Advaita Vedanta.

A nondualistic form of Hindu theology, or Vedanta. According to Advaita Vedanta, ultimate reality is one—the absolute divine unity of Brahman that is beyond description in language. The human soul, or Atman, is identical with this absolute reality, and enlightenment or deliverance involves a realization of this oneness. At the level of appearance, objects in the world seem to be distinct from such things as the self and a personal deity. According to Advaita Vedanta, the sacred Hindu writings the Upanishads teach that such distinctions are not metaphysically ultimate. See also Hinduism; monism.

attributes of God.

Properties such as omnipotence (being all-powerful), omniscience (being all-knowing) and omnipresence (being present everywhere) that have traditionally been ascribed to God by theists. Since the twentieth century, some have questioned whether all of the attributes traditionally ascribed to God are coherent. Critical questions have been raised about God’s impassibility, simplicity and timelessness, and about the nature of God’s immutability.

Calvin, John (1509–1564).

French Reformation theologian and founder of the tradition that today is most strongly represented in Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Calvin worked out his theological views while attempting to reform the Swiss city of Geneva. (In that tradition Calvinists since have often attempted redemptively to transform the various spheres of human society.) Calvin’s thought puts great emphasis on the sovereignty of God and the ways in which sin deforms the whole of human existence. Epistemologically, Calvinism puts emphasis on an innate sense of God’s reality that has been damaged by sin, on revelation and on the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. See also Reformed tradition.

Chesterton, G. K. (1874–1936).

A prolific, imaginative writer in many fields, today best known as a Christian apologist and for his Father Brown detective stories. Some of Chesterton’s most-read works include Orthodoxy, Heretics, The Everlasting Man and The Man Who Was Thursday. He was a major influence on C. S. Lewis.


View that lack of concern for the environment is grounded in patriarchal attitudes, including religious constructs that divorce human beings from nature and regard nature as property to be used and managed. See also ecological crisis; feminism; gender; patriarchy, matriarchy.


Way of thinking that makes the differential experiences of men and women fundamental to its conclusions and methods. Feminists argue that much traditional scholarship in many fields reflects an unconscious male bias, adding that when theorizing takes account of women’s interests and identities, it can help overcome these problems. It is important to distinguish among various forms of feminism, such as liberal feminism, socialist feminism and so-called radical feminism. Though many feminists are stridently anti-Christian and even antireligious, some feminists are committed Christians who argue that a concern for women’s well-being is grounded in Christian views of equality. See also gender; patriarchy, matriarchy.


Traditionally the subdiscipline of theology concerned with the proper interpretation of scriptural texts. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the term widened to include the discipline that seeks to understand the interpretation of texts in general, including the proper roles and relationships among author, reader and text. Still more broadly, the term has been used by philosophers such as Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur to refer to the attempt to articulate the nature of understanding itself, with an emphasis on the role of interpretation as a key component in all human knowing. Here the interpretation of texts, with the taken-for-granted horizons of meaning that reading presupposes, becomes a metaphor for human understanding in general, and such things as human lives themselves are seen as “texts” or text analogues.


The divine attribute of being unchangeable. Many classical theists have held that God’s immutability is strict and absolute, since God is atemporal. More recently, some who accept the idea of God as everlasting have argued that although God’s basic character and nature do not change, God’s experiences are successive and thus God can experience change. (See eternity/everlasting; timelessness.) More radically still, some process theologians hold that God’s own nature is evolving. (See process theology.)


Monotheistic religion that originated in what is today Saudi Arabia in the seventh century as a result of the prophetic teachings of Muhammad, recorded in the Qur’an. Islam emphasizes submission to Allah (God) and accepts Judaism and Christianity as partially true, grounded in earlier revelations from God. In the medieval period Islam provided a congenial environment for the philosophy of religion. See also Islamic philosophy.

Lewis, C. S. (1898–1963).

Belfast-born English literary critic, novelist and Christian apologist. The popularity and simplicity of Lewis’s philosophical apologetics belie the intellectual depth of his work. His Mere Christianity is probably the most successful work of Christian apologetics of the twentieth century, and his Narnia books are beloved by children and adults for their wonderful blend of charm, fantasy and theological insight. Lewis grappled with the problem of evil in The Problem of Pain and with supernaturalism in Miracles. The Abolition of Man focuses on the importance of emotion and objective moral truths to our understanding of human nature. See also mere Christianity.

Luther, Martin (1483–1546).

German theologian and father of the Protestant Reformation. The heart of Luther’s understanding of the gospel stressed that salvation was a free work of grace that is grasped through faith. Persons are not saved because of any merits they may possess but because the work of Christ is imputed to them by God.