Glossary of Apolologetic Terms

Agnostic – One who believes that it is not possible to know if God exists.  Either the evidence is insufficient, or our ability to analyze it objectively is impossible.  It may also be defined as one who is undecided on the question of God.

Anthropic Principle – The observation that the universe and the world seem to be designed for human life.

Anthropomorphism – The act of ascribing human characteristics to non-humans (especially to God).

Antithesis – An idea in opposition to a particular proposition or thesis.

A Priori – Latin for “from before”; that which is known independently of sense perception and thus often held to be undeniable.  Often used in the sense of one’s presuppositions, which are brought to bear on a question before any data has even been evaluated.

Apologetics – The venture of defending the truth and rationality of a position, for example, Christianity.

Atheist – Someone who asserts that there is no God.

Cosmological Argument – The philosophical argument (can also be argued from physics and astronomy) that the existence of the universe demands a theistic cause.

Deism – The idea that God is not personally involved with the material world after having created it.  The imagery is of a clock maker who winds the clock and allows it to run according to its own design.  Miracles have no place in the deistic worldview.

Determinism – The view that everything in the universe is controlled by previous conditions, and therefore could not be otherwise.  On this view, free will is an illusion since all actions (including man’s actions are ultimately driven by predetermining causes.

Empiricism – The belief that all knowledge is acquired through the experience of the five senses.  Often contrasted with Rationalism.

Epistemology – The branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of knowledge, i.e., What is knowledge? How do we come to know things? What is truth? How do we derive certainty?  etc.

Eschatology –Study of last things (the future).


Ethics – The study of right and wrong, of what one ought to do.  

FallacyAn invalid inference; a logical error.

Fideism – The view that faith means choosing to believe totally without objective reasons. Also called volunteerism

General Revelation – God’s revelation of himself through the created universe..  Also known as “Natural Revelation.” 

Humanism – Humanism is essentially an attempt to construct a non-theistic system of beliefs and values around the central idea that mankind is supreme (there is nothing above him)

IdealismThe philosophy which holds that reality consists of minds and ideas rather than matter.

Kalam Cosmological Argument – A form of the Cosmological Argument that divides the argument down into the following logical premises, which are then independently argued for.

  1. The universe either had (a) a beginning or (b) no beginning.
  2. If it had a beginning, the beginning was either (a) caused or (b) uncaused.
  3. If it had a cause, the cause was either (a) personal or (b) non-personal.

Materialism – The philosophical perspective that nothing exists except the material, physical world.  This view is also know as “Naturalism”, (because the only thing real is the “natural”).  Modern materialist have sometimes preferred the term, “physicalism”, since this term includes both matter and energy.

Metaphysics – The branch or field of philosophy concerned with the ultimate nature, structure, and characteristics of reality.  A narrow usage of the term refers to the study of that which lies beyond the physical realm (i.e., the supernatural realm).

MonismThe metaphysical view that all reality is one.

Moral Relativism – The idea that there is no objective good and evil.

Natural Theology – Doctrines concerning God which are attainable via nature and reason, as opposed to those that require special revelation (e.g., scripture).

Naturalism – See “Materialism.”

Natural Revelation – See General Revelation.

Negative Apologetics – Defending Christianity against criticisms.

NihilismThe view that there is no value or being in the universe.

Ockham’s Razor – The idea that the explanation for a problem or effect that fits the facts with the least number of assumptions is the best. 

Ontology – The study of “being,” or existence.

Ontological argument – The argument devised by Anselm for God’s existence which claims that from our idea of God’s essence we can conclude God must exist

Pantheism – The idea that god and the world are inseparable — God is all, and all is god.  The most important, and emphasized, implication of this is that we (being of the same substance) are gods as well.  This view originates in the Eastern religious traditions and plays heavily into the New Age worldview as well.

Polytheism The belief in many gods.

Positive Apologetics – Advancing Christianity via arguments or evidence.

Postmodernism – A reaction to the optimistic modernist perspectives on truth, reason, and science.  Postmodernism values subjectivity over objectivity, feeling over reasoning, creativity over conformity, defining meaning over seeking meaning, and tolerance over discernment.  It especially supports such ideas as sexual and cultural diversity, religious pluralism, moral relativism, and an individualized view of “truth.”

Pragmatism – The philosophy that makes practical consequences the criterion for truth.

Rationalism – Broadly speaking, the epistemological view that stresses reason as the test of truth.  In a strict sense, the belief that at least some knowledge is acquired independent of sense experience.  Contrasted with Empiricism.

Religious Pluralism – The idea that all religious traditions should be given equal value in society.  Behind this is the postmodern idea that none have a monopoly on truth, if “truth” even exists.  Consequently, all religions should be valued and afforded equal status.

SkepticismThe belief that one should doubt or suspend judgment on philosophical or theological questions.

Special Revelation – Knowledge of God supplied directly to humanity.  For modern Christians this generally refers to scripture.

Syncretism – The blending of different beliefs or practices.

Theistic Evolution – The idea that evolution is true, but that it proceeded under the direct guidance or subtle prodding of God.  There are many forms of this.

TheismThe world view that affirms the existence of a personal, infinitely powerful and all-perfect Creator of the world, who is both transcendent over the world and immanent in it.

Teleological Argument – An argument for God from the design/purpose (telos) seen in nature.

UtilitarianismIn ethics, the view that one should act to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of people.