (transcendent) in contrast to Deism, Pantheism, or panentheism. “The view that the world began has its only source in Biblical revelation.” (Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey, 231) See continuous creation.
(The) Creation Mandate was given by God to all men and women to achieve as both families and in social structures. The Fall of man and the Flood greatly affected the course of this creation. God created it “very good,” but these two events made it abnormal and “groan” for regeneration (Matthew 19:28; Romans 8:22). Man only is created in the image of God which is primarily his ability to think, reason, and communicate. This creation was by the Trinity of Persons. After the Fall, God enacts a plan of salvation (soteriology) for man that will culminate in heaven for those whom He calls and hell whom He does not choose. Natural laws are concluded from the observations of the orderly universe. The inductive (empirical, experimental) method in Natural Revelation, under the clarity and deduction of Special Revelation, is the method by which the Creation Mandate is to be effected. The hypostasis of creation is spirit, as God is spirit first in time and ontological priority.
Creation Mandate is he sum of God’s decrees given to mankind before his Fall. These are (1) “the procreation of offspring, (2) the replenishing of the earth, (3) subduing the same, (4) dominion of the creatures, (5) labor, (6) the weekly Sabbath, and (7) marriage.” (John Murray, Principles of Conduct, page 27). The Creation Mandates should be linked to The Great Commission, which includes “make disciples of all the nations” and “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you… all authority in heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:19-20). They can also be linked to The Lord’s Prayer in “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). In essence, The Creation Mandate, The Great Commission, The Kingdom of God, Biblical Worldview, Biblical ethics, and The Two Great Commandments are one and the same. See Summary Principles of the Creation Mandate.
Creationism, creation science, scientific creationism: A modern understanding of science that is developed and taught by Christians and considered to be compatible with the Biblical account of Creation and The Flood. As empirical science, it is interesting and helpful to Christians, but it is not truth—it is only probability or possibly true. As theories of science change, creation science is subject to change, as well. Indeed, not all creation scientists agree among themselves. For more on this subject, click here.
Creator: God created ex nihilo; therefore, all answers of metaphysics are “that is the way that God created things to be and to do!” An inescapable binary is that man will worship either the Creator or His Creation.
Credulity: A willingness to believe with little evidence. Biblical Christianity is not credulous with its historicity, world-changing effects, its correspondence to reality, its non-conflicting ethics, etc. Modern Biblical apologetics has assembled an enormous body of evidences of Biblical faith. The problem to unbelievers is not the evidence, but their being unregenerate. Belief in Scripture and thus God’s plan of salvation is to embrace a rational system with rational evidences, not a “leap of faith.”
Creed: see doctrine, “no creed but Christ.”
Cultural Mandate: See Creation Mandate.
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Darkness: see “>John 1:4-5.
Darwin, Charles (1809-1882): See skepticism. Charles Darwin was a skeptic to his own belief in evolution!
Dasein: Dietrich Bonheoffer on “Formal Indication, Philosophy, and Theology: Bonheoffer’s Critique of Heidegger” here.
Death: the Biblical definition of death is separation from a another state of existence. There are four types of death found in the Bible. 1) Separation from self, other people, and God because of the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:17, 3:7, 9-11, 23) and one’s own sins. 2) Separation from this sinful way of life (the “flesh” or “old man”) upon regeneration, profession of faith, and repentance. 3) Physical death, when our soul/spirit is separated from the physical body. 4) The Second Death, the most terrible punishment of being separated from God and the fellowship of any other living person forever (Revelation 20:14, 21:8). Man’s greatest fear is the fear of death (I Corinthians 15:26; Hebrews 2:15)—this fear is manifested in his aberrant want for medical care. “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (I Corinthians 15:26): “when faith quickens the soul of a man, death already has its sting extracted and its venom removed, and so cannot inflict a deadly wound” (John Calvin’s commentary on John 8:51). Thus, in heaven there will be no separation from our true selves, others, and God Himself.
Greatest issue: For philosophy, physical death is the greatest certainty in epistemology and the reason to investigate religious and philosophical claims with some urgency and comprehensiveness. Philosophers who are not Biblically based are anti-God and pro-death: “All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36). See certainty.
Eternal destinies: While “religions” are endlessly complex, eternal destinies are not. There are only three possibilities: Heaven and Hell, nothing (naturalist worldview), and some form of reincarnation without conscious identity.
Definition: the inclusive and exclusive meaning of a word that is historically and culturally situated in both the individual and community. If a word means everything, it means nothing. (See religion herein.) Thus, there is not such thing as a “square circle.” Words change meaning significantly over time and in various cultures. For example, “culture” and “art” do not appear in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. Even spellings change, as will be apparent to anyone who has read original writings in English over two centuries ago. Definition is similar to the atomic table except that it involves tens of thousands of basic units (words) and are not as strictly limited, as almost every word has more than one meaning.
Descartes, René (1596-1650): considered the Father of Modern Philosophy. Curiously, that philosophy is almost entirely non-Christian, but many may not know that after coming to his cogito, “I think; therefore, I am,” he based his foundation for reasoning upon the perfection God. For more on this matter, see An Irony of History. Descartes also “spoke of God as maintaining the vast machine by his ‘general concourse,’ and even recreating it constantly because of the supposed discreteness of temporal moments.” (E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, 2003 Dover Edition, page 292) Further, he said that mathematical laws sought by science were legislated by God in the same manner as a king ordains laws in his realm. (Pearcy and Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, page 26)
Deduction The method in formal logic of reasoning by syllogism. If the premises are true, and the method valid, then the conclusions are necessarily true. Valid deduction may be applied to Scripture to derive conclusions that are as true as the statements of Scripture itself, e.g., the Trinity. See Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Section 6.
Determinism: see predestination.
Devolution: the descent of man, rather than ascent. Man was created imago Dei, in the image of God. He disobeyed and fell. His Fall severely defaced that image, such that he is “devolving,” rather than “evolving.” Demonstration of this fact resides in the educational ability of men of 200 years ago, compared to the present. Yes, we have technology, but they had powerful memories and powers of reasoning that are not present today.
Dialectic: (1)Reasoning by means of dialogue, discussion, debate, or argument with others—the method of Socrates. One’s ideas are frequently modified by this process through the ideas of others that may agree, disagree, or be completely opposite to one’s own ideas. The process of thesis-antithesis-synthesis is more ideal, than actual. While a dialectical process is one method of learning, absolutes cannot exist in that process. Also, a position may be decided by a process of dialectic, but not subject to further revision. Thus, the dialectical process does not necessarily continue with every subject. (2) In the Middle Ages, dialectic was the term for logic or simple inquiry into a matter of philosophy. (3) The means by which a philosopher expresses himself. Plato wrote dialogues to express his thoughts indirectly. Kierkegaard wrote under pseudonyms—discourses by different characters who took stances on various subjects that both agreed and opposed his own thinking. See “dialectic” here.
Dialectical materialism: Hegel developed the thesis-antithesis-synthesis of his Absolute (Giest or Begriff) as pure idealism, that is, mind-spirit is the all-encompassing reality with the material as simply a manifestation of the mind. Marx opposed Hegel, his immediate predecessor, in that all that exists is a manifestation of the physical-material world of inanimate and animate objects. Marx kept Hegel’s dialectic, but for Marx the dialectic then became material (physical), thus “dialectic materialism.” The mind is an epi-phenomenon of the material-physical brain. See dialectic.
Ding an sich: German for “thing in itself.” This term originated with Kant for whom the ding an sich could not be known. On this one concept, he was correct. All that a Christian can say about an object is that God created it. We can know its characteristics: for example, an atom has electrons, protons, neutrons, and other sub-atomic particles. We can know much about their behaviors, but we can only say that they function this way because God made them that way. There is no natural phenomenom “in itself” to explain those functions and behaviors. This understanding is not a “God of the gaps,” but a God of the whole “in whom we (and all that exists) live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). See unknowable.
Divine command theory: see Euthyphro dilemma
Doctrine: (1) faith or belief; (2) formally, a proposition or delineated system of a recognized group, such as Humanist Manifesto II or the Westminster Confession of Faith. In common parlance, and perhaps in careless scholarly discourse, a contrast is made between beliefs of an individual and formal systems. However, neither is more “properly basic” nor less influential on an individual’s thoughts and actions. For example, by any reasonable judgment, “”No creed but Christ” is as much doctrine as the creeds at which the statement aims.
Dogma: see doctrine.
Dogmatism, Biblical: “That method of procedure that tries to systematize beliefs concerning God, science, immortality, etc. on the basis of information divinely revealed in the sacred writings.” (Clark, Christian Philosophy, page 19). Clark also accepted the synonyms of “Biblical presuppositionalism,” “Christian rationalism,” “Scripturalism,” and “axiom” of Scripture. (Gary Crampton, The Scripturalism of Gordon Clark, 27) John Frame has written “In Defense of Something Close to Biblicism” here.) One should note that dogmatism is no more than the beginning point of faith and presupposition, that is, one’s first principle—Biblical foundationalism.
Dooyeweerd, Herman (1894-1977). A neo-Calvinist whose thought is associated with a thoroughgoing, Reformed worldview, known as the “cosmonomic idea” and embodied in the Toronto Institute for Christian Studies. While their goals were notable, they deviated from Scripture as their final and ultimate authority. For further study, read a summary of the issues in Machen’s Warrior Children under “Philosophy” (Number 5), or a more lengthy discussion, “Dooyeweerd and the Word of God” and The Toronto School.
Doubt: since all knowledge is faith-based, doubt is merely the shifting of one’s faith to other foundations (object, person, source of truth, etc.). With no agreement among epistemologies for over 2500 years, and a general consensus that foundationalism is impossible, the basic beliefs in which a person trusts is a personal choice. Doubt for the Christian is trusting in epistemologies other than God in the 66 agreed-upon books of the Bible. When doubt forms in a Christian, he has shifted his faith to other epistemologies that are far weaker rationally, logically, historically, and emotionally. The choice between “Thus says the Lord” vs. “Thus says man” seems obvious.
Sin: Doubt for a Christian may arise because of personal sin. This focus is not an epistemological issue, but a psychological-spiritual one. Its answers lie in an understanding of true and emotional guilt, justification by faith and the sanctification process. Its imperative is found in Romans 14:23. Doubt may also be a means by which one diminishes or justifies personal sin.
Doubt is a synonym for belief: “The doubting of any explicit statement merely implies an attempt t deny the belief expressed by the statement, in favor of other beliefs which are not doubted for the time being.” Thus, “I doubt p (any statement of belief, e.g., “All men are mortal,” simply means that I believe non-p.” I believe the opposite of p. (M. Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, 272. Polanyi follows this statement with 65 pages of possibly the best discussion of the nature of knowledge, faith, and doubt every written.)
Enemy of Christianity. “The belief in the efficacy of doubt as a solvent of error was sustained primarily—from Hume to Russell—by skepticism about religious dogma and the dislike of religious bigotry. This has been the dominant passion of critical thought for centuries, in the course of which it has completely transformed man’s outlook on the universe.” (Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, 279)
Dualism: (1) Biblical-metaphysical or substance dualism. The metaphysical position that the universe consists of two realities: that which is physical and that which is spiritual. God, angels, and demons are pure spirit. All non-living things in the universe are purely physical. Animals have a kind of spirit (soul)—Ecclesiastes 3:21. Man has another that is created in the image of God—Genesis 1:26. This image represents primarily, if not entirely, man’s mind: the ability to think, reason, and remember. God, as Spirit, existed before anything physical which He created ex nihilo—Genesis 1:1. Everything physical is maintained by by that same Spirit—Hebrews 1:3. Thus, the ultimate reality is spiritual or Spirit, not physical.
Man is the unique creature in the universe, having both physical (body, material) and spiritual (soul, mind, heart) components. Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man. Thus, the dualism of man, as described here, is orthodox (Biblical), Christian doctrine. Those Christians who posit that man is only a physical being with mind being some sort of epiphenomenon are in serious error, if not heresy. Neither neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, nor any other finding of natural science (empiricism) has any epistemological justification to supplant Scripture in its anthropology, especially soteriology, or any other clearly defined Biblical theology.
Within this structure, thought (ideas, concepts, hypotheses, etc.) exist independently of any material or physical influence. This domain is more “real” than the physical world. On this basis epiphenomenalism is decidedly erroneous, if not heresy.
(2) Greek dualism. “(One) of the views that were current in Greek philosophy. In the form of Gnosticism, it found entrance into the early Church. It assumes the existence of an eternal principle of evil, and holds that in man the spirit represents the principle of good, and the body, that of evil. It is objectionable for several reasons: (a) The position is philosophically untenable, that there is something outside of God that is eternal and independent of His will. (b) This theory robs sin of its ethical character by making it something purely physical and independent of the human will, and thereby really destroys the idea of sin. (c) It also does away with the responsibility of man by representing sin as a physical necessity. The only escape from sin lies in deliverance from the body.” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pages 227-228)
(3) Scholastic dualism or “All truth is God’s truth” and “integration.” The view of the Scholastics in general and Thomas Aquinas in particular about natural and special revelation. “He (they) recognized, besides the structure reared by faith on the basis of supernatural revelation, a system of scientific theology on the foundation of natural revelation. In the former one assents to something because it is revealed, in the latter because it is perceived in the light of natural reason. The logical demonstration, which is out of the question in the one, is the natural method of proof in the other.” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pages 37-38) This position has also been called “the two-fold” theory of truth or “upper story” and “lower story” truth. There was no way to resolve conflicts over “truth” in each category. A modern version of this dualism is that “all truth is God’s truth,” when the speaker equates natural or empirical “truth” with Biblical truth. This modern edition also goes under the name, “integration.” This dualism is especially prevalent among Christians in psychology and other “social” sciences.
(4) Cartesian dualism or substance dualism. At a superficial level, it is the same as Biblical dualism. However, Descartes did not work from a consistent and comprehensive Biblical foundation, so body and soul do not mean the same to him as in a Biblical understanding. Nevertheless, the mind is spiritual (immaterial) and the body is material. Descartes used the terms “extended substance” and “thinking substance.” In addition, Descartes did not seem to postulate the extensive interdependency of mind-brain that is necessary to explain neurophysiology and spiritual mind in this connection being only through the tiny pineal gland.
(5) Sacred/secular dualism: a division exists between the world that is governed by men and their ideas and that which is governed by God and His Church. This dualism is prominent in the Roman Catholic Church beginning with the Scholastics and continuing to modern times. The Reformation, and especially the Puritans, saw that every sphere of life, whether church or social, was a calling of the Christian. The Creation Mandate and The Great Commission calls every Christian to think and act Biblically and claim dominion for the Kingdom of God, advancing in history.
(6) Epistemological dualism: the view that the “objects out there” are in some ways or entirely different than what the mind constructs of their representations to it. Kant stated that the mind could not know the “thing-in-itself,” but only the a priori representations of the object to the mind.
(7) Dualism in philosophy of mind. All non-Christians and many Christians would posit something “anti-material” in place of the Biblical soul/spirit, thus not affirming #1 above. What those “anti-materials is too complex to discuss here.
Duhem’s conception of science: “simply a device for calculating… a deductive system that is systematic, economical, and predictive, but not one that represents the deep underlying nature of reality. Duhem… thought that such representation was only achieved by rational thought.” (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, “Pierre Maurice Marie Duhem) “Duhem’s name is given to the under-determination or Duhem-Quine thesis, which holds that for any given set of observations there is an innumerably large number of explanations. It is, in essence, the same as Hume’s critique of induction: all three variants point at the fact that empirical evidence cannot force the choice of a theory or its revision.” (reference)
Duhem (or Duhem-Quine) thesis: “The thesis that a single scientific hypothesis cannot be tested in isolation, since other, auxiliary hypotheses will always be needed to draw empirical consequences from it.” (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, “Duhem thesis”) This view would be consistent with the unity of a universe created by one Mind—the God of Scripture. See underdetermination in science.
“Suppose two theories are being compared and tested against experimental data in such a way that the data appear to confirm one of the theories better than the other (Ed-one of the most common approaches in science)…. The data do no such thing…. With sufficient adjustment, both theories could have accommodated all the experimental results, and it is difficult if not impossible, to state general criteria for when such adjustments are inappropriate…. Theory assessment is a multifaceted affair, and theories simply are not chosen on empirical grounds…. Theories are not tested in isolation but in conjunction with a whole system of auxiliary theories about instruments, or other physical phenomena beside the ones under investigation. (Ed: This thesis is also known as “conventionalism” and “pragmatism., as noted by the author, J. P. Moreland, Christianity and the Nature of Science, 1989, page 83—Ed’s emphases)
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Education: the life-long pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, necessarily dependent upon one’s Christian or non-Christian beliefs. That most Christian parents turn their children over to an anti-Christian, public school system is startling evidence of their not understanding what education is. Education is inescapably, unavoidably, and necessarily dependent upon one’s “religious” beliefs. See Summary Principles of Education. Also, see The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto. Also, see Learning (below).
Emergence: the greater effect of a whole than the individual effects of its parts. An atom has characteristics that none of its subatomic particles has. Sodium chloride (table salt) is totally different from sodium and chloride as elements that are dangerous to life and health. Naturalism has no explanation for emergence. This phenomenon may only be understood according to God’s creative design, not from the physical properties of the “lower” level parts. See supervenience.
The supernatural in plain sight. Because emergence results in properties which are often considerably beyond those of constituent parts, what explanation is to be given except that the Creator has supernaturally, that is, exceeded naturalistic phenomena? Thus, the existence of “super-nature” is “hidden in plain sight,” in the functions of the universe!
Emotion: “Negatively, the momentary (acute) and ongoing (chronic, continuous) disturbance within the mind (soul, spirit) caused by the discrepancy between perceived reality and one’s desires.” (From A Definition of Emotions.) Positively, emotions result from the expectation or actual fulfillment of one’s desires. (See “glad” following here.) Acute emotions fluctuate considerably in intensity and may cause sudden, not-thought-out reactions which are often harmful to self and others. Chronic emotions are more stable and given to attitudes and actions that are more thought-out and purposeful (if positive). Negatively, a chronic passion would be hatred (anger) towards a person or object. Values, ethics, and worship are derived from these more solidly based desires. Perhaps, all emotions can be identified as worry (anxiety, fear, nervousness, etc.), sad (depressed, “down in the dumps,” unhappy, down, dejected, blue, etc.), mad (angry, upset, irate, rage, annoyed, etc.), and glad (happy, joyful, pleased, delighted, content, etc.). These designations make for an east-to-remember summary: “frad (afraid), sad, mad, and glad.” See affection, passion.
Emotions and thoughts. Apart from actual physical changes (illness, bipolar conditions, etc.), emotions always follow thoughts. For example, suppose you put on a happy face, and I commanded that you be sad. Could you just make yourself sad? No, sadness follows the expectation or the actual occurrence of something that is negative for the person. Modern psychology “treats the emotions.” But, that approach is entirely erroneous. The control of one’s emotions comes from right-thinking (Philippians 4:8, or “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23:7).
Emotions and ethics: Too often, one’s ethics (morals, values) are poorly thought out and based in unidentified emotions. One’s family and cultural upbringing are heavily influential and intuitional without logical or coherent study as one grows older. Today’s education, particularly in public schools but also in Christian schools, rarely teaches any rational approach to understanding emotions and ethics.
Emotions and God: the Westminster Confession of Faith states that God is “without … passions” (Chapter 2:1). “Is an emotion a passion? If it is, shall we say that God has no emotions? Do we ordinarily consider it a compliment when we call a man emotional? Can we trust a person who has violent ups and downs? Is it not unwise to act on the spur of the moment? Would then an emotional God be dependable? How could God have emotions, if He is immutable?” (Gordon Clark, What Do Presbyterians Believe?, p. 29) If a reader believes that love, as in “God is love,” see love discussed and defined below.
Emotivism: “the belief that ‘all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling, insofar as they are moral or evaluative in character.'” (Alistair McIntyre, After Virtue, page 12) If we did not have the detailed and fully developed morality of the Scriptures, then this definition would indeed be descriptive.
Empirical, empiricism: the process by which observations are made and conclusions are reasoned from those observations using a priori knowledge or categories. For example, the sun rises every day from experience; therefore, the sun will rise tomorrow and every day thereafter. Empiricism is a synonym for induction and is virtually equivalent to the scientific method. Empiricism is a logical fallacy by its very process, because it cannot examine every condition in the universe. In our example of the sun rising, both the Bible and science agree that the sun will not rise forever (although each gives different “causes” for that failure). See A Major Refutation of Empiricism and Its Danger for a Biblical Worldview for a more detailed understanding of empiricism.
Enlightenment, Enlightenment Project: Usually, just called the “Enlightenment.” However, a major theme of Alister McGrath is the “failure of the Enlightenment project” which was the attempt to divorce epistemology, ontology, and ethics from God and His Revelation—the attempt to explain the universe and man strictly by his own reason, a reversion back to “man is the measure of all things.” That project has failed, creating possibilities for appeals to and reasoning grounded in the transcendent. (Alister McGrath, The Open Secret, 12) While post-modernism is usually seem as a philosophy following the Enlightenment, it is really only the inevitable conclusion of the attempt at pure rationalism which is irrationalism. Eric Voeglin called the enlightenment “The Enlightenment Gnostic spirit.”
Illegitimate: The Enlightenment Project has not just been unsuccessful; as a totalizing project, it is inherently illegitimate. (Merold Westphal commenting on Lyotard, Overcoming Ontotheology, xiv)
Persons and Person rejected: what the Enlightenment rejected were individual persons and their affinities to form groups, in favor of the “herd,” loving mankind and not persons. It also left behind the Person of God, His Word, and their importance for the “flourishing of these persons and their convivial groups.
Creation, rather than Creator: The Enlightenment sought to explore the Creation through natural revelation, rejecting special revelation as the authority over all epistemology, ontology, and ethics.
Enthusiasm: etymology, “en,” “theos” (God). Thus, originally, to be stirred in some way by emotions and passions concerning God.
Epiphenomenonalism: A theory of monistic materialism that thought and reason is a product of the physiology of the brain, but that they are not material in themselves. Usually, if not exclusively, espoused by Christians and non-Christians who do not believe in an “immaterial” soul. This belief is inconsistent with Biblical orthodoxy which clearly and necessarily defines and describes the mind that is a part of the soul (spirit).
Episteme: one of the Greek words for knowledge in which justified true belief for Plato, is perhaps best illustrated in his Divided Line where one progresses from image, belief, and opinion, through reasoning to episteme. For Aristotle, episteme, was “scientific knowledge” in which science meant systematic and studied knowledge.
Epistemology: traditionally, how does one know what he knows? Epistemology looks for grounds on which to have knowledge that is certain or true. Also, traditionally, justified true belief (JTB) has been equated with knowledge since Plato and some of his predecessors. However, JTB has caused hopeless confusion as it is too complex to be based upon any concrete concept. I prefer to consider knowledge as the matter with which the mind occupies itself. Then, the question becomes where does knowledge come from: (1) innate, (2) acquired by experience (observation, reading, education, etc.), and implanted (mystical). Certainty, truth, and belief become separate issues. I have discussed justified true belief briefly below and more fully here.
Epistemology, Biblical. Synonym of Epistemology, Revelational.
Epistemology, Reformed. See Reformed epistemology.
Epistemology, Revelational: See Revelational epistemology.
Essence: a thing as it really is; being. Only God knows this reality. Man can only describe characteristics, function, and associations of a thing. See existence, real (reality), substance, and true (truth).
Eternal destinies: see death.
Eternal problems of philosophy: Traditional “questions concerning the ultimate nature of the real, the existence of God and His relation to the world, the nature of truth, of goodness and beauty, and the spirit and destiny of man.” (Errol E. Harris, Nature, Mind, and Science, 3-4) While this term is infrequent among philosophers, it well describes what ought to be a central concern. After all, if there are no “eternal problems,” then all problems are temporal. Since “now” is always moving to the past, temporal problems do not exist. For more see here.
Ethics: “Ethics deals with the voluntary conduct of individual man insofar as it is judged to be good or bad in reference to a single, inclusive, and determinative principle of moral value grounded in and validated by ultimate reality (metaphysics).” (Henry Stob, Ethical Reflections, page 24) “Ultimate reality” and “moral value” are “grounded” in the agreed-upon Bible. See my website on Medical Ethics, Worldview, and evil. Biblical ethics must include attitude and intention, as in Jesus’ teaching on anger and adultery (Matthew 5:21-30). See sphere sovereignty.
Righteousness, justice. The Bible does not use the word “ethics” or “morality.” Instead, from the Greek stem diké (justice) comes dikiaos (just, righteous) and dikaiosuné (justification, righteousness). The casual reader may overlook the identity of these common Christian words with ethics and morality. To the classical Greek culture “justice” was one of the four virtues (along with moderation, courage, and wisdom) and a central concept in their philosophy. In my opinion, the second most important attribute of God is righteousness (or justice)—truth being first. Thus, the ethics of the Bible is identical with justice and righteousness And, of course, “justification” before God is the most important concern of the Christian
Greatest problem that mankind faces: what is right behavior for individuals, families, society, and civil government. After 2500 years of philosophical and ethical efforts, there is no agreement on this issue. In fact, there is strong disagreement. Perhaps, most illustrative of this dilemma is a primal scream authored by a Yale law professor, Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law. By logical deduction, this failure means that all civil law is equally impossible. The only solution is government of the self, family, society, and civil government by the Author and Creator of the universe and mankind, the God of the inerrant Scriptures.
Ethics, international: see here.
Eudaimonia: see happiness.
Euthyphro dilemma: perhaps, the most important question in ethics, derived from Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro where Socrates asks Euthyphro whether “the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or it is pious because it is loved by the gods?” In Christian terms, this question is posed as, “Is ‘the good’ good in itself or because God declares it good?” Or, “Is God ‘good’ (righteous, just, holy) because that it is His essence or because the good transcends Him, and He chooses to endorse it in His creation?” Or, in ethical terms, “Are ethics right because God endorses a higher standard or because right ethics are what He says they are?” The answers to the dilemma and these questions are: (1) Rightness (ethics, goodness, righteousness, justice) is known through God’s Special Revelation because God’s essence and one of His attributes is righteousness. (2) Whatever God says is right because there is no higher court of appeal; no standard above God. Since He is omnipotent, there is no other power to which He is subject.
- S. Lewis’ Tao:for all of Lewis’ great reasoning, he made the mistake of placing the “Tao” above God in theAbolition of Man. Other Christians in philosophy, ethics, theology, and other disciplines have made a similar mistake as well. The omnipotence and omniscience of God is destroyed, if He is subject to any other authority or knowledge.
Evangelical: A Christian who believes in the infallibility (inerrancy) and sufficiency of Scripture as the ultimate authority for all matters of theology and ethics. The statement of the Evangelical Theological Society for membership is that “the Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.” What is lacking in this statement is that through the best translations, Christians today have the very Word of God written, in spite of not having the original autographs.
Evangelical Philosophical Society: an organization which by statement of faith has a similar commitment to inerrancy and infallibility to the Scriptures, as the Evangelical Theological Society. However, its publication, Philosophia Christi, rarely has substantive Biblical content and presentations at its conferences have a considerable variety (mostly lacking) of Biblical substance. There is a practical, if absent theoretical commitment, that philosophy should be done without reference to, or without substantive formulation by, Biblical truth. Many in that organization would deny what I have said here, but their practices demonstrate otherwise. See my critique of Christians in philosophy, Quo Vadis Christian Philosopher?
Evidentialism: The belief by a Christian (1) that the evidence for Christianity (historical records, prophecy, empty tomb, etc.) can convince a non-Christian to covert; “the claim that religious belief is rationally acceptable only if there are good arguments for it” (Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, page 82); (2) that presuppositions are not necessary; (3) that there are “brute facts,” that is, facts that are indisputable to any rational person and require no presuppositions; and (4) that ontological, cosmological, transcendental, and other arguments for God are valid.
Evil: Evil must be defined from both the perspective of God and man. And, it cannot be defined without defining what is “good.” On that basis, there are four definitions. (1) God, as wholly good and omnipotent, is “working all things to the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11). Therefore, from that perspective the universe and all that happens within it are “good,” as He is omnipotent. There is no evil. This world is the “best of all possible worlds” because it is the only world. Another name for this good is God’s decretive or secret will or His Providence. “
Romans 9 is clear. It gives a reason why evil exists. God says that He wanted to demonstrate His nature. He wanted to demonstrate His wrath and His power, and so he endured with long-suffering vessels of wrath that He designed for that purpose…. The same is true of this other side of His nature. Wishing to exhibit His mercy and grace, God designed the vessels of mercy for that purpose.” (Jay Adams, “Jay E. Adams’s Reply to John Frame,” in John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God, page 246. For a greater length of explanation, see Adams’ book, The Grand Demonstration)
Ed: “The problem of evil,” then, is not a problem about God’s goodness or omnipotence, it is His central purpose in the creation of the universe and of man!
(2) Any other definition of evil can only be defined by an individual (which from a Biblical perspective has no legitimacy). No two individuals are ever going to agree fully on the specifics of what is “good” and what is “evil.” All goods and evils, then, are arbitrary, except as two or more people are able to agree on an arbitrary standard, for example, a well-defined religion or life philosophy. Another example is that the short term evil of an economic disaster may settle the economy on a more solid base for future prosperity. A tsunami may destroy thousands of lives, much property, and the beauty of nature, but there will be many stories of “good” told of individual lives that were changed for the better, property re-built as bigger and better, and nature has a way of restoring her beauty over time. See Nature Discloses God’s Good in National Magazine.
(3) Another definition of evil is a subset of (2), yet distinct because it comes from man’s only infallible and sufficient source of truth. Christians choose subjectively the Bible as the One Source of definition of “good.” Sexual relationships within marriage are good. Sexual promiscuity is evil. Christians are to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). And, there are hundreds of other “goods” in the Bible. These goods may be called God’s declarative (moral, prescribed, defined, revealed) will. Even here, all Christians will not agree on the specifics of what is good (i.e., God’s will), but at least they will be arguing from the same objective source. So, evil would be any action by individuals or groups that violate God’s prescriptive will. This same definition would be that of sin, as well.
(4) “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God promises the Christian that he will never experience evil. Everything that happens to him will work towards his good. This promise includes persecution and martyrdom, sexual infidelity, church schisms, natural disasters, etc., etc. This promise does not extend to the unbeliever whose only “good” is that which God’s common grace extends to him (Hebrews 6:7-8) while he lives on planet earth.
Much, if not most, of the evil in the world must be attributed to false religions. The masses of Asia, Africa, South America, and elsewhere experience poverty, illiteracy, and cruel dictatorships because of what they believe. Surely, God cannot be blamed for these great evils where His truth and His Son are rejected. Where Christianity has gone, these evils (for the most part) have been erased.
Further reading on evil and theodicy: (1) Gordon H. Clark, God and Evil: The Problem Solved, available at Trinity Foundation, (2) A Biblical Theodicy, paper by Gary Cramptom, and (3) The Problem of Evil by Greg Bahnsen.
Evil as a problem for civil government: It seems that the problem of evil as a social problem is almost never discussed by philosophers and few theologians. Yet, it is a real problem—an immediate problem. Evil cannot allowed its freedom for a civil society to exist.
Evolution: as a concept and term that involves random and natural selection has no place in a Biblical philosophy or worldview. While there may be the remote possibility of Genesis, Chapter One, occurring over long periods of time, by the omnipotence and omniscient Providence of God, nothing happens apart from His direct control. In addition, “evolution” is inherently a secular idea and carries all its implications to destroy and distort the inevitable destiny of God. See Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapters 3 and 5.
See Chance, blind chance or pure chance above.
Complexity so soon? How such mind-bending complexity could have evolved at such an early stage, and in such a hostile environment, has forced a fundamental reconsideration of the origins of life itself, here.
Human language is a strong argument, if not inescapalbe argument against evolution. Animals simply cannot learn anything approaching human language. See article by Noam Chomsky.
Exclusivism/Inclusivism. Exclusivism is the orthodox, biblical belief that those persons who do not believe in the Gospel truths of Scripture are “excluded” from God’s blessings now and condemned to Hell forever. Inclusivism has become popular in the last few decades that God judge’s on the basis of the “light” that each person has who have not had opportunity to hear the Gospel. Thus, a person who never professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can be saved according to the “light” (understanding) that he has. Inclusivism is another heresy. The Bible clearly defines what is necessary for salvific belief caused by regeneration and that the destinies of all persons is either to Heaven or Hell.
Exist, existent: (1) to be present in the created universe (both seen and unseen); the being or reality of an object, that is, as a thing really is, known only to God. Man can know characteristics of an object that God has created, but not its essence or its substance … he same as Kant’s ding-an-sich (“a thing in itself”). (2) Existence has a relationship to the mind in which it is known. The universe exists in the reality of God’s mind, as He created it. A world and its characters in a novel “exist” in the mind of its author and those who read it. A dream “exists” in the mind of the one who envisions it. Exist is synonym of real, reality.
Expansion of the universe: There is an endless speculation (and you need to really understand that word) into what is the universe expanding. A physical universe is by definition limited; physicality has physical limitations. The universe is a physical structure; thus, it has limits. However, a mind does not have physicality nor limits. A human mind can transcend any distance at any time. Thus, the universe expands according to the plan and the mind of God. God, as spirit, existed before and created matter. Thus, it is no problem for Him to allow the universe to continue to expand according to His creating influence.
Expert: a person who knows a great deal about a narrow subject; because his subject matter is narrow, experts are prone to overlook the obvious; further, their insight is likely be be flawed by this narrow focus. While experts are necessary to our modern way of life, their opinions must be carefully and lightly held. See the book, Wrong: Why experts keep failing us and how to know when not to trust them by David H. Freeman (Little Brown and Company, 2010).
Extrinsicism: in philosophy or theology or both, the tendency to place major emphasis on external matters rather than on more profound realities. In terms of morals and ethics, it tends to stress the external observance of laws and precepts, with lesser concern for the ultimate principles underlying moral conduct. In Christian thought, for example, this is illustrated by the tendency to define the church in terms of such exterior elements as its social structure, rituals, and the obligations it imposes on the faithful, rather than to view it as an essentially spiritual entity. Historically, extrinsicism has been an important factor in disputes over the nature of supernatural grace. Encyclopedia Britannica
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Fact or facts: (1) a synonym for truth, “what is” or reality itself. For a fact to be true, it must be understood or interpreted within a Biblical framework. A “fact” does not exist apart from a philosophical or religious system or worldview.. (See Sir Fred Hoyle’s quote under scientific method below.) (2) Knowledge of a situation, object, or person that is sufficiently and commonly known among enough people to be acted upon with considerable reliance and a relatively predictable outcome, but it is not necessarily true. For example, that the sun will rise tomorrow is a fact. It is not true (1) because the sun does not actually “rise” (in the heliocentric solar system) and (2) because sometime in the future, the sun will not rise. That is, most philosophies and worldviews (including the Biblical one) posit that time and the universe will not continue, as we know it, forever—whether one’s belief system is Bible-based or naturalistic. (3) There are difference kinds of facts that are evidenced in different ways. “We might ask , ‘Is there a box of crackers in the pantry?’ (Bahnsen) And we know how we would go about answering that question. But that is a far, far cry from the way we go about answering questions determining the reality of say, barometric pressure, quasars, gravitational attraction, elasticity, radio activity, natural laws, names, grammar, numbers, the university itself that you’re now at, past events, categories, future contingencies, laws of thought, political obligations, individual identity over time, causation, memories, dreams, or even love or beauty. In such cases, one does not do anything like walk to the pantry and look inside for the crackers. There are thousands of existence or factual questions, and they are not at all answered in the same way in each case.” (Quote from Greg Bahnsen from the Bahnsen-Stein debate) (4) A known state of affairs that has been determined by the empirical method. Thus, its accuracy is wholly dependent upon the validity of the method used to establish the particular fact. See The Facts on Facts: Complexity Masquerading as Simplicity on this site which is a comprehensive discussion of the idea of facts.
“All our perceptions of the world are influenced by our interpretations; there is no knowledge of facts that is not influenced by our interpretative activity. The Christian knows by faith that this world is not of his own making, that there is a “real world”—a world of facts—that exists apart from our interpretation of it. But in actual life, we only encounter the world through the mediation of our interpretations, and so the world we live in is to some extent of our own making…. human beings (are) secondary creators. What prevents us from constructing an absolutely crazy world? Only our faith. Only our faith assures us that there is a “real world” that exists apart from our interpretation. Only God’s revelation provides us with a sure knowledge of that world and so serves to check our fantasies. Non-Christians, then, have no safeguards against such craziness, except for their tendency to live parasitically off Christian capital”—Ed’s emphases. (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, page 100)
Facts are related to functionalism or operationalism. Facts “work” in that they have a certain utility that does not require that they be true.
Faculty psychology, faculties of the mind: differing actions of the mind, identified variously as understanding (judgment, reason), will (power to act, emotive, emotions), and cognition (knowledge, intellect). Interest in such functions was waxed and waned over the last two centuries, and is sometimes linked to particular kinds of philosophy and psychology. Probably, the most important concept here is the interrelatedness and interdependency of the various faculties. Each may predominate in decision-making and execution, but upon what information this process is based seems most important. That is, it is better to act with understanding and knowledge, than on ignorance, a “hunch,” emotional burst, “spur of the moment,” or otherwise momentary or superficial process. This position is usually identified as “the primacy of the intellect.” See heart, soul, mind, and spirit.
Jonathan Edwards is often mis-understood in his faculty psychology. His “affections” are thought to be equivalent to the modern concept of emotions, but if one reads carefully his A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, it is easily discernible that his affections include “understanding” and “knowledge.” In modern times, heart, as it is used in the Bible, is often misunderstood in the same way. See heart below.
“Properly functioning faculties” is sometimes used to qualify “basic beliefs” (e.g., Alvin Plantinga). However, who determines whether they are “properly functioning.” If I differ with someone over a basic felief, is his or mine or both of our faculties not functioning properly?
Faith, generic: (1) Knowledge (innate, learned, assumed, “subconscious,” studied, etc.) that predisposes to action, the truth of which will be determined by reality in the near or distant future. Every behavior (action) of every person anywhere at any time is a result of faith. (2) The human ability to make decisions with incomplete information or without being omniscient. The heuristic nature of faith necessitates making a decision without knowing all particulars necessary to making that decision and not knowing the outcome of that decision.
Faith is usually thought of relative to religious ideas, especially in Christianity. However, faith is present for every decision made in life because there is always some degree of uncertainty. Knowledge must start somewhere. (See first principle.) Nothing in life can be known absolutely, for sure. Belief in God and His promises comes the closest to absolute certainty in our physical existence. However, even on God’s Word, we only “know in part” (II Corinthians 13:9-10). Both philosophers, theologians, and laymen have greatly diminished the force of Biblical faith by not understanding that reason rests on faith, that is, on some first principle. Reason helps faith to work out its coherence and may challenge that first principle. But, faith, as a first principle, is always prior and foundational to reason.
Knowledge may be instinctual, that is, what one knows without really thinking about it. Knowledge may involved weeks, months, years of study. Knowledge has varying degrees of trustworthiness or certainty; for example, there is a great deal of certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow; there little certainty that a “hot stock tip” is worth placing an investment. The point here is that knowledge has an extreme range from the hunch (intuition) that an item on sale is a good buy to the life-long study of a college professor. What is fascinating about knowledge that its certainty or truthfulness has no necessary correlation to the degree to which it was acquired by study. The mullah of Islam is just as wrong after 40 years of study of the Koran, as he was when he first embraced Islam. The stock that is studied for weeks may be not more profitable than one chosen with a dart thrown to the stock page.
Certainty or uncertainty is what makes the apparent difference between knowledge and faith. This distinction has been the great debate of philosophy throughout history: rational thought vs. religious faith. But, once it is understood that no absolutely certain knowledge exists, then faith is prior to all knowledge. Augustine was right when he said, “I believe in order to understand.” The evolutionist has greatly misplaced faith to project present scientific knowledge into history.
Faith, as a gift. Faith is always a gift of God. He gives faith to every person so that he or she is able to function in life without absolute certainty. In saving faith, God causes a person to accept His Word as true (Ephesians 2:8-9). In miraculous faith, he gives the conviction that He will heal (Matthew 9:22). In other contexts, this knowledge of faith would be called mysticism.
A synonym of “belief.” “Believe” is the verb form of faith, an idiosyncrasy of the English language. I have written a book on faith here.
Faith groups in America: see here.
Faith, saving (Biblical): Knowledge of Scripture that predisposes to action, initially, in confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and, thereafter, to love Christ by “keeping His commandments” (John 14:15, that is, all the directives of both the Old and New Testaments) to the extent enabled by the Holy Spirit. These directives are synonymous with good works.
Is there certainty and assurance of saving faith, as in being “saved from the wrath to come?” How much certainty does God require of a regenerate person in his faith? God only requires that one of His own be certain sufficiently to act on that belief. Of course, that person must have sufficient knowledge to perform the many “good works” that God requires of him. Interestingly, assurance of one’s salvation depends upon acting (faith is action – see above) in these “good works.” See Assurance of Salvation.
“Salvation” includes sanctification, the process of increasing holiness of the believer over his lifetime. So “saving faith” in this sense is the knowledge of those propositions and actions required on an ongoing basis to live that life.
“‘Faith,’ the author of Hebrews says, ‘is the substance of things hoped for.’ The word here translated ‘substance’ is translated in the American Revised Version ‘assurance.’ But the difference is not important. The point in either case is that by faith future events are made to be certain: the old translation merely puts the thing a little more strongly: future events, it means, become through faith so certain that (it) is as though they had already taken place; the things that are promised to us become, by our faith in the promise, so certain that it is as though we had the very substance of them in our hands here and now. In either case, whether the correct translation be ‘substance’ or ‘assurance,’ faith is here regarded as providing information about future events; it is presented as a way of predicting the future.'” (J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith?, page 46)
“(The” Faith (Bible): the knowledge, as a foundation for action, found in the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, for example, Ephesians 4:5, Jude 1:3.
Faith healing: see implanted knowledge.
Faith-Reason: Faith cannot be divorced from reason. The evolutionist has his “scientific” evidences. The humanist says that the facts speak against miracles, and therefore, any concept of a supernatural being. The regenerate Christian points to all the amassed arguments of modern apologetics and to the Scriptures. Reason is required to use language to make a coherent declarative sentence, that is, a proposition or premise of faith.
Philosophy obscures the interaction and interdependency of faith and reason. It is impossible in the human mind to separate faith and reason. For example, any statement of faith, e.g., God is a Trinity of Persons, is a grammatical statement, that is, a logical connection of words with intended meanings. A statement of faith, then, is an intended logical construction that can be understood by most any person. (Ed: I credit Vincent Cheung with leading me to this concept.)
(The) Fall: simply, the disobedience of Adam and Eve to obey God and the effects thereof. Perhaps, the greatest dilemma in philosophy and religion is to explain the present of evil and suffering, and people that are just inherently evil. Outside of Genesis 3, there is no break in any philosophical or religious metaphysical chain of human development and history to explain the presence of both good and evil in mankind. And, there is no explanation for conscience and moral guilt. Hume was correct when he said that no “is” can determine an “ought.” The Biblical explanation of The Fall not only explains these realities, but it also posits a break in scientific uniformitarianism to explain certain discrepancies of dating, geological inconsistencies, etc. Anthropology becomes much more of a central feature of metaphysics and posits not only the need for correction (salvation) of this great defect in man and the universe, but the solution in Jesus Christ and the final consummation of history. Devolution, rather than evolution, is the Biblical narrative.
False witness: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” states the Ninth Commandment. As seen in truth below, man cannot know truth as God does. Thus, this commandment is carefully crafted as it is, not as, “You shall always tell the truth.” There are two parts. (1) “False witness” means that the witness intentionally is telling something different from what he knows. It also means that he is making sincere effort to be accurate and complete in what he knows. What he knows, may or may not be the best representation of “what is,” but he has done everything reasonable to present his best understanding. (2) The commandment says, “neighbor,” not enemy. When confronted by a declared and avowed enemy, one is not required to tell the truth. Cory ten Boom was not required to disclose the Jews that she hid from the Nazis. Now, one has to be careful that enemies are not casually defined, but nevertheless this commandment does not say that one must always tell the truth. See truth below.
Fatalism: “q’est sera, sera—whatever will be, will be.” The notion that all events are caused by random, impersonal, blind forces in the universe and thus being resigned to whatever happens. Fatalism has a strong tendency to deaden personal responsibility and initiative. However, there is no fatalism in cosmic personalism; a Person directs and controls every atom and every miniscule movement in the universe, as well as nations and stellar bodies.
Feelings: synonym of emotion.
Fideism: A term that is used loosely to denote faith that ranges from one that is virtually without any evidence, “a leap,” or reason to one that has substantial evidence or reason to believe. Essentially, fideism is a synonym of faith, but some authors have a more particular meaning that must be recognized in their writing.
First principle: The most basic truth (reality, certain knowledge) upon which a system of knowledge is based and from which all ideas within that system are derived. A first principle is chosen on the basis of belief (faith) from which reason builds a consistent system. Augustine said, “I believe in order to understand.” Reason (logic) may challenge the coherency or correspondence of a system, but does not choose its first principle. Therefore, all systems of thought are built upon faith (belief), not reason. Synonyms include dogmatism, fideism, foundationalism, starting point, axiom, and presupposition.
Synonyms of first principle include belief, faith, first truth, first philosophy, presupposition, basic presupposition, fundamental principle, axiom, basic foundation, basic belief, assumption, bias, prejudice, starting point, and several others that are favorites of particular philosophers. First principles are accepted by faith, they do not have to be proven.
Flourishing: see happiness.
Fool, Foolish: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” Those that are unregenerate are also foolish–the epitome of anti-wisdom. “Foolish” is different in the Biblical sense. It is not just “unwise” or not the best policy, but it is ethical and religious—enmity against God. This attitude is easily seen in the atheism and agnosticism of our day. God has chosen the foolishness of the Cross—His greatest wisdom—to humble the earthly wise (I Corinthians 1:27). True philosophers, who “love wisdom,” will love the Word of God and discuss it at length in their speaking and writing. In addition, the fool has denied what he knows to be true (Romans 1:19ff). If he no longer “knows” what he denies, then he truly has a reprobate heart that is likely beyond regeneration. See absurd.
Foundationalism: epistemology based upon universal beliefs. Classically, these beliefs have been divided into (1) “properly basic beliefs” (PBB or classical foundationalism) which require no prior beliefs, thus stopping an infinite regress). These beliefs had to be “justified” by their being self-evident, evident to the senses, or incorrigible. However, there is no common consensus about what these PPB are. Thus, the process fails of its own criteria. If there are no PPB, then (2) the concept of properly non-basic beliefs collapses also.
A basic or foundational belief (faith) simply is one upon which a person (subject) chooses to construct his epistemology and coherent philosophical system. Whether it is “proper” or “justified” is that person’s judgment alone. He may choose to examine it carefully according to various tests of truth and rational thinking, or he may simply go his way accepting no challenges. A basis belief is a first principle or axiom. As axioms of geometry do not require proof and cannot be proven, thus basic beliefs do not require proof and cannot be proven. Such action is not required of them by definition. On this basis, the Great Pumpkin argument is indeed valid (“valid” means a valid argument, not a truthful statement—see definitions of logic in any basic book on the subject).
The great importance of this sort of belief is that it should be the basis of Biblical Christianity. I believe that the 66 books of the agreed-upon Bible are truth. I will construct my coherent system (systematic theology) upon that system.
Frame, John: a highly recommended theologian and philosopher who understands the subordination of all philosophy to Biblical truth. See his work here.
Free will, freedom, freedom of the will: (1) Philosophical sense: the mistaken notion, thought to be necessary to moral responsibility, prevalent among philosophers and many Christians, that man is “free” to make any choice that he desires. The error in this thinking is that some form of predestination is unavoidable. No man makes decisions without being pre-conditioned by his physical capacities and his accumulated knowledge over which he had no choice in his early years. See predestination.
(2) Biblical sense: man is not forced to make any particular choice. His “freedom” is to choose consistent with what he is and what he desires without external compulsion. See Responsibility. Also, see Chapter IX of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
(3) Sense relative to God’s character. Among Biblical theologians and consistent with Scripture, God is considered “most free,” that is, the entity in the universe who is the most “uncoerced,” as He is omnipotent. Yet, God is limited by His own nature, for example, He is perfectly righteous—He cannot be unrighteous. Thus, if God has limited freedom, it is only consistent that “freedom” for created beings to have “freedom” that is limited. This supposed dichotomy can be illustrated by the title of two of the greatest books written on the subject. Martin Luther’s book was entitled, Bondage of the Will. Jonathan Edwards’ book was entitled, Freedom of the Will.
Pelagianism and Arminianism: The propositions of Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism are more complex than just that of free will. However, they give a certain freedom of the will to men and women in choosing for or against God (that is, to be saved). It is significant that both have been condemned by official church councils. While councils may err, in this case they condemn an unbiblical (erroneous), even heretical teaching. Free will, in the philosophical sense (above) and the theological sense here, undermine clear Biblical teaching about the sinful soul and its need for regeneration, the complete efficacious work of Christ in salvation, the character of God Himself, and other central Biblical doctrines. Christianity, neither philosophically nor theologically, will ever achieve its full power and influence until Pelagianism and Arminianism are rooted out of evangelical Christianity. George Weigel
For a complete review of this subject, see G. C. Berkouwer, “Human Freedom.”
Freedom: “Freedom untethered from truth is freedom’s worst enemy. For if there is only your truth and my truth, and neither one of us recognizes a transcendent moral standard (call it “the truth”) by which to adjudicate our differences, then the only way to settle the argument is for you to impose your power on me, or for me to impose my power on you. Freedom untethered from truth leads to chaos; chaos leads to anarchy; and since human beings cannot tolerate anarchy, tyranny as the answer to the human imperative of order is just around the corner. The false humanism of the freedom of indifference leads first to freedom’s decay, and then to freedom’s demise.” See free will…
Freedom and bondage in marriage: here.
Freudianism: a theory of psychology originating from Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), centrally concerned with the id, ego, and super-ego which has had major influence on psychology and psychiatry. A reader may wonder why this subject appears in a philosophy glossary. The knowledgeable Christian will understand that Freud explains away the central issue of sin, as Biblically defined before a holy and righteous God. And, he has had a profound influence of subsequent generations of thought in this field.
Influence. “(Freud’s) model for the dynamics of the mind has been a potent influence on many philosophers and of course on the culture (social thought) in general.” (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, “Sigmund Freud”)
Yockey. “The ‘science’ of psychology is chosen as the vehicle to deny all the higher impulses of the soul. On the part of the creator (Freud) of psychoanalysis, this assault was conscious. He spoke of Copernicus, Darwin, and himself as the three great insulters of mankind. Nor was his doctrine free from the fact of his Jewishness, in his essay on The Resistance to Psychoanalysis, he says that it is no accident that a Jew created this system, and that Jews are readily “converted” to it, since that know the fate of isolation in opposition.” (Francis Parker Yockey, Imperium, p. 88)
Functionalism: This author’s preferred term for technical or scientific pragmatism, that is, a technical or scientifically derived procedure that the cause of what “works” or produces predictable results does not have to be true. Operationalism is an approximate synonym. The tricky aspect of this definition is that “what works” does not have to be true, even when the desired results occur. For example, placebos in medicine can reduce blood pressure, significant pain, tense muscles, and more. But there is no possible correlation between the chemical ingredients of the placebos and the physiological effects.
This concept is considerably broader than its application to science—applicable to everything that concerns the physical world. For example, the understanding and theory of language is quite complex, but it works remarkably (not perfectly) well. Statistics have a certain usefulness, but their basis and interpretation are somewhat tentative. I would even propose that functionalism (or operationalism) is the mode by which The Creation Mandate is to be achieved in the physical world—probably because of the Fall that distorted communication and the physical universe.
One of the most interesting aspects of functionalism is that, as the “real world,” it does not matter what one’s philosophy or religion is. The Indian mystic who goes to market must deal with sellers in real terms and coins, not the mystical sayings of his belief system. The naturalist lives in a world whose only explanation can be transcendental, and one that the large majority of people on earth believe. The pacifist must fight his natural urges to protect himself and his family from bodily harm.
Future states: see death.
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Galileo-Church Controversy: This historical event has been portrayed as a conflict between modern science and religion (Christianity), when in fact it was a controversy over the same facts which were interpreted differently by the each side. Those representing the Church held to the geocentric system, not because of the Bible, but the interpretations of Aristotle and Ptolemy. Galileo and others held to the heliocentric interpretation of Copernicus. Both sides had the same facts, but interpreted them differently. This historical controversy is factually presented by Michael Polanyi in Personal Knowledge, Part One, Chapter One. For a varied and interesting discussion of his issue, see Does the Sun Rise? Also, see Martin Selbrede’s Geocentricity’s Critics Refuse to Do Their Homework. And, you will want to do a web browser search of geocentricity: you will be amazed at the support for this view.
Church-science conflict: While there is a widespread belief that there are numerous church-science conflicts, there are really very few. As discussed, the above “controversy” was not church against science but one scientific interpretation against another. Even the Creation-Evolution is mostly about so-called “creation science” vs. “evolutionary science”—a science-science controversy.
Generative grammar: See Noam Chomsky.
Geocentricity: the belief that the earth is the center of the solar system and the universe. While this position has been laughed at, there are strong arguments for its truth, particularly Einstein’s theory of relativity (that is, where does one choose his reference point). While the argument has its evidential difficulties, the reality that it has any substantial evidence at all, belies the naivité and extreme bias of its opponents. See Galileo-Church controversy. For a varied and interesting discussion of his issue, see Does the Sun Rise? Also, see Martin Selbrede’s Geocentricity’s Critics Refuse to Do Their Homework.
Global warming: See climate change.
Gnosticism, Gnostic Gospels: the search for the truth in a mystical experience, whether a “Christian” or other belief system. “If one’s own inner religious experience is the only arbiter of religious truth, what’s to stop every aspirant who can pull a grave face from saying he’s reached the seventh heaven of spiritual attainment?” For more on Gnosticism, see this article and website by Peter Jones.
God, argument(s) for the existence of: See Two Dozen or More…. While these are pleasing and supportive for Christians, they do not convince non-Christians because their presuppositions differ. Facts and values cannot be separated. Many of these arguments are logically valid, but a pagan must be regenerated in order to have their beliefs changed and their hearts converted.
God, see attributes of God.
God, as the author of sin: see author of sin (God as the) above.
God of the Bible vs. gods of the philosophers: “(Philosophers) adopt a presupposition contrary to the conclusion they wish to argue. They seek to gain knowledge of God by adopting a non-theistic epistemology.” (John Frame, here.)
In philosophical discussions, a distinction is rarely made of which “god” is being discussed. Neither Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Sartre, or Anthony Flew are talking about the God of the Bible. If one examines closely the characteristics of “God” used by these philosophers, one will find distinctions among each one. Moreover, these “gods” are not the God of the Bible. Yet, even Bible-believing Christians enter these discussions, often attempting to defend their God against the particular philosopher’s “God,” as though each side was discussing the same God. Such argument is doomed to failure by both sides. Blaise Pascal understood this distinction when he referred to the “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars.” See onto-theology.
Perhaps, this definition is most central in a discussion of Evil or Theodicy. (See both definitions in this Glossary.)The God of the Bible is “working all things to the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11). Since He is omnipotent, no evil can exist in this “best-because-it-is-the-only world.” He is the cause, not the immediate agent, of all that happens.
A more complete definition of the God of the Bible is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, Section 1:
There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just, and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
More of the definition continues in Section 2 and 3, and Chapters 3, 5. For more on the discussion of the God of the Bible and evil, see Gordon Clark’s God and Evil: The Problem Solved (Trinity Foundation, 2004). For more on this subject, see Gods of the Philosophers and Theologians.
God of the Gaps: Philosophers, scientists, and others have sometimes posited “God” to fill in the “gaps” of their systems of knowledge and cosmology. However, by His own Special Revelation God states that “In Him we live and move and have our being,” and that “all things are upheld by the Word of His power.” Thus, He is not only Creator of all that exists, but sustainer of all that He created. He is not the “gap”; He is the creator and sustainer—past, present, and future—of everything that exists.
“God of the philosophers”: Blaise Pascal said upon the event of his regeneration, “”Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars….” The god of the philosophers is also called ontotheology. “Classical theism” is a “god of the philosophers,” many of them Christians. Only the God who is fully described in the Bible is the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”—the true God. See God of the Bible, ontotheology, and theism (classical).
Good (goodness): all that God does; all that God prescribes and proscribes, as His law or His love) the opposite of evil. See evil. Good is always relative to a person or Person. When someone says, “How can evil (non-good) exist when God is good and omnipotent?” This question has a subtle, but powerful shift in “goods.” The “evil” (non-good) is from a man’s perspective and the “good” of God concerns Himself and His Word. See Logic and the Problem of Evil. The “good” of man is never the “good” of God except when a regenerated man or woman makes a conscientious effort to understand and apply the law (love) of God to himself, his neighbor, or in worship of God. “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10; “The whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14); “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15—that is, all the commandments of Scripture—Ed). Righteousness, love, and good (goodness or good works) are synonymous in the Bible. See Love Covers a Multitude of Sins and The Euthryphro Dilemma above.
“Good News”: The “good news” is The Gospel. But by antithesis, there is “bad news”—”should not perish” (John 3:16; Revelation 20:15). The Gospel, then, is indeed a “two-edged sword.”
Good works: Good works are all the ethics of the Bible. They are essentially all that God requires of mankind, first in the Two Great Commandments, and second, in the Ten Commandments, and third is all the remainder of Scripture. See good (goodness). Synonym of love, righteousness, holiness, and justice.
Gospel (The): The Gospel is the entire Special Revelation of God from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. It is not simply the message that “Jesus died for your sins” preached most simply from the pulpit and evangelistic podiums. This abbreviated message that began with Finney, Moody, and others has resulted in the weakness of modern Christians to impact their own lives, much less the culture and civil state for the Kingdom of God. A creed that encompasses the most and the clearest of this whole is the Westminster Confession of Faith.
(The Two) Great Commandments: “Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.‘ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31, NKJV). These are a summary of the Ten Commandments which is a summary of the entire Law of God (The Bible). Application of these commandment is the Creation Mandate, the Kingdom of God, Good Works, the Great Commission, and a Biblical worldview.
(The) Great Commission: See Creation Mandate.
Greek civilization, so-called: “The glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome,” wrote Edgar Allen Poe. Many, including Christians, lament for the civilization that was Greece. But was it really “civilization?” Consider these characteristics and then consider whether “classical education,” with this Greek history is right for Christians.
“(1) The legitimacy of homosexuality, especially the seduction of teenage boys by men over age 30; (2) warfare as a man’s supremely meaningful activity; (3) polytheism; (4) a personal demon as a philosopher’s source of correct logic; (5) slavery as the foundation of civilization; (6) politics as mankind’s only means of attaining the good life, meaning salvation; (7) the exclusion of women from all aspects of public religion; (8) the legitimacy of female infanticide.” Quoted from here.
“Ancient democracies like Athens, Syracuse, and Argo, present an instructive albeit terrifying spectacle of tyrannical and violent mob rule at home and empirical aggression abroad. In the latter phase of the Peloponnesian War, Athens acted more like a band of robbers than like a legitimate city-state, killing and enslaving the inhabitants of Melos simply because the Melians would not abandon their traditional alliance with Sparta, executing victorious generals who failed to rescue shipwrecked Athenian sailors. Only Socrates tried to stop the illegal and unjust proceeding, and his reward came seven years later when a restored democracy sentenced him to death.” (Thomas Fleming, “The Tyranny of Democracy,” Chronicles (Rockford Institute), November 2011, page 10)
Guilt: any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, whether in thought, word, or action. The law of God includes all the instructions (commandments, precepts, statutes, decrees, ways–see Psalm 119) of the Old and New Testaments… some 2000+ or so.
Guilt feelings: true guilt, as defined above, is not always felt. For example, one may have no feeling about any instruction of God of which he is ignorant. But, he may feel guilty about some parental instruction to himself as a child. For example, you must eat everything on your plate. The goal of the Christian is to align his feelings with God’s instructions. Thus, when he commits sin, he will see and feel his guilt, and can confess it as such. Feeling are a poor guide for guilt, but they can stir one to examine the Bible to see whether what he feels is indeed guilt or not!
At various times in church history and in some localities, a subjective type of mind has claimed to be superior in spirituality. This “pietism” has found representatives in the late twentieth century. They put emphasis on the intensity of believing and minimize the object of belief. In come cases the object virtually disappears. “Guilt-feelings” are a cause of concern, while (true—Ed) guilt is rather ignored. The New Testament is more objective. Just as grace is the favor bestowed by God on his people, so too peace is not any subjective “peace of mind,” but an objective peace with God. We were once His enemies; now God has established peace. It is the objective peace with God that Paul asked God to bestow on the Colossians. (Gordon Clark’s Commentary on Colossians 1:2)
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Hamann, Johann Georg (1730-1785): known in his own time as The Magus of the North; a friend, contemporary, and fellow-town citizen in Königsberg of Immanuel Kant, but a main proponent of the sturm and drang (storm and stress) movement which opposed the tenets of the Enlightenment from its beginning; had a dramatic conversion (regeneration) experience in 1758 at the age of 28 years; strong Biblical apologist; renowned philologist; developed theory of language that was prescient and still being appreciated; a relatively unknown Biblical Christian who should be studied by all Christians engaged in scholarly activities. See References on this website for books on Hamann by Isaiah Berlin and John R. Betz.
Happiness (Greek, eudaimonia): the state produced in a person by regeneration and a life of obedience to all the instructions of Scripture, e.g., “You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You” (Isaiah 26:3). Without narrowing down one’s own belief system, happiness is a difficult term to define, but it has been a central concern of philosophy since first queried by the pre-Socratic philosophers, widely discussed by Plato and Aristotle, and addressed by many secular and Christian philosophers since. What makes happiness for one person may not give happiness to another. Also, happiness is fleeting. For example, there is great happiness at a wedding, but then the everyday-ness of married life sets in and possibly ends in divorce. The Sermon on the Mount substantially addresses happiness in its “blessed” personal characteristics (Greek, makarios), and some translations even use “happy” or “happiness.” The Sermon gives a breadth and depth of attitudes and actions that are consistent with achieving happiness. In essence, however, true happiness can be found only in repentance and faith which begin with regeneration (“being born-again) and follows in obedience. Without regeneration, achievement of the right attitude is impossible (John 3:1-17). Without obedience, the peace and joy of happiness is impossible (Matthew 5:1-7:29). “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus.” There are many synonyms for happiness: joy, joyful, peace, peaceful, contented, contentment, pleasing, pleasure, etc. “Joy” is common used for what might be called happiness, but it connotes something much more deep and abiding (Romans 15:13, II Corinthians 2:3, Philippians 1:4, and particularly James 1:2). Happiness is inherently and inseparably tied to one’s belief system. The only true system is that of Biblical Christianity. No other philosophies or religions can produce real or lasting happiness.
History of happiness in philosophy:
Hate: the opposite of love, as defined Biblically; whatever opposes the declared will or decretive will of God. Like love, hate is not an emotion; it is a defined attitude that results in works which oppose the will of God in both its forms. God calls its action against love of family (Luke 12:53, 14:26, 16:13; Romans 9:13). That “God loves the sinner but hates his sin” is a severe error of interpretation. A person is what he thinks and does (Matthew 12:34); when God judges a person’s sins, he judges that person. It is the person in Hell, not his sins.
Head vs. heart: see heart below.
Heart: one of the spiritual (non-material or non-physical) aspects of a person (others are soul, spirit, mind, will, and conscience); the life that we live within ourselves, unknown to anyone except God; the thought-life of a person; the source of all motives and desires. Thinking and understanding, rather than emotions, is the predominant activity of the heart. See The Biblical Heart, Soul, Mind, and Spirit.
Hegel and Napoleon: the influence of Napoleonic politics here. The following is a quote from this site: “What are its dominant features, which apply here? I would say there are three which suffice. First, that universal history is ruled by the Absolute; then, that the Absolute is realized dialectically and progressively in the dramas, comedies and tragedies of history; finally, that heroes, nations and states constitute the successive instruments of the accomplishment of the Absolute…. Napoleon achieves on the level of action what Hegel carries out on the level of thought.”
Heliocentricity: see geocentricity.
Hermeneutics: historically, until Schleiermacher, hermeneutics was concerned with the rules of Biblical interpretation, especially during among Scholastics and theologians of the Reformation. the thought of Schleiermacher and Heidegger led to a central theme in the epistemology of postmodernism that all human thought and writings have individual, cultural, and historical ideas that must be carefully evaluated according to these contexts. This focus has been called the hermeneutical turn, or the radical analysis of the infinitude of human thought. (Westphal, Merold: Onto-theology: Toward a Post-Modern Christian Faith, p. xvii.) See hermeneutical circle.
Hermeneutical circle: (1) According to Schleiermacher, the parts of the text interact with the whole text and vice versa for any possible understanding of the parts or the whole. One aspect is the grammatical-linguistic with these parts: (the text itself, genre or textual tradition, language of the culture in which it was written, and the history of human language. The second aspect concerns all the writings of the author, his whole life, and the history of the culture at the time. (Adapted from Merold Westphal, Whose Community? Whose Interpretation? p. 28) (2) A person come to a text with a complex of beliefs; one of more of these beliefs is changed by the text. Thus, when he next comes to the same text, he has new beliefs that will affect how he interprets the same text. Thus, a circular movement that is always changing the person and the text.
Hermeneutical turn: See hermeneutics above.
The rules that govern Biblical interpretation. It is interesting that the large majority of them are not Biblically derived themselves, as rules of grammar, definition, logic, coherence (system), etc. This situation demonstrates the interdependence of Special Revelation and the tools of philosophy.
History: the highly selective study of people of the past and the events in which they were involved, according to some philosophy of life or worldview. For the Christian, God’s hand or His Providence must be seen as the controlling force, working all things according to His own purposes (“according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,” Ephesians 1:9). In particular, the interpretation of events is highly dependent on one’s motives in studying the past at all. Much, if not most of history written during and after the 20th Century, is extremely biased against its portrayal of Biblical Christianity as having any significant role anywhere at any time.
Telology: history from God’s perspective is inherently teleological, as He is moving events according to a predestined outcome, i.e., the Second Coming of Christ, as eschatological fulfillment of His purposes.
Historical science, historical biology: the natural science that is applied to evolution, ice ages, uniformitarianism, and other past events, using evidence from the 19th-21st centuries and assuming that such evidence never underwent any changes in the past. This projection has two fallacies: (1) the fallacy of induction whereby a small area of the immeasurable universe is examined and conclusions drawn to the whole, and (2) the fallacy of historiography that past events can be understood by projections of current presuppositions. These fallacies are equally applicable to Creation Science and Evolutionary Science.
Holiness: see good (goodness), righteousness, and justice.
Holism: the concept that emphasizes the whole over its parts. In its largest application, it would apply to the whole of the universe—that every part of the universe influences and constitutes the whole. (On this latter use, see The Powerful Epistemology of a Flea.
Homosexuality: the sexual desire of a man or woman for a person or persons of the same sex. Today, it is a “cutting edge” issue that generally divides Christians whose ethics are defined by the Bible and those who choose other standards. Homosexuality is the second most important ethical issue for Christians after abortion. Because it is a Biblical issue, it is also a political issue. Until 1973, with a decision of the American Psychiatric Association, homosexuality was unnatural, anti-social (in most societies), unethical, and sometimes illegal. Diseases and injuries associated with a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle are manifold, as documented in psychological, sociological, and medical literature. While genetics may give a propensity to same-sex attraction, its causes are likely to be familial or social.
Hope: “Hope is nothing else than perseverance in faith For when we have once believed the word of God, it remains that we persevere until the accomplishment of these things. Hence, as faith is the mother of hope, so it is kept up by it, so as not to give way.” (John Calvin Commentary, I Corinthians 13:13) In other words, hope is faith is more immediate, and hope is faith-applied more distantly to future events.
Hume’s Fork: See naturalistic fallacy, “no ought from an is.”
Hypercalvinism: Almost always a derogatory term that denotes what an individual (usually) or group believes is an extreme position of some form of Calvinism. In this Editor’s opinion and in today’s shallow theological understanding, hypercalvinism is usually applied to those who actually believe and state the fullness and accuracy of Calvin’s Biblical position. For a discussion of this issue, see Hypercalvinism: A Brief Definition.
Hypostasis: Greek, literally “standing-stasis under-hypo; ultimate reality; substance, essential nature; ground of being. This word has a complex and varied history, especially in attempts to understand the nature of the Trinity, as “one substance, three Persons.” However, that discussion is beyond our scope here. On this site, I use hypostasis as defined here. God, as spirit, is the hypostasis of the physical world; it is the result of creation ex nihilo. One can only say that the ultimate reality, cause, substance, or essence is God Himself. All our knowledge of the physical universe is descriptive, not explanatory. This knowledge is quite functional or operational, as noted by scientific and technological achievements of the modern era. But even science today has no explanation why atoms and molecules function the way that they do; they have no hypostasis for matter. The Bible does.
Hypothesis, hypothesizing: see imagination.
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Idol: what one values more than God. It may be the obvious, such as “Mammon,” or it may be more subtle as in autonomy—one’s own powers of reasoning. This idea should not to be limited to non-Christians only, but to include Christians who do not place Scripture above all other epistemologies. An idol is also the object of one’s faith: where one places his belief. See value.
Image of God, imago Dei: The image of God in man is his heart and mind: his ability to think, make judgments, and communicate with other men and with God. This concept is closely allied to that of logos (below). See The Image and Likeness of God and Man as Created in God’s Image.
Imagination: the incredible ability of the mind or minds to synthesize new concepts, images, sounds, propositions, scenarios, possibilities, “thought experiments, etc. from the present knowledge of an individual or group. In natural science, this method is call “hypothesizing.” In the arts, it is a new painting, sculpture, or music arrangement. Charles Peirce called it “abduction.” This ability (talent, gift) varies from person to person, but everyone has their own unique imagination. “In Kant’s epistemology, imagination is held to be a condition of all possible knowledge in virtue of its synthesizing power over the raw contents of mind.” (Antony Flew, A Dictionary of Philosophy, “imagination”) Imagination may involve induction, deduction, assimilation, association, judgment, and perhaps some other faculties of the mind that is essentially tacit (inarticulate) to the imaginer.
Immanence and transcendence: “Immanence and transcendence are always opposed to each other in ordinary speech; but technical language can specify different types of opposition. When immanence and transcendence are taken as contradictory or contrary terms, the former is applied to systems in which God is the essence of the universe and the universe is the essence of God. In such a sense no principle can be both immanent and transcendent. At the same time Christian theologians (with Biblical accuracy) though retaining the colloquial opposition between the two words, have used them not as contraries but subcontraries. Thus they can say that God is both immanent and transcendent…. The Greek philosophers can be called immanent in the stricter sense so that all notion of the transcendence (of God) is precluded.” (Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey, page 183.) Pantheism from that of Spinoza to that of Hinduism is immanence with no transcendence. Deism is pure transcendence with no immanence.
Immediacy: The general method of philosophers is virtually an endless debate about their own and others theories. Yet, there are real, immediate problems that need to be addressed for everyone, including the “common man,” for example, the problem of evil in society and death with an or no afterlife. Praise God that He has provided those answers in Revelation… if philosophers would only look.
Implanted knowledge: knowledge, given to a person from without (by God), in which the person is totally passive in the process. For example, “Go. You faith has made you well,” which Jesus said to several whom He had healed. The notitia (knowledge) that they would be healed was implanted by God—it was not some power that could be (then or now) conjured from within the person. Implanted knowledge is a miraculous, individually extended special event that is totally at God’s own discretion and cannot be curried or commanded by the person himself or herself.
“In Christ”: Philosophy has an insight into this phrase. Christ is no longer incarnated; that if, embodied in a physical, fleshly sense. So, Christians cannot be “in” Him in the sense of being in a house, a baby in a mother’s womb, or any other earthly location. “In Christ” means to have the metaphysical (spiritual) identity by means of epistemology; that is, having the same knowledge (in an infinite lesser quantity) as Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). For a more lengthy discussion, see In Christ. See indwelling.
Inclusivism: See exclusivism.
Incomepleteness theorems: see here.
Incomprehensibility of God: See comprehensibility of God.
Induction: A method of reasoning in which “the truth of the premises merely makes it probable that the conclusion is true.” Induction proceeds from observations to conclusions. Deduction, however, within the laws of logic render true conclusions, if the premises are true. Induction does not render true conclusions, only “probable” ones. “Probable” is not a sufficient basis upon which to base one’s life and conduct, as well as eternal life.
Induction, Biblical: The process by which all occurrences of a term or concept are examined. If logical deductions are valid, and coherence is achieved, then the conclusions are as true and applicable as a direct quote of God’s Word. The Trinity is one example of this process, as the word, “Trinity,” does not appear anywhere in Scripture.
Industrial Revolution: “It was one main idea, not investment capital, that created modern economic growth and therefore the modern world. The idea was this: entrepreneurial wealth is morally legitimate. The rich man was finally acknowledged to have dignity. All men are equal before the law. “All men have a go at great wealth.” The transformation began in early seventeenth-century Netherlands. It was the preaching of Calvinist ministers that began this change.” Quote by Gary North, here.
Indwelling: A term of Michael Polanyi (Polanyi glossary) that has interesting applications to a Biblical philosophy. A person indwells knowledge. A Christian indwells Christ. The New Testament commonly refers to our being “in Christ.” But we cannot indwell Christ physically or bodily; He is not on earth but in Heaven. However, we can indwell the knowledge that we have of Him through the work of the Holy Spirit. That we “worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24)) and “it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20) demonstrates this indwelling. See In Christ above.
Inerrancy of Scripture: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs,” is the statement of belief for members of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. The Bible is the most “objective” of written documents known to man, and thus is unique in both theology and philosophy. The 66 books of the Bible are agreed upon by orthodox Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox. While there are minor disputes about inclusion or exclusion of manuscripts, the extant text of the Bible has almost exclusive agreement by these churches. One can make the case that without the Bible, nothing can be known for certain—neither epistemology, metaphysics, nor ethics, the major subdivisions of philosophy, because no one can “get outside of his own mind. Yet, God has revealed such knowledge that can give us assurance that reality, truth, and a right way of life exists. Thus, the centrality of the Bible for both Christian beliefs and philosophical certainty cannot be overestimated. For more on this subject, see the The Chicago Council on Biblical Inerrancy.
Infallibility of Scripture: roughly equivalent to inerrancy.
Infima species: the lower limit of definition of a species within a class. When one begins to list essential characteristics, it becomes obvious the arbitrary nature of classes, species, etc. See Why Modern Categories Are Wrong.
Infinite, infinity: a nonsense term because nothing exists that is infinite. God is not infinite; otherwise, He could not know everything. The universe is not infinite because it matter is confined by space and time. God, however, is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He does know everything. For a complete discussion of infinity, see Gordon Clark, The Incarnation, 55-64.
Innate knowledge and categories: knowledge that is present at birth (inborn, a form of intuition). That persons are born with John Locke’s tabula rasa seems to have little credence today. Modern science has demonstrated the tremendous amount of motor and cognitive skills that infants and children have that could only be inborn, especially the work of Noam Chomsky. In De Magistro, Augustine works through a teaching process whereby all knowledge is supernatural, that is, provided immediately by the Logos, Himself, Jesus Christ. That argument is strongly worth considering, based upon John 1:9 and Romans 1:19ff. But this position does not necessarily endorse Kant’s categories or any other epistemology. It is to endorse God’s being immanent in His creation, including the minds of humans. Read De Magistro for more on this subject. Innate knowledge, at least as categories, is an unavoidable concept because thinking would otherwise be impossible. See Noam Chomsky.
Then, there is the transcendental argument that the existence of language, communication, logic, and meaning presuppose God through His special revelation.
Inerrancy: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs…” is the belief required to join the Evangelical Philosophical Society (and the Evangelical Theological Society). Mostly, inerrancy applies to these “original autographs,” but extensive and repeated examinations of the surviving ancient manuscripts shows clearly that we have the entire textual message of these “originals” today. This preservation is a work of the Holy Spirit. For more on nuances, see here.
Thus, the Bible is “without error” when properly and systematically interpreted. Inerrancy is essentially equivalent to “infallibility,” although the latter is more often associated with application than theology per se.
Informal fallacy: a process of reasoning which in its method is false; performative contradiction. For example, an ad hominem argument attacks the opposing person, not the argument itself. “Asserting the consequent” is to assume a position in making reference to it, e.g., “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Empiricism (scientific method, induction, experience, etc.) is an informal fallacy because particulars are made into universals. There are hundreds of logical fallacies. See any basic textbook of logic or search the Internet for “informal fallacies.”
Integration (of Scripture): an attempt to reconcile Scripture and other sources of knowledge into a coherent whole. Those who use “integration” usually claim that “all truth is God’s truth.” The great danger is calling any source of knowledge, other that the Bible, “truth.” The process should be to bring all other knowledge under the ultimate authority of Scripture, not to “integrate.” Almost all “integration” diminishes the authority and comprehensive application of Scripture. Those who understand this place of Scripture in questions of truth and epistemology will not use the term “integration.” See Discerning Unbiblical Philosophy.
Intelligent Design: the simple necessity that organization (design) requires an organizer (designer). We see footsteps on a beach and conclude that a human walked there. We see a watch and rightly conclude a watchmaker. Far more complex is life and a universe which necessitate an incredible mind and energy for it to exist. Also relevant is the concept of chance which is rarely defined correctly. Intelligent design further necessitates the God of the Bible, as the only possible designer of this complex system of inorganic and living organisms.
International ethics: see here.
“Is”: see predication. “Is” is not an equals sign. Sounds simple, but the reader should study “predication.” For example, ” God is love” is a severe restriction on God’s attributes. God is much more than love, or one could say that love is one term for several attributes. God is merciful, immensely gracious, long suffering, just, kind, tender, wrathful, vengeful, righteous, good, providential, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, etc., etc. Also, one should factor that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). “God is love” communicates very little, unless one knows a great number of God’s characteristics. Such a view of God severely limits one’s understanding of God, his worship, and obedience to Him.
Is/ought problem: No “is” can determine an “ought,” or “what is” cannot determine “what ought to be,” or “What is” is not necessarily “what ought to be.” The origin of this fallacy is attributed to David Hume. It is similar to the naturalistic fallacy.
Insanity: (1) “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no god.'” There is no greater insanity than to take a knowledgeable stand as an atheist, as does Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and others. In this same category are those who may acknowledge some sort of “god,” even a Christian “God,” but who do not believe in Biblical inerrancy. For to not accept the Scriptures of God Himself is to reject the God of the Scriptures.
There is insanity in any disobedience to a known violation of Scripture. Thus, regenerate and unregenerate alike have some degree of insanity. However, the regenerate have hope of progress (sanctification) in this insanity; the unregenerate do not.
(2) Behavior that is clearly irrational and inconsistent with established norms, as in some real “mental illnesses.” This category is imprecise in its definitions and based upon an evolutionary hypothesis. It can be feigned, as well as, misdiagnosed. For more, see The Christian Worldview of Psychology and Counseling.
Intelligent Design: An attempt by Christians to oppose evolution and remove a personal God from a concept of origins (cosmology), so that this teaching will be acceptable in public schools. Their attempt is misguided. (1) The God of Christianity cannot be removed from intelligent design because He was the Intelligent Designer. (2) Intelligent design is nonsense without naming that Designer. In this attempt, they deny the Creator God and overlook the Biblical truth that the state should not be involved in public education. For more on this subject, click here.
Intuition: (1) Knowledge known immediately without having to reason. All knowledge in God’s mind is immediate, while most of man’s knowledge is discursive, that is, learned through the process of reasoning. (2) Knowledge that is acquired passively at birth (innate) or thereafter (implanted or mystical). An example of passively acquired knowledge is that God “breathed out” the Scriptures through His Prophets (II Timothy 3:16). Another example is specific knowledge that “Christ can and will heal me” in cases where Jesus said afterward, “Your faith (knowledge that He would heal) has made you whole, e.g., Matthew 9:22. (3) Colloquially, knowledge that seems to be “just there,” that is, present without having to consciously think about its content. It is sometimes called a “gut feeling.” While such is often presented as being mysteriously acquired, the origin can usually be discerned with conscious effort or outside guidance. Almost always, this “knowledge” is actually discursive, rather than passively acquired. (4) Kant’s theory of the application of categories to experience so that it can be understood.
Irrational: (1) The opposite of rational. Only valid arguments are rational. Therefore, an argument may be valid (rational), but not true. Or, must the argument be both valid and true for it avoid being irrational? It would seem that only an absolutely comprehensive, coherent and true system could avoid some degree of irrationality. On a human level, the possibility of a system without some irrationality is impossible, even from a Biblical perspective. The latter, however, would offer the greatest hope, as it is the Revelation of God’s mind that is perfect logic. (2) Any argument that does not agree with one’s own, especially in matters of first principles (i.e., presuppositions, basic beliefs, or faith positions). (3) Any argument that is inconsistent or incoherent with one’s first principles and deduced theorems. Every person will commit some fallacies somewhere in their system. (4) Any inductive or empirical inference. (5) Any argument that commits an established fallacy.
Ishmael effect: virtual synonym of performative contradiction. Ishmael could not have survived the tale that he told. Many statements cannot survive the message that they convey. “Even that great public skeptic about the value of science, Prince Charles, never flies a helicopter burning homeopathically diluted petrol, that is, water with only a memory of benzine molecules, maintained by a schedule of reading tea leaves, and navigated by a crystal ball.” (The Truth Wars) Examples, are “It is (absolutely) true that truth is relative”; “we ought to think that there is no such thing as thought”; and “the one immorality is to believe in morality.” (Cited here.
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Justice: application of a code of right and wrong in society. Biblical justice requires the application of all the Biblical parameters of ethics and law that are relevant to a situation. Justice may be applied within the family, a group, the church, society, or civil law. As such, justice is identical with love, righteous, right ethics, and good (goodness). Under ethics, see “righteousness” and “justice.” Or, in other words, there is no conflict between love and law. See Euthryphro dilemma, attributes of God, and good(ness) and Love, Law, Grace, and Justice.
Justification (philosophy), justified true belief: A term that makes epistemology hopelessly complicated. It states that a basic or foundational belief should be chosen from which all other principles are inferred. This basic belief, then, is either true or false for the person holding that belief. The problem is that there are no absolute criteria by which a belief can be determined to be true and that is held by all people and philosophers. All basic beliefs are simply positions of faith. One’s first principle is his truth, not The Truth (unless founded upon the Bible). A process of justification just adds complexity to two issues: belief and truth. And, philosophers disagree considerably over what is justified and what is not (again, no standard). Epistemology is about one’s belief and whether it is true. “Justification” lies in the the eyes of the one believing—first principles do not require justification, just because they are first principles. This justification should not be confused with the theological concept of justification: the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to sinners.
Justification by faith: This term is often called the “formal” principle of the Reformation. It is the legal application of the perfect keeping of all laws of God by Christ to the account of a person who has broken all the laws of God—by this act of God Himself in His own courtroom, that person is viewed with Christ’s righteousness. Although this term is strictly theological, it is pivotable in history because of (1) its place in the Reformation against Roman Catholic doctrine and (2) the only means by which salvation is possible in all the other schemes of philosophy and religion. For a more complete definition, see the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 11.
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Kalam Cosmological argument: Kalam (Arabic) means literally “word” or “speech,” often used to translate the Greek word, logos. The argument is that (1) “Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.” (2) “The universe began to exist.” (3) “Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence.” Like any cosmological argument, one has to accept its premises for it to be persuasive. If one accepts its premises, the argument is not necessary. Thus, any cosmological argument is a tautology. Premise (2) has a much more detailed development that can be seen here. Refutation and problems with this argument can be found here.
Kant’s categorical imperative: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” (“Kant, Immanuel,” translated by James W. Ellington  (1993). Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals 3rd ed., p. 30) Pragmatically, this method seems to work well, and is similar to the Tao. However, there are sufficient and significant differences between individuals and cultures that prevent universal agreement. Further, this approach violates the complete Biblical standards of the Ten Commandments and all their inferences. (See the Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger Catechism on the Ten Commandments.) Further, se the deep-souled cry of Arthur Leff, Duke Law Journal, December 1979, found here.
Kenosis, kenotic theology: The name of interpretations of Philippians 2:7 given to the phrase, “Christ emptied (Greek kenoo) Himself.” Serious errors are often made, especially from those of an existentialist bent. (1) Christ gave up or discarded some or all of His attributes as a member of the Trinity. However, as R. C. Sproul writes, “. If God laid aside one of his attributes, the immutable undergoes a mutation, the infinite suddenly stops being infinite; it would be the end of the universe.” (2) We are to emulate Christ by total self-denial. While this directive is mostly true, we cannot ignore another of Christ’s total directives, “If you love me, keep (all) my commandments” (John 14:15). Often this “self-emptying” becomes self-absorption, trying to find some transcendental, inner development that is directed away from all the instructions (“commandments”) of how we are to behave towards one another. (For more specifics on such instructions, do a word search in the New Testament on the “one another” passages of the New Testament.
Kierkegaard, Søren (1813-1855): perhaps, the most misunderstood Christian philosopher in history. Two reasons for this misunderstanding were his markedly varied literary style and his writing from beliefs that differed from his own, e.g., Judge William and Johannes Climacus), which were then attributed to his own beliefs; his eccentric personality; his own paranoia; his love of the true Christian faith (which had become sterile in its statism); and more. This editor is solidly convinced that, not only was he a true Christian, he believed in a Sovereign God Who was the cause of man’s “leap” into true Christian belief; man could not save himself, only God could. For more of this editor’s beliefs about Kierkegaard, see Brief Notes… and Kierkegaard’s Leap of Faith. This Ed has in his possession a booklet that contains hundreds of Biblical references in Kierkegaard’s writings.
Kingdom of God: Synonym for Kingdom of Heaven. See Creation Mandate. See Kingdom of God – Summary Principles
Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: “Heidegger set forth not only the basis for the so-called “New Hermeneutic” of Ott, Ebeling, Fuchs, Bultmann, and Gadamer but also the foundation for the widely and often naively used Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Among the troubling hidden premises in this massive work are the contentions that: 1) The origin of a term is the key to its meaning; 2) This meaning is non-conceptual and mystical; 3) Language is symbolic, not descriptive. Even the liberal James Barr exposed Kittel’s Heideggerian presuppositions in his Biblical Semantics. Considering the extensive and often philosophically uncritical use of Kittel by even evangelical scholars….” (Norman Geisler, “Beware of Philosohy: A Warning to Biblical Scholars, Christian Apologetics Journal, Spring 1999, page 8)
Knowledge: Knowledge is the activity of the mind (incorporeal, not brain). Common knowledge is that which is present in two or more minds. Knowledge only has three sources: (1) that which is passively given, or (2) that which is actively acquired or experienced—the empirical or scientific method. But even the latter is determined by categories and knowledge that is already present in the mind. The former may be innate or given after birth (mystical, infused, imparted). See What Is Knowledge? (3) Knowledge gained through Special Revelation, the only source of knowledge that is true. In an ultimate sense, all knowledge comes from the omniscient God who “enlightens every mind” (John 1:9).
“Kosmos”: New Testament word translated “world.” See world.
Kuyper, Abraham (1837-1920): a remarkable Dutch theologian who was confronted and regenerated in a small country parish, but founded a new denomination, public newspaper, Free University of Amsterdam, and political party, becoming Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901-1904. His major works include The Work of the Holy Spirit, Principles of Sacred Theology, and Lectures on Calvinism. His work is sometimes labeled, “Neo-Calvinism,” but his disciples have distorted some of his central themes so that his original works should be sought out and the work of his followers not attributed to him. The summary of his work may be found in his famous declaration, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
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Language: “First, language is a bearer of meaning because words are arbitrary signs (that) the mind uses to tag thoughts. Second, communication is possible because all minds have at least some thoughts in common. This is so because God created man a rational spirit, a mind capable of thinking, worshipping, and talking to God. God operates through the Logos, the wisdom that enlightens every man in the world. Third, language is logical because it expresses logical thoughts. Not to deny the noetic effects of sin, examples of which are incorrect additions and various fallacies in reasoning, man is still a rational or logical creature and hence he cannot think three is four or that two contradictories can both be true. Language therefore is built upon the laws of logic.” (Gordon Clark, Language and Theology,155.)
“Man’s endowment with rationality, his innate ideas and a priori categories, his ability to think and speak were given to him by God for the essential purpose of receiving a divine revelation, of approaching God in prayer, and of confessing with other men about God and spiritual realities…. A dubious appeal to metaphor, symbolism, or analogy to explain this transition would be unnecessary.” (Gordon Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, pages 135-136)
An instrument of power at Babel, language was, according to Scripture, confused by God in order to create diversity and the possibility of separate and integral developments. Men fail to understand one another not only when they speak alien tongues, but when they use the same words with very diverse meanings. Communists and conservative U. S. Republicans alike use the word “republic,” but with radically different interpretations. Christians and relativists both speak of “law” with no identity of meaning. Again, the definition of liberty is not limited to its nine dictionary definitions but has, in its civil and religious connotations, as many meanings almost as there are political parties and religions in existence. As a result, the very fact of a common tongue and an identical word can sometimes, on the presupposition of a necessary cultural unity, further the confusion of speech. (R. J. Rushdoony, This Independent Republic, page 1, 1978)
First, language is a bearer of meaning because words are arbitrary signs (that) the mind uses to tag thoughts. Second, communication is possible because all minds have at least some thoughts in common. This is so because God created man a rational spirit, a mind capable of thinking, worshipping, and talking to God. God operates through his Logos, the wisdom that enlightens every man in the world. (Ed: from Augustine on John 1:9) Third, language is logical because it expresses logical thoughts. Not to deny the noetic effects of sin, examples of which are incorrect additions and various fallacies in reasoning, man is still a rational or logical creature and hence he cannot think (that) three is four or that two contradictories can both be true. (Gordon Clark, Language and Theology, 152)
Language theory of Noam Chomsky: Modern linguist who has resurrected the idea of innate structures as being necessary for the rapidity of development of language in children. With the Enlightenment and modern materialism, there was no room for innateness. Innate language structure and ability is consistent with a Biblical philosophy that man is made in the image of God and certain knowledge of Him is written on their hearts. Chomsky is also well-known for his geopolitical views which are not endorsed by his mention here. See language above and light below.
Law: a course of action established by some authority with power of reward for obedience or punishment for its neglect or violation.
Law, civil: the codification of some system of ethics by a civil authority with prescribed punishments for disobedience. The system may be custom or tradition, the demands of a dictator or other absolute authority, or the vox populi (majority vote). The summun for civil law would be the Biblical law: the law prescribed and proscribed by God.
Law, natural. See natural law.
Laws of logic: the law of noncontradiction, the law of the excluded middle, and the law of identity. These three can really be summed up as the law of noncontradiction.
Law(s) of nature: see natural law.
Law of contradiction or noncontradiction: “A is never non-A at the same time and in the same respect.” (John Frame, No Other God, 44) The same proposition cannot be both true and false. The law of noncontradiction seems more a propos, since it is a negative of what can be known. It is really the summary of the other laws of logic: the law of identity and excluded middle.
Law of unintended consequences: one can rarely, if ever, predict the outcomes of one’s action, especially the laws of governments. For example, a law that required parents to purchase an airplane seat for their children was intended to save lives, but because of cost, more families drove which increased the deaths of travelling children. Unintended consequences can be avoided by following Biblical instructions, trusting that God has fully informed us of good will happen when we take particular actions that are clear instructions from His Word.
“Leap” of Kierkegaard: see Kierkegaard’s Leap of Faith. Here is an example:
If a person in his own strength can arrive at “infinite resignation,” but not achieve the status of the “leap of faith,” how does it happen? It would seem, then, that God must complete the sequence, or it does not happen. From my perspective as a Reformed Christian, I believe that it is indeed God who gives that kind of faith, but Kierkegaard only gives hints that this position is own. Indeed, his concept of a “leap of faith” seems to revert back to man’s initiative.
Learning: We do not learn by empiricism, as Scripture refutes that method, while stating universal propositions from which logical deductions can be made. See How Do We Learn?
Leibniz, Gottfried (1646-1716): a polymath and thoroughgoing Christian. He posited that “what is” is the “best of all possible worlds” and occasionalism or pre-established harmony (the congruence of cause and effect) because God is omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and coherently unified in His thought; as such, a being can only act in the best (one) possible way. His works have never been fully translated and should be studied by all serious Christians in philosophy. He is labeled a rationalist, but he is more of a dogmatician in that his primary axiom was Biblical revelation. Leibniz also posited, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
Life, as in all “living things”: the state of being derived from another living thing. God is the creator and sustainer of life. There is no life apart from His creation and sustenance. Characteristics of life: mobility, reproduction, animation, metabolism, intake of nutrients, disposal of toxins and waste, etc. is an insufficient definition of life, as no living things have all these functions throughout their lifespans nor do all forms of “life” have all of these.. Through reproduction, life forms generate life forms according to their own “kind,” but this generation is simply passing on to their offspring what God began.
As an argument for Creation. The incredible (supernatural) step from inorganic compounds to a living form seems to have been overlooked as an argument for Creation. This step requires the activity of God. That animal or plant life could originate on its own defies every reasonable understanding of the difference between life and non-life. Non-Biblical philosophy does not even recognize the higher and highest forms of life: man’s immortal soul, angels and demons, and God Himself.
Life, highest form: life in heaven by those who have experienced the new birth of Spiritual life (John 3). The second highest form would be the earthly life of those who are born again and are obedient to all the commands of Scripture. This life is inextricably linked to righteousness, as in “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.”
Physical life predicated on spiritual life. “God is Spirit,” and God created. Thus, Spirit is foundational to all that is physical, and temporally prior (before Creation). But because of our “sense” orientation, we mostly give priority to the physical realm. To “grow” in life, therefore, is to increase in our knowledge and understanding of His Revelation. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Life-after-death: see death.
Light: “Light” is identified with language, understanding, and “seeing.” First, “light” is often used to mean “understanding” in common speech—”I see,” that is, I understand. But in the Bible, “light (or seeing) is closely identified with the knowledge (understanding) of saving faith (Matthew 13:15). Greater faith is exemplified by not actually “seeing” in the physical sense by contrast to understanding with the mind (John 20:29). In the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, Jesus is identified as the “Word” and the “light.” He enables every man to have “light” (v. 9) which Augustine saw as His being the Teacher of all men. (See his book, De Magistro – The Teacher). Also, God spoke physical light into being (Genesis 1:14-15). Thus, physical “light” and “light,” as understanding and communication, are closely associated. In the new heavens, Christ will be the light without there being a physical light, as He was in Creation (Genesis 1:3) until He created the physical light (Genesis 1:14-15). See light of reason.
Light of reason, light of nature, natural light: “Augustine’s theory of illumination (by God of every man—John 1:9) found in Malebranche and Descartes’s “light of nature” (also called “light of reason” or “natural light”)—reference here. It is ironic that Descartes is the Father of modern philosophy which is almost totally secular, yet he grounded his cogito in God in at least two ways: (1) Augustine’s light of reason, (2) a cosmological argument, and (3) an ontological argument.
Logic: The science of the derivation, study, and application of laws that are necessary for communication, using language, to occur and for valid arguments to be constructed. Valid arguments of true propositions inescapably result in true conclusions. See Reason Fully Explored…
Logic, Eastern: “There is really no such thing as “Eastern logic.” It is true that certain strands of Hinduism and Buddhism teach that contradiction lies at the heart of reality and that on the path to enlightenment one must learn to embrace contradiction. But as Mortimer Adler pointed out, as long as Hindus and Buddhists accept the results of modern science and technology (and the mathematics of the market place—Ed), they are tacitly affirming the law of noncontradiction, which lies as the very foundation of science.” (DeWeese and Moreland, Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult, page 12) Also, see Eastern and Western Logic.
Logic, “merely human.” See “merely human logic”: A phrase that has crept into modern evangelism that posits a difference in the way that God reasons and that man reasons. But the statement itself is self-refuting. If “God’s logic” is different from (merely) “man’s logic, then the statement itself makes no sense. If the statement itself is not true for God, then neither can it be true for man. If truth is different for God and also different for man, then we cannot “know the truth that will make us free” (John 8:32). Neither can we have “the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16).
Logical positivism: An early 20th century movement by a group of philosophers called the Vienna Circle. It was based upon the verification principle that all meaningful statements had to be empirically verifiable. It should never have had any impact because the principle itself could not be verified empirically, thus violating its own condition. Thus, it was a performative contradiction. It should also be noted that the verification principle is itself a faith position since it is presupposed, not proven. This example is one of the best historically to demonstrate that all philosophies and religions have their starting point in faith! See Faith and Reason.
Logos: Too many philosophers and theologians seem to have overlooked the breadth and depth of the concept of Logos, as presented in John 1:1-16 and elsewhere in the New Testament. Augustine of Hippo posited in De Magistro (The Teacher) that Christ is the teacher of all men of all things. In epistemology, the problem of innate and intuitive knowledge is almost, if not, inescapable. If knowledge can only exist in a mind, then a greater Mind has to create the lesser mind, and the knowledge of the lesser mind can only come from the greater Mind. This concept would also be consistent with man’s being created in the image of God See Faith Is Logical Deduction and Logos Defined. Also, see Gordon Clark, The Johannine Logos (The Trinity Foundation, 138 pages).
John Calvin in his commentary on the Gospel of John translates logos in John 1:1 as “the Speech.” (1) God (Jesus Christ) “spoke” the universe into being, “Let there be… and there was….” Thus, in a real sense speech is metaphysical essence. (2) Communication (“speech” to one another) has always existed amongst the Trinity. (3) Communication between God and man and man is impossible without “speech.” (4) Knowledge and language are necessarily the same. If Augustine is right (I think that he is) about “God enlightening every man,” that is, imparting knowledge directly to persons is Christ “speaking” to every man. Thus, how accurate was Calvin and how central is the concept of “the Speech” to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and logic—the principles that allow clarity of communication and argument.
Ronald Nash states that the Logos Doctrine is central to the debate over the Bible as the objective revelation of God. (121)
The New Testament ascribes three distinct but related functions to the Christian Logos which make it possible to speak of Christ as the cosmological Logos, the epistemological Logos, and the soteriological Logos. This is simply another way of saying that Jesus is a necessary condition for the existence of the world, for human knowledge, and for human redemption. (66)
The reader should note that the major divisions of philosophy are cosmology (metaphysics), epistemology (knowledge) and ethics (right living). Thus, Jesus is “in all” and “is all.”
Carl F. H. Henry adds:
(The Christian Logos doctrine presupposes) an intelligible order or logos in things, an objective law which claims and binds man and makes possible human understanding and valid knowledge…. (It) comprehends at once the interrelationship of thought, word, matter, nature, being, and law.” (68)
(Page numbers refer to Nash’s The Word of God and the Mind of Man)
Love: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), that is, sacrificial acts (speech and behaviors) within Biblical or Godly parameters (law, precepts, principles, etc.) for the greatest good of the one loved (God, spouse, child, neighbor, and even enemies). Biblical parameters (law) limit “anything goes,” as acts of love. For example, a man cannot divorce his wife because he “loves” another woman. Love must cohere with law. Sacrifice on the part of the one who loves illustrates its supreme value. The ultimate act of love, as sacrifice, is “to lay down one’s life” (John 15:13). Obviously, love is one of the richest of Biblical concepts. It is commonly misunderstood by many Christians as an emotion (which cannot be commanded). The greatest act of love in history was God’s sacrifice of His Own Son for the greatest good of those whom He loved. His “active and passive obedience” was the fulfillment of the law to propitiate God and impute His righteousness to those whoe would be saved (Matthew 5:17-18). Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Love is obedience to all the commandments of God. See Attributes of God, Priority of above. For a full discussion of the dependency of love on law, see Law, Justice, Love, Law, etc.. Synonyms for Biblical love include Creation Mandate, Ten Commandments, Biblical law, Biblical worldview, Kingdom of God, and Great Commission. Love is the fulfillment of all that God requires of persons.
Greek philosophers discussed “love” widely. Their primary focus was eros which had a variety of meanings according to the philosopher or philosophy using it.. Philo was also common. Agapé was rarely mentioned among philosophers, literature, or common discussions. As the Bible gave a complete meaning to logos, it also gave new and completer meaning to agapé.
Love, unconditional: see unconditional love.
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Mars Hill: the Roman name for the Aeropagus where Paul addressed the Greek philosophers. See Acts 17:22-32 (above).
Materialism: See proof (below).
Mathematics: for a primer on basic and Biblical mathematics, see Math and the Bible.
Meaning: (1) in linguistics. How is communication possible? How do symbols translate into understanding? (2) “The meaning of life is deeply entrenched in the philosophical and religious conceptions of existence, social ties, consciousness, and happiness, and borders on many other issues, such as symbolic meaning, ontology, value, purpose, ethics, good and evil, free will, conceptions of God, the existence of God, the soul, and the afterlife.” (Wikipedia, “meaning of life”) The issue is rather simple. Either there is a personal creator who determines meaning for human persons or an impersonal universe in which no meaning exists. Biblically, meaning is found in all of man’s callings: vocation (gifts and talents), family, society, and government. The sum of these is found in the answer to the 1st answer of The Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith: “The chief end (meaning) of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” All work is worship, and all worship is work. See happiness.
Memory: (philosophy of mind) an incredible power of the mind to “know” past events. Bertrand Russell proposed that proof of what we remember five minutes ago is impossible. He is correct except for Biblical testimony that gives man reassurance that his memory is dependable (not perfect). Spoken language and music would be impossible without memory, as only isolated, incoherent sounds would be heard. Surely, memory is one of God’s greatest gifts to persons; one could postulate that humans could not exist without memory. See Memory in Luke 22:19.
“Mere human logic”: A phrase used piously to reflect that “God’s thoughts (or his “logic” or reasoning) are not our thoughts.” This phrase is destructive of all believable propositions in the Biblical, Christian faith. If God’s “logic” differs from ours, then we know no eternal truths. Any understanding of language is necessarily dependent upon logic. There is, then, no correspondence between human language and God’s language, so that what He has revealed to us in salvation is not “real.” What we will experience “face to face” is nothing like what we think that it will be. While the intent of the phrase is noble, that is, to protect the extent to which God’s knowledge differs from ours, the effect is to destroy any understanding of God and his Creation, if not to annihilate the possibility of language altogether. (2) The proof of my position is that “mere human logic” must be used to state and defend this position. The phrase is self-refuting, so it means nothing. Therefore, there is correspondence between God’s logic (He is perfectly rational) and human logic. See paradox (below).
“If there is absolutely no point of contact between the divine logic and so-called human logic, then what passes as human ‘preaching’ can never be valid.” (Ronald Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man, page 96)
See The Westminster Confession of Faith and Logic.
Mercy: This is God’s greatest attribute because God, Who is righteous and in Whom is no sin, and Who cannot sin, Who is also perfectly holy and just; yet, He is willing to grant to His elect, the greatest blessings that He has to offer—inheritance and perfect holiness In His Son—over and above this a se righteousness. Of course, this offering required the greatest possible offering—that of His Begotten Son, as the Son of Man and God Himself. Mercy granted at infinite cost is “higher” than righteousness. Thus, God predestined the Fall (not “allowed it”) in order to demonstrate this mercy to “vessels of wrath” (Romans 9:22). So, on a human level, mercy is the highest attribute that man can show to others, as he gives up justice and his own rights.
Metanarrative: here. A metanarrative, as a Grand Narrative seems to face the same problems as foundationalism or a search for justified true beliefs. Since rejection of metanarratives is within itself a performative contradiction, that is, is itself a metanarrative, the end result is still a tautology or circular argument (the place where all epistemologies end).
Metaphysics: a word coined to address study “above and beyond” the physics of Aristotle and all speculative philosophy since. Metaphysics without supernatural Revelation is merely opinion and human speculation. See cosmic personalism and speculative philosophy.
Methodological naturalism: an approach to natural science that excludes any supernatural cause, primarily the God of Christianity. Is it essentially the approach of all modern scientists, both Christian and non-Christian. However, this author does not believe that it is a prerequisite for modern, natural science. For a discussion of the significant limitations of this approach, see Methodological Naturalism by Alvin Plantinga.
Methodological supernaturalism: an approach to modern, natural science that is interpreted through the grid of a solid hermeneutical, Biblical framework. For a proposal of what this approach might look like, see Methodological Supernaturalism.
Middle knowledge: “knowledge of what will happen granted any possible set of conditions… (an attempt) to reconcile divine sovereignty with indeterminist human freedom…. (but) if people have such indeterminist freedom, God cannot have ‘middle knowledge’ of what they will do, granted previous conditions. For the conditions, on this view, never determine human free actions. Thus indeterminism excludes divine middle knowledge.” (John Frame, here.) For more, see Paul Helm’s refutation.
Mind: the non-physical component (spirit, soul, heart, will) of man which thinks, reasons, and remembers knowledge. The mind works through the brain by mechanisms that will never be understood completely. However, the brain as a physical organ cannot account for all the functions of the mind and cannot be the “image of God” in man. See dualism.
Mind of Christ: (1) I Corinthians 2:16: “the new mind” of a regenerate person, as it is instructed, trained, and habituated by Scripture which “works out (one’s) salvation with fear and trembling” (sanctification). (2) Abraham Kuyper conceived the idea of “an organic” mind of all believers as they “mine the gold” of Scripture for every encounter of its truth with falsehood throughout history. For a more extensive discussion see the Mind of Christ.
Mind/brain dualism: See dualism (Biblical or substance dualism).
Miracles: events that violate the patterns (sometimes called laws) of natural science, devised by men. While miracles are often considered a great problem, extensively discussed by both Christian and non-Christian philosophers, they are simply a truth within the framework of Biblical revelation. As someone has said, if one can accept the resurrection of Jesus as one criterion for eternal salvation, acceptance of other miracles simply follows. For a philosophical treatment of miracles, see Colin Brown: Miracles and the Critical Mind (Eerdmans, 1984).
“It is more consistent with the attributes of the Deity to look upon miracles not as deviations from the laws assigned by the Almighty for the government of matter and of mind; but as the exact fulfillment of much more extensive laws than those we supposed to exist.” (Charles Babbage, Ninth Treatise, quoted in Philip Jenkins, “The Miracle Program,” Chronicles (Rockford Institute), November 2011, page 40)
Everything or nothing. Either everything is a miracle or there are no miracles! In common parlance, miracles occur when usual events or “natural laws” are violated. However, few persons reason that miracles require pre-conditions. Water changed to wine is not possible without water, jars, people with taste buds, an occasion to drink wine, etc. Then, there are pre-conditions to these objects: atomic and molecular structure that is water; DNA coding and all else that pre-conditions one person, much less several; then, there are the pre-conditions for the situation in which wine is being drunk—all preparations and materials to make that possible. So, what is the probability of all those pre-conditions being present at the moment of the “miracle?” At least as great as the miracle itself for the universe and people in it have to exist, and that great pre-condition is one that we all recognize as the 2nd greatest miracle—Creation in Genesis in Chapter 1 and 2—in the history of mankind. (The 1st being Christ’s resurrection.)
Modern philosophy: “The most disastrous day in European history .. was the day that Descartes shut himself up in his (warm room),” stated Archbishop William Temple. “(On this day Descartes) set up individual consciousness as the final criterion of truth.” (Quotes from Colin Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith, 52-53; also, see Andrew Hoffecker, Revolutions in Worldview, 254) Descartes is called “the father of modern philosophy,” an attempt by man to find all the answers to metaphysics, epistemology, and morality within his own reasoning and without the Revelation of the Holy Scriptures. See Modernism.
Modernism: See modern philosophy. Beginning with Descartes (at least with his cogito), the attempt to understand metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics without Special Revelation and based upon reason alone. This approach resulted in rationalism and its inherent presupposition against Biblical Christianity. Its failure to achieve its ends resulted in postmodernism. Modernism failed to discern what Augustine stated, “I believe in order to understand.” All first principles are beliefs, whether the thinker is an atheist or believer in some religion. Both have their basic principles of faith. That this basic understanding of first principles has not been more widely recognized is a glaring condemnation of the irrationality of almost all philosophers.
Modernity: the modern attitude that almost all ideas of the past are of no value. Moderns are the only “enlightened ones.” This attitude is linked to the Enlightenment, although not quite identical with it (some recognize the “genius” of past philosophers). This position is a problem for Christians, as well as non-Christians, because the ideas of the past are not always wrong.
Molinism: another term for middle knowledge (see above).
Monism: The metaphysical belief that everything in the universe is of one “substance.” Fire, water, numbers, and Greek “atoms” have been named in the Classical period. Modern (post-Descartes) philosophy has narrowed the field to that which is material (physical, sensical, empirical) and immaterial (spiritual, ideal, supernatural). Biblical orthodoxy requires dualism, but there are some Christians who are positing monism, at least relative to the mind/brain issue. This position is therefore unorthodox in the Biblical sense. See dualism.
“Mother-wit”: “the ultimate agency involved in exercise of our judgmental power” or in Michael Polanyi’s term, personal “tacit” power. (Reference for these quotes here.) While Kant wrote several books on his theories, this small admission virtually negates all his attempts at “pure reason”: a mental faculty that is just “there” and not really controlled by reason.
Mount St. Helens and Evolution: This mountain blew its top in 1980. In the short time span since, changes have taken place that evolutionary theorists had projected to have taken place over thousands or millions of years. This modern event has added scientific (empirical, actual observational) evidence that refutes evolutionary theory. The reader is invited to search “Mount St. Helens” are various Christian science websites, such as, Institute for Creation Research or Answers in Genesis..
Music: (1) an aesthetic art. See art. (2) Perhaps, the most purely mathematical aesthetic. All musical notes are precise mathematical frequencies that are arranged in a harmony that is pleasing to human ears. Violation of these precise harmonics results in cacophony—like the screech of fingernails on a blackboard. Thus, music is a blend of the most objective of the sciences—mathematics—with the most subjective of disciplines—human art. We can only worship our Creator at this wonderful combination of law and beauty. Does this arrangement being to unpack an understanding of “the beauty of holiness?”
Mystery: Biblically, some concept or event that is not immediately understood, but may be known later. “Mystery” is too often used among theologians and philosophers relative to God’s being and actions. Before declaring something a “mystery,” a diligent search should be made to see whether God revealed what had been so-called. For example, He has revealed the mystery that the Jews held for centuries that the Gentiles should be “fellow-heirs” with them in salvation and blessing (Ephesians 3:3-6). Also, the presence of evil and an omnipotent, good God is not a mystery, but one solved both directly by Biblical reference and logical necessity (Isaiah 45:7). (See author of sin, evil [God as the]). Paradox is often used in association with “mystery,” and again sound Biblical exegesis may reveal that neither mystery nor paradox exist where originally thought. Certainly, many “mysteries” about God and His Providence will always remain (Deuteronomy 29:29), but what has long and often been declared “mystery” may have been clearly revealed in the Bible after a diligent search.
Mysticism: Passively (on the part of the recipient) imparted knowledge after birth (not innate). Such knowledge cannot in and of itself be verified as true. The person who receives it may believe it to be true, but should not expect anyone else to believe it without some form of objective (outside of himself) verification. Thus, such knowledge may be entirely of the subject’s imagination.
In the Bible, what might otherwise be called mysticism, is sometimes called faith. For example, “Your faith has made you well” (Matthew 9:22, Mark 5:34, Luke 17:19, etc.). The given knowledge was the certain conviction of healing. That such knowledge can be acquired by an act of a person’s will or meditation (gnosticism) and not “from above” is a serious misinterpretation of the definition of faith. In the above sense of verification, the healing itself is the objective evidence. God’s activity in all such knowledge ended with the close of Special Revelation, Chapter 22 of the Book of Revelation.
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Naive realism: the concept prior to Kant that the objects of experience are virtually what we perceive them to be. Naive realism bypasses the complex process of an object registering on the retina, which must be functioning “normally” (whatever that is), then be “perceived” by the brain, and further interpreted by the “mind.” Interaction with that object is even more complex. Kant structured the world of objects by intuitions and judgments of the mind. See common sense philosophy.
Napoleon and Hegel: see Hegel and Napoleon.
Natural law: (1) The laws of nature, such as, the law of gravity, Newton’s three laws of motion, laws of chemistry, etc. These are not really “laws,” but inferences (inductions) based upon the regularity of the structures of God’s Creation. The regularity was created and is sustained by God; the scientist (man) calls it a “law.” The originator is God, not “nature.” (2) Civil laws that derived from natural ethics, as all civil law is based upon some ethical system; all civil law that is not derived directly from Biblical ethics and law. Basing civil law upon natural law, instead of Biblical law, has been a major mistake made by Christians through the ages and into modern time. Natural law can only be decided by the authority of a tyrant (whether as an individual or group) or vox populi, the vote of the people as a majority or largest segment of a plurality. For more on the invalidity of natural law, see this book review of David Vandrunen’s book, A Biblical Case for Natural Law. See natural theology—natural theology and natural law cannot be separated. The inadequacy of natural law is seen in its advocates’ inability to establish definitively the problem of abortion, while God simply, yet absolutely says, “You shall not murder!” See noetic effects of sin.
Natural philosophy: beginning in the Scholastic period, this term designated what today is called natural science or just “science.” For example, Isaac Newton’s great book on motion and gravity, published in 1687, was entitled, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Essentially, the process is empiricism or the scientific method.
Natural revelation: “the book of nature” that “reveals” the mind of God in His creative activity. The word, “nature,” has become divorced from God, as nature is the entire universe and all that is in it, that is God’s Creation. Nature is Creation. Therefore, natural revelation is simply “Creation revelation.” This focus might prevent the divorce of natural theology (as modern science) from Biblical theology.
Natural science: the study of the physical universe. See science below.
Natural theology: “Philosophy of religion …. is terminology used to designate an old, old task, that of “natural theology” (Oliphant, Reasons for Faith, page 13—emphasis his) Natural theology fails to establish any concrete truths. In nature, there is both complex construction and devastating destruction… beauty and ugliness… complexity and simplicity… wholeness and fragmentation… numbing coldness and invigorating warmth… life and death, etc., etc. How does one determine a theology from these extremes? Finite limitation and vacillating contingency does not logically lead into perfection and necessity, as many philosophers have argued. These contingencies are all that unregenerate philosophers have upon which to based their faith and reason. Christians who base their arguments upon natural theology, one form of which is Creation Science, lack coherence and correspondence, and are contingent in themselves. Natural theology must be structured under Biblical theology. Christian apologetics must defend Christianity as the whole of Biblical and natural theology. See Colin Brown’s discussion and philosophy of religion (below). See natural law—natural law and natural theology cannot be separated. Also, see negative natural theology.
“The old term for philosophy of religion.” (Oliphant, Reasons for Faith, page ix) “Natural theology (is) the use of unaided human reason to draw theological conclusions.” (Paul Helm, Faith and Reason, page 15. See philosophy of religion.
Naturalism: See Naturalism vs. Evolution. It is not clear to this Ed. that naturalism is not the basis for natural law and natural theology.
Naturalistic fallacy: the mistake of identifying moral good with any natural property. That is, the characteristic of an object does not imply an ought. For example, “water is good.” Well, there is the problem of drowning in water and floods, as opposed to water being necessary for life in most instances. This obstacle is also known as Hume’s Fork. See “No ought from an is.”
Nature: (1) God’s created universe; a synonym for the material or physical world. Christians should be careful the use of this term because of the connotation that “nature” stands alone—the secular humanist’s or Deist’s belief. The reality is that nature is God’s creation, that it is maintained by Him (Hebrews 1:3), and that a “supernatural” world exists beyond nature. Further, the “reality” of nature is predicated upon the greater “reality” of the spiritual world and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, Christians should use Creation, rather than “nature” which gives a deceptive objectivity of existence apart from God. See substance, being, and cosmic personalism. (2) The essence of something; that which makes a nominal what it is. See essence, substance, and ding and sich.
Negative natural theology: “natural theology that tends to disconfirm the tenets of Christianity,” (Philosophia Christi 15(2):253. This Ed has argued against the legitimacy of natural theology because it cannot be done with inherent bias. This term, “negative natural theology,” exposes that illegitimacy, as there is at least as much “natural evidence” against orthodox Christianity, as for it. More likely, there is exceedingly more such evidence when one considers the theodicy of great natural disasters and heinous crimes of humanity, as well as, the rarity of miracles vs. the moment by moment action of the laws of nature.
Neo-Calvinism: a term variously applied to post-Calvin philosophies and theologies that are mostly consistent with his and traditional Reformed beliefs. Its usefulness to designate any particular group is doubtful. There are numerous such systems, each with their own peculiarities and emphases. Almost certainly, the best system was that developed and practiced by Abraham Kuyper, although even he lacked Biblical consistency in some areas (notably the role of the state in regulation). Calvinism is alive and well today in multi-faceted forms. Those that are Biblically consistent and true to one or more of the Reformed confessions should preferably be seen as the continual flowering of Calvinism, not some “neo-” group. Calvinism is too rich and diverse for any one group to have the label, “Neo-Calvinist.” See Dooyeweerd for one kind of neo-Calvinism that disparages the Scriptures.
Neo-orthodoxy: a movement that posited a position between “liberal” theology and orthodox Christianity. While there is not total agreement among them, they saw the Scriptures as an important “word from God” along with tradition, “personal encounter” of “being” with the “ultimate, various philosophies, and various “modern sciences,” such as, psychology and sociology. They differ among themselves as to the various emphases, but their vague terminology gives a deceptive coherence to their philosophy. It is one of the broad categories of Christianity that contrasts sharply with a truly Biblical philosophy.
“No creed but Christ”; “no creed but the Bible.” Extremely naïve statements that are in every way as much a creed (and a profoundly imprecise one) as any formally recognized system. It is one of the great fallacies that perpetuates divisions within Bible-believing Christianity because those who make such professions indeed have their common ideologies. See basic belief, basic belief, doctrine, performative contradiction, and presupposition.
“No ought from an is”: any statement about reality that intends to direct value (beauty, desire, hope, etc.) or “what one ought to do” (morals, ethics) has moved beyond description or objectivity. Modern science, especially psychology and sociology, tries to pretend that it is “objective.” These “sciences” may say that two percent of the population is homosexual, but they cannot say on the basis of their research that homosexuality is moral or permissible. Neither can any “hard” science say that God does not exist, because metaphysics is a personal judgment, that is, an act of faith (pro or con)–a value judgment. Textbooks on logic discuss “no ought from an is” as a formal fallacy or naturalistic fallacy.
Noetic effects of regeneration: Regeneration does not eliminate the noetic effects of sin. However, the primary noetic effect is an attitude to assent to the Scriptures as the very word of God. The Scriptures provide true propositions from which Biblical truth can be extended by valid deduction. (Westminster Confession of Faith, I:6) The central personal application of Biblical truth is one’s salvation in the grace of Jesus Christ alone.
Noetic effects of sin: “Noetic” is from nous the Greek word for mind. Adam’s fall affected man’s ability to think correctly and rationally. According to Abraham Kuyper, those effects include the possibility of (1) the constant possibility of falsehood, (2) unintentional mistakes, (3) self-delusion and self-deception, (4) the intrusion of phantasy into the imagination, (5) intentional negative influences of other minds, (6) physical weakness influencing the total human psychology, (7) the disorganized relationships of one realm of life upon ideas from another domain, (9) self-interest, (10) the weakening of mental energies and the darkening of consciousness, (11) internal disorganization of life harmonies, and (12) the loss of the pou sto (a place to stand or point of reference for truth). (Abraham Kuyper in Principles of Sacred Theology, 104-114, quoted in Robert Reymond, The Justification of Knowledge, 30) God, however, has given a corrective and certain method of avoiding the noetic effects of sin by careful definitions and logic. Only valid deduction (logical inference) from the propositions of Scripture avoids these mistakes. (Westminster Confession of Faith, I:6) See logic herein and The Noetic Effects of Sin (a more complete discussion).
Natural law: The noetic effects of sin absolutely preclude any consistent knowledge of, or agreement about, principles of natural law. Thus, God must reveal in Scripture what laws are necessary for the self- and civil government of persons.
Nominalism: the belief that only individual objects (nom-. name) exist and share nothing in common with other objects. Thus, there are no universals (classes, classifications, etc.). Nominalism does not allow for a universal church, only individual churches. It allows for no universal headship in Adam or in Christ. It is generally anti-realism.
Noosphere: from Greek for “mind” and “sphere.” A concept attributed to Teilhard de Chardin and others of a collective consciousness and interaction of human minds that arises after the atmosphere and biosphere in an evolutionary process. The World Wide Web could be one manifestation of that phenomenon. Abraham Kuyper had a similar idea in his encyclopedia (Principles of Sacred Theology), but Biblically coherent in that this consciousness is divided between those (1) who have a two-fold starting point in being regenerate and Scripture as the sole criterion of truth and (2) who are unregenerate with no true, or cohering principle. The Scripture refers to these divisions as light and darkness, truth and falsehood, wisdom and foolishness, and the mind of Christ vs. the composite of world, flesh, and devil.
Nouthetic counseling: ethics is inherent in counseling and so-called “psychotherapy,” as “What is the right instruction to give to someone in distress?” The only counseling endorsed by this Ed is the approach of Jay Adams in his books, lectures, and articles. There are deviations of his approach in recent years that must be evaluated closely by his works. See nouthetic counseling.
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Object: (1) the nominative predicate of a proposition or (2) a proposition itself, both of which are of a “public nature.” We say, “There is a chair” with the chair being an object that virtually everyone can see or sense. The law of non-contradiction is an object of the study of logic in the public arena. Object as a nominative contrasts with a universal. While it has been debated, especially among the Scholastics, whether universals “exist,” certainly they only exist as a classification of an object. For example, the color “blue,” does not exist apart from an object that is blue. See classification.
Objective, objectivity: an attempt to “get outside oneself” to look at the universe or make decisions about ethics without personal bias. This attempt is impossible, as one cannot avoid his own presuppositions and “categories” (e.g., Kant). The only person who can be fully objective is also fully subjective, God alone. This union of subjectivity and objectivity is one more demonstration of the unity within the Person of God and the universe which He created (immanent and transcendent, not pantheistic or panentheistic). Kant tries to give “objectivity” to the subjective dimension of the “sensible manifold” by his transcendental method, but even this approach has its presupposed categories.
The objective Bible: Because of its cultural status in the West, the Bible is not often appreciated for its objectivity. It is God’s mind objectified… it is His Special Revelation objectified… it is the knowledge that God wants humans to have available to them objectified. The Bible is the knowledge of God entering history through a source that is an object. It is there in the public square for the Church and for society for understanding and direction. It is the objectively thinking philosopher’s dream: a source of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics in a fixed, determined source that he can study! The agreed-upon Bible is the objective foundation of the three great Christian groups: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant. While one must agree that the objective Bible must be interpreted by a subject, its content is objectively fixed within a community of believers which limits and restricts interpretation to every viewpoint imaginable.
Postmodernism: This attempt at objectivity is one fault of the Protestant Reformation that has led to neo-orthodoxy and postmodernism within the Church. A perfect systematic theology is impossible. Abraham Kuyper in his Principles of Sacred Theology describes the Christian mind as being organic, the minds of all Christians of all times growing in their Biblical understanding, as each new challenge to its teaching is encountered. There should be a dynamic between the subjects who are individual, regenerate Christians and the objectivity of Scripture, as printed, not interpreted. “We have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16). But, that mind will never be completed until the consummation of all things in Christ.
Obscene, obscenity: It would perhaps be impossible to give a short definition of this concept here. I refer readers to a discussion by Peter Leithart here.
Occasionalism: the denial of cause and effect because God links “occasions” that are His immediate action. Cause and effect is simply God’s linking one preceding event (cause) with its following event (effect) when He is actually the cause of both. This concept has never had many followers, but violates the stance of the Westminster Confession on “second causes” (III.1.). A similar, but extreme version, of occasionalism would be Augustine’s concept of continuous creation.
Old earth-young earth debate: see young earth-old earth debate.
Old Testament as Philosophy: here.
Omnipotence: one of the attributes of God which states that all power comes from Himself whether for good or “evil.” Adam’s sin was planned by God; Satan’s fall was planned by God; all “natural” disasters (formerly called “acts of God”) are planned by Him; all human wreckage (wars, fires, crashes, etc.) are planned by Him—”I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). Logically, omnipotence cannot be passive; it is always active. However, God’s plan of “evil” does not override the will of the agent; God is not the person who sins or does evil; they are “secondary” causes. Two excellent books on this subject are Predestination and God and Evil: The Problem Solved. See author of sin, Gods as above.
One and the many: (1) Ethics: Utilitarian ethics places the “good” of the many over that of the few or individual. Individualism places the rights of the person over the group. Only systematized, Biblical ethics is able to avoid conflict between these two positions. Ultimately, this mutuality of interests is the relationship within the Trinity, and to a lesser degree in the family, Church, society, and civil government. (2) See (The) Whole and its parts.
Ontological Argument: see here.
Ontologism: a concept that is somewhat hard to understand. Malebranche, the French philosopher of the 17th century, is most noted for this view. Ontologism concerns mans’ “direct knowledge of the divine ideas, that man ‘sees’ the ideas that subsist in the mind of God…. (that) we see all things in God.” (Ronald Nash, The Light of the Mind, 102-103.) Most importantly from a conservative and historical perspective, ontologism has been considered to be a view that Augustine held. However, two Augustine scholars state clearly that, taking the whole of what Augustine wrote, ontologism cannot be found in him. (Nash, ibid. Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosopy, Volume II, 60-61, 63)
Ontology: study that is concerned with “what exists,” “what is,” or the “ultimate ground” of all being. Modern physics and relations and properties of things demonstrate that ultimate ground or “substance” does not exist. Scripture says that the ultimate ground is God speaking (Genesis 1: “And God said, ‘Let there be…) and “In the beginning was the Word… (John 1:1); that is, the Person of God. See cosmic personalism.
Onto-theology: Onto-theology occurs “only insofar as philosophy, of its own accord and by its own nature, requires and determines that and how the deity enters into it,” completely denying Biblical revelation in which God describes Who He is. (Merold Westphal quoting Heidegger in Overcoming Onto-theology). Ontotheology was coined by Immanuel Kant as one type of transcendental theology. Martin Heidegger has soundly refuted this process in his writings, which is also discussed at the URL cited. See “god of the philosophers, ontotheology, philosophical imperialism, and theism (classical). More simply, onto-theology is the postmodern name for any violation of the First Commandment.
“Open mind”: the false notion that one can achieve some state of neutrality relative to an issue. Beliefs (assumptions, biases, premises, prejudices, etc.) are formed over a lifetime and are held with varying degrees of passion that cannot be dismissed. As with doubt, “openness” is on of the great misconceptions to clarity and rationality of thought in the modern age.
Open theism: A heresy that God is not omniscient about the future. This limitation is an attempt to give man the freedom to choose among options without God’s predestinating action. Also called “the open view of God,” “creative-love theism,” and “free-will theism.” See A forum on free-will theism…
Operationalism: see Functionalism.
Origins: see creation.
Orthodox, orthodoxy: Orthodoxy, literally “right doctrine,” exists at various levels. (1) The most basic level which would separate true Christianity from false Christianity would be belief in the 66 books of the agreed-upon Bible as the ultimate authority, inerrant, and totally sufficient to govern rightly all man’s thinking (religion and philosophy) and actions (ethics). (2) The next level would be agreement on the historic creeds on the “catholic” (universal) church, such as, The Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian, and Chalcedon Creeds. (3) The next level would be the creeds of the various denominations or individual churches. Obviously, these differ greatly to issues of heresy, being anathema, and even warfare, inquisition, and other forms of bloodshed. (4) Finally, there is the “orthodoxy” of individual belief. No two persons on earth agree upon every jot and tittle of any interpretation, even or the “agreed-upon” Scripture. However, the former levels give strict guidance to this individual belief. Departure from them causes the Christian to face almost insurmountable challenges to his thinking “Christianly.” While corporate bodies (sessions, boards, synods, and councils) make mistakes (“err”), extreme caution must be exercised to differ with them, and rarely is one “orthodox” in doing so. It is possible that many of these issues could be resolved with stricter attention to the rules of logic and coherence.
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Panentheism: an attempt to define God as “being” in all created things, but with both God and creation each retaining an identity separate from the other. Panentheism is an attempt to avoid the “extremes” of pantheism and Thomistic theism, while still allowing God to be immanent with His creation, while transcendent above it. Panentheism is central to the process theology of A. N. Whitehead. It may be possible to define a sort of panentheism with a Biblical, orthodox understanding of God. However, this term is used mostly, if not entirely, by Neo-orthodox, Catholic, and other non-evangelical theologians and philosophers. Thus, even a truly Biblical panentheism would still be linked to these other uses and any helpful designation would be lost. It would be best to use the traditional and orthodox description that God is both immanent in, and transcendent above, His Creation. Biblically, “all things are upheld by the Word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3) and “in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). (For a book on the subject, see John W. Cooper, Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers, 2006.)
Pantheism: a complex term that whatever “god” or controlling influence in the universe is unified and inseparable from the natural world. See panentheism, immanence, and transcendence.
Paradox: the judgment that two or more propositions cannot both be true, as a subjective position. However, this conclusion may be only “apparent” due to incomplete or false reasoning or a lack of sufficient knowledge. Every attempt logically should be made to resolve what anyone has called a “paradox.” The Bible is not full of paradoxes and contradictions. In fact, properly understood, it has no paradoxes. Within the intuitive knowledge of God’s own mind, there are no paradoxes. See here. Also, see “mere human logic” (above) and mystery.
“When a theologian asserts that a given paradox cannot be solved in this life by any human being, he is making an assertion that requires omniscience. That a scholar has failed to find in Scripture the solution of a difficulty does not prove that none is there. Before such a conclusion could be reasonably drawn, it would be necessary to trace out all the inferences derivable from Scripture. When all are set down, only then could one reasonably assert that the solution is not there.” (Gordon Clark, “The Trinity”)
Pareto Principle: frequently called the 20/80 rule, e.g., 20 percent of the workers in any given business do 80 percent of the work or produce 80 percent of the product; 20 percent of criminals commit 80 percent of crimes; 20 percent of drivers cause 80 percent of accidents, etc., etc. The reader will need to devote 1-2 hours of his/her time to begin to grasp the truth of this principle. There are few ideas that will greatly advance your understanding of the world than this one. A good place to start are Richard Koch talks on Youtube on the 80/20 rule. Another way to express this rule is that the square root of the number of worker produce 50 percent of the work or product. Research that value, as well.
Passion: personal value that flows from the heart. It is personal in that it is entirely individual. No person in the world has the same values in every area of choice that anyone else has. That is, no two people on earth have the same likes and dislikes, from ice cream to persons to spouse to worldviews. The interplay of passions and reason has been called “passional reason” (Wainwright), “intellectual passions (Polanyi), “illative sense” (Newman), “conscience” (Aquinas), “the affective” (James) and “heart” (Edwards).
Peace: “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). A perplexing and slippery concept in philosophy is certainty. There is a definite correspondence of the Biblical concept of peace, which includes regeneration and a basic understanding of forgiveness that exists in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It is not too difficult to relate “trust” to certainty. The truth is that true “peace” of mind and “certainty” of knowledge can be found only in regeneration and proper Biblical belief. Perhaps, the “rest” of the Sabbath rest and the “rest” of the book of Hebrews is virtually identical with “peace.”
At various times in church history and in some localities, a subjective type of mind has claimed to be superior in spirituality. This “pietism” has found representatives in the late twentieth century. They put emphasis on the intensity of believing and minimize the object of belief. In come cases the object virtually disappears. “Guilt-feelings” are a cause of concern, while (true—Ed) guilt is rather ignored. The New Testament is more objective. Just as grace is the favor bestowed by God on his people, so too peace is not any subjective “peace of mind,” but an objective peace with God. We were once His enemies; now God has established peace. It is the objective peace with God that Paul asked God to bestow on the Colossians. (Gordon Clark’s Commentary on Colossians 1:2)
Peirce, Charles Sanders (1939-1914): American philosopher, mathematician, logician, and scientist who is called the “father of pragmatism,” but he preferred the term, “pragmaticism” to distinguish his approach from that of William James. An eccentric who thought “outside the box,:” and who is well worth studying. Many of his writings are here.
Pelagianism: see the note on Arminianism and Pelagianism under free will.
Performative contradiction: A statement that contradicts itself when stated; self-refuting proposition. Perhaps the most famous example is from Descartes who said that whether his thinking was “clear and distinct” or “false,” he was still thinking. Thus, he equated thinking with existence with his famous cogito, “I think; therefore I am.” This contradiction is powerful. The only way to refute it is to posit that thinking itself is a deception, but Scripture confirms that we think so that the performative contradiction is true. Other performative contradicting include the verification principle of the Logical Positivists, and the statement of the post-moderns that “There are no absolutes.” See Self-Refuting Statements.
Peripheral consciousness: this author’s preferred term for the subconscious or subconscious mind. See Exploring the Unconscious.
Person: (1) the living organism which is conceived from a descendent of Adam and Eve until its death. (2) “Philosophers err when they confine their attention to ‘universal man’ There is only one real man: the suffering, tearing, individual on the street; he who is here today and gone tomorrow. he whose heart is the scene of relentless conflict between the self as it ought to be. Whenever a philosopher speaks of mankind in the abstract, rather than concrete individuals at home and in the market, he deceives both himself and all who have faith in his teaching.” (Carnell, The Case for Biblical Christianity… page 58) Only the Scriptures have the answers for this “real man.” Philosophy without revelation is an endless search that will provide no answers for man’s purpose and destiny. (3) Gordon Clark, in several of his books, has defined a person as a “set of propositions.” Bible-believing philosophers should seriously consider this definition and meet its challenges. For myself, I have not yet fully been able to limit person to this definition. Jonathan Edwards held a similar, if not identical, definition as well. See personhood (below).
Personhood: This word does not appear in Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (1828 Edition) or in the Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language (2nd Edition, 1950). Neither does it appear in several dictionaries of philosophy that I reviewed. My personal belief, grounded in these and other observations, is that “personhood” is a means of obscuration of the status of the unborn child in the abortion debate. Instead of the unborn child at his various stages (conceptus, embryo, fetus, etc.) being a person (1st definition above), then he has to have or achieve some characteristic of “personhood” to be morally and legally “protected.” If my reasoning is correct, then to use personhood at all in this debate is virtually to give away the argument. From conception, the unborn child is a person. Because of the Fall and sin, we are all imperfect in many ways, so the idea of having to achieve some “state of being” (-hood) is unbiblical, unscientific, and heinously immoral.
Phenomenology: an attempt to isolate and understand an object without any kind of pre-conceived concepts, categories, or presuppositions. In a post-Kantian world, and more so with the inherent nature of beliefs and presuppositions, even the idea of such an approach is beyond any reasonable consideration. Yet, this approach occupies perhaps the predominant occupation of continental philosophy. Further, that a Bible-believing Christian would not apply Biblical propositions to all phenomena that he encounters reduces Christianity to nonsense.
Philosophical Bible: The Old Testament as Philosophy.
“Philosophical imperialism”: “The comprehensiveness of philosophy has often led philosophers to seek to rule over all other disciplines, including the Bible and Biblical theology. Even philosophers attempting to construct a Christian philosophy have been guilty of this error, and some have even insisted that Scripture itself cannot be understood properly unless it is read in a way prescribed by the philosopher! Certainly, philosophy can help us to interpret Scripture; philosophers often have interesting insights about language and definitions, for example. But the line must be drawn: where a philosophical scheme contradicts Scripture or where it seeks to inhibit the freedom of exegesis without Scriptural warrant, it must be rejected.” (paraphrased by Ed from John Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, page 86) See onto-theology.
While Oliphint did not use the label, “philosophical imperialism,” as Frame did, nevertheless his comments are similar.
“Francis Turretin’s warning is as relevant now as it was then; we must not allow our great love of philosophy so to captivate us that we become all too ready to abandon our theology for the sake of philosophical acumen or academic respectability (page xi) … One has to search far and wide for a philosophy of religion that takes seriously its place as a handmaid to theology. Conversely, one need hardly search at all for an article or essay in philosophy or philosophy of religion wherein the historic truths of Christianity are under attack. Not only so, but philosophy, because of its subject matter and its general methodology, has an allure to many that is sirenically seductive in its force. So, says (Francis) Turretin, ‘This [use of philosophy] must however be done so carefully that too great a love of philosophy may not captivate us and that we may not regard it as a mistress, but as a handmaid.'” (Oliphint, Reasons for Faith, page 32)
Philosophy: all philosophy can be grouped into metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics. (1) A synonym for religion or worldview in that it is an attempt to find meaning, purpose, and understanding of the universe apart from the supernatural, that is, apart from God. This definition makes all philosophy, that does not posit the Bible as its first principle, merely forms of humanism. The apparent sophistication of philosophy gives it an aura of intellectual pursuit that is deceptive in its denial of God. See All Philosophy Is Unavoidably Religious, Reformed Epistemology as Religion, and A Survey of Philosophy over Three Millenia See philosophy of religion, natural law, and natural theology which are all one and the same.
“There are few areas of philosophy that are shorn of religious implications. Religious traditions are so comprehensive and all-encompassing in their claims that almost every domain of philosophy may be drawn upon in the philosophical investigation of their coherence, justification, and value.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online, “Philosophy of Religion”)
“Of course, every system of philosophy is religious, not in the sense that it advocates certain rites of worship, but in the more important sense that (1) it is committed at some point to faith-presuppositions, just as religions, are, and (2) it offers a comprehensive worldview and comprehensive solutions for the troubles of human beings. (John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God, page 32)
“Secularism… is the name for a ideology, a new closed world-view which functions very much like a new religion.” (Harvey Cox, The Secular City, page 21, quoted in Sproul et al, Classical Apologetics, page 5.
(2) A serious and self-conscious pursuit of reliable knowledge. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates. In this pursuit, one has to consider the origin of the universe (cosmology or metaphysics) and how sound knowledge may be obtained. Based upon these two considerations, one then must choose how to determine right and wrong (ethics). Reasoning in the areas of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics uses the tools of language and logic. Faith (basic belief) is the foundation for this pursuit, as no person can avoid having an unproven and circular first principle (axiom) that determines what conclusions he will draw in his subsequent theorems. The regenerate mind will choose the Bible as truth, an epistemological authority above all others. The unregenerate mind will choose some other belief system than the Bible.
(3) The coherent and serious application of the rules of logic and grammar to ideas (propositions), so that understanding of those ideas and their derivative notions correspond to reality and demonstrate their pragmatic value.
Philosophy, Biblical: the philosophical system that posits the 66 books of the worldwide agreed-upon Bible as the final, ultimate, inerrant, and totally sufficient authority for all issues of religion and philosophy. A synonym is Biblical Christianity. A close approximation is the Reformed theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith and its Catechisms. The only difference between Biblical philosophy and Biblical theology is that philosophy determines the form and nature of the discussion, instead of the centrality of Biblical themes. However, Biblical authority supersedes any philosophical authority in a broad and comprehensive manner.
Philosophy, Christian: There are two types of “Christian” philosophy. (1) One “Christian” philosophy is exemplified by the Society of Christian Philosophers. “The Society is open to anyone interested in philosophy who considers himself or herself a Christian. Membership is not restricted to any particular ‘school’ of philosophy or to any branch of Christianity, nor to professional philosophers.” Such a loose statement allows any position resembling “Christian” that requires only a personal claim. But a Christian who does not at least claim agreement with one or more of the orthodox creeds (for example, Apostles’, Nicene, or Chalcedonian) has no grounds to call himself or herself a Christian or to pursue “Christian” philosophy. The definitive division for “Christians” is the infallibility and sufficiency of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible. “Christian” today can mean almost any belief system and this diversity of beliefs in reflected in Faith and Philosophy, the journal of that society. For more, see Christian above.
(2) “Christian philosophy deliberately poses to interpret the created world in the light of the Christian Scriptures. In doing so, it denies that it is sacrificing its claim to the name philosophy. The Christian philosopher repudiates the dogmatism that would make the human consciousness autonomous and philosophy a purely ‘intellectual’ enterprise, carried on in a abstraction from ‘faith.’ He insists, on the contrary, that the beginning of an adequate interpretation of the world can be made only when a thinker allows himself to be instructed by that world’s maker and interpreter, only when a philosopher enrolls himself in the school of God.” (Henry Stob, Theological Reflections, page 178-179.) True “Christian philosophy” is Biblical philosophy.
Ed: I am using the term, “Biblical philosophy,” hence this website. Of course, one could list a number of “Christian” philosophies: Roman Catholic, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon, Arminian, Calvinistic, liberal, Neo-Orthodox, etc. But the watershed issue is that of the Scriptures, as stated above. God has spoken clearly, and we heed His voice, or we only see His voice as One among many, i.e., pluralism, as a variety of humanism.
Philosophy of … : E.g. philosophy of science, philosophy of art, philosophy of economics, or philosophy of _________ any scholarly area. There is no correspondence to “a philosophy of _________.” There is a philosophy of a person or a philosophy of a group in a particular area who identifies themselves with a specific philosophy. For example, the philosophy of science for Isaac Newton was based in the Biblical God as Creator of the universe, but the philosophy of science of Richard Dawkins is based in a totally atheistic universe. Both have a “philosophy of science,” but their philosophies are not the same. Not being specific with such terms is this manner has caused great confusion in any attempt for clarity and coherence within the whole of philosophy.
Philosophy of religion: See natural theology above. Actually, this term is a false concept. “Philosophy” is a religious enterprise within itself, as it seeks to understand the universe and mankind and ethics—the same tasks as those of religion. Philosophy of religion in the west is virtually identical with philosophy of Christianity. Then, within Christianity there is almost every “philosophy” or belief imaginable. Actually, there are only two philosophies and they are antithetical: Biblical philosophy and all other “Christian” philosophies. See philosophy of … above.
Synonyms: It may help the reader to grasp the inclusiveness of “philosophy of religion” by listing synonyms. These include natural religion, philosophical theology, theological philosophy, natural theology, natural law, theology of science, liberal theology, neo-orthodoxy, atheism, agnosticism, all non-Biblical forms of Christianity, non-biblical religion, non-biblical philosophy, secular philosophy, all non-Christian religions, all “arguments” for God (cosmological, ontological, metaphysical, etc.), evidentialism, brute facts, naturalism… Thus, any philosophy or religion which does not posit the 66 books of the agreed-upon Bible as its ultimate, final, inerrant, and sufficient authority stands in antithesis to the true religion and philosophy: Biblical Christianity.
Philosophy of theology, philosophical theology, philosophical theism, theistic philosophy: synonyms of philosophy of religion.
Pluralism: the idea that there are a variety of truths in epistemology and ethics (politics). That is, “all religions are fundamentally one,” “there is strength in diversity,” and “we should all love each other.” Pluralism is perhaps the most dominant philosophy in the world today, including the thinking of Christians. Likewise, it is possibly the most dangerous. The Bible, and the God who wrote it, is the only truth (Deuteronomy 6:4; John 14:6; John 17:17). (1) There can be only one truth Biblically. (2) There can only be one truth according to the law of noncontradiction. (3) There can only be one truth by common sense, as there must be a standard by which to judge whether anything can be known. There are only two systems, not a plurality (“light” and “darkness”): (1) Biblical Christianity with its definitive and comprehensive worldview and (2) all non-Biblical systems.
Modern uni-versities try to exist in diversity, but they cannot cohere on pluralism. Nations want a one-world government, but that is not possible unless one ideology forces its beliefs on others. Many people want “non-partisan” politics, but that is impossible as everyone is trying to promote their particular agenda. Unity in diversity is impossible for the reasons named. Truth only exists in the Scriptures. Unity among people and nations will only be achieved through Biblical ethics (governing in politics). Philosophers, and particularly Christian philosophers, who think diversity has any answers, first deny the law of noncontradiction, and secondly, deny the God of the Bible. Pluralism is unstable and cannot last: eventually one “-ism” or an outside agency will subdue the other “-isms.” It is interesting, and an almost proof of Christianity, that it is the only system not allowed among the others.
Polanyi, Michael (1891-1976): born Hungarian, worked early in his career in Germany, but spent most of his life in Britain. He has possibly written the most important works of the 20th century to refute the “objectivity” of science. His book, Personal Knowledge, is an extensive history and refutation of scientism and a major defense of the subjectivity of the scientific method. (These were his re-worked Gifford Lectures of 1951-52. When scientism and the scientific method are refuted, atheism and secular humanism has nothing left upon which to stand. Polanyi provides more than enough ammunition to destroy these two intellectual enemies of Christianity and truth. For more on Polanyi, visit The Polanyi Society and my own Polanyi glossary.
Political correctness: the dominant religion on the campuses of higher education and in civil government today. That this ideology is called “political” is telling. What is socially dominant becomes civil law, and that is the intention of those who hold these views. As same-sex marriage, widespread acceptance of homosexuality, abortion as acceptable birth control, a prevalent anti-Christian bias, and other unbiblical practices increase (even what we can or cannot eat!), civil laws to enforce this behavior increase, as well. See pluralism.
Positivism: the theory that knowledge is only possible empirically, that is, by sensory means which includes natural science with instruments to enhance these senses. Positivism excludes philosophy and religion from producing knowledge. Embarrassing to positivists was the rabid contention of the logical positivists that their “verification principle” failed their own position. Synonym of scientism.
Possible worlds: many philosophers, both Christian and pagan, like to speculate about possible conditions in other “possible worlds.” For a Christian, this approach is absurd. God necessarily created this cosmos, the universe that we know. Since God’s thought is intuitive, rather than discursive, what He thinks to create becomes or “is.” He has given us no hint of other worlds; thus, this cosmos is the only one that is. Gottfried was correct that this is the “best possible world” and the only world.
A logical problem of possible worlds is that it creates infinite possibilities because of infinite worlds. If philosophy cannot draw any consensus views after 2500 years, then possible worlds makes any possible progress virtually zero.
Postmodernism: a reaction to the failure of The Enlightenment Project (godless or pure rationalism). Its premise is that “There are no absolutes” (which is a performative contradiction) and a host of new concepts, such as “the death of the author,” “metanarratives,” “turns” of various kinds, the hermeneutical circle, and “hermeneutics of suspicion.” It is basically a system of deconstruction with no agreed-upon reconstruction. In a real sense, postmodernism was the “logical conclusion” of modernism and its irrationality of rationality, “and to this extent no real alternative to modernity after all.” (John R. Betz, After Enlightenment: Haman as a Post-Secular Visionary, 313). For more on postmodernism, see Peter Leithart, Solomon Among the Postmoderns and Millard Erickson’s book, Truth or Consequences. For a brief summary, see https://www.patheos.com/blogs/leithart/2005/12/what-i-think-of-postmodernism/
Pragmatism, pragmatic test of truth: the test of truth by the criterion of “what works.” Biblical Christianity is not often recognized as being “pragmatic,” but being that it is God-designed, it must be the most pragmatic system known to man. Properly understood, there is never any conflict between the individual, his family, the church, society, and government of the city, state, nation, and world. What could be more pragmatic than that lack of conflict?
In the Christian West, the achievements of Christianity offer a stark contrast to the rest of the world. It established the nation with the most freedom of any in history: the United States. It has achieved an economic prosperity that other nation can only mimic or piggyback to achieve similar results. It abolished and set a standard against human slavery. It defeated Communism which was the most non-pragmatic of ideas. The United States is the most philanthropic nation. Modern science developed in the West. World exploration began in the West. And, on and on. For a short, but accurate summary of this development, see Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success.
Predestination: 1) philosophical or cosmological sense: any theory of the causes and effects that determine what an individual is and does. Some theory of predestination is unavoidable (inescapable) because no person chooses his genetic and spiritual condition, nor the early teachings of his parents and others. All decisions after the age of “accountability” are absolutely determined by these prior factors. Also, on this basis no one is “free” from predestination to be able to make “free” choices. 2) Biblical sense: God’s ordering of all events from eternity past to the present to eternity future “who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). See Free Will.
Predication: to posit a characteristic of an object or to say what a thing “is,” e.g. Fido is a dog. Possibly, the most common error in predication is that “is” is an equals sign because it is most commonly used as an adjective, not a noun.. One widespread and severe misunderstanding is “God is love.” But God is far more than love: He is truth, omniscient, omnipotent, unchanging, perfectly righteous, holy, worthy of the greatest worship, etc., etc., etc. Synonyms of predication are nature, essence, being, and substance, as these apply to nominatives.
Pre-established harmony: Leibniz’ theory that God “pre-established” the spiritual world and the material world to coincide at every point. Those who believe in substance or Cartesian dualism have never solved the dilemma of how the material and spiritual interact; more correctly, how the spiritual realm “causes” actions in the material world. By Leibniz’ theory, this causality does not have to occur. Particularly, this theory applies to philosophy of mind; man’s spirit does not “interact” with the brain, but each works simultaneously with the other. This concept is considered to be a form of occasionalism.
Presbyterian: roughly equivalent to Calvinism and Reformed.
Presupposition: See first principle, basic belief, etc.
Tacit presupposition: biases, prejudices, and beliefs that are “subconscious” in the sense that they affect our actions without conscious knowledge. For example, a child raised in a particular religion will act on those beliefs until he examines them for himself. Socrates’ “examined life” is a directive to evaluate and understand how these beliefs affect us and whether they are the best bases for our thought, speech, and actions.
Primacy of the intellect: See faculty psychology.
Principium, principle: “All unprovable judgments, in so far as they are the ground of all judgments, are called principles, and they are either theoretical or practical.” (Kant, Lectures on Logic) Synonyms, include first principle, axiom, starting point, arché, etc.
Webster, 1828 Dictionary: “(L. principium, beginning.) In a general sense, the cause, source or origin of any thing; that from which a thing proceeds; as the principle of motion; the principles of action.” (First definition)
Etymology.com: “late 14c., “origin, source, beginning; rule of conduct; axiom, basic assumption; elemental aspect of a craft or discipline,” from Anglo-French principle, Old French principe “origin, cause, principle,” from Latin principium (plural principia) “a beginning, commencement, origin, first part,” in plural “foundation, elements,” from princeps (see prince). Used absolutely for (good or moral) principle from 1650s.”
Herman Bavinck: “the basic cause and ground of reality, as well as, the means by which we come to know them…. Theologians also adopted this terminology. By way of revelation God makes himself known to us as the primary efficient cause of all things. Holy Scripture is the external instrumental efficient cause of theology, and divine revelation also requires the internal illumination of the Holy Spirit…. God is the essential foundation (principium essendi); Scripture is the external cognitive foundation (principium cognoscendi internum); and the Holy Spirit is the internal principle of knowing (principium cognoscendi internum).” (Reformed Dogmatics, “Scientific Foundations,” 207)
Probability: The likelihood that a certain event will happen based upon past events. In a chance universe, probability has no place. There is no probability to random chance, yet much of modern science is based upon probability.. Probability has a functional (pragmatic) basis in an ordered universe which has been profoundly affected by a cataclysmic event, The Fall. Probability is not truth and has a varied certainty, but great pragmatic value in this so-damaged world.
Kurt Gödel: “The notion of probability is weaker than the notion of truth.” (James Loder, The Knight’s Move, p. 39)
Probability and faith: Would a person sacrifice his or her life on the probability that he or she would go to heaven, or would one be more likely to sacrifice that life based upon Biblical faith? Possibility lessens that chance even further. However, true faith comes with regeneration which is a gift of God and absolutely certain. Can a leopard change his spots? Can the regenerate not act according to his or her faith?
Progress: the idea that some condition of man’s existence is better than one that came before it. However, “better” is a highly charged and relative term. Better denotes a standard by which to measure… to recognize change more in line with that standard. If that standard is technology, then progress has been continual, virtually from “pre-historic” times. Progress in education, however, is not so certain; schools of the modern era do not necessarily turn out “better” thinkers and scholarly persons. But, the concern should be “better” by God’s standards. Better means greater evangelism, study of the Bible, growth of the Church, greater righteousness of persons and peoples, and most importantly, the worship of God. (Worship may be in everyday, “secular” work, work of the Church, or formal ritualistic worship.)
Scientific progress: Science can say nothing about progress. Inherent to progress is something “better.” Better is a moral/ethical judgment. Science can only say “what is” and attempt to explain how, but value (goof, “better,” morality, ethics) is metaphysical speculation, not science.
Progressive creation: “God’s creative action (that) has occurred over long periods of time through a variety of means.” This definition “calls attention … to the divine purpose (in creation), rather than on the details of the processes God used to achieve those results.” (J. J. Davis, The Frontiers of Science and Faith, 127). This term would encompass several forms of what might otherwise be called “theistic evolution.” The term seems to have originated with Bernard Ramm.
Proof: the evidence or propositions which are sufficient to a person to cause him to take a position or change his mind. Proof, however, is always limited to an individual’s worldview—what he will accept; a proof is not possible between worldviews. For example, a proof of God for a person who believes in materialism or other atheistic system is impossible. When the atheist asks for “proof,” he has already decided what he will or will not accept to support or deny his position. Proof is always relative to the system of philosophy or religions of any person. In fact, it would be incoherent for a person to accept an argument as proof that contradicted his system. Thus, all arguments are circular and are dependent upon an individual or groups worldview; and all cosmological arguments fail on this basis. Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems destroyed forever the notion of appeal to proof outside of a defined system. Proofs are always and inherently circular and a tautology. The great world-shaking denial of proofs was Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.
Properly functioning faculty: See faculty psychology.
Property: In the 17th and 18th centuries, a requirement for the most basic rights of man, stated as “life, liberty, and property.” Simone Weil states this essential need/right in her Statement of Obligations, thus:
The human soul has need of both personal property and collective property. Personal property never consists in the possession of a sum of money, but in the ownership of concrete objects like a house, a field, furniture, tools, which seem to the soul to be an extension of itself and of the body. Justice requires that personal property, in this sense, should be, like liberty, inalienable. Collective property is not defined by a legal title but by the feeling among members of a human milieu that certain objects are like an extension or development of the milieu. This feeling is only possible in certain objective conditions. The existence of a social class defined by the lack of personal and collective property is as shameful as slavery.
Puritans: see here.
Psychologism: the concept that all knowing (as epistemology, ontology, and ethics) originates in psychology: an understanding of thehuman mind, thinking, and behavior. For instance, philosophers who think that logical laws are not psychological laws would view it as psychologism to identify the two. Other authors use the term in a neutral descriptive or even in a positive sense. ‘Psychologism’ then refers (approvingly) to positions that apply psychological techniques to traditional philosophical problems. ‘Psychologism’ entered the English language as a translation of the German word ‘Psychologismus’, a term coined by the Hegelian Johann Eduard Erdmann in 1870 to critically characterize the philosophical position of Eduard Beneke. Although the term continues to be used today, criticisms and defenses of psychologism have mostly been absorbed into wider debates over the pros and cons of philosophical naturalism. (Ed has modified this definition for brevity, clarity, and context from The Plato-Stanford Encyclpedia.) Naturalism which discards God cannot explain how man thinks logically, empirically or conceptually. How can random (illogical) processes produce logic and mathematics?
Psychology, psychotherapy: ethics applied in real-life situations. Apart from Biblical control and authority, both are inherently secular and immersed in an unbiblical anthropology. Biblical counseling is nouthetic counseling.
Psychology today. “Today, psychology means a science in the sense of natural science, if not exactly equal in stature to physics and chemistry, at least a younger brother who is almost as smart or as strong. Psychology lusted for a century and a half after the coronation to the throne of Truth which the Enlightenment handed to astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, and later to biology. Sometime in the latter half of the 20th century, psychology weaseled its way into the chambers of the common mind and raped it, siring a ‘science.’ Psychology wanted the trappings of natural science, and wears them now. No self-respecting modern definition of psychology would dare use the term ‘soul,’ with all the religious baggage that it packs. Today’s psychology is not a mere ‘discourse’ or ‘treatise’ but is buttressed with ‘facts.’ Discourses and treatises are fusty opinions. Psychology is (Enlightenment–above) Truth.” Hilton Terrell in private communication to this Ed.
Purpose of life: see meaning.
Psychiatry: essentially the practice of psychology by a person with an M.D. or equivalent who can prescribe drugs for mental conditions. A psychologist may recommend, but not prescribe, such medications.
Psychology: the science of how the mind works. Psychology must be Biblically structured, as the Bible is “the textbook” on psychology: psych-mind or soul and ology-science or study of. See Biblical psychology, secular psychology, psychiatry, and psychotherapy here (and the references at that url). The mind is almost infinitely complex, and only God can fully understand it (Jeremiah 17:9). The reader must be aware that heart and mind are facets of the same entity (also, overlapping with soul and spirit).
Psychology, evolutionary: A more recently developed area of psychology that intends to explain human emotions, reasons, and behaviors on the basis of evolutionary theories. As a Christian would expect, it is entirely secular and humanistic. Christians have no basis to use its theories or research, instead of Biblical explanations, yet many are attempting to do so. The Bible is truth; no empirical science can arrive at truth by its own philosophy and design.
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Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603): known as the “philosopher Queen,” she translated Boethius ( 477-524 A.D.) Consolation of Philosophy into English in 1593.
Quine, Willard Van Orman: A modern philosophical linguist who demonstrates the complexity of language. He has also challenged empiricism in his paper, The Two Dogmas…
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Radical orthodoxy: see here.
Rand, Ayn (1905-1982): to summarize, her ontology was “indestructible matter,” her epistemology was “skepticism,:” her ethics was “hedonism,” and her politics was “anarchism.” (Cited from John Robbins, here.)
Rational: See reason.
Rationalism: “A system of philosophy which holds that all knowledge is based upon reason (logic) alone.” (Clark, Thales to Dewey, page 311) However, reason does not choose the knowledge that is already present at the time that reason begins. Thus, all conclusions are entirely and wholly limited by that a priori knowledge that is either innate or acquired in the early phases of one’s life. Further, belief (faith) is prior to reason, as Augustine said, “I believe in order to understand.” So, reason is not really a source of knowledge, as it is traditionally designated, but is a method of forming conclusions about knowledge that already exists in one’s mind. It is the application of the rules of logic, avoidance of fallacies, carefully derived and coherent definitions, and other means of thinking clearly. Reason may challenge and develop the coherence of a system of knowledge, but it cannot choose that knowledge which is already present—choosing one’s basic beliefs is an act of faith. Rationalism has been called “The Enlightenment Project” since Descartes, as an attempt to discern truth without Special Revelation, i.e., by man’s reason alone. Thus, man becomes the “measure of all things.” This concept is different from being rational. See The Enlightenment Project.
Real; Reality: “what is.” See true, truth.
Realism: (1) the belief that objects in the universe exist on their own, independent of any mind that perceives them. This position would be coherent with the Genesis account of Creation ex nihilo. However, objects are perceived only by minds. Thus, objects can only be know subjectively, and for this reason are always interpreted objects. Objects can never be know objectively, or in Kant’s terms, “in themselves” (ding an sich). Empiricism (induction) is the methodology of study of objects and their behavior, even though this method by definition can never arrive at truth (non-universal). However, as operationalism, it can be quite powerful in a pragmatic way. (2) The belief that truth exists. There are two forms: (a) Does objective truth exist? If so, (b) can the mind perceive and understand it? Jesus said, “You can know the truth, and the truth will make you free!” So, yes, the truth exists (only in the Bible) and we can “know” it, as He said. (3) Do ethics exist in an objective form? Again, the Bible gives the answer in that ethics (right and wrong, righteousness, justice, etc.) is everything that the Bible has to say about this subject.
Implications of realism for the Christian Church:
(The controversy between Platonic realism and universals) was very important to scholars during the Middle Ages. If realism were correct, there could be a Universal Church with authoritative dogma. We could all sin in Adam, and the doctrine of redemption could apply to all humanity. If nominalism were correct, only particular churches were real; furthermore, the sin of Adam and the work of redemption would not apply to everyone, and we might be free to substitute our private judgments for the decrees of the Church. The Medieval Church supported realism, since nominalism tended to undermine its authority. (Titus, Smith, and Nolan, Living Issues in Philosophy, 282. Perhaps, this brief synopsis is a little simplistic, but it is illustrative of the issues.)
Reason and faith: see faith-reason.
Reason: (1) The process by which argument or communication from one person to another is made skillfully, using all the tools of philosophy: definition, sentence structure and grammar, induction and deduction, syllogism, and any other means necessary to the process. See Reason Fully Defined and Unraveling the Concept of Logic. (2) The Enlightenment idea that opposed faith–that man could reason sufficiently without Revelation (The Bible). This notion is linked to the Renaissance, that is, “re-birth of classical thought from the Greeks, that “man is the measure of all things.” It is the belief that there are foundational principles (axioms, presuppositions, etc.) that are true and thus, from which additional truths can be logically deduced. This notion of reason has confused the idea of reason as process, that is, the reasoning process by which ideas are formulated and defended. Reason used in this way is decidedly anti-Biblical and anathema to true understanding. A synonym of reason, used in this way, is rationalism.
Reasonable: A more colloquial term used loosely to justify a statement or argument by virtually whatever means the person chooses. “It seems reasonable that the student will improve his grades if he works harder on his schoolwork.”
(The) Reformation: A Biblical correction to the theological errors and ethical abuses in the Roman Catholic Church, beginning in the 14th century and gaining its momentum and effective changes in the 16th century. The participants were “protesting” (thus, Protestant), not seeking to form a new church until the Council of Trent made many of these errors, heresies, and abuses into formal Church doctrine and the persons who believed otherwise were condemned “anathema.” So, there was no alternative for those who made these corrections, but to separate themselves from the Mother Church to preserve the purity and peace of the Church and in many cases, their own lives. There can be no true healing between Protestants and Catholics until the latter revokes officially those propositions of the Council of Trent. The Reformation is important to philosophy because it was based upon Scripture (the words of God) rather than philosophy (the words of men); that is, as Pascal said, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… not of the philosophers and scholars.” Sola Scriptura was the epistemological foundation of the Reformation, and ultimately the foundation of all epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. The other solas are Christus, fide, gratia, and deo gloria.
Reformational Catholicism: a proposal by Peter Leithart to promote a dialogue and eventual catholicity of bible-believing Protestants and Roman Catholics. See his article, “The End of Protestantism”
Reformed theology: See Calvinism.
Reformed epistemology: The position held by Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and others “that people are rationally justified in believing in God without evidence or argument, though such rational beliefs are open to refutation by evidence and argument…. we come to know God when our faculties of knowledge, working rightly and placed in the proper environment, come naturally to form a belief in him.” (John Frame, “Machen’s Warrior Children,” at www.frame-poythress.org.)
“Reformed epistemology” is an inappropriately chosen term. Wolterstorff identifies with the “Continental Reformed (Calvinist) tradition …. (and) has characteristically been antievidentialist.” (Faith and Rationality, page 7. ) But this position has also posited sola Scriptura, the Bible as truth, inerrant, and sufficient as a rule of faith and practice and total depravity or inability, that man cannot know truth (God and His word to man, as defined by Scripture) apart from regeneration. Neither “warrant” nor “justification” (in the philosophical sense) can persuade the unregenerate of the truth of Scripture. Belief in the Scripture does not need to be “justified” for the regenerate. He is persuaded by the Holy Spirit. Further, those in Reformed epistemology rely on Scripture or theology only sparingly, whereas the theologically Reformed are thoroughly grounded in Scripture. In this Ed’s opinion, Reformed epistemologists are guilty of “philosophical imperialism.” (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, page 86. Also quoted on this website here.
“Reformed epistemology” is not “Reformed philosophy” nor “Reformed theology.” It is a narrow definition held by a few philosophers who minimize, even compromise, the authority of Scripture as the ultimate epistemology.
Regenerate: the person who has experienced regeneration.
Regeneration: Biblically, “born-again” or “born-from-above.” The change wrought in the human soul (spirit) by the work of the Holy Spirit that causes a person to believe that the Bible is the Word of God (truth) and that it primarily speaks of salvation in Jesus Christ. All peoples of the earth can be divided into the regenerate and the unregenerate (the world and the church), except perhaps those in the process of being effectually called, that is, being moved from one division into the other. See Regeneration.
Regeneration results in considerable changes for the person. He considers himself a sinner, but destined to the glorious life of heaven. He has the knowledge of God found in the Bible (I Corinthians 2:16). He has a complete ethics on every aspect of life (all the do’s and don’t of the Bible). He has totally new and committed relationships: marriage, family, church, and civil. He knows his origin in Adam and the narrative from there to the present day. He has a profound certainty about epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics and a hope for the future. There is no metaphysical change, but he now knows of the supernatural nature of God and other spiritual beings. Interestingly, there are not changes to the basic principles of logic.
Relativism: Relativism is simply irrationalism because, if all is relative, the statement denies itself. Also, if nothing is fixed (normative) then there is no reality, and everything is meaningless.
“In the postmodern context, relativism is … less a conclusion than a presupposition, and a presupposition whose purpose is to insulate us from the need for commitment, decision, and passion. Observing … students knee-jerk relativism, (one) concludes that relativism is not a philosophical theory. It is a spiritual truth, a protective dogma designed to fend off any power that might claim our loyalty. It is a habit of mind that insulates postmodern life from the sober potency of arguments and the force of evidence, from the rightful claims of reason and the wisdom of the past. This is all done to protect the soul from all demands, rational or otherwise. If truth is out there, and if we can know it, then we might be forced to take a stand on truth. Truth might claim us, and demand something from us, perhaps something very difficult. But if we know before the game begins that there will be no winner, we don’t have to join a team.” Peter Leithart, here.
Religion: “Man seeks in religion … strength, life, a personal power, that can pardon sin, receive us into favor, and cause us to triumph joyfully over a world of sin and death. The true religion which shall satisfy our mind and heart, our conscience and our will, must be one that does not shut us up in, but lifts us up high above, the world; in the midst of time it must impart to us eternity; in the midst of death give us life; in the midst of the stream of change place us on the immovable rock of salvation. This is the reason why transcendence, supernaturalism, revelation, are essential to all religion.” (Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation, page 17.)
“Religion and philosophy have the same objects.” (John Caird, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, The Croall Lectures; 1878-79 (Glasgow: J Maclchose, 1880), 1. Cited in K. Scott Oliphint, Reasons of Faith, 15) That is, religion and philosophy are about origins, belief, and ethics—the same subject matter.
Religion is Biblical Christianity, based upon the inerrancy and sufficiency of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, is the only belief system that can satisfy these criteria of religion. All other claims by beliefs that call themselves or are called by others as “religion” or “philosophy” are false. Therefore, Christianity is the only religion. All other “religions” are false and caricatures of this true religion.
“The problem confronting paganism (and all non-Christian religions) is thus apparent: only a fully self-conscious, self-existent, sovereign, and creating God can save man, because only He can fully control, govern, and determine all things.” J. R. Rushdoony, Salvation and Godly Rule, page 2)
Secular quasi-religion: A term used by Tillich to describe humanism, communism, fascism, socialism, nationalism, and other such ideologies. While Tillich is certainly not an evangelical theologian, his discussion of these “-isms” is quite relevant to the notion that they are indeed religions. Everyone believes in either a religion proper (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.) or a quasi-religion. See Christianity and Encounter. Thus, Karl Marx only replaced one “opiate of the people” with his own opiate—history now reveals the deadliness and devastation caused by his religion, as history reveals the overwhelming advance of civilization under Christianity. Greg Bahnsen has an article contrasting Christianity with other “religions” here.
Religion-science conflict: see conflict thesis.
(The) Renaissance: There are several views on this subject. I suggest Renaissance and Modernity for view that presents more than one side.
One illustration:“The change of form is of most importance to the history of art (in the Renaissance) …. The gilt backgrounds signifying heaven were replaced with landscapes; Biblical history and medieval religious legends gave way to classical or contemporary themes; and in the pictures of Christian content sometime John the Baptist was indistinguishable from Bacchus and the artist’s favorite prostitute served as a model for the Virgin Mary.” (Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey, p. 304)
Repentance: in the koiné Greek of the New Testament, repentance is meta-noia, literally “a change of mind.” Repentance, then, is primarily epistemological in nature. This change is designed to be a total and powerful effect on mind, belief, and worldview. It is a move from self-reliance and self-limitation to the “mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16) by the indwelling and teaching of the Holy Spirit of the regenerate person totally under the authority of the Holy Scriptures. The power of this epistemological change is seen in Romans 12:2 where “transformation” is the same process as that which “transformed” Christ in his transfiguration and transforms the believer for his life in Heaven (II Corinthians 3:18). Repentance is the ongoing attitude (education, obedience, and sanctification) of the regenerate person.
Responsibility: See Freedom, freedom of the will and Law and Freedom.
Rest: see peace. While “rest” and “peace” may not quite be synonyms, they have many overlapping characteristics, such as, being in a calm state, the state of regeneration (“born-again”) in resting from a works-salvation and being at enmity with God, cessation from war, and the entering into rest of the book of Hebrew with the analogy of entering the promised land.
Revelational epistemology: the system of knowledge that begins with Sola scriptura or the 66 books of the agreed-upon Bible as its first principle or axiom from which all other knowledge is derived.
Right, Rights: rights are ethical or legal claims of duties or freedoms that are given to those people under a higher authority. The only legitimate rights are those given by God in His Word. The Declaration of Independence declares that all peoples have “inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Since God is the highest authority, there is no court of appeal higher than Himself. Today, everyone seems to want to claim their rights, but not responsibilities. People who are not responsible are subject to losing their rights, as in criminal and irresponsible behavior. In marriages, each spouse seems far more willing to pursue their own agenda without responsibility to their husband or wife to place him or her first and diligent work to development the marriage and or family itself.
Righteousness: See “righteousness” under ethics (above).
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Salvation: Simply, “to be rescued from some dire threat to one’s limb, life, or soul.” Thus, to understand any form of salvation, one must know from what he has been saved. Salvation in the Bible is no different. But, few Christians seem to understand the full extent of the terrible and severe circumstances from which they have been rescued, and the great opportunities which they have been given in their earthly life, not just heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven begins now! See Salvation: Its Phases and Wonderful Fullness: Often Considered Too Narrowly.
Saving faith: This definition depends upon whether one is an Arminian or whether one is Reformed. The Council of Dordt (1618-1619) was called to, and did, address this conflict of understanding. One should consult those debates and conclusions for a more thorough understanding of this difference. More simply here, for the Reformed, faith is not the primary condition but regeneration is. This new ontological orientation is caused by the Holy Spirit who “blows (converts the soul) where He will.” That is, He regenerates in a pattern that is unpredictable and beyond the ability (total depravity, or better, total inability) of any person to effect this change. This new ontology causes saving faith which includes justification, adoption, perseverance, sanctification, and glorification. For the Arminian, saving faith precedes regeneration, this faith being conditional on the will of the person to accept and trust the Gospel message. Some Arminians believe that this faith may be preceded by a “presient” action of the Holy Spirit, which still requires the willingness of the person to cause conversion and regeneration. Simply, the Reformed believe that salvation in all its phases is monergistic—a work entirely of the Trinity who change the will of the person such that he or she desires to be saved. Arminians see this faith as a cooperative, dualistic work of the Trinity and the person with the latter having a will that is entirely free to make the final decision to accept or reject saving faith. This latter view with some different nuances is the belief of Roman Catholicism, also. These particulars are addressed here. Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism are variants of Arminism. Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Carthage (418 A.D.), and the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.). Semi-pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange (529 A.D.). Thus, all forms of dualism have been formally and officially condemned by church councils.
Thus, for the Reformed “saving faith” is a misnomer. Regeneration saves and forms the basis for knowing and believing truths about salvation, as well as a willingness to act in ways that are prescribed by this knowledge. Practically, then, the believer is removed from having to know every “jot and tittle” of a faith that saves, even though his regenerate condition will cause him or her to come to know many, if not most, of these wonderful truths.
Scepticism: see skepticism.
Scholasticism: The work of the “Scholastics” (Abelard, Aquinas, Ockham, and others) during the late Middle Ages. Virtually every modern idea and philosophy can be traced back to their work. Thus, Scholasticism is foundational to modern “scholasticism” (scholarship).
The outstanding feature of Scholasticism is its deliberately attempted synthesis of philosophy and biblical theology in which the former provides the basis and the latter the superstructure. If Abelard represents a movement towards greater rationalism and Anselm towards a more biblical conception of reason learning from faith, Thomas Aquinas gives us the impressive norm which dominates all subsequent development and is still a potent influence today.
In the light of this synthesis it is not unnatural that Scholasticism should be semi-pelagian in its doctrine of grace, codifying legalistic developments of an early time within an Augustinian framework. It is to this period that we owe the detailed outworking of such distortions as the doctrines of baptismal regeneration, purgatory, penance, infused grace, implicit faith, and transubstantiation, which is only possible or intelligible in terms of philosophical realism.
There are, of course, many satisfactory features which we must not fail to note. The traditional patristic doctrines were carefully maintained. Anselm gives us a finely objective doctrine of the atonement in the light of current views of satisfaction. Biblical material is used even though it often appears in distorted form. There is a good spirit of inquiry and disputation which allows of the development of a conflicting trend like Nominalism and thus prepares the way in some sense for the Reformation. But these virtues cannot offset the fact that Scholasticism was mistaken in its general enterprise and achievement, and must bear responsibility for the disastrous corruption which follows. (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, “Scholasticism,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, 1962–emphases are Ed’s)
Science: in both colloquial and scholarly language today, “science” is abbreviated from “natural science,” originally derived from philosophy of science, as a division of philosophy. This one-word substitute belies its philosophical origin, allowing an “epistemological escape” from the suspicion of all philosophy. As a division of philosophy, where it rightly belongs, it should have more scrutiny than the “answer to everything” status which it receives in both the common and academic cultures.
Etymologically, “science” is from the Latin scientia, knowledge; Greek episteme. Plato’s “divided line” was a process of moving from uncertain knowledge (“image” or “belief”) to more certain knowledge (dianoia and episteme). Aristotle’s episteme involved an empirical process. Scientia then became applicable to any systematic study, for example, among the Scholastics, theology was called “The Queen of the Sciences.” Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 (see References below), in his 2nd definition states, “In philosophy, a collection of the general principles or leading truths relating to any subject. Pure science … is built on self-evident truths; but the term science is also applied to other subjects founded on generally acknowledged truths….” In modern times, “science” refers to the physical and natural sciences. The great problem is that the more “precise” sciences of physics, chemistry, and mathematics connote the same precision to such areas as biology, psychology (of man), and medicine, that these latter areas do not have. But Michael Polanyi in his book, Personal Knowledge, virtually destroys any concept of modern science being “objective,” “hard,” or “precise.” See science fiction on science as religious transcendent hope.
For more on this discussion, see What Is Science? Science could also be considered a synonym of systematics, as in systematic theology. By science and systematics, subject matter is fitted and understood as parts of a whole. Then, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“The term, ‘scientist,’ was not coined until 1834.” (Pearcey and Thaxton, The Soul of Science, 10) Ed: I suggest that much of the derogation of Biblical Christianity has resulted from this change in the meaning of science. The “science” of systematic theology and its derivative ethics forms the most coherent system of any other philosophy or “religion,” and the utterly false notion that science can find “objective truth” (Polanyi).
Science, historical: see historical science above.
Science-religion conflict: “The idea of a war between science and religion is a relatively recent invention—one carefully nurtured by those who hope the victor in the conflict will be science…. (The goal of Thomas H. Huxley and others) was to overthrow the cultural dominance of Christianity…. to secularize society, replacing the Christian worldview with scientific naturalism, a worldview that recognizes the existence of nature alone.” (Pearcey and Thaxton, The Soul of Science, 19) When both science and theology (systematic study of the Bible) are both understood properly, there is not conflict. In addition, scientific knowledge is always tentative by definition and waiting to be superseded by new findings. See conflict thesis.
Scientific anarchism: science does not proceed by any set of rules, criterion or methods. For more, see here.
Scientific creationism: see Creationism
Science fiction: Much, if not most, science fiction is the transcendent hope that extra-terrestrial life has found peace and happiness (human flourishing) and will bring their answers to earth and the human race. This faith is just that, religious faith, an alternative to earth’s religions, particularly Biblical Christianity. For an excellent discussion of this connection, see the book, Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs by James A. Herrick (InterVarsity Press, 2008).
Scientific law: the formula from a finite number of observations that is arbitrarily chosen by a scientist or group of scientists. While such a “law” may be useful, it is not true. For more, see here.
Scientific method: A system of steps by which theories about the physical universe may be tested and “proved.” This proof is limited to the design of the experiment. It is not proof in the philosophical sense of finding truth. Many people are deceived by the use of proof in this way. The scientific method, by design, is limited to proofs in the physical world. It can say nothing about the supernatural world because the method excludes any supernatural interference by design. Further, there is a great deal of subjectivity, accepted authority, and contrived paradigm in the process that is usually ignored at the college and university level, as well as scientists not trained in the philosophy of science. See Proof.
“Writers on scientific method usually tell us that scientific discoveries made “inferentially,” that is to say, from putting together many facts. But this is far from being correct. The facts by themselves are never sufficient to lead unequivocally to the really profound discoveries. Facts are always analyzed in terms of the prejudices of the investigator. The prejudices are of a deep kind, relating to our view on how the Universe “must” be constructed.” Sir Fred Hoyle, Highlights in Astronomy (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1977), page 35-36. Also, see Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, which destroys the objectivity of the scientific method.
Scientific progress: see progress.
Scientific truth: a false concept, if based upon empiricism (induction) which is a logical fallacy.
Scientism, scientific realism (rational realism): “The view that science progressively secures true, or approximately true, theories about the real, theory-independent world ‘out there’ and does so in a rationally justifiable way.” (Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, pages 326-327) This truth, then, becomes the foundation for a philosophy of reality that denies anything supernatural and provides all the necessary answers to individual’s and society’s issues and problems. Logical positivism is one form of scientism, while positivism per se is a synonym of scientism.
“Modern scientism fetters thought as cruelly as ever the churches had done. It offers no scope for our most vital beliefs and it forces us to disguise them in farcically inadequate terms. Ideologies framed in these term have enlisted man’s highest aspirations in the service of soul-destroying tyrannies.” (Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, 265.
Scripture: The 66 books of the Bible that is commonly agreed-upon by Bible-believing Christians worldwide. See The objective Bible under objective.
Scripturalism: s synonym for Biblical Christianity. See dogmatism.
Self-authenticating knowledge: all knowledge is authenticated by the self. “So and so (a commonly recognized authority) says,” and then comes the “… but I think…” (a differing opinion. Everyone goes through this process, even against published authors, established “experts,” and academic scholars. How is it that an individual can so easily discount “heavy” opinion? But, this process is really inevitable. “I” have to decide what I will believe, and “I” (and those whom I influence) face the consequences which may be mild (“I tried your recipe, and it was not good.”) or world-shaking, as in who is elected President of the United States (“I voted for him because of the ‘authority” of others.”). The importance of recognizing this inescapable truth is for me to be very careful how and why I made decisions. That is, how and why do I exercise my faith in self or in the “self-authenticating” God of Scripture, “Thus says the Lord…” Synonyms are circular argument, begging the question, or tautology.
Self-deception: see belief and behavior.
Self-refuting statement (proposition): See performative contradiction.
Sensus divinitatis: Latin for “sense of divinity.” The primary text of the Bible from which this concept comes is Romans 1:18-32-2:16 where man suppresses his innate knowledge of God, and the results are God’s “giving him over” to worse sins than he would have otherwise have committed. This “sense of divinity” is commonly discussed among evangelical philosophers, especially those Reformed. However, their base reference is often that of a person (e.g., Alvin Plantinga bases his sensus divinitatis on Aquinas and Calvin), rather than the Scriptures. Exactly this term means in its fullness is a matter of debate and speculation. However, no evangelical apologetics should be done without some understanding of what this term means. For a discussion of what the unbeliever understands about God, see Unregenerate Knowledge of God.
Sequence: “Logical sequence is not necessarily temporal sequence. Temporal sequence is not necessarily causal sequence.” Paul Helm here.
Skepticism: “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” [Cited in Moreland and Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, page 103. Original in Darwin’s letter William Graham Down, dated July 3, 1881, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Including an Autobiographical Chapter, ed. Francis Darwin, 2 vols. (London: John Murray, Albermarle Street, 1887), 1:315-316.]
Skepticism is an untenable position. In order to “know what one does not know” … “one must know that he does not know.” In other words, whatever proposition the skeptic says he does not know, he is not skeptical that he does not know; he is certain, not uncertain (skeptical) that he does not know. This position corresponds to the absolute statement, “There are no absolutes!” God has so structured the pursuit of knowledge (epistemology) and truth that “There must be at least one certainty; at least one truth; at least one absolute.” Of course that absolute is Absolute, and He has given us Special Revolution to know that truth and the others that He has revealed.
The skeptic also contradicts himself when he says that he is a skeptic. Saying “I am a skeptic” is a positive statement of knowledge. He “knows” (is certain) that he is a skeptic. He does not doubt that he is a skeptic. If there is something that he does not doubt, he is not a skeptic!
Social justice: In 2019, this term has been co-opted by the liberals and progressive to promote their agenda against a Biblical ethical system. But, historically in the 19th century, Christians and others promoted a social justice that was largely Christian, but divorced from its ground in Biblical ethics.
Society of Christian Philosophers: an organization of philosophers who self-identify as Christians. However, most Christians in the West deny traditional, orthodox Christianity, so is the organization truly “Christian?” See my critique of “Christian philosophy,” Quo Vadis Christian Philosopher?
Sociology: A “modern science” that studies the patterns of thinking, speech, and behavior of groups. However, there is no sociological norm, other than Scripture, to determine whether those activities are ethical or unethical. “What is” can never determine an “ought.”
See A Biblical Defense of Sola Scriptura.
Solipsism: the view that any real knowledge is limited to one’s own mind, as other mind’s cannot be known directly. One could be dreaming, or the other person could be a mirage or an hallucination. To this Ed, solipsism is one of the most difficult problems in philosophy—one that cannot be overcome except by Special Revelation in which God tells of God’s mind and the existence of other minds.
“Something rather than nothing”: usually asked as a question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” First asked by Leibniz, and a question that only has an answer in the God of the Bible.
Soteriology: the theological term for salvation. While salvation and soteriology could be seen as strictly theological, and not philosophical, no anthropology of any kind cannot be discussed without the primary problem with man—His alienation from God and his disorientated and deranged state because of The Fall.
Soul: the immaterial component of man, also called mind, spirit, heart, and will.
“The soul, rather than the sterile abstraction of an ego, was an entire and unified spiritual and corporeal reality; it was the life and form of the body, encompassing every aspect of human existence, from the nous to the animal functions, uniting reason and sensation, thought and emotion, spirit and flesh, memory and presence, supernatural longing and natural capacity; open before being, a permeable and multiplicity attendance upon the world, it was that in which being showed itself, a logos gathering the light of being into itself, seeing and hearing in the things of the world the logoi of being, allowing them to come to utterance in itself, as words and thought.” (David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, 138, found at www.leithart.com )
Speech acts: a major field of philosophical study in the 21st century. It has a unique application from a Biblical perspective. God’s creation of all that exists was a speech act, “let there be … light, land, animals, plants, persons, etc. The walls of Jericho fell at the people’s shouting and blowing trumpets. Jesus spoke and stilled the storm. Many of Jesus other miracles were performed at Jesus’ speaking.
The reader may want to explore what it means for all that is—subatomic particles, living cells, galaxies, etc.—originated in speech!
Speculative philosophy, metaphysics, or cosmology: “the endeavor to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted.” (A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality, page 3). “Attempts to synthesize an overall picture of reality as a whole, and of the place of mankind within it…. large scale philosophies of the kind found in Hegel or Bradley, or many religious pictures of the cosmos.” (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy) Speculative philosophy is contrasted with “critical philosophy” in which rationalism interprets experience. It is “speculative” because it exceeds rational precepts, as Kant’s noumena and placement of the knowledge of God beyond his “critical” structures. However, Broad comments, “the discursive form of cognition by means of general concepts can never be completely adequate to the concrete Reality which it seeks to describe.” (See here.) Ed: Thus, the attempt by atheists and others to exclude religions and other sources of “Reality” beyond the empirical are simply ignoring a large portion of philosophical history and thought—a naive and foolish approach.
Sphere sovereignty: The concept that certain spheres have a delimited sovereignty that should not be encroached by other spheres can be traced back to Abraham Kuyper. The primary spheres correspond to the government of self, family, church, social groups, and civil government. Social groups include those designed to particular ends, such as, clubs, guilds, and other voluntary associations. All these are governed by Biblical laws and instructions, with the family being the most sacrosanct. Properly understood, the primary spheres should have no conflicts of government with the others. That is, family interests and responsibilities should not be encroached by the self, church, social groups, or civil government. Social groups have less well-defined boundaries and must exit without compromise to the primary spheres. See ethics.
Spirit: See soul.
Spiritual: of or relating to a spirit or the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, spiritual may be a synonym of logos, communication, or truth and error. Since one definition of spirit (soul) is nous or mind, then this association is easily acknowledged. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (John 6:33). “We know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (I John 4:6—also see vs. 1-6). See logos above.
Starting point, starting principle: I use this term with some variation from other philosophers. It is usually used as a synonym for first principle. However, one’s starting point or principle does not necessarily equate with one’s final or most basic (first) principle. Descartes really worked from a starting principle, not a first principle, because he needed a prior proposition to complete his syllogism, “Anyone who thinks exists.” Then comes his “I think; therefore I am.” Many atheists’ starting principle has been, “Christianity lacks evidential validity.” But upon investigation (and the work of the Holy Spirit), their first principle becomes “Christianity, as defined by the Bible, is true.” An empiricist may start with “All the universe is real because I see it.” When he becomes a rationally consistent Christian, he will see that the universe is the “substance of things unseen.” See See Where Do You Begin?
(The) State: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). If God is omnipotent, who or what can even approach to challenge His power: “the world, the flesh, and the Devil.” Many Christians are consciously or ignorantly apolitical, yet the reality is that one of the three great challengers for Christians is state governments. If the state is not under God’s rule practically and explicitly, then the “flesh” and “the Devil” are the principles to govern the state, as the Ephesian quote indicates. In the Biblically correct book, The City of God, Augustine clearly says that there can be on one victor in history. For the modern Christian to fail to understand that that civil government is the primary challenger to Christ’s Kingdom is to fail to storm “the gates of hell” and wander dreamily amidst the chaos, destruction, and death that unbiblical government inevitably brings. “All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36).
Steiner, George. An interview with him here. For a Christian analysis, see here.
Structuralism: from a Biblical perspective here.
Subconsciousness, subconscious mind: See Exploring the Unconscious.
Subjectivism: The epistemological idea that reality is person-determined and that each person determines his own reality. While all systems have a starting point that is subjectively chosen, each system must be tested for coherency and correspondence with the “facts” of life and reality. See dogmatism, first principle, and faith.
Subjectivity: See objectivity, view from nowhere.
Substance: (1) what an object is in its most basic core. Modern physics has demonstrated that no substance is empirically discoverable, in spite of experimental data and theories. This understanding is consistent with a Biblical concept of two substances: God, the uncreated, and the universe, that that He created. Scripture is clear that all matter is its hyostasis in the non-material or spiritual which is the speech and word (logos) of God (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:3). (2) the attributes or characteristics of an object. Since the substance of a thing is immaterial (non-sensed), it can only be known by its behavior in relationship to other things and beings. Synonyms of substance are nature, essence, attributes, being, instantiation, predication, etc. (3) The necessary attributes of a thing without which it will not be what it is. A dog is its all its cellular components and organs as a whole. A loss of a leg does not change its being a dog, but change of its DNA would. (4) a thing that exists independently of other things. In an empirical sense, this independence is possible, but in a Biblical sense all objects are dependent upon a spiritual hypostasis. See #1 herein. See being, functionalism.
Substantivalism: the worldview that defines “things” as what is their “substance.” Likely, this thinking originates with Aristotle and is certainly central to the modernist, Enlightenment Project. Since a thing can only be described by its relationship to its environment, substance is actually relationship. This idea is consistent with quantum mechanics in which no atom exist as “substance,” but only in a relationship of electrons, protons, neutrons, and other sub-atomic particles. See substance.
Substance dualism: see dualism (Biblical)
Supralapsarianism: “As Barth said, God’s Yes to man precedes creation (in Barth’s terms, covenant precedes creation). How could it be otherwise? If God had said No at the beginning, how could we exist at all? Once God says Yes, can He then change to No? Can we say of God what Paul’s Corinthian opponents said of him: With God it is always ‘Yes and No.’ Or, ‘Maybe.’ Must we not say, on the contrary, that God’s Yes is Yes, and His No No? Once Yes, always Yes. Therefore: Supralapsarianism.” From Peter Leithart on his website. Supralapsarianism is simply the view that God planned all of history “from the beginning” and has never changed his mind about His plan.
Supernatural: above or transcending nature; the area which is closed to natural science; the hypostasis of the natural world; the book of the supernatural is Scripture. For more, see here.
Supervenience: the effects of emergence viewed from the higher level. The effects of the whole “supervene” over the characteristics of its parts. Supervenience and emergence are virtual synonyms. See emergence, parts/whole.
Suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18): see belief and behavior above.
Synonymy, synonyms: words that have an approximate same meaning. A wider appreciation and application of an understanding is one of the major keys to epistemology in both philosophy and theology. For example, presupposition, belief, faith, assumption, premise, first principle, starting point, basic belief, foundation, etc. are approximate, if not identical, depending upon their use by an author or his context. When words are not linked as synonymous, then they are discussed as though they involve different subject matter, when they actually do not. One of the great failures of philosophy and theology has been to allow such a wide diversity of terms without an attempt to link them as synonyms that the field is almost incoherent and fragmented to the point of being totally unrecognizable that the same subject matter is being discussed. Almost everyone seems to want to have their own terms, so that every philosopher speaks a language foreign other philosophers. I have made some attempt to begin this process with a listing of Synonyms of Philosophy. Another resource with a comprehensive listing of synonyms is found at NetBible here..
System, systemization: perhaps, the most neglected tool of both Christian and non-Christian philosophies. First, few true or total systems are devised. Thus, no one knows whether they cohere, that is, are internally and thoroughly consistent. Second, of those systems that may approach completeness, the standard of coherence is rarely applied. “Without an integrated system, it is easy to ‘solve’ two special problems (of any kind) from two incompatible principles without noticing the inconsistency; with an integrated system is it easy to demolish less skillful constructions.” (Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey, page 269) Thus, there is the necessity of system, or systematic theology, of Scripture. Because there are different genres (history, proposition, poetics, etc.), time periods, and an increasing unfolding of God’s plan (Biblical theology), systemization of Scripture is necessary to avoid possible contradictions, most paradoxes, many mysteries, an incomplete understanding, and similar misunderstandings of interpretation.
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Tabula rasa: Literally, Latin for “blank slate,” a term first discussed in the “modern” era by John Locke. If the mind were truly “blank,” that is, without any prior knowledge or “categories,” anything presented to it would “stick” no more than a camera that is turned off. Babies are born with an extensive knowledge of how to suckle, move their eyes and extremities, cry, and eventually to talk and walk. In De Magistro, Augustine works through a teaching process whereby all knowledge is supernatural, that is, provided immediately by the Logos, Himself, Jesus Christ.
Tacit knowledge: associated with Michael Polanyi, as that knowledge that is subconscious and not immediately able to be articulated, or possibly cannot be articulated. For example, we recognize faces easily, but if asked to delineate exactly how we know these faces, we are mostly at a loss. Tacit knowledge has associations with the subconscious of Freud, recollection of Plato and Augustine, innate and intuited ideas, the “unexamined” of Socrates, etc. Augustine believed that Christ, as the Word, provided all the knowledge that men possess (John 1:9). This tacit ability of man which is so complex and necessary to everyday life could only have been designed by God Himself.
(The) Tao: see Euthyphro dilemma.
Teleological history: see history.
Tests of truth: Within this glossary, I have commented on these tests: coherence, correspondence, and pragmatic. There are other various tests, according to a philosophical stance, these these are the traditional and most commonly accepted.
Ten Commandments: see good works and ethics.
Tension: for example, D. A. Carson’s book, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension ((Wipf and Stock, 2002). Almost always, “tension” is used to denote an irresolvable impasse, as the example cited. There are three perspectives, however, (1) There is no tension in God. He is perfectly at peace with Himself and His Sovereignty. (2) Many tensions can be removed by further study and application of reason and logic applied to Biblical truth. Thus, “tension” is usually only apparent, not real. “Tension” should not be invoked after only superficial reflection for this reason. (3) There can be no tension in Biblical philosophy or ethics. The Christian is never faced with “a choice between two evils.” See John J. Davis article. Neither is there ever any conflict in the Biblical system of ethics for the individual, family, society, state, or world. Also, see paradox and mystery, synonyms of this use of tension.
Theism: (1) The beliefs of any one of three religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—who believe in one all-powerful god. While each has various sects, these religions have definitive beliefs that are held by large groups of people which are considered orthodox. See theism, Christian below.
(2) The personal beliefs of individual philosophers who pick and choose the characteristics of “god” according to their philosophical system. These gods have varying degrees of correspondence to the gods defined by the orthodoxy of these three religions. It is unusual for a philosopher to say explicitly what particulars of orthodoxy with which they agree or disagree. Thus, their gods are only personal deities. Today, and in most of the history of philosophy in the West, theism is overtly and covertly inseparable from Christian theism, although “Christian” theism is not necessarily “Biblical” theism. For examples of these personal theisms, see The Gods of the Philosophers and Theologians.
Theism, Biblical; revelational theism: The preferable term to Christian theism in today’s climate where “Christian” can mean a bewildering variety of beliefs about Christianity, often with Biblical truth blended with “all truth is God’s truth” or given a lesser authoritative status among the various sources of knowledge.
Theism, Christian: Properly understood, Christian theism is Biblical Christianity; that is, belief in the inerrancy and total sufficiency of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible. Christian theism is best summarized in the Westminster Confession and its catechisms.
Christian theism posited on any other belief than Biblical Christianity is merely the opinion of those Christians who espouse those beliefs and who are as prone to error as non-Christians. Such theism has little correspondence to Biblical Christianity and will have a serious lack of coherence to Biblical theism. “If the Christian consciousness has no absolute standard by which to judge itself, it is soon lost in the ocean of relativity, in which al the standards of non-Christian ethics swim. More than that, if the Christian consciousness does not completely submit itself to the Scripture, it is already pagan in principle. All that does not spring from obedience to God is sin.” (Cornelius Van Til, Christian Theistic Ethics, page 25) See Classical Theism Refuted in Favor of Biblical Theism.
Theism, classical: “An approach to the doctrine of God that emphasizes unchanging being, divine transcendence, and sovereignty as captured in a set of divine attributes that typically includes atemporal eternity, immutability, impassibility, and divine simplicity. Classical theism was developed over centuries by theologians critically interacting with important pagan philosophical theology…. Exponents of classical theism come from all the major monotheistic traditions including Judaism (Philo, Maimondes), Christianity (Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas), and Islam (Averroës, Avicenna).” (Hill and Rauser, Christian Philosophy A-Z, page 182).
Classical theism is incoherent. These gods are incompatible with each other. In particular, Roman Catholic doctrine established at the Council of Trent is incompatible with that of traditional, Reformed doctrine. And, the god of Islam is not the God of Biblical Christianity. A better term for classical theism would be philosophical theism, as the use of the former is more commonly associated with gods created by individual philosophers, than the God of Islam, Judaism, unbiblical Christianity, or Biblical Christianity. See Gods of the Philosophers.
“The various conceptions of deity found in the other world religions are (in most cases) logically incompatible, leaving no unambiguous sense to general (Ed – “classical) theism…. I have not found the non-Christian religions to be philosophically defensible, each of them being internally incoherent or undermining human reason and experience.” (Greg Bahnsen, Introductory remarks in his debate with Gordon Stein.) See Classical Theism Refuted in Favor of Biblical Theism.
Theism, philosophical: Essentially, the same as classical theism, but is more accurate since these “gods” are more the creation of individual philosophers than monotheistic religions. For examples of the differences between philosophical theism and Biblical theism, see Gods of the Philosophers.
Theistic arguments: “While Reformed theology regards the existence of God as an entirely reasonable assumption, it does not claim the ability to demonstrate this by rational argumentation. Dr. (Abraham) Kuyper speaks as follows of the attempt to do this: ‘The attempt to prove God’s existence is either useless or unsuccessful. It is useless if the searcher believes that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). And it is unsuccessful if it is an attempt to force a person who does not have this pistis (faith) by means of argumentation to an acknowledgement in a logical sense.'” (Lois Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 21)
Theistic evolution: see progressive creation.
Theocracy: a government based upon “ultimate reality” or one’s (or a group’s) most basic belief. It has been wrongly assumed that a theocracy is based upon religious belief, for example, Old Testament Israel or the Muslin states. However, all law is based upon ethics, and ethics is based upon ultimate reality. Thus, democracy or communism is as much a theocracy as one that is overtly “religious.” All beliefs are based upon personal choice about ultimate concerns. Therefore, all governments are theocracies. See Theocracy Is An Inescapable Concept.
Theodicy: “Theodicy is any attempted solution to the problem of evil,” (Frame, Cornelius van Til: An Analysis of His Thought, page 84n.) “A theodicy is a defense of divine omnipotence and perfect goodness in the light of the problem of evil,” (Daniel J. Hill, Christian Philosophy A-Z, 183). Since this site is about “Biblical philosophy,” any solution of the problem of evil would have to include discussion of the attributes of God, such as His love, justice, grace, providence, omnipotence, etc.
What is the greatest evil that ever occurred in the history of mankind? It would have to be the mock trial and execution of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But God planned that this greatest evil became the greatest good for mankind. That event, as both evil and good, is a clue to a Biblical understanding of theodicy. If God is indeed sovereign and has predestined all thing, then he is working all events to the good that He has intended for them. See A Reconciliation of Good and Evil in Nature and in Mankind and More on Apparent Evil Having Inherent Good. For more great resources, see evil above.
Theology: literally, the study of God. There are two sources for this knowledge: natural revelation (i.e., nature and man’s judgments about it) and special revelation (the 66 books of the agreed-upon Bible. The extent of the authority of each revelation is a common topic of discussion in theology and philosophy. But a truly Biblical philosophy can only posit the Bible as the controlling and ultimate authority in both disciplines. This position is uncommon even for Christian philosophers, causing much of the confusion and disagreement that exists among them. There are many areas in philosophy that are misunderstood because the attributes of God are misunderstood or not known. One area is the presence of evil: if God is good and He is omnipotent, then evil cannot exist in the universe. If God is truth, then the only truth that we know is His inerrant (special) revelation—the answer to questions of epistemology. If God is the Creator ex nihilo, then all metaphysics can only be understood by reference to “God made it so.” And so on to all the attributes of God.
Theonomy: literally, “the law (nomos-) of God (theos-); the application of all the laws (statutes, commandments, precepts, etc.) of the Old and New Testaments to the individual, family, social groups, church, and nations—with the exception of those sacrificial, ceremonial, and dietary laws that were prescribed for Israel under the Mosaic Covenant. Any person who believes that God has prescribed commandments for His people and for the world is in some degreee, a theonomist. For a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of theonomy, see Reconstruction and Theonomy: Reviews.
Theosis: see here.
Theosophy: see here.
Thomism: the (mostly) erroneous thinking of Thomas Aquinas.
Toronto School: see Dooyeweerd.
Transcendent, transcendence: See immanence and transcendence.
Transcendental argument: “An argument that seeks to show the necessary conditions for the possibility of rational thought or meaningful discourse. Cornelius Van Til believed this was the only kind of argument appropriate to a Christian apologetic, since the biblical God is the author of all meaning and rationality.” (From the Van Til Glossary) Ed: all arguments for God are unacceptable and incoherent to an atheistic system of thought. While they are coherent in the Biblical system and give certitude to the believer, they are not “necessary” to an irrational system—which all unbiblical philosophical systems are, including those held by Christian philosophers.
Tradition: A truly Biblical epistemology will posit the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as its first axiom or first philosophy. Roman Catholicism includes tradition, the magisterium, and the Pope when he speaks ex cathedra. For a solid discussion of “tradition,” see John Murray, see Tradition: Romish and Protestant.
Transcendental knowledge (Kant): “I call knowledge transcendental which is occupied not so much with objects, as with our à priori concepts of objects.” (Kant in Critique of Pure Reason, page 10)
Trent, Council of: the official response of the Catholic Church to the Reformation. This series (3) of councils introduced new doctrine and solidified Catholic positions against the basic principles and solas of the Reformation. If a reader wonders what mention of this council has to do with philosophy, the answer that particular philosophies (especially those of Plato and Aristotle) have always played a major role in the formulation of the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Such particular philosophies were part of the “protest” of the Reformation which based itself in sola Scriptura. However, all Protestant theologies have an inherent “philosophy,” which may or may not correspond to any identifiable philosophy of history or modern times. For more, see Council of Trent..
Trinity: “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, II:3) The concept of Trinity is purely a Biblical-theological issue. The intricate reasoning of philosophy is helpful, but any concepts of Trinity must correspond to Biblical texts and deductions from the text. The difficulty and uniqueness of Trinity should give anyone pause to use analogy, either reasoning from Trinity to man or from man to Trinity. For more on these issues, see Trinitarian Analogies and The Intellectual Triunity of God, as a likely explanation of Three-Being-One.
“True truth”: A phase used by Francis Schaeffer in an attempt to separate “truth” claims from philosophy and elsewhere to those of Scripture (“true truth”). However, this term muddies the water. It gives too much ground to unbiblical claims which in no way are a claim to truth except where they properly correspond to Scripture, systematically understood. It gives support to a two-fold theory of truth.”
True, Truth or “true truth”: Truth is “what is” or the “actual state of affairs” and is eternal. Truth is God. Truth is the knowledge found in the Bible. Faith, truth, and knowledge are synonymous by Biblical definitions. Truth and knowledge are virtually synonyms in philosophy, as well. Faith is also, if it is based upon what is true.
“Since being is the subject of any investigation, philosophers never quibble over the fact that the real is the true. One may say, for example, ‘This is truly a pleasant afternoon,’ or, ‘This is truly the American way of life.’ Whatever is, is true. To the extent that something participates in being, it is true. This is called ontological truth…. ‘The real is the true’ … No matter what the stuff of reality is, it has being, and to this degree it is true.” (Carnell, The Case for Biblical Christianity…, page 59)
Truth exists in different contexts for God and for man. (1) In a sense, only God can know truth because He is omniscient, and man is finite. “What is” has a context that includes the entire universe and God’s mind. While man can speculate about the Butterfly Effect, God knows exactly how the flapping of the butterfly’s wings affects the weather around the earth. Further, He knows how a man’s thoughts relate to His actions (Jeremiah 17:9-10). In relation to the remainder of the universe and to all thinking beings, only God “knows” with the absolute certainty and omniscience that truth requires.
(2) In two different senses, a man cannot know truth and can know truth. (A) Man cannot know truth the way that God does. (B) But man can know truth. God can know everything about the truth, “Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt.” Man can know only what God has said about “a state of affairs” in the Bible. But that “partial knowledge” is true. Man’s knowledge corresponds to God’s knowledge. Thus, when man knows what God has revealed in the Scriptures, he knows truth.
(3). Apart from the Bible, man cannot know truth. If three people witness an automobile accident, each will see what happened in a considerably different way. Even assuming that they are doing their best to describe what happened, they will not agree. Neither each one, nor all together knows all that happened. Man can know the truth of the Bible, but he can never empirically know “what is” because he is finite.
It is quite interesting and extremely important that God does not call man to know truth apart from the Bible. God said, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” God’s requirement of man is that he not intentionally tell something that he knows is false except to an enemy (as opposed to a “neighbor”). God only requires that each person make his best effort to tell what he believes to be true.
For a more complete discussion of the many facets of truth for philosophy and the authority of Scripture, see Truth: A Comprehensive Review. Much discussion about truth is confusing because the difference of truth quantitatively and qualitatively is different for God and man. The use of the word “truth” in the Bible makes this difference clear. Synonyms of truth are real (reality) and exist (existence).
Truth, a double standard: With all the talk of “truth for me and truth for you,” “truth is relative,” and other such glib answers (often given at an academic level), truth matters in everyday life. We demand truth from our children and spouses, doctors, financial advisers, food manufacturers, utility companies, courts, employers, etc., etc. Yet, on the most important issues of life and death, we give these glib answers. The “truth” is that we should be much more demanding of truth in these more important areas. If that happened, Christianity would triumph greatly because it has the best answers for spiritual truths than any other religious or philosophical system. (Idea from Geisler and Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist)
Truism: A statement that is “true” most of the time. For example, the sun rises every morning. Well, by whatever metaphysics a person believes, one day the sun will not rise. Possible synonym of a proverb (colloquial, not Biblical). For example, “He who hesitates is lost,” vs. “Look before you leap.” Both cannot be true, but there is a truth in each.
Truth-bearers: sometimes cited as beliefs, propositions, sentences, and utterances (Stanford, online). However, all truth-bearers are simply propositions. Beliefs, sentences, and utterances must be in propositional form to convey truth.
Truth, two-fold theory: “The theory that what is true in philosophy may be false in theology and conversely. (For example) in theology it is true to say that there is a hell, but in philosophy it is true that there is no hell. Both of these expressions are the same truth.” (Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey, page 267) This same term could be used to apply to any apparent conflict between Christian faith and any other worldview or philosophy. A Biblical concept of truth means that the Bible is true in whatever area to which it speaks, and the Scripture speaks to every area of life and worldview. There can be only one truth and reality. Where language is clear that there is a conflict between Scripture and philosophy, philosophy is always false. There can be only one truth, or as Francis Schaeffer phrased it, “true truth.” “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One!” See Unity of God and Philosophy.
Two kingdoms view: Natural law (natural revelation) is God’s law for “civil matters,” and supernatural revelation is law for “spiritual” matters (personal and ecclesiastical). The civil kingdom is temporal and earthly, that is, matters of politics, law, and culture. It is not concerned with, nor can it offer, salvation and eternal life. It can offer a relative peace and justice in society. The spiritual kingdom is ruled by God and pertains to things that are personal, ecclesiastical, and eternal. Comment: The two kingdoms view is unbiblical and destructive to God’s Kingship over all creation. “Civil” and “religious” are inseparable. For example, can society allow abortion, if rulers believe that they are supported by natural law? Is it permissible to steal in society, but not in the church (Eighth Commandment)? See natural law (above) and the more extensive reference cited there.
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Ultimate authority: see authority.
Ultimate concern (Paul Tillich): the central focus of Paul Tillich’s definition of faith. “William Alston notes, and rightly so, that what psychologically concerns a person ultimately need hardly coincide with what is in fact and truth ontologically ultimate.” (“Tillich’s Conception of a Religious Symbol,” cited in Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, Vol. 1, 62)
Unaided reason: see aided reason. See “A Critique of Unaided Reason.”
Uncertainty: the inability to predict future events. Uncertainty varies greatly from virtually certain events, as the sun will rise tomorrow, to virtually uncertain, as to the time and cause of one’s death. See certainty.
Classical uncertainty: that uncertainty based upon known mechanical laws, as a coin toss.
Quantum or Heisenberg uncertainty: the impossibility of measuring both the position and momentum of a subatomic particle at the same time. The very act of measurement will affect one of the two measurements.
Chaos uncertainty: a late 20th century observation that what had been known as natural laws, have variations that can cause powerful and unpredictable long term effects. See chaos theory.
Unconditional love: a term that is nonsensical and illustrates the grave misunderstanding of what love is. Love is conditional by definition. Love is the sacrificial fulfillment of the law, that is, all the instructions of God for thinking and behavior (Romans 13:8, 10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). Love is always conditioned by law. The love of John 3:16 is conditioned on Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of the law by his life to propitiate His Father and to impute that fulfillment to effect salvation of the elect. See Law, Love, Grace, and Justice.
Unconsciousness, unconscious mind: see Exploring the Unconscious.
Underdetermination in science: “At the heart of the underdetermination of scientific theory by evidence is the simple idea that the evidence available to us at a given time may be insufficient to determine what beliefs we should hold in response to it. In a textbook example, if all I know is that you spent $10 on apples and oranges and that apples cost $1 while oranges cost $2, then I know that you did not buy six oranges, but I do not know whether you bought one orange and eight apples, two oranges and six apples, and so on. A simple scientific example can be found in the rationale behind the sensible methodological adage that “correlation does not imply causation”. If watching lots of cartoons causes children to be more violent in their playground behavior, then we should (barring complications) expect to find a correlation between levels of cartoon viewing and violent playground behavior. But that is also what we would expect to find if children who are prone to violence tend to enjoy and seek out cartoons more than other children, or if propensities to violence and increased cartoon viewing are both caused by some third factor (like general parental neglect or excessive consumption of Twinkies). So a high correlation between cartoon viewing and violent playground behavior is evidence that (by itself) simply underdetermines what we should believe about the causal relationship between the two. But it turns out that this simple and familiar predicament only scratches the surface of the various ways in which problems of underdetermination can arise in the course of scientific investigation.” (Reference here.) See Duhem-Quine thesis.
“Unexamined life”: Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” If a pagan saw the value of reading, thinking, and reflecting, how much more should the regenerate Christian “examine” God’s revelation for his own good and God’s glory?
Uniformitarianism: the presupposition of modern science that current scientific evidence applies to past events before these facts were induced. For example, the various methods of radiometric dating are assumed to have always deteriorated at the same rate.
Unintended consequences: See law of unintended consequences
Universal: See Classification.
Universe, Its Unity. It is easy to overlook the obvious: the uni- of universe literally posits that it is a whole that is interrelated. In this case, the “whole being greater than the sum of its parts” is all inclusive of both metaphysical and physical reality. For a humorous, but profound illustration, see The Powerful Epistemology of a Flea. Holism.
Universe expansion: into what is the universe expanding? See expansion of universe.
University: a school of higher learning that began with the Scholastics to unify (uni-versity) all areas of knowledge. This attempt was valid when the West was united, as Christendom. Modern “universities” are misnamed: they are multi-versities which can never have a unity of understanding. A manifestation that such pluralism is foolish is that they do not even recognize that their approach contradicts their very name—university.
Unknowable: “Gordon Clark reminds us of the assertion of an unknowable, that whether by Kant or his modern successors, really asserts nothing. To know that X is the limit of knowledge requires the knowledge that Y is beyond the limit; but then Y is not completely unknowable.” (Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, Vol. 1, page 63.) See ding an sich.
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Valid, validity: the beginner in logic or philosophy should be aware that a “valid argument” only applies to the reasoning process, not the truthfulness of an argument. The truth of an argument depends upon both the truth of the premises and valid reasoning. It is a quirk of logic that “valid” reasoning can argue from false premises to false conclusions! This description applies primarily to the classical three-statement syllogism.
Value: The subjective condition of “what matters” to a person and is evidenced by his words and works (actions, behavior). Paul Tillich has called this concept “ultimate concern.” The objects of one’s worship would be a synonym, as “worship” means to give “weight,” that is, “value” to an object or to someone. The “ultimate concern” of Tillich was his definition of faith—thus, an inseparable link between faith and value, that is, what one worships.
Value and Person: Values come from the individual person, as does belief, but may be modified by encounter with “facts,” other opinions, life crises, esteemed authorities, etc. In a very real sense, a person is his or her values.
Value and atheists: Examine the way people who describe themselves as nonbelievers talk about values, and you may discover an operational, everyday trust in a transcendent source of values beyond self, culture, and biology. Except when folks are in a funk, drunk, in France, or at a university, almost all of them seem to believe that some things are really right and wrong and not just right and wrong because they happen to think so today or because natural selection has programmed them with the illusion that some of their choices are more virtuous than others. Here.
Van Til, Cornelius: “In Van Til: The Theologian, Frame, a sympathetic critic of Van Til, describes Van Til’s contributions to Christian thought as comparable in magnitude to those of Immanuel Kant in non-Christian philosophy. He indicates that Van Til identified the disciplines of systematic theology and apologetics, seeing the former as a positive statement of the Christian faith and the latter as a defense of that statement — ‘a difference in emphasis rather than of subject matter.'” From Theopedia.
View from nowhere: the attempt to remove completely the subjective element of knowledge of anything. It is a person who thinks, knows and understands. Thus, there is always, and cannot be otherwise, a subjective (personal) element. This subjectiveness is a person’s most basic beliefs, a personal foundationalism. Thomas Nagel has a book, A View from Nowhere that every student and philosopher should read.
Violence and religion: There has been a considerable literature on the link between religion (particularly Christianity) and violence. This link is almost entirely false, as far as Christianity is concerned. A great resource is William T. Cavanaugh’s The Myth of Religious Violence available on Amazon.com. This author believes that the word, “violence,” is severely overused by postmodernists and others. To say that some comment “violates” the text or meaning of an author undercuts heinous acts of physical violence, such as Stalin’s pogrom and Nazi Germany’s death camps. There are plenty of other words in every language, such as, distorts or belies, to describe textual and other distortions.
Virtue ethics: the ethical theory that ethics are what the virtuous person would do in a given situation. From a Biblical perspective, the error of this view is that “There is none righteous; no not one” (Romans 3:10). Even the regenerated Christian has his “old nature” that cannot be trusted. The only trustworthy ethics are Biblical ethics correctly understood.
Vocation: (1) All activities to which Christians are instructed in Scripture. (2) The area of life’s work to which a Christian may conclude that God has specially gifted him or her. This work is often overlooked as being as legitimate as being a pastor or missionary. For more, see here.
Voluntarism: (1) the position that the will is superior to the emotions and the intellect. (2) the answer to the Euthyphro dilemma that “good” is good because God declares it to be so; simply, ethics based upon God’s commands or Biblical ethics; also called divine command theory.
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Weil, Simone (1909-1943): an enigmatic, most likely regenerate philosopher, mystic, and political activist. While she was a controversial person, this Ed believes that she has much to contribute for Christians to grasp the reality of being fully Christian in the complexity of the modern world. Her commitment to this end likely led to her early death. I particularly recommend her book, Intimations of Christianity among the Ancient Greeks, in which she has her own translations of Greek authors and philosophers.
(The) Whole and Its Parts: One of the most fascinating aspects of Creation is that the whole is quite different, usually greater, than the sum of its parts. Two poisons, sodium and chloride form the delightful compound of table salt. Two gases, hydrogen and oxygen form the most common chemical on the planet: water. A single-celled amoeba is composed of parts that could not exist apart from the whole. A human being is much greater than its organs, and even its soul/spirit, alone. Even the universe is one whole, reflecting the aseity (oneness) of God. See holism, universe, and the Quine-Duhem Thesis.
Central tenet of philosophy: This concept is one of the most, if not the, central principle of any coherent philosophy. There are universals and particulars, the one and the many, wholes as sum of its parts, points and lines, a thing amidst its gestalt, an individual and his family, a husband and wife, all the parts of the universe in relationship to each, atoms and its sub-atomic parts, cells-tissues-organs-bodies, elements and molecules, a day in a lifetime, a lifetime in eternity, point-to-point vs. linear distance, the books of the Bible and its unity, etc., etc. For more on this Biblical understanding, see The Grand Unity of God.
Wholism: see holism, universe, and Whole and Its Parts.
Will, permissive will of God: “We may speak of the permissive will of God in order to stress man’s undoubted responsibility for sin, but this distinction may never lead to subversion of the clear teaching of Scripture on the all-controlling if ultimate and mysterious power of God.” ( John Frame quoting Van Til in Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought, page 83. Original quote is from Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, page 175)
Will, willingness: (1) The will of man within himself. The will is the motive, emotive force, or judgment that is sufficient or insufficient to result in an action. If “I am willing,” does not result in action, then I am not convinced sufficiently to act. In this process, the will has a striking resemblance to faith. Perhaps, the old “faculties of the mind” and modern psychology have made the mind more complicated than is necessary. Francis Turretin of the 17th century posited only the intellect and the will. The mind, then, consists of knowledge and a willingness or unwillingness to act on that knowledge. Faculty psychology, receiving considerable weight from modern psychology, added a third component of the mind, “emotion.” However, emotion is just a sensation that change may occur or has occurred. Its power ranges from weak to quite intense. “For example, “I could care less.” Or, “I am so angry that I am going to kill you!” However, the present situation and past experience (a form of knowledge) give an emotion its intensity I can feel “sad,” “mad,” “afraid,” or “glad” about a wide range of thoughts and situations (knowledge).
The mystery is how “willingness” is determined. This judgment could be some sort of value or a command. It could be the feeling attached to that value or command. All these interactions cannot be addressed here. But I propose that “will,” as willingness, is a synonym of faith. That is, both faith and will are actions based upon knowledge with an expected result that is dependent upon Reality (the truthfulness of that knowledge). If I believe (have faith) that I ought to do something (go to church Sunday), then I will do it. If I don’t’ go to church Sunday, I did not truly believe that I should.
There is a sense in which “unwilling” cannot occur. If a child is unwilling to go to school on a particular day, he has “willed” that he not go. So, concerning any decision to be considered, “unwilling” and “willing” are the opposite sides of that one decision.
(2) The will of man compelled by a higher power. A king may force a man into slavery against his will. This situation is more complicated for actually the man chooses slavery over the punishment that would occur did he not “will” to be a slave, perhaps death. So, in a sense, no man faces a situation in which he does not “will” himself into one of several options. While that higher power may limit his choices, he still has some relative choice.
As the Highest Power, God does not compel man. “God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil” (Westminster Confession of Faith, IX:1). God does limit man to two choices in all his decisions: God’s moral will or evil, Heaven or Hell. Man must choose between pleasing God and pleasing himself. But, properly understood, no conflict exists between what God has prescribed and what is best for individual man. The problem is that only the regenerate can understand this unity of God’s will and man’s will.
(3) The decretive will of God. God’s will is different altogether from man’s will. If God wills something, that something occurs. With God, willing and completion are one and the same. For Him, willing is simultaneous with his action. From man’s perspective, God’s willing may take place over time, as God has willed everything that occurs in human history.
(4) The will of God may be expressed in Scripture as His declarative (prescriptive, moral) will for men, for example, Romans 2:18. God prescribes behaviors for men that He knows are best for them. As was mentioned in (2) above, the problem is that unregenerate man’s heart cannot understand this goodness.
The question arises, “How can God’s decretive will and man’s free will be reconciled?” Man’s will is not coerced. No man ever feels (senses, is aware of) working against his own willingness. He may feel strongly compelled by his values or the teaching of another, but his final decision is never forced upon him. So, while God “wills and to do His good pleasure,” in all men, they are never compelled by God so to do.
Wisdom: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). “Foolish” is different in the Biblical sense. It is not just “unwise” or not the best policy, but it is ethical and religious—enmity against God. This attitude is easily seen in the atheism and agnosticism of our day. God has chosen the foolishness of the Cross—His greatest wisdom—to humble the earthly wise (I Corinthians 1:27). True philosophers, who “love wisdom,” will love the Word of God in its entirety and discuss it at length in their writing and speaking.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2:1-16, NKJV)
“In (Christ) are hidden all the treasures (thesaurus) of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
Wisdom Books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. One wonders why Christian philo-sophers (“lovers of wisdom”) rarely discuss God’s wisdom in these books, rather than their own.
Works righteousness: A first principle of every religion or philosophy posits that man must contribute in some way to “make himself better” or to “save” himself. This definition includes virtually all “free will” philosophies and Christian beliefs, especially those called “Arminian.” Only those theologies called “Calvinism,” “Reformed,” or “Presbyterian,” as posited in their creeds are free of the “works righteousness.” They receive salvation and blessings strictly and only on the basis of the grace of God, that is, the sola gratia cry of the Reformation. See good works.
World: not a common term for historical philosophy. However, it has a rich and varied meaning in Scripture: (1) the whole universe of created beings (John 1:10); (2) the inhabitable earth (John 1:10, 1st occurrence; John 16:28); (3) designation of unconverted people (John 15:19); (4) that group of sinners who are so wicked that Jesus does not even pray for them (John 17:9); (5) the elect only (John 1:29, 6:33); (6) those people who have followed Jesus (John 12:19): (7) the whole universe (John 1:10, 2nd occurrence); and (8) the greater part of humanity (John 1:10, 3rd occurrence). In none of these usages does “world” mean “all” or the “whole” of what is designated. Thus, John 3:16 does not mean the whole world, but those for whom Christ died intentionally and specifically. (These definitions were adopted from Gordon Clark’s First John: A Commentary, pages 48 ff.)
Worldview: the composite of beliefs (presuppositions) which govern all the opinions of an individual. This composite is rarely coherent, but instead is built haphazardly from what is learned from parents, teachers, preachers, books, lectures, and other sources that are considered authoritative. The only true worldview is that constructed from a careful systemization of Biblical theology and ethics. Synonyms for a Biblical worldview include Creation Mandate, Biblical ethics, Kingdom of God, Great Commission, and the Two Great Commandments (Biblical love).
Worship: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, #1). If the summum bonum of man is the worship of God, then any philosophy that does not have this end as one of its foundational principles is empty and meaningless. This criterion would eliminate all pagan philosophies and many Christian ones!
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Young earth-old earth debate: a debate among Christians whether creation was over 6,000 years, tens of thousands of years, or millions (even billions) of years. This debate is not a test of Biblical orthodoxy. However, anyone in these debates on either side who does not affirm the inerrancy or infallibility of Scripture is not Biblically orthodox for this position on Scripture alone. There are two roots of this debate. (1) Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis are unique in their difficult hermeneutics for Biblical interpretation. It seems to this author that the overwhelming Biblical evidence favors a roughly 6000-year old earth, but that age is not absolutely certain. (2) All science is a fallacy by definition and design. Thus, any scientific position on these issues rests on a fallacious argument, and is thus a personal belief only.
Zoroastrianism: see Glossary, www.biblicalworldview21.org.