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Glossary of religious & spiritual terms

Religious terms starting with the letter "F"


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  • Faith: A system of religious belief. There are many and they conflict with each other.

  • Faith group: a general, inclusive term that might be used to refer to a religion, denomination, sect, cult, or informal group.

  • Faith-formula movement: (a.k.a. Word of Faith movement, Health & Wealth Gospel, Positive Confession, Name it and Claim it, and ). A group of conservative Protestant para-church ministries which focus on "anointed" ministers and the health, wealth, and success of their viewers and donors. MinistryWatch estimates that their total income is in excess of a half billion dollars annually. 2

  • Faith tradition: A synonym for "faith group."

  • Fall of mankind: The belief, based on a literal translation of Genesis, that when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden they lost communion with God and brought themselves and all their descendents (including the present and future generations) into a condition of sin and misery. Many religious liberals reject this belief, and interpret Genesis symbolically to indicate the rise of Adam and Eve from a pre-human state to full humanity, becoming aware for the first time of the differences between good and evil -- that is, developing a moral sense and becoming fully human.

  • Fallibilism: The belief that no belief, theory, view, postulation, etc. can be proven with absolute certainty. Any of our beliefs are subject to change in the future.

  • "Fall-sin-redemption" model. This is a key theological belief about sin and salvation that is held by many Christians. It consists of a series of beliefs:
    • Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden when they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
    • By their actions, sin entered the world for the first time, and produced a gulf between God and our first parents.
    • Through the concept of imputation, -- the transfer of sin and punishment from the guilty to the innocent -- Adam and Eve's sin has been assigned to their children, their grandchildren, and all the way down through over 200 generations to present-day humanity. Not a single person since our first parents has avoided sin.
    • Because of the incarnation in which God took human form in the body of Jesus, and because of Jesus' sinlessness, he had the power to forgive sin.
    • Persons can be saved today by repenting of their sin, and trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. They will then attain Heaven when they die.  They become a new creation. Through a process of sanctification God helps them change and become more like Christ. The other alternative is to not trust Jesus; they will then be tortured in Hell for all eternity.

    Some liberal/progressive Christians reject this model. In part, this is because they view the Garden of Eden story as a religious myth, and Adam and Eve's actions as symbolizing the rise of humanity -- not its fall.

  • False Memory: A recollection of an event that never happened, or a very heavily distorted recollection of an event that did occur. During the 1980s and 1990s, false memories were created in tens or hundreds of thousands of North American adults through the use of suggestive techniques like hypnosis, "truth drugs," guided imagery, etc. Most "memories" were generated during therapeutic sessions; some during mutual support groups; still others through individual self-hypnosis. Tens of thousands of innocent parents and relatives were accused of child sexual abuse as a result of false memories. Some victims of recovered memory therapy were driven to suicide by the memories. The therapeutic technique still continues at a low level and new victims are still being created. However, it has largely been discredited and abandoned by counselors and therapists.

  • Familiar spirit: Infortunately, this term has a range of largely unrelated meanings that are difficult to pin down with any precision:
    • A familiar -- often believed to take the form of a cat -- who is a companion of a Witch, Wiccan or other Neopagan.
    • A helpful spirit often referred to as a spirit guide who gives guidance to a Neopagan or New Age practitioner.
    • Supernatural entities, often in the form of an animal, who were believed to assist witches in the practice of magic. (from Wikipedia)
    • A familial spirit -- a deceased family member who aids living relatives. (from Webster)
    • The spirit of a dead person invoked by a medium to advise or prophesy (from Webster)

  • Fantasy Role Playing Games: (acronym RPG) A game like Dungeons and Dragons™ in which individuals play the roles of characters that they have selected. Typically, these characters live in a pre-scientific, often medieval society, and are subjected to many challenges. Some conservative Christians have expressed concern that some characters are non-Christian; some parents are concerned about stories of suicides among RPG players. Fortunately, studies have indicated that players tend to be more stable and less likely to commit suicide than the average person.

  • Faqih: A Muslim term for a man skilled in Shari'ah law who has the authority to issue fatwas.

  • Fard: A Muslim term for an act that is absolutely obligatory. A Muslim who denies a fard becomes an unbeliever.

  • Fascism: A political concept in which the state is considered paramount, and individual freedoms and human rights are of minor importance.

  • Fast; Fasting: The act of doing without food and/or water for an interval of time -- generally to attain a spiritual goal. Muslims are expected to fast completely between sunrise and sunset during the lunar month of Ramadan, where it is medically possible. The practice is widespread among followers of many religions, including Native American Spirituality, Islam, Christianity, etc.

  • Fatalism: The belief that any effort to improve oneself or the world is useless because everything is predetermined by blind, irrational forces.

  • Fatwa: This is an Islamic term that literally means "an answer to a question." Traditionally, it has been a recommendation, an opinion issued by a Muslim scholar on a specific subject.

  • Feminist Theology: A rejection of the patriarchal, sexist, homophobic, and other teachings in the Bible which are considered immoral by most of today's religious and secular ethical standards. It promotes a theology which stresses human rights, sexual enjoyment, feminine ordination, and equality. It often involves re-interpreting the Bible in gender-neutral terms.

  • Feng Shui: A belief, originating in Taoism, that structures and objects in one's environment need to be properly aligned in order to maximize health and functioning.

  • Fideism, Fideist: From the Latin word "fides" which means "faith." A person who relies on faith rather than reason in matters related to religion and philosophy. Some have traced this belief back to Tertullian in the second century CE, although that is controversial.

  • Filioque: The Niceno-Constantinopolitan or Constantinopolitan Creed was written and adopted at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, and then modified by the Council at Chalcedon in 451 CE, and later modified during the sixth century CE with the addition of the filioque. This phrase states that they Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son. The Eastern Orthodox churches have historically rejected the filioque, citing John 15:26 as proof that the Holy Spirit proceeded only from the Father. Friction over the filioque was a major cause of the split between the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy which was formalized in 1054 CE.

  • Final Solution: The German Nazi plan for the total extermination of every Jew in Europe.

  • Fiqh: A Muslim term describing allowable and forbidden actions.

  • First Temple Period: The interval from 850 to 586 BCE during which time the Jerusalem Temple was in place.

  • Five hindrances: A Buddhist list of feelings that prevent one's spiritual progress: Lust, aversion, sloth, restlessness, and skepticism.

  • Five poisons: A Buddhist list of five harmful influences commonly found in life: ignorance, hate, pride, craving and envy.

  • Five precepts: A Buddhist list of activities to avoid: Killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and the taking of intoxicants.

  • Five ways: These are the five proofs of the existence of God as derived by Thomas Aquinas from Greek Pagan metaphysical thought.

  • Flying bishops: This is an informal Anglican term used in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church, USA. It refers to bishops that are nominated to provide Episcopal duties in parishes which refuse to accept women as clergy. The parishes have to petition their bishop for such alternative arrangements.

  • Foreknowledge: An attribute of God that he is able to know all things: past, present and future.

  • Form criticism: A method of analyzing biblical verses which involves studying the literary forms used in the passage. It often seeks to uncover the oral traditions behind Bible passages.

  • Fortune telling: A method of divination: predicting the future. Often performed using cards, tarot cards, runes, palm reading, tea leaf reading, etc.

  • Foundationalist, Foundationalism: "... the belief that all beliefs are ultimately set upon an unalterable foundation."
     
  • Four constituents: In Buddhism, the fundamental components which make up the universe: earth, water, wind and fire.

  • Four noble truths: A Buddhist list of basic truths about suffering -- that:
    • Suffering exists.
    • It comes from one's attachment to desires.
    • It can be overcome by ceasing one's attachment to desire.
    • The Eightfold Path is the way to achieve freedom from suffering.

  • Freemasonry: A spiritual, fraternal order for men which originated in guilds of stone cutters. Freemasons see Freemasonry as supplementing and not in conflict with their religious belief. They are heavily involved in charitable works, like the Shriner's hospitals. Many conservative Christians view Freemasonry as anti-Christian and condemn membership in the Masonic Order. Freemasons, like dozens of other groups ranging from the Roman Catholic Church to Quakers, have been accused of ritual abuse. However, no hard evidence has been found to confirm this.

  • Freethinker: This originally referred to persons who doubted the Trinity -- the concept that a Godhead existed composed of single entity involving three personalities: a Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Freethinkers originally supported the concept of a single indivisible deity. The meaning of the term has since changed its meaning to include persons who reject religious beliefs in general, and who follow their own spiritual and ethical path.

  • Free will: When used by Christian theologians, means the ability of an individual to freely choose their own actions. This is denied by Calvinists, who say that God cannot be truly sovereign if humans have complete free will.

  • Friday, good: The Friday before Easter Sunday. This commemorates the execution of Jesus by the occupying Roman Army circa 33 CE.

  • Frum: A religiously observant Jew.

  • Funchpevan: The conservative wing of Protestant Christianity. The word is derived from FUNdamentst, CHarismatic, Pentecostal, and EVANgelical. Coined on 2011-JAN-25 by the sponsors of this web site.

  • Fundamentalist: Within Christianity, this is a term used since the 1920's to refer to the most religiously conservative groups within Protestant Christianity. Within Judaism, Islam and other religions, the term is used to refer to the extreme conservative wing who Karen Armstrong defines as "embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis" 1 - namely the fear that modernity will erode or even eradicate their faith and morality.

    Fundamentalism's roots within Christianity can be traced to the late 19th Century as a reaction against liberal movements of Biblical criticism and analysis. A 1909 publication "The Fundamentals: A testimony to the truth" proposed five required beliefs for conservative Christians; they are listed elsewhere in this glossary under "Evangelicals", items 1 to 5. Fundamentalists generally believe that other wings of Christianity, and other religions, are in error. The largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, has recently transitioned to fundamentalism. Bob Jones University, the General Association of Regular Baptists, the Moody Bible Institute and other organizations are also fundamentalist. Among the most generally known leaders are James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones and Hal Lindsey. See the term "Modernism."

    The term has three additional meanings in general usage that cause great confusion:
    • A "snarl" word, used by some non-fundamentalists to imply intolerance, bigotry, lack of flexibility and an anti-intellectual bias.

    • When applied by the Western media to Muslims, it often means "anti-American". Sometimes it means "radical fundamentalist extremist Muslim terrorist." who form a very small percentage of Muslims.

    • When used by conservative Muslims themselves, it refers to a person who strictly follows the teachings of Mohammed, and who promotes the concept of theocratic government.

  • Fur: An important, but not a foundational belief, within Islam. A believer can reject such a belief and still remain a Muslim.

  • Futurism, Futurist: Attempts to predict the future. In Christianity, the term applies particularly to the interpretation of biblical books such as Daniel and Revelation in order to foretell events in our future.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Karen Armstrong, "The Battle for God," Kop Pub., (2000) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  2. "A critical look at the 'Word of Faith' ministries," Ministry Watch Reflections, 2003-OCT, at: http://www.ministrywatch.com/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  3. Ian Kane, "Logic Nest", we blog. at: http://www.logicnest.com/

Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written on: 1996-MAR-11
Last update and review: 2014-JAN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson
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