The following text is from Irivng Hexham's Concise Dictionary of Religion, first published by InterVarsity Press, Carol Stream, USA, 1994, second edition, Regent College Press, Vancouver, 1999.

To order contact REGENT BOOKSTORE Copyright Irving Hexham 1994, 1998. For further information about the AUTHOR. For further information about the book and the sources used to compile this text see the PREFACE. For a Religious Studies READING LIST.

Cross-references are indicated by the use of CAPITAL LETTERS.


OBJECTIVE: that which exists in its own right independent of an evaluating mind. Opposed to SUBJECTIVE.


OBJECTIVISM: the PHILOSOPHY of Ayn RAND which seeks to oppose the subjective direction of modern thought and restore a strongly EMPIRICAL value system.


OBJECTIVITY: to be free from bias. Traditionally this was the ideal of academics seeking TRUTH. In recent years the possibility of objectivity has been severely questioned by people like Thomas KUHN. It seems, however, that even though bias may be admitted there is no reason to abandon objectivity as a desired goal.


OBSCURANTISM: the tendency to oppose RATIONAL thought and take refuge in the status quo.


OCCULTISM: a modern term used to describe a wide spectrum of BELIEFS and practices which involve RITUAL MAGIC and the practice of various FORMS of SPIRITUALISM. In recent years many OCCULT ideas have merged in the so-called NEW AGE MOVEMENT.


OCKHAM, William of (1285-1349): English FRANCISCAN MONK who was the most important scholastic philosopher and interpreter of ARISTOTLE after AQUINAS. He is known for his radical NOMINALISM and agreement with the FRANCISCAN SPIRITUALS against the POPE for which was eventually excommunicated after a dispute about TRANSUBSTANTIATION. His maxim, known as OCKHAM'S RAZOR, states that "Entities are not to be multiplied without necessity," or, as he stated, "It is vain to do with more what can be done with fewer." The meaning of this is that things should be interpreted using the least number of assumptions or hypotheses.


OLD BELIEVERS: Russian ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS, largely peasants and anti-Western PRIESTS, who, in the seventeenth century, opposed LITURGICAL REFORM and were EXCOMMUNICATED in 1667. Persecution followed until 1881 when they were at last recognized by the State.


OLD CATHOLICS: a small GROUP of traditionalist CATHOLIC churches which broke away from ROMAN CATHOLICISM over the question of the INFALLIBILITY of the POPE.




OLDHAM, Joseph Houldsworth (1874-1969): English ANGLICAN MISSIONARY statesman and organizing secretary of the WORLD MISSIONARY CONFERENCE of 1910 who played an important role in the creating of the WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES. His book Christianity and the Race Problem (1924) is an important landmark in the fight against RACISM.


OLDLINE CHURCHES: sometimes called MAINLINE CHURCHES. These are old established churches with rich endowments such as the ANGLICANS, PRESBYTERIANS, CONGREGATIONALISTS, METHODISTS and ROMAN CATHOLICS. The name implies a contrast with newer EVANGELICAL and CHARISMATIC CHURCHES which today often command more popular support and depend for their finances on regular giving rather than endowment income.


OMNIPOTENCE: the possession of the perfect FORM of POWER which is an attribute traditionally predicated of GOD.


OMNIPRESENCE: that ATTRIBUTE of GOD which sees Him as everywhere present. Traditionally this has meant that God is not localized in time or space and that His creativity and power are at work in everything.


OMNISCIENCE: literally "the knowing of all things" an attribute traditionally ascribed to GOD alone.


ONEIDA: a religious community founded by John Noyes in 1848 on the basis of CHRISTIAN COMMUNISM and a BELIEF in human perfectibility. Believing that SIN was rooted in selfishness, they shared all things including wives. The community disbanded in 1880 when its profitable manufacturing industries became a joint stock company.


ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT: the so-called "PROOF" for the EXISTENCE of GOD which is distinguished by its claim to be an A PRIORI argument. It is associated with ANSELM of CANTERBURY who argued that God is the BEING "than which nothing greater can be conceived." Since existence is greater than non-existence, the greatest conceivable being must of necessity exist. Therefore God exists necessarily. In a second form of the argument, Anselm argues that God cannot be conceived as not existing because existence is logically appropriate to the idea of God as PERFECTION. Therefore either the idea of God is self-contradictory, or if it is consistent, then God exists necessarily.


ONTOLOGY: the SCIENCE of the essential properties, NATURE, and relations of BEING as such. Another term for METAPHYSICS.


ORACLES: various devices or DEITIES used or consulted to foretell the future. Sometimes oracles are distinct from DIVINATION, at others they are part of elaborate DIVINATION RITUALS.


ORAL TRADITION: the TRADITIONAL wisdom of PRE-MODERN societies transmitted by word of mouth rather than written documents. Most religious traditions contain an oral element and many SCRIPTURES seem to have passed through an oral stage before finally being reduced to writing.


ORDINATION: the RITUAL setting aside of individuals in the presence of witnesses who devote their lives to the service of a DEITY or religious Order.


ORIGEN (185-254): one of the earliest CHRISTIAN thinkers to attempt to reconcile CHRISTIANITY with Greek PHILOSOPHY. Born to Christian parents, he studied in Alexandria where he developed his theological views. He was aware of problems of BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION which he sought to resolve by the use of ANALOGY. Origen taught that human SOULS pre-exist before they are born but vigorously denied REINCARNATION and related doctrines. Today many NEW AGE type groups illegitimately appeal to Origin as a source for their view.


ORIGINAL SIN: the CHRISTIAN BELIEF that as a result of the FALL all humans are born in a state of rebellion against GOD and that naturally we seek to serve ourselves without reference to God's will. This state of ALIENATION from the CREATOR is abolished through FAITH and in the work of CHRIST who died to obtain forgiveness of SIN for all who believe in Him.


ORPHISM: a Greek MYSTERY RELIGION centered on the GOD ORPHEUS and associated with the ELEUSIAN MYSTERIES which featured REBIRTH as one of its central BELIEFS.


ORR, James (1844-1913): Scottish theologian and professor of APOLOGETICS at the United Free Church College in Glasgow. Promoting a modified CALVINISM adapted to meet the challenges of MODERNITY, he sought to defend CHRISTIANITY against contemporary critics. His works included: The Resurrection of Jesus (1905), and A Christian View of God and the World (1893).


ORTEGA, Y. Gassett Jose (1883-1955): Spanish CONSERVATIVE PHILOSOPHR who developed his own unique notions of the relationship between ideas and the life of individuals where BELIEFS are acted out. His best known book is The Revolt of the Masses (1929).


ORTHODOX CHURCH: also termed the "Eastern" "Greek or "Greco-Russian Church." A family of churches which are situated mainly in eastern Europe. Each member Church is independent in its internal administration but share the same FAITH in communion with other churches of the same tradition. All Orthodox churches acknowledge the honorary primacy of the PATRIARCH of CONSTANTINOPLE and reject the claims of the POPE. Orthodox churches are distinguished by their rich LITURGICAL TRADITION and use of IKONS in worship. In recent years they have experienced rapid growth in North America.


ORTHODOXY: a religious system which claims to be the TRUE or right BELIEF. It contrasts itself with HERESY or deviation from the HISTORICAL TRADITION of a particular FAITH.


ORWELL, George (1903-1950): English author best known for his novels 1984 (1949) and Animal Farm (1945) both of which are strong critiques of TOTALITARIANISM. What is less well known is that 1984 was meant to criticize not a future society but propaganda techniques and trends already present in 1948. It is also not usually recognized that in addition to criticizing COMMUNISM, both works were also intended as an attack on CHRISTIANITY.


OTHER-DIRECTED: a term coined by David Riesman to signify the social change in SOCIETY which he believed he had identified in America in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It is based on the idea of what he called "Modes of Conformity" and signifies a concern with others and the development of one's self-concept, ethical and other BELIEFS on the basis of what others think or say.


OTTO, Rudolph, D. G. (1869-1937): German theologian who pioneered the PHENOMENOLOGY OF RELIGION. His Idea of the Holy (1923--revised edition 1929) sets out the thesis that RELIGION is essentially the apprehension of the NUMINOUS which humans grasp through religious insight.


OWEN, John (1616-1683): PURITAN theologian and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University during the Commonwealth. A tolerant and fair scholar, his was a prolific writer who is best known for such works as The Death of Death and The Work of the Holy Spirit.


OWEN, Robert (1771-1858): a Scot who promoted SOCIALISM and communal living. Attacking the "individualist superstition" he believed in progress and the power of education to REFORM individuals and SOCIETY. His Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark (1816) advocated a SPIRITUALITY of charity unconnected to faith. After various UTOPIAN schemes collapsed, he founded NEW HARMONY in America. Although this project also failed, his work inspired many communal experiments in Europe and America. An authoritarian figure whose ideas about industry and the treatment of workers often appealed to totalitarian governments, he turned to SPIRITUALISM in later life.


OXFORD MOVEMENT: also known as TRACTARIANISM and ANGLO-CATHOLICISM it was a nineteenth century REVITALIZATION MOVEMENT within ANGLICANISM which sought to revive SPIRITUALITY through LITURGICAL renewal and a return to medieval religious practices associated with ROMAN CATHOLICISM.