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.
WAHHBIS: an eighteenth century REVITALIZATION MOVEMENT in ISLAM owing its origin to Muhammad Abd al-Wahhb who denounced idolatry including visiting the tombs of SAINTS, invoking PROPHETS, saints and angels and seeking their intercession, and making vows to anyone but GOD. It stressed PREDESTINATION and denounced ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION of the QUR'N. Demanding that FAITH should be proved by works, it made attendance at public PRAYER obligatory, the ROSARY was forbidden and MOSQUES were stripped of ornaments. In 1902 Ibn Sa'd, captured Ryad and the HOLY cities of MECCA and MEDINA and in 1925 established a Wahhbi dynasty in Arabia. Although puritanical, the movement is modernizing and has no hesitation about using the results of Western SCIENCE.
WALDENSIANS: a twelfth century Italian REFORM movement in the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH which was persecuted but survived until the PROTESTANT REFORMATION which its members supported. Although still a very small minority in Italy, the Church has managed to survive until today and operates a theological college in Rome.
WANG YANG-MING (1472-1529): Chinese Neo-CONFUCIAN scholar whose book Enquiry on the Great Learning promoted IDEALISM and had a profound effect on Chinese and Japanese thought.
WARFIELD, Benjamin Breckinridge (1851-1921): American PRESBYTERIAN scholar and professor of THEOLOGY at Princeton Theological Seminary. A committed CALVINIST, and best remembered for his impact on both EVANGELICAL and FUNDAMENTALIST movements through his arguments about the inerrancy of SCRIPTURE found in Revelation and Inspiration of the Bible (1927). Another influential work is his case against the Biblical AUTHENTICITY of the CHARISMATIC and PENTECOSTAL movement in Counterfeit Miracles (1918) which argues that CHARISMATA ceased with the death of the APOSTLES.
WATTS, Isaac (1674-1748): famous English HYMN writer whose works included "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."
WEBER, Max (1864-1920): German SOCIOLOGIST whose influential works including The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1920) did much to promote the SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION. His important contributions include the use of IDEAL TYPES, discussions of CHARISMA, and his most famous PROTESTANT ETHIC thesis which is often referred to as the "Weber Thesis."
WEIL, Simone (1909-1943): French JEWISH MYSTIC and philosopher. She was a CONVERT to a FORM of PLATONIC CHRISTIANITY who declined BAPTISM and maintained a distance from the CHURCH. Her books include The Need for Roots (1949) and On Science, Necessity and the Love of God (1968).
WELLHAUSEN, Julius (1844-1918): the most important German BIBLICAL critic of the nineteenth century who divided the text into "J" "E" and "P" strata which he believed represented the work of various editors who combined earlier literary TRADITIONS. His work did much to create and win acceptance for HIGHER CRITICISM and the documentary HYPOTHESIS to explain the origins of the HEBREW BIBLE.
WELTANSCHAUUNG: a German term meaning worldview. It refers to an overarching PHILOSOPHY or perspective which molds the outlook of a person or GROUP.
WEN SHU: the Chinese name for the BODHISATTVA MAJUR who is the personification of thought and knowledge.
WESLEY, Charles (1707-1788): John's younger brother who was called a "METHODIST" by fellow students from his methodical habits of study, fanatical zeal for regularity of living, and strict observance of the weekly SACRAMENT of Communion. Experiencing an EVANGELICAL CONVERSION in 1738, he became an itinerant Preacher and organizer of the METHODIST movement. He is best remembered as the author of over 5,500 HYMNS including "Jesus, Lover of my Soul," "Love divine, All Love Excelling" and the CHRISTMAS Carol "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing."
WESLEY, John (1703-179l): English founder of METHODISM who was influenced by German MORAVIAN PIETY and ZINZENDORF. He experienced a dramatic CONVERSION at a PRAYER MEETING in 1738 at Aldersgate Street, London which led him to abandon controversial FORMS of Ministry to preaching to workers and the poor in fields at Bristol the following year. A compulsive traveller, he made hundreds of journeys on horseback preaching, making CONVERTS and organizing Methodist SOCIETIES throughout England, Ireland and Scotland leading to the creation of the METHODIST CHURCH in 1791. A strong opponent of slavery, author of educational treatises, Biblical commentaries, etc., and twenty-three collections of HYMNS. His Journal (1735-90) is both a spiritual classic and a vivid account of life in eighteenth century Britain.
WESTCOTT, Brooke Foss (1825-1901): one of the most important BIBLICAL scholars of the nineteenth century who was responsible, with F. J. A. Hort, for publishing a critical edition of the GREEK text of the New Testament in 1881.
WESTPHALIA, THE PEACE OF: the treaty ending the Thirty Years War in 1648 which marked the beginning of European domination of the world and the birth of the modern world system which held sway until the independence of India in 1948.
WHIG: originally a LIBERAL minded GROUP in the English Parliament. It came to refer to a liberal outlook and in particular to the liberal interpretation of HISTORY in terms of the idea of PROGRESS.
WHITE FATHERS: a ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY Order founded in 1868 in Algiers to EVANGELIZE Africa through teaching agriculture, trades and at the advancement of education. They are named after the white robes they wear and have made a significant impact on many African SOCIETIES.
WHITEHEAD, Alfred North (1861-1947): English philosopher, mathematician, co-author of Principa Mathematics (1910-1913) with Bertrand RUSSELL, and exponent of the theory of RELATIVITY. He developed his own METAPHYSICS in Process and Reality (1929) which led to his version of PROCESS THEOLOGY in which although GOD exists from ETERNITY, He is such that everything which happens in the UNIVERSE becomes part of His BEING.
WHITFIELD, George (1714-1770): English CALVINIST and one of the most powerful Preachers ever. After an EVANGELICAL CONVERSION he was ordained but his first SERMON led to a complaint to his BISHOP that he had driven fifteen people mad. Closely associated with the John and Charles WESLEY, in the early years, they eventually disagreed on theological issues.
WICCA: See GARDNER, Gerald Brousseau (1884-1964).
WILBERFORCE, William (1759-1833): English philanthropist and leader of the CLAPHAM SECT. His EVANGELICAL CONVERSION in 1785 led him to become a staunch opponent of slavery and committed SOCIAL REFORMER. His views of RELIGION are set out in A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians Contrasted with Real Christianity (1779).
WILL TO BELIEVE: a term used by William JAMES to signify the desire to exercise FAITH by people when the evidence for such an act is lacking or very weak.
WILL TO POWER: the term used by NIETZSCHE to express his view that ultimately all human actions are based on a desire for power and control over others.
WILLIAMS, Charles Walter Stansby (1886-1945): English CHRISTIAN poet, novelist and friend of Clive S. LEWIS. His books include War in Heaven (1931) and The Descent of the Dove (1939).
WISDOM: to be wise. Knowledge based on experience rather than theory which leads to prudent action.
WISDOM LITERATURE: a term used for ancient literature which tells people how to act in a wise way. In the HEBREW BIBLE it refers to the Books of Job, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs.
WITCHCRAFT: a widespread system of BELIEFS and practices involving supernatural power and agencies thought to influence human affairs. It is generally distinguished from SORCERY and takes many FORMS in different CULTURES. Sometimes the conscious action of individuals is involved, on other occasions it operates without conscious effort as a result of inherited powers or alien forces. Since the ENLIGHTENMENT it has been usual to regard witchcraft as an IRRATIONAL system of beliefs belonging to a primitive past. But, anthropologists, beginning with EVANS-PRITCHARD, have shown that witchcraft involves a system of thought which once accepted follows a logical pattern. In the West popular belief in witchcraft died out during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to be revived in the late nineteenth century by GARDNER and other OCCULTISTS as a form of RITUAL MAGIC and continues today with groups like WICCA. In other parts of the world witchcraft has never died out although its manifestation is very different due to the SOCIAL setting from modern witchcraft in the West.
WITTGENSTEIN, Ludwig, (1889-1951): Austrian philosopher whose book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and later works had a profound effect on Anglo-Saxon PHILOSOPHY in the 1960s. He became professor of philosophy at Cambridge in 1939 and exercised a strong influence over a whole generation of British philosophers. A key slogan in his philosophy is "the MEANING of a word is its use in language" from which his ideas about "language games" and "forms of life" developed. In RELIGIOUS STUDIES his work has had a significant and controversial impact.
WOLFF, Christian (1679-1754): German RATIONALIST philosopher who bitterly attacked PIETISM and whose clarification and organization of PHILOSOPHY gave us such terms as MONISM, DUALISM, TELEOLOGY and COSMOLOGY. His works include Rational Philosophy or Logic (1728) and Natural Theology (1736-1737, 2 Vols.).
WORD OF FAITH: a development of PENTECOSTAL and CHARISMATIC CHRISTIANITY which began with the teachings of HAGIN emphasizing that GOD'S Will is for His people to prosper. In its cruder forms it can degenerate into a "name it and claim it" FORM of magical RELIGION which preached prosperity and a doctrine of wealth. More sophisticated versions interpret prosperity as well-being interpreted in terms of JESUS' message about the KINGDOM OF GOD.
WORDSWORTH, Christopher (1807-1885): English ANGLICAN BISHOP and nephew of William WORDSWORTH who promoted the study of the CHURCH FATHERS.
WORDSWORTH, William (1770-1850): English ROMANTIC poet who produced a PANTHEISTIC spirituality although he remained a devout ANGLICAN.
WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: an ECUMENICAL organization founded at a meeting in Amsterdam in 1948 which embarrassed many PROTESTANT and ORTHODOX CHURCHES. Over the years the movement has become increasingly bureaucratic and radical in its politics with the result that many members have become alienated.
WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD: a NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT founded by Herbert W. ARMSTRONG in 1933. It preachers a FORM of BRITISH ISRAELISM supported by a ARIAN CHRISTOLOGY and denial of such TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN doctrines as the TRINITY. The success of the movement began with Armstrong's innovative radio program The World Tomorrow which was later adapted to television and is supported by the free distribution of its magazine The Plain Truth. The Church, which experienced a major split in the 1970s, is based in Pasadena California, USA, where it operates Ambassador College.
WORSHIP: religious RITUALS which salute, revere, or praise the deity.
WU-HSING: the Chinese name for the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water which were TRADITIONALLY believed to combine in producing the UNIVERSE.
WU-WEI: a TAOIST term meaning "non-activity" which was thought to be the ESSENCE of the TAO and the ideal for human action.
WUNDT, William (1832-1900): German philosopher and physiologist who initiated the study of PSYCHOLOGY as an academic discipline. Arguing that the mental or psychic have primacy over the physical, he opposed RATIONALISM and sought to develop a METAPHYSICS which saw GOD as the source of EVOLUTION. His works include The Influence of Philosophy on the Empirical Sciences (1876) and Elements of Folk Psychology (1916) which influenced the development of COMPARATIVE RELIGION.
WYCLIFFE, John (1330-1384): English precursor to the PROTESTANT REFORMATION who was Master of Balliol College, Oxford. His writings defended civil government from religious interference and attacked the PAPACY, by promoting a return to BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY, especially through his attack on TRANSUBSTANTIATION. He encouraged the first translation of the BIBLE into English thus helping to create the LOLLARD movement. His works were destroyed on the orders of the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and only survived in Czechoslovakia where they influenced HUSS. It is also possible that his writings had an indirect influence on LUTHER.