The following text is from Irving Hexham's Concise Dictionary of Religion, first published by InterVarsity Press, Carol Stream, USA, 1994, second edition, Regent College Press, Vancouver, 1999.
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Copyright © Irving Hexham 1994, 1998.
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For further information about the book and the sources used to compile this text see the PREFACE.
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Cross-references are indicated by the use of CAPITAL LETTERS.
PA KAU: the HEXAGRAMS which were supposedly invented by the Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi (3rd millennia B.C.) that became the basis of the I CHING.
PACCEKA-BUDDHA: one who attains ENLIGHTENMENT IN ISOLATION and does not proclaim the TRUTH of existence to the world.
PAGAN: traditionally a person in the Greaco-Roman world who was not a CHRISTIAN. Later the term came to be applied to all NON-CHRISTIANS and to people who reject CHRISTIANITY.
PAGODA: a sacred BUDDHIST Shrine which often contains relics of SAINTS or the BUDDHA.
PAHLAVI LITERATURE: medieval Persian texts containing our main source of information about ZOROASTRIANISM.
PAINE, Thomas (1737-1809): born in England of QUAKER parents, he emigrated to America in 1774 where be became a leading propagandist in the American REVOLUTION. His books, Common Sense (1776) and The Rights of Man (1791-1792), stand as passionate appeals for DEMOCRATIC REPUBLICANISM while The Age of Reason (Part I, 1794 and Part II, 1796), written in a French revolutionary prison, is a devastating attack on religious BELIEF. A much neglected thinker, Paine anticipated modern criticisms of RELIGION including those of FEUERBACH, MARX and FREUD. His SKEPTICISM influenced people from Joseph SMITH to METHODIST Sunday school teachers in England who lost FAITH as a result of reading his books.
PALESTINE: the Near Eastern coastal strip bounded by the Mediterranean Sea and the river JORDAN which is now identified with the State of ISRAEL.
PALEY, William (1743-1805): English theologian and UTILITARIAN philosopher who was Archdeacon of Carlisle. His book The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy became the ethics text at the University of Cambridge while his attacks on DEISM in A View of the Evidences of Christianity (1794) and Natural Theology (1802), were standard works to be read by all undergraduates at both Oxford and Cambridge. Paley's work, which used examples from NATURE to prove the PROVIDENCE and existence of GOD, greatly impressed and influenced Charles DARWIN whose theory of EVOLUTION secularized Paley's arguments.
PALI: the ancient language of the CANONICAL texts of THERAVDA BUDDHISM which was preserved in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
PANENTHEISM: a view which combines the insights of PANTHEISM and DEISM by arguing that the world is included in GOD'S BEING or the ANALOGY of cells in a larger organism. This view was systematically elaborated philosophically by Alfred North WHITEHEAD and applied to THEOLOGY by Charles Hartshorne (1897-).
PANDORA: the first woman in Greek MYTHOLOGY who was created by the GODS to punish men for accepting the gift of fire from PROMETHEUS. She opened a box which contained all the ills which afflict humanity.
PAN-ISLAM: the modern idea that MUSLIMS should unite to counter Western domination and NATIONALISM.
PANJ PYARES: the original five members of the Khls, or Inner Council, of the SIKH brotherhood.
PANNENBERG, Wolfhart (1928-): German LUTHERAN theologian and student of Karl BARTH and Karl JASPERS who was greatly influenced by Gunther Bornkamm. His Basic Questions in Theology (1970-1973) and Theology and the Philosophy of Science (1976), locate theology academic study as "the SCIENCE of GOD" offering knowledge about "the one who determines the whole of reality." Following HEGEL, he argues that REALITY is essentially historical and that God can be fully known only at the end of HISTORY. Therefore he takes the theologically conservative position that the historicity of Jesus' resurrection is crucial for CHRISTIANITY.
PANTA REI: a Latin term meaning "all flows" which is used in connection with the PHILOSOPHY of HERACLITUS.
PANTHEISM: the DOCTRINE that all things and beings are modes, ATTRIBUTES, or appearances of one single, unified, REALITY or BEING. Hence NATURE and GOD are believed to be identical. Although the term is often incorrectly used to describe HINDUISM, and various other YOGIC religions, it appears to accurately describe many NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS and the views of most NEW AGE thinkers.
PAPACY: the religious organization of ROMAN CATHOLICISM centered around the POPE and based in Rome.
PAPIAS (60-130): early CHRISTIAN theologian and BISHOP who recorded the earliest TRADITIONS of the CHURCH on such issues as the authorship of the Gospels. Although his original works are lost, fragments of them were preserved by other writers which are of great importance for understanding the development of CHRISTIANITY.
PAPYRUS: a Greek word for ancient Egyptian writing material, in the form of a scroll, made from reeds.
PARABLE: a story told to drive home a truth, point of teaching, or WISDOM. It originated in the HEBREW BIBLE but was used to its greatest effect by JESUS OF NAZARETH.
PARACELSUS (1493-1541): a Swiss physician and alchemist who pursued OCCULT and HERMETIC studies and advocated a MYSTICAL FORM of PANTHEISM.
PARACLETE: a Greek term meaning advocate or helper. It is used in the NEW TESTAMENT to speak of the HOLY SPIRIT.
PARADIGM: a very popular ESOTERIC and confusing term used at least 27 different ways by Thomas KUHN in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) to signify "what members of a scientific community share." It is commonly taken to mean "a coherent system of CONCEPTS which confers order on the whole field of knowledge or a segment of it belonging to a particular scientific discipline." Kuhn's usage legitimates RELATIVISM in many fields although he denies that his view is relativistic. In many respects Kuhn's use of paradigm is similar to DOOYEWEERD'S more carefully defined "GROUND-MOTIVE."
PARADISE: the realm HEAVEN where the blessed or SAVED go after DEATH. In ISLAM paradise is vividly depicted as a garden with abundant water, luxurious foliage and beautiful women who constantly serve men.
PARETO, Vilfredo (1848-1923) Italian SOCIOLOGIST and economist who with WEBER and DURKHEIM ranks as a "founding Father" of twentieth-century academic SOCIOLOGY. In particular he contributed important ideas to the psychological dimension of sociology. In his Socialist Systems (1902), he accepted that class struggles were a REALITY, but he dissented from the MARXIST view that a proletarian victory would bring them to an end.
PARITTA: a chant used in BUDDHISM to give protection.
PARMENIDES (513-448 B.C.): Greek philosopher influenced by PYTHAGORAS who profoundly influenced PLATO through his thought about UNIVERSALS. He founded the ELEATIC school of philosophy and taught a highly developed form of MONISM. There are only fragments of his work On Nature.
PAROUSIA: a Greek term used in CHRISTIANITY referring to the RETURN OF CHRIST also known as His SECOND ADVENT.
PARSEE [Parsis]: this is the name given to the followers of ZOROASTER who fled Persia in the eighth century to settle in India. Today they number about 200,000.
PARSONS, Talcot (1902-1979): American SOCIOLOGIST and opponent of MARXISM who translated and interpreted WEBER to the English speaking world. He developed a version of STRUCTURAL-FUNCTIONALISM and unlike most American sociologists, was essentially a theorist who did little empirical research. His wide ranging works include The Structure of Social Action (1937) and The Social System (1951).
PASCAL, Blaise (1623-1662): French mathematician, author, scientist and lay-THEOLOGIAN. A profound MYSTICAL encounter with CHRIST led him to devote his life to defending CHRISTIANITY. He supported JANSENISM and strongly opposed the JESUITS by using satire to attack what he saw as their moral laxity. A forerunner of KIERKEGAARD he is often referred to as a "Father" of EXISTENTIALISM. His most famous religious work is The Pensées which is a religious classic.
PASSION: a term used to describe the SUFFERING of JESUS OF NAZARETH before and during His execution by crucifixion.
PASSOVER: the annual JEWISH feast commemorating the story of the escape of the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL from bondage in Egypt as told in Exodus 12.
PASTOR: a PROTESTANT MINISTER who performs the duty of caring for the members of a CONGREGATION or a CHURCH.
PATAÑJALI (2nd century B.C.): Indian philosopher and author of the first Three Books of the Yoga Stra.
PAICCA-SAMUPPATION: the BUDDHIST doctrine referred to as the "chain of causation" or "dependent origin" which expresses the idea that all physical things are conditioned by other things or STATES. The doctrine rejects any permanently existing entity especially the ego, SOUL or SELF.
PATRIARCH: a term originally applied to the Fathers of the people of ISRAEL, such as ABRAHAM, but later applied to certain leaders of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH such as the POPE and the EASTERN ORTHODOX patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch etc.
PATRICK (390-460): born in England and taken into slavery in Ireland at the age of 16. While a slave, he underwent a religious CONVERSION, escaped, and returned to England. After a short period of religious training, he returned to Ireland to evangelize the Irish and become their patron SAINT.
PAUL, THE APOSTLE (1st century): the APOSTLE to the GENTILES who, after JESUS OF NAZARETH, is the second most important figure in CHRISTIANITY. According to his own account, recorded in the NEW TESTAMENT, he was a fanatical opponent of the EARLY CHURCH and a leading figure in the persecution which followed the death of Jesus. On the road to Damascus he went blind after experiencing a vision of Jesus which has become the archetype for Christian CONVERSION. After a period of study, he became a wandering EVANGELIST supporting his work through his trade as a tentmaker. After travelling extensively throughout the Mediterranean world, he eventually went to Rome where, according to TRADITION, he was executed for his FAITH. His letters, which are found in the NEW TESTAMENT, are a significant part of the CANON of CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURE.
PAVLOV, Ivan Petrovich (1849-1936): Russian PHYSIOLOGIST and experimental psychologist famous for his experiments with dogs. He is a "Father" of behaviorist PSYCHOLOGY which essentially denies human FREEDOM and responsibility.
PEALE, Norman Vincent (1928-1986): a popular American writer and PREACHER whose "POSITIVE THINKING" inspired post-war Americans and helped develop a THEOLOGY of success. He published the influential magazine Guideposts: his most popular book was The Power of Positive Thinking (1952).
PEASANT'S REVOLT: a violent rebellion by peasants inspired in part by the REFORMATION but condemned by LUTHER and violently crushed by German Princes in 1525.
PELAGIANISM: the teachings of the British Monk PELAGIUS and his school concerning the relationship between divine GRACE and the FREE WILL. Pelagius seems to have denied the doctrine of ORIGINAL SIN arguing that it denied the FREEDOM of the WILL. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO attacked Pelagius saying that he taught humans can SAVE themselves and, therefore, do not need DIVINE grace.
PELAGIUS (360-420): British MONK and "Father" of PELAGIANISM whose works were attacked by AUGUSTINE because he denied ORIGINAL SIN.
PENANCE: from the Latin for "punishment" the term came into general use from the third century A.D. onwards as a CHRISTIAN practice whereby serious SIN was to be expiated by the actions of REPENTANT individuals who, guided by PRIESTS in CONFESSION, took upon themselves acts of self-punishment and CHARITY.
PENN, William (1644-1718): English QUAKER who emigrated to America and founded Pennsylvania. He held UNORTHODOX views about the TRINITY, ATONEMENT and JUSTIFICATION attacking CALVINISM in his book Sandy Foundation Shaken (1668). His most famous book No Cross, No Crown (1669), is considered a spiritual classic.
PENTATEUCH: the name given to the first Five Books of the HEBREW BIBLE by Christians.
PENTECOST: the JEWISH Feast of Weeks which fell fifty days after the Feast of PASSOVER. In CHRISTIANITY it marks the giving of the HOLY SPIRIT to the CHURCH as recorded in Acts 2.
PENTECOSTAL: a modern CHRISTIAN REVITALIZATION MOVEMENT with roots in the nineteenth century HOLINESS MOVEMENT. Its inception is usually traced to the Azusa Street REVIVAL in 1907, a CHRISTIAN TRADITION, which developed and emphasized the GIFTS of the HOLY SPIRIT especially HEALING and SPEAKING IN TONGUES. This NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT began as a REVITALIZATION MOVEMENT within CHRISTIANITY but quickly led to the formation of various new DENOMINATIONS such as the ASSEMBLIES OF GOD. In the mid-1960s the movement was spread by David Du Plessis to the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and various MAINLINE PROTESTANT denominations which had resisted Pentecostal teachings. As a result of the activities of Du Plessis and other former Pentecostals, the CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT emerged and has since become the major thrust of modern Pentecostal teachings in addition to developing its own distinctive teachings.
PEOPLE'S TEMPLE: a congregation of the MAINLINE and theologically LIBERAL PROTESTANT denomination the DISCIPLES OF CHRIST led by the CHARISMATIC figure Jim JONES. Widely praised for its social action, programs, and radical political stance it founded a SOCIALIST settlement at JONESTOWN, Guyana, in 1977. Following a mass suicide on November 18th 1978, the group was labeled a "CULT" by the media and became a key element in the American ANTI-CULT MOVEMENT.
PERCEPT: an impression received by sense experience as opposed to a CONCEPT derived by pure thought.
PERFECTIONISM: because JESUS OF NAZARETH said "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect," various CHRISTIAN groups have claimed that perfection is an obligation and a real possibility in this life. Traditionally the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH held that perfection is perfect LOVE which is only for SAINTS. The PROTESTANT REFORMERS denied even this, arguing that perfection is a goal which can never be attained. John WESLEY, however, taught that in principle all Christians can become perfect. Critics of perfectionism argue that the doctrine inevitably leads to LEGALISM and a depressing preoccupation with self-improvement.
PERICOPE: a passage of SCRIPTURE appointed to be read in a CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
PERSON: in Roman law a person was a legal entity or party to a contract while in Roman theater a person described the mask worn by the actor to play a specific role. Neither usage identifies a person as a self-conscious being. CHRISTIAN usage developed from these Roman ideas with TERTULLIAN who created the formula "three persons in one Substance" to describe the TRINITY. He argued that GOD was one with respect to his BEING, NATURE or SUBSTANCE but three with respect to the exercise of his sovereignty. Jesus Christ was one person having two natures: divine and human. From this theological origin the term came to be applied to individual IDENTITY and is often associated with the SOUL. BUDDHISM denies both the EXISTENCE of the individual person and the soul.
PERSONALISM: the PHILOSOPHY which regards the individual PERSON as the highest form of REALITY. American PROTESTANT LIBERALISM was deeply influenced by a personalism which saw HISTORY as the unfolding of the MORAL aspect of GOD'S will.
PERSPECTIVISM: the PHILOSOPHIC position that every standpoint is TRUE when seen from its own perspective.
PERSPICUITY OF SCRIPTURE: the PROTESTANT CHRISTIAN claim that while the BIBLE may not be entirely clear, those things necessary for SALVATION are sufficiently plain that anyone reading SCRIPTURE can discover them without the assistance of PRIESTS or the CHURCH.
PETER (1st century): disciple of JESUS OF NAZARETH known for his enthusiasm and impulsive behavior. The ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH claims that it was founded by Peter but this cannot be proved historically.
PETER Lombard (1100-1160): French ROMAN CATHOLIC philosopher and author of the Sentences (1155) which outlined basic CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE and, after initial criticism, became the standard THEOLOGICAL text of the middle ages.
PETER THE HERMIT (1050-1115): AUGUSTINIAN MONK who played an important role in encouraging the FIRST CRUSADE.
PETITIO PRINCIPII: a Latin term used in LOGIC which means "begging the question." It describes an ARGUMENT where the CONCLUSION is also used as one of the PREMISES.
PEYOTE CULT: a religious REVITALIZATION MOVEMENT which swept through various NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN tribes in the late nineteenth century and survives today as a religious movement which combines TRADITIONAL practices and BELIEFS with others derived from CHRISTIANITY. The central SACRAMENT of the CULT is the use of mescaline from the peyote cactus as an hallucinogenic drug.
PHALLUS CULTS: various religious movements which worship the phallus. The practice is common in HINDUISM and is rationalized as the recognition of creative energies. It is distinctive of the WORSHIP of IVA.
PHARISEES: a JEWISH religious GROUP, political party or SECT, that flourished at the time of JESUS and is depicted in the NEW TESTAMENT as excessively zealous in observing MOSAIC Law and hostile to Jesus' teachings. They appear to have believed in the RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD and such things as ANGELS which their main rivals, the SADDUCEES, denied.
PHENOMENOLOGY OF RELIGION: a term was first used by the Dutch scholar Chantepie de la Saussaye in 1887 which has affinities with HUSSERL'S PHENOMENOLOGY. It attempts to gain insight into the inner workings of a RELIGION through the calculated and temporary abandonment of one's own viewpoint and careful use of comparisons. A phenomenologist attempts to place themselves in the position of the believer to understand what a BELIEF means to someone who accepts its TRUTH.
PHENOMENOLOGY: a term developed in the PHILOSOPHY of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) who tried to establish the basic structure of consciousness and conditions for all possible experience. His work is highly technical, concentrating on logical and methodological problems in an attempt to create a completely objective, scientific, philosophical method. More recently the term has acquired a general usage designating a method of investigating fundamental human activities such as RELIGION.
PHENOMENON: the appearance of any conceivable thing, FACT, part of REALITY as opposed to the thing itself. The term played a key role in the PHILOSOPHY of KANT.
PHI: spirit in Siamese FOLK RELIGION who is the CAUSE of sickness and EVIL for humans.
PHILIPP OF HESSE (1504-1567): the SECULAR protector of Martin LUTHER and the German REFORMATION.
PHILISTINES: known as "the Sea People." They appear to have settled in PALESTINE where they established a flourishing culture around the twelfth century B.C. In the HEBREW BIBLE they are depicted as a cruel people and hostile to the JEWS.
PHILO (30 B.C.-50 A.D.): the greatest Hellenistic JEWISH philosopher of his age and outstanding member of the School of Alexandria. He argued that MOSES had anticipated the WISDOM of the Greeks and promoted the ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION of the HEBREW BIBLE. His writings greatly influenced CHRISTIANITY. Some scholars even suggest that the writer of the Gospel of John, who uses the CONCEPT of LOGOS, was familiar with Philo's work.
PHILOKALIA: a classic of EASTERN ORTHODOXY, the title of which means "the love of the beautiful." It consists of a collection of MYSTICAL writings from the fourth to the fifteenth century and was first published in 1782.
PHILOSOPHY: the love of WISDOM understood as the study and knowledge of things and their causes. Traditionally it was divided into metaphysics, moral and natural philosophy. Since the nineteenth century the word "SCIENCE" has replaced "natural philosophy" in English. In common usage "philosophy" is also a general name for any system of ideas or even way of life. Today academic philosophy is largely limited to logic and the theory of knowledge.
PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION: a product of the ENLIGHTENMENT which involves the analysis and evaluation of religious experience and BELIEF.
PHOTIUS (810-895): EASTERN ORTHODOX Patriarch of Constantinople who opposed Western influences and played an important role in rejecting the FILIOQUE CLAUSE in Western versions of the CREED. His major work, which is a standard Greek Orthodox THEOLOGICAL text, is Treaties on the Holy Spirit.
PIAGET, Jean (1896-1981): French psychologist, biologist and philosopher whose work on child development has greatly influenced modern education. His book Structuralism (1971), sets out his basic philosophical orientation.
PIETISM: any religious movement which promotes PIETY. It is usually applied to a religious movement which originated as a reaction to the ENLIGHTENMENT in eighteenth century Germany which profoundly influenced the English speaking world through METHODISM and the EVANGELICAL MOVEMENT.
PIETY: personal religious devotion to a GOD, or SAVIOR figure.
PI-HSIA YUAN-CHUN: the TAOIST GODDESS who is the protector of women and children.
PILGRIMAGE: the practice of visiting SACRED sites which have HISTORICAL or other significance in a given religious TRADITION. In CHRISTIANITY the cities of ROME and JERUSALEM were traditional centers of pilgrimage although smaller sites such as GLASTONBURY Abbey in England were also important. In ISLAM the major centers of pilgrimage is MECCA while BANARSAS is the Holy city of India. Places of pilgrimage often contain RELICS of SAINTS or the founders of religion.
PILTDOWN MAN: a skull discovered at Piltdown Common, England, between 1909 and 1915, and seemed to prove the truth of the THEORY of EVOLUTION. It was exposed as a clever forgery in 1953. The ROMAN CATHOLIC theologian Pierre TEILHARD DE CHARDIN appears to have been linked with the plot.
PIOUS IX (1792-1878): reactionary PRIEST who became POPE in 1846. He pronounced the ROMAN CATHOLIC DOCTRINE of the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION in 1854 and promulgated the INFALLIBILITY OF THE POPE. In 1864 he issued the SYLLABUS OF ERRORS condemning LIBERALISM and MODERNITY.
PISACA: ancient Indian SPIRIT or DEMON hostile to humans.
PLAINSONG: also known as GREGORIAN CHANTS. This is the TRADITIONAL music of Western European CHRISTIAN CHURCHES.
PLANCK, Max (1858-1947): German theoretical physicist who helped develop QUANTUM mechanics and, together with EINSTEIN, founded modern physics.
PLANTINGA, Alvin (1938-): American CALVINIST philosopher who has written extensively on both the ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT and the PROBLEM OF EVIL. His book God and Other Minds (1969) is a modern philosophical defence of THEISM.
PLATO (427?-347 BC): Greek philosopher of aristocratic Athenian descent who saw Athens decline politically and commercially as a result of the Peloponnesian War 431-404 BC. He founded the Academy (perhaps in 386 B.C.) which became the first endowed university and flourished until it closed in 529 A.D. Plato held that the material and sensible world is merely a temporary copy of permanent unchanging FORMS, which are the object of all real knowledge. True ethical values are attained only by those individuals who have the proper perspective of SOUL or MIND and who place REASON above the baser elements of their personality. The best government is possible only when philosophers, who are rational members of the State, become rulers. His teacher was SOCRATES and ARISTOTLE was his pupil--together they are the three greatest Greek philosophers.
PLATO'S ACADEMY: the School of PHILOSOPHY founded by PLATO in Athens in 386-? B.C. and closed in 529 A.D.
PLATT, Parley P. (1805-1859): early MORMON EVANGELIST and theologian whose creative speculation about the law of ETERNAL PROGRESSION in his classic The Key to Theology (1855) sought to harmonize MODERN SCIENCE and RELIGION.
PLOTINUS (205-270 A.D.): the last great NEO-PLATONIST in the Greaco-Roman world. His PHILOSOPHY had a great impact on CHRISTIANITY and the development of both THEOLOGY and MYSTICISM. He is the author of The Enneads.
PLURALISM: philosophically any system which emphasizes diversity and rejects MONISM. Many modern societies use the term to refer to SOCIAL SYSTEMS where different religious communities live together in one NATION.
PLUTARCH (46-120 A.D.): Greek philosopher who is remembered for his Lives of great Romans. He was an initiate of the MYSTERY RELIGIONS.
PLYMOUTH BRETHREN: one of the most influential NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS to emerge in the nineteenth century; founded by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) in 1830. The Brethren split into a number of different groups including the extremist EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN and moderate OPEN BRETHREN. Despite their small size, they have had an immense influence on MODERN CHRISTIANITY. Their emphasis on the imminent RETURN OF CHRIST helped popularize both PREMILLENIALISM and DISPENSATIONALISM while their rejection of a paid CLERGY fostered the growth of HOUSE CHURCH MOVEMENTS and similar anti-clerical groups. They have been particularly influential in the field of MISSIONS where their idea of FAITH MISSIONS influenced groups as diverse as the CHINA INLAND MISSION and L'ABRI. On the negative side many prominent anti-Christian figures, like Alister CROWLEY, came from Brethren homes.
PNEUMA: the Greek word for "air" which came to be used to speak of the SPIRIT or SOUL.
POGROM: the organized persecution of a religious GROUP especially Eastern European Jews, or an ethnic minority.
POLANYI, Michael (1891-1976): Hungarian chemist and philosopher whose works, such as Personal Knowledge (1958), have played an important role in modern debates about the relationship between RELIGION and SCIENCE.
POLYCARP (1st century): early CHRISTIAN writer and MARTYR who provided a link between the APOSTLES and the EARLY CHURCH.
POLYGAMY: marriage to more than one wife, sometimes called plural marriage. The practice is found in the HEBREW BIBLE but has been traditionally forbidden in CHRISTIANITY but tolerated in most other religions including ANCIENT and MEDIEVAL JUDAISM. In ISLAM the number of formal wives is limited to four. During the nineteenth century, MORMONISM attempted to reintroduce polygamy into American society but the attempt was abandoned in the 1890s.
POLYTHEISM: a BELIEF in the EXISTENCE of a plurality of GODS as opposed to MONOTHEISM which is a belief in the existence of only one GOD.
PONTIUS PILATE (1st Century): Roman governor of Judea whom the Gospels depict as sentencing and administering the execution of JESUS OF NAZARETH. TRADITION states that his wife became a CHRISTIAN.
POOR CLARES: a ROMAN CATHOLIC Order of NUNS founded by FRANCIS OF ASSISI and his DISCIPLE Clare between 1212 and 1214 on the FRANCISCAN model.
POPE: the title given to the Head of the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
POPPER, Sir Karl (1902-): Austrian born British philosopher whose Jewish parents converted to CHRISTIANITY. After a short period as a Marxist, he became disenchanted and was associated with the VIENNA CIRCLE which he also found inadequate. His own philosophy is set forth in The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1934) and a series of other books including the powerful The Open Society and its Enemies (1945) which is a sustained attack on both MARXISM and FASCISM. He argued that what separates MODERN, or OPEN SOCIETY, from TRIBAL, or CLOSED SOCIETY, is the scientific method which he sees as a technique for testing theories through their FALSIFICATION. A controversial figure, his arguments are often avoided by contemporary scholars who prefer to ignore rather than face the full force of his arguments.
PORPHYRY (232-303 A.D.): Palestinian NEO-PLATONIST philosopher and student of PLOTINUS who popularized his master's work. He was a severe critic of CHRISTIANITY and the CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
POSITIVE THINKING: a distinctly American movement originating in the nineteenth century which believed in PROGRESS and stressed the role of thought in the creation of material well-being. It has influenced many religious groups from CHRISTIAN SCIENCE to the WORD OF FAITH MOVEMENT. The best known modern exponents are Norman Vincent PEALE and Robert SCHULLER.
POSITIVISM: a PHILOSOPHIC and religious movement founded in the nineteenth century by the French philosopher Auguste COMTE. Today it denotes a more general and widespread position not directly dependent on his views. The modern usage reflects a suspicion of all speculation not controlled by FACTS and sense experience.
POSITIVIST: used by Auguste COMTE, positivism was not only a THEORY of knowledge but was also a scheme of HISTORY and program of SOCIAL REFORM. In England positivism became both a free thinking radicalism and a scientific movement.
POST HOC ERGO PROPTER HOC: the logical FALLACY which assumes that because "A" if it precedes or is the antecedent of "B" it causes "B." For example: someone who eats ice cream and then claims that the ice cream caused their headache has committed this fallacy. The ice cream may or may not have caused the headache but the observation that it preceded the headache does not prove that it caused it. Further investigation and evidence is needed to discover the true CAUSE which could be an allergic reaction to ice cream but not necessarily.
POSTULATE: a PHILOSOPHICAL term indicating a proposition which is to be regarded as the starting point of an ARGUMENT. Postulates are neither self-evident nor demonstrably but rather the necessary assumptions made to begin a discussion.
PRABHUPADA, A.C. Bhaktivedanta, Swami (1896-1977): founder and GURU of the HARE KRISHNA MOVEMENT. A successful businessman, Prabhupada left his family to become a MONK when he was 58 years old. After extensive study he felt called to spread "Krishna consciousness" in America in 1965 when he was 70 years old. For the rest of his life he worked ceaselessly to establish the HARE KRISHNA MOVEMENT and spread HINDU BHAKTI practices in the West.
PRAGMATIC: the rejection of dogmatic or principled views in favor of the practical.
PRAGMATISM: a theory concerning the meaning of words originated by the American philosopher C. S. Pierce. The term and basic idea was borrowed and developed by William JAMES and John Dewey (1859-1952) to create a thoroughly MODERN American PHILOSOPHY based on a theory which identified TRUTH with the notion that whatever works is true.
PRAKTI: a SANSKRIT term used in HINDUISM to refer to the material nature and natural process of the UNIVERSE. The idea is tied up with the urge to reproduce and is also the name of a GODDESS.
PRANAYAMA: breath control in YOGA.
PRAYER: the means by which an individual or GROUP attempts to enter into verbal or mental communication with a DEITY.
PRAYER MAT: this is a small mat used in PRAYER by MUSLIMS for RITUAL cleanliness and SYMBOLIC separation from the world.
PRAYER MEETING: a gathering of CHRISTIANS for the purpose of intercessory prayer. The practice is particularly important in HOLINESS and REVIVAL MOVEMENTS.
PRAYER WHEEL: a device used in Tibetan BUDDHISM consisting of a cylinder containing written PRAYERS and MANTRAS which is believed to take effect when rotated.
PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD: the practice of praying for deceased people in the BELIEF that such prayers will improve their lot in the afterlife.
PREDESTINATION: a term often identified with GOD'S FOREKNOWLEDGE that connotes the idea that before the CREATION of the UNIVERSE, God determined and foreordained all that would come to pass. In a narrower sense it refers to God's eternal decree respecting the SALVATION or DAMNATION of individuals. Although ideas about predestination are found in many CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS, including ROMAN CATHOLICISM, they are somewhat unfairly associated with CALVINISM. Predestination also plays an important role in ISLAM.
PRESBYTERIANISM: a GROUP of PROTESTANT CHURCHES arising out of the CALVINIST REFORMATION distinguished by their form of CHURCH GOVERNMENT based on PRESBYTERS or ELDERS and a series of Church courts. The lowest court is that of the local Congregation. Above it are district and eventually National courts known as Presbyteries. Above these is the SYNOD. Finally there is the General Assembly or National Synod. Each court consists of Elders and Ministers who appoint new Ministers and determine the policy of both local CONGREGATIONS and the Church as a whole. The two other major methods of Church government are CONGREGATIONAL and EPISCOPAL. Presbyterianism first appeared in Scotland in the late sixteenth century and spread throughout the world. Today there are over 120 independent Presbyterian Churches loosely united in the WORLD ALLIANCE OF REFORMED CHURCHES. Apart from their distinct method of Church Government, they accept CALVINIST CREEDS the most important of which are the WESTMINSTER CONFESSION, the HELVETIC CONFESSION and the HEIDELBERG CATECHISM.
PRIDE: one of the SEVEN DEADLY SINS in CHRISTIANITY.
PRIEST: a religious functionary who performs priestly duties involving the offering of SACRIFICES to GOD or the GODS. In ROMAN CATHOLICISM the aspect of sacrifice is subsumed under the celebration of the MASS. The idea of priesthood was rejected by the PROTESTANT REFORMATION who replaced it with the PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS.
PRIESTHOOD: an organized group of PRIESTS.
PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS: the PROTESTANT BELIEF based upon the NEW TESTAMENT that under the new COVENANT GOD no longer requires SACRIFICES offered by a distinct PRIESTHOOD but that all BELIEVERS offer themselves to his service and act as PRIESTS through PRAYER and FAITH in JESUS CHRIST.
PROBLEM OF EVIL: the TRADITIONAL PHILOSOPHIC and practical problem which asks how an all knowing and all powerful GOD, who is both the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE and by definition GOOD, can allow SUFFERING and EVIL. It concerns the basic human problem of MEANING and significance in the face of DEATH and suffering. It is often seen as a particularly difficult question for THEISM which attributes both power and goodness to the DEITY creating the famous dilemma: either GOD is able to prevent EVIL and will not, or, He is willing to prevent it and cannot. If the former, he is not merciful; if the latter, he is not OMNIPOTENT. It is, however, an equally great problem for all people who think about the meaning of life. Various religions answer it in different ways. In HINDUISM it is answered in terms of KARMA and MY with the great dialogue between ARUNJA and KRISHNA in the BHAGAVAD-GTA. BUDDHISM meets the problem by stating that all life is characterized by impermanence which can be escaped through the attainment of NIRVNA. JUDAISM and ISLAM find the solution in submission to the WILL of GOD, while CHRISTIANITY presents a complex answer beginning with the FALL and ending in the ATONEMENT. The biggest difference between the YOGIC and ABRAMIC solutions to this problem is that Yogic religions see it in terms of ONTOLOGY while the Abramic religions recognize a MORAL issue.
PROCESS THEOLOGY: a type of EVOLUTIONARY THEOLOGY developed by Charles Hartshorne on the basis of the PHILOSOPHY of A.N. WHITEHEAD. It emphasizes that the world and BEING including GOD are in constant process and change and accepts a PANENTHEIST view of the UNIVERSE.
PRODHON, Pierre Joseph (1809-1865): French journalist and radical writer who is the "Father of ANARCHISM." The title of his famous book Property is Theft (1840) was borrowed as a slogan by Karl MARX even though he strongly attacked Prodhon's political views.
PROGRESS: the BELIEF that HISTORY is moving in a linear fashion towards a goal and that as it does so life on earth, especially human achievement, is ever improving through increases in knowledge and scientific discoveries.
PROMETHEUS: the Greek GOD who defied ZEUS by giving the gift of fire to humans.
PROOFS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD: the most famous A PRIORI argument is the ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT associated with ANSELM of Canterbury. The classic posteriori arguments are found in the works of Thomas AQUINAS and include the COSMOLOGICAL, MORAL AND TELEOLOGICAL arguments.
PROPHECY: the act of REVELATION whereby a PROPHET gives an inspired message from GOD or the GODS. Usually prophecy is associated with foretelling the future but it can also include messages of inspiration or admonishment which reveal the will of God towards a particular people or even an individual.
PROPHET, Elizabeth Clair (1940-): SHAMANISTIC leader of a SPIRITUALIST type NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT originally known as the SUMMIT LIGHTHOUSE and now called the CHURCH UNIVERSAL AND TRIUMPHANT which has its headquarters in Montana, USA.
PROPHET: a person, male or female, who prophecies by foretelling the future and/or delivering inspired, DIVINE, messages. Sometimes prophets use divination and special devices to obtain their messages on other occasions they speak as inspired. The HEBREW BIBLE says that prophets should be tested according to the results of their message. Throughout much of CHRISTIAN HISTORY prophets have been discouraged by the CHURCH but in recent years the OFFICE has been revived within the CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT.
PROPHETESS: a female PROPHET.
PROPITIATION: the removal of WRATH by the offering of SACRIFICES or gifts. In the HEBREW BIBLE the idea of propitiation is linked to RITUAL sacrifices offered by PRIESTS at the TEMPLE in JERUSALEM. In the NEW TESTAMENT it is associated with the DEATH OF CHRIST in passages like Romans 3:24. Modern critics often object to the idea on the grounds that it requires a notion of a wrathful GOD arguing instead that God is LOVE.
PROPOSITION: a formal assertion in LOGIC that sets forth something which is asserted or denied, that is capable of being judged true or false.
PROSELYTE: to make a CONVERT. Originally the term was used of CONVERTS to JUDAISM. Today it is often applied to people who switch DENOMINATIONAL allegiances within CHRISTIANITY or join a SECT.
PROSELYTIZE: to seek CONVERTS. The term is often used to signify conversion from one closely related religious GROUP to another; e.g. when an ANGLICAN becomes a BAPTIST.
PROTAGORAS (490-410 B.C.): Greek SOPHIST philosopher remembered for his saying "Man is the measure of all things." Agnostic with respect to the GODS, he was accused of promoting moral RELATIVISM by PLATO and ARISTOTLE.
PROTESTANT PRINCIPLE: a term used by Paul TILLICH to define the essence of PROTESTANTISM which may be expressed as the protest against any ABSOLUTE claim made for a FINITE REALITY such as a CHURCH, PERSON, BOOK, SYMBOL or EVENT.
PROVERBS, BOOK OF: part of the WISDOM LITERATURE of the HEBREW BIBLE which was traditionally attributed to King SOLOMON.
PROVIDENCE: the means by which GOD sustains all creatures in their distinctive NATURES and powers by which God fulfills his purposes through guiding HISTORY. Providence may thus apply to the world as a whole, the affairs of entire GROUPS--such as nations--or to the working of God in the lives of individuals.
PSALMS: the religious poetry of ANCIENT JUDAISM found primarily in the Book of Psalms in the HEBREW BIBLE.
PSEUDEPIGRAPHA: a written work attributed to a famous author as a means of endowing it with religious AUTHORITY when in fact it was written by someone else. Extra CANONICAL Biblical writings, such as Book of Enoch, fall into this category.
PSEUDO-SCIENCE: the practice of such things as PYRAMIDOLOGY, TRANS-CHANNELLING and BELIEF in UFO'S, ancient ASTRONAUTS, etc., on the basis of supposed scientific evidence which is in fact nonsensical. Pseudo-science uses scientific sounding terminology but totally lacks scientific support ignoring systematic investigation and scientific methodology it is usually openly hostile to MODERN SCIENCE.
PSYCHOLOGY: although used from ancient times to refer to the non-physical aspect of the human person, it only developed its technical meaning as the study of human consciousness and motivations in the late nineteenth century when Wilhelm WUNDT began experimental work in 1879. In the twentieth century it was taken up by FREUD, JUNG, ADLER and various others to develop into a university discipline boasting a number of rival theories and techniques.
PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION: the academic study of RELIGION from the perspective of PSYCHOLOGY. It was first developed by Wilhelm WUNDT and later by William JAMES, JUNG and others. FREUD was hostile to religious claims and used his influence to discredit RELIGION. Today it is one of the more underdeveloped areas in RELIGIOUS STUDIES although the unexpected rise of CULTS and NEW RELIGIONS led to a REVIVAL of studies of CONVERSION in the 1980s.
PTOLEMY (2nd century): Greek Alexandrian philosopher and scientist renowned for his work on astronomy which dominated Western thought until COPERNICUS. He argued that the earth is a globe in the center of the UNIVERSE.
PUJA: the WORSHIP of a GOD in HINDUISM involving offerings of flowers and/or FOOD. In BUDDHISM Pj is offered to the BUDDHA and to the JINAS in JAINISM.
PUNDIT: a HINDU recognized for his learning.
PURAS: post-VEDIC literature which belong to the CANON of HINDUISM that may be described as "ancient tales" or "stories from the past." They deal with such themes as CREATION, the action of the GODS, and the lives of Kings and heroes. Theologically they tend towards BHAKTI and present BRAHM, VISHNU and IVA as three manifestations of GOD. There are 18 principle Puras all of which date from the GUPTA period in the fourth century although most scholars believe they contain many older elements.
PURDAH: the wearing of the veil by Hindu women. It is called HIJB in ISLAM.
PURE LAND: the Western PARADISE of the AMIDA BUDDHA.
PURE LAND BUDDHISM: East Asian MAHYNA BUDDHIST SECTS which emphasize FAITH in AMIDA BUDDHA expressed through meditation and the recitation of His name as a means of attaining REBIRTH in the WESTERN PARADISE or PURE LAND.
PURGATORY: a ROMAN CATHOLIC doctrine which teaches that after death SOULS must be purified before they can enter HEAVEN. The doctrine was the basis for INDULGENCES and PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD.
PURITANS: a much maligned dynamic religious movement which arose in the sixteenth century as a CALVINIST party within the CHURCH OF ENGLAND. They emphasized preaching, pastoral care and the REFORMATION of the CHURCH in terms of Biblical norms. Popular with the lower and middle classes, they emphasized education and the improvement of daily life through hard work and innovation. They were bitterly persecuted before and after the English Civil War causing many to flee to America where they played a significant role in shaping the main themes of American RELIGION. Favoring REPUBLICAN FORMS of government, they contributed to the development of modern DEMOCRACY and are credited by many historians with playing an important role in the rise of MODERN SCIENCE. As a result of aristocratic propaganda, which could not forgive them for the execution of King Charles I, the name "Puritan" came to be falsely identified with dour kill-joys.
PYRAMIDS: ancient Egyptian monuments erected to bury and honor Kings and important individuals.
PYRAMID TEXTS: ancient Egyptian religious texts written in HIEROGLYPHICS on the inner walls of PYRAMIDS dealing with funeral Rites, RITUALS, MAGICAL spells, PRAYERS, and other issues affecting the dead.
PYRAMIDOLOGY: a MODERN PSEUDO-SCIENCE which has featured in the growth of many NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS from BRITISH ISRAELISM to the JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES which uses the measurements of PYRAMIDS--particularly the Great Pyramid--as a basis for predictions and the interpretation of PROPHECY.
PYTHAGORAS (6th century B.C.): Greek PHILOSOPHER, mathematician and founder of geometry. He established a VEGETARIAN community of scholars who shared all things in common and were initiated to membership through religious RITUALS. Emphasizing the importance of mathematics and music in the quest for TRUTH, he taught the TRANSMIGRATION and believed that the SOUL is imprisoned in the body. His work greatly influenced PLATO.