Bob's blog – A skeptical lawyer

Definitions

Posted on April 22, 2018

 

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‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass.

 

 

Humpty Dumpty has a point – words can mean different things to different people. Here are definitions for a few words that I use in my blog.

 

Apologetics

Dictionary.com defines “apologetics” as “the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity.” For my purposes, that definition is reasonably correct. The word derives from the ancient Greek word “apologia,” which referred to a defendant’s speech in the Classical Greek legal system. “Apologetics” broadly refers to defending or proving the truth of a doctrine – religious, political or any other controversial viewpoint. However, when Christians say “apologetics,” they usually mean Christian apologetics.[1] Likewise, I will be more specific if I have anything to say about Muslim, Hindu or Trump apologists.

Conservative/traditional biblical scholars

Conservative or traditional biblical scholars believe the Bible is the Revealed Word of God.

Counter-apologetics

Counter-apologetics” usually refers to freethinkers and atheists criticizing some sort of religious apologetics. Counter-apologetics usually examines the claims and tactics of Christian apologists and suggests skeptical responses to them. Many religious apologists criticize other religions, and evangelical apologists often impugn the credibility of Muslim and Mormon beliefs. However, religious apologists usually do not use the term “counter-apologetics” when criticizing other religions.

Critical scholars

“Biblical criticism” applies historical and literary analysis to the Bible without presupposing a supernatural origin. Critical scholars “are prepared to interpret the text against their own preferences and traditions, in the interest of intellectual honesty.” Critical scholars may be Christian, atheist, or any other religion. Some Evangelicals claim that the historical critical method, when employed properly, supports their literal interpretation of the Bible. However, Evangelical scholars rarely criticize what they consider to be the inerrant word of God.

Evangelical

No precise definition clearly distinguishes Evangelicals from mainline Christianity. The Statement of Faith of the National Association of Evangelicals states – among other things – that:

  • We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.

Many Christians might disagree with these beliefs and still consider themselves Evangelical. Nonetheless, for my purposes, these two characteristics provide sufficient definition of Evangelical beliefs. Everything in the Bible is literally true, and you go to hell if you disagree.

Fundamentalist

The difference between Evangelicals and fundamentalists can be hard to pin down. The Associated Press Stylebook says:

fundamentalist: The word gained usage in an early 20th century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. In recent years, however, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians. In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself.

Few Christians still call themselves fundamentalists. Jerry Falwell proudly preached the “fundamentals” of faith, but the university he founded now shies away from the term. At present, most nonbelievers do not distinguish between Evangelicals and fundamentalists. Evangelicals stick the fundamentalist label on any Christian they consider more narrow-minded than themselves.

Liberal biblical scholarship

Theological liberalism is a theological movement, which attempts to incorporate modern thinking and developments, especially in the sciences, into the Christian faith. Some critical scholars are liberal Christians.

Reason

Reason is the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments logically. Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. “Logic” is similar to reason. Reason is a type of thought, and the word logic involves the attempt to describe rules or norms by which reasoning operates, so that orderly reasoning can be taught.


[1] “Apologetics is normally used in a Christian context, so it can be defined as the discipline of presenting arguments for the Christian faith.” Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus 249-50 n. 9 (Kregel Publications 2004) (citing several Bible verses using the ancient Greek word).


-rgmiller