Glossary for Christian Apologetics
Abduction: An argument form that trades on giving the best explanation for a state of affairs, given the appropriate criteria. This is sometimes called “the inference to the best explanation.” (Some view abduction as a form of induction; others put it in a unique category of inference.) In one sense, Christian apologetics is abductive in its overall method: it attempts to give the best explanation for reality on the basis of Christian theism.
Compatiblism: regarding human agency, the claim that human responsibility is compatible with divine determination of the acts of human agents.
Cumulative Case Argument: A strategy of using various lines of evidence to support a conclusion. In apologetics, this method encompasses arguments from natural theology as well as historical and anthropological evidence.
Deduction: argument form whereby the truth of the premises render the conclusion true. See modus ponens and modus tolens.
Epistemology: the philosophical discipline of examining the sources, scope, and meaning of knowledge; sometimes called “the theory of knowledge.”
Ethical Relativism: the claim that moral truth is relative to the culture or to individual
Evidentialism: in apologetics, the method of arguing inductively from the facts of history (particularly that of Christ and his resurrection) directly to the truth of the Christian worldview.
Ex nihilo: Latin phrase. Out of nothing, as in “creation out of nothing.”
Fideism: The idea that religious truth claims cannot be supported by reason and evidence, but that the believer need not provide any rational support for these religious truths.
Inclusivism: The claim that while Christ is the only agent of salvation, people may be redeemed apart from a specific faith in Jesus Christ.
Induction: An argument form whereby the truth of the premises make the conclusion likely, but not certain.
Ineffability: the state of not being describable by concepts or proposition. If X is ineffable (such as the Hindu concept of Nirguna Brahman), nothing intelligible can be affirmed about X.
Intelligent Design (ID): the scientific research program that argues that certain aspects of nature are better explained on the basis of a designing intelligence than by some non-intelligent causation.
Libertarianism: concerning human agency, the claim that for human will to be free, it must be self-determining and not determined by God (or any other outside factor).
Materialism: the philosophical claim that only physical properties and entities exist. Sometimes used synonymously with naturalism.
Metaphysics: the philosophical disciplining of examining the existence and nature of things, whether God, humans, matter, etc.
Modus ponens: Latin phrase. To affirm the antecedent of a deductive argument: If P, then Q; P; therefore: Q.
Modus tolens: Latin phrase. TO deny the consequent of a deductive argument: If P, then Q; not-Q; therefore: not-P.
Natural theology: the rational project of arguing from some aspect of nature to existence of God as the best explanation for that aspect of nature; roughly synonymous with theistic arguments or theistic proofs.
Necessary Being: A being whose existence is logically necessary, i.e., God.
Nihilism: the perspective that reality is meaningless and absurd, lacking in any objective value or purpose.
Nondualism: the belief that reality is one and indivisible; synonymous with monism.
Nonrealism: the claim that there is no objective reality; all is interpretation.
Numinous experience: A religious experience of a personal, holy, and frightening being.
Ontology: the study of being; roughly synonymous with metaphysics.
Pantheism: worldview claiming that everything that exists is divine; but the pantheistic concept of deity is non-personal, not personal as is the case with Christian theism.
Particularism: A position on salvation that argues that, all things being equal, one must have faith in Jesus Christ in order to be redeemed.
Perennialism: the claim that all religions teach essentially the same thing at their esoteric core. This is usually taken to be nondualism.
Polytheism: the worldview that affirms a plurality of finite deities.
Possible world: a description of a set of facts that would make up a hypothetical world; a a maximally consistent set of propositions. The actual world is also a possible world.
Postmodernism: In relation to philosophy, a cluster of philosophies claiming that truth is relative to cultures or individuals; truth thus dissolves into language games, forms of life, and power plays.
Potential infinite: a series of entities (events, numbers, etc.) which ever increases, but never reaches an upper limit.
Principle of sufficient reason: Coined by Leibniz, roughly the idea that for any positive state of affairs there is an adequate explanation for why that state of affairs exists.
Qualia: Irreducibly subjective experiences of seeing colors, hearing sounds, tasting things, and so on; first-person events in minds not reducible to third-person descriptions.
Realism: The claim that objective reality is at least partially knowable.
Reductio ad absurdum: Latin phrase. To reduce an argument or proposition to absurdity, thus showing the original argument or proposition itself to be absurd and thus false.
Reformed Epistemology: a broad philosophical movement led by Alvin Plantinga that claims that natural theology and other forms of apologetics are not necessary for one to have a warranted belief in the Christian worldview, since one can hold such beliefs in a “properly basic manner”—that is, apart from evidence.
Religious pluralism: either the merely descriptive claim that there are several religions functioning in any given society at one time or the normative claim that all the major world religions are equally salvific. John Hick is a principle spokesperson for this view.
Specified complexity: A concept used in intelligent design arguments to indicate a state of affairs that is both improbable and specified. If something is an example of specified complexity, it is the product of a designing intelligence and cannot be accounted for by any naturalistic or otherwise impersonal causation.