( Go Directly To Word Index)

This dictionary is under construction and growing steadily. Already it provides a resource of more than 400 (?) key words used in the main religions of the world, and among Christians in particular. Readers will not find the historical information that is easily available online in the Encyclopedia Britannica. There are also books of comparative religion and hundreds of detailed works in every library where the origins, the life of leaders, and the common ceremonies and practices of each religion are collected (as in a museum).

On this website the emphasis is on trying to identify the explanations that people give for their personal faith. If we observe people praying, meditating, singing, processing, or gathering for instruction, much of what they do will look outwardly similar. But if we ask individuals what ultimate purpose they have in mind, each person's explanatory model will be different. It soon becomes clear that the major religions of the world (ANIMISM, BUDDHISM, CHRISTIANITY, HINDUISM, ISLAM) are umbrellas that shelter an infinite numbers of individual visions. Every person's religion or ideology is unique.

Our work begans with a method for trying to understand (with sympathy and without caricaturing) what an individual believer might want to explain about his or her goal. "What would you hope to attain if you had perfect success in your religion or ideology?" This led on to a second question. "What do you think hinders you and others from attaining that goal? What needs changing in you and others?" And a third obvious question is "How you propose to move from where you and others are now in the direction of the ideal you have in mind?"

As we hear and read about the answers that are given, we notice certain patterns (explanatory models, visions) that keep recurring. These can then be classified and given names (as in Botany and Zoology). This method was set out in a book on this web site, God of Many Names.

As we do this we find that people use the word God with many different meanings. The statement that "God is One" is true in several religions, but it has a quite different meaning (language game) among Trinitarian Christians, Unitarian Muslims, and Hindu Monists.

The philosopher Wittgenstein coined the terms 'language game' and 'forms of life' to show how we can only understand each other if we use words in a mutually agreed way. The meaning of a word is its use in a particular situation (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967, sections 7, 23). This is noticed in any good dictionary. The word 'movement' for example has a particular meaning in music, another set of meanings in describing the human body, and a quite different range of meanings in politics. Each of these is a different form of life. If music lovers are discussing the first and second movement of Beethoven's Piano Concerto in C major, and we express an opinion about bowel movements we have got the form of life wrong.

Having got clear what the form of life is, we need to know how a particular word works in that context (the language game).. The use of words is a bit like the rules of a game. Children easily pick up the rules for ring-a-ring of roses, and they can shift a moment later into "I'm the king of the castle." The language game for the king and check-mate in chess is more complicated. And it is only when we know how the king can move, and take other pieces, and when there is "check mate," that we understand a chess game.

So this dictionary often distinguishes the way a word is used in different kinds of religious explanation. But we are specially interested in how the words are used in our explanation of Christian faith. But even among Christians the language games for common words like freedom, law, repentance, faith, heaven and hell, baptism, communion, can vary immensely from one denomination to another, and even within different groupings in a denomination.

Inevitably this book focuses more on the way words are used in Creative Love Theism. This is the form of life illustrated from many different angles on this web site. But readers should beware of assuming that the words will have the same meaning among their friends. Most theological arguments occur because people don't bother to learn the other person's language.

Index of Words ...