Theology A-Z

Theologians have a tendency to use really odd sounding words, so as a reference for myself and the readers of the Imperfect Disciples blog, I have decided to compile an alphabetical listing of common theological terms. These are my own definitions; if I quote any particular dictionary or source, I will cite it.

Last Updated on 11/14/10. The most recent additions are in red.

Amillennialism: The belief that the 1000 year reign of Christ mentioned in the book of Revelations is figurative and that we are living in the millennium now.

Anthropomorphism: This is ascribing human features to God.

Apologetics: Branch of theology that deals with defending one’s faith.

Apostacy: A pejorative term. It is the abandonment of one’s faith or beliefs for an immoral purpose. Someone who is guilty of apostacy is an apostate.

Calvinism: Used by many people as a synonym of “Reformed Theology,” Calvinism is a series of beliefs based on the teaching of John Calvin and is considered an opposing view to Arminian view. Some Christians consider themselves Calvinists, others Arminian, and yet others fall somewhere in between. The five points that make up Calvinism are as follows: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. The points are remembered by the acronym TULIP and will be defined on this page under their own listings.

Complementarianism: The belief, often held by those with a reformed theology, that while men and women are equal in status, they have different roles and responsibilities  in the marriage relationship, church leadership, and elsewhere.

Edification: Instruction designed to uplift another morally, intellectually and spiritually.

Egalitarianism: The belief that men and women are not just equal in status, but also should have equal roles and opportunities in all settings, but especially when it comes to church leadership opportunities.

Eschatology: The branch of theology that deals with the end times, final judgment, and  end of the world type stuff.

Exegesis: Critical analysis of what Scripture meant to its original audience. According to How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Fee and Douglass, exegesis should always be conducted before hermeneutics. Modern readers of scripture often skip ahead and try to apply the Bible to their own lives before deciphering its original message.

Hermeneutics: This word is used in a couple of different ways. It is commonly used now to refer to the science of interpreting Scriptures’ meaning for our modern, contemporary readers. You are employing hermeneutics when you ask yourself, “How does this apply to my life?”.

Irresistible Grace: The Calvinist view that mankind, in its depravity, cannot resist God’s Grace. Basically, if God elects someone, they cannot resist.

Justification: The act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous in Christ on the basis of the finished work of Christ on the cross (as defined by W. Wiersbe).

Limited Atonement: The Calvinist belief that Christ did not provide atonement for all; rather, Christ provides atonement to only those God elected beforehand. Adherents of this belief feel that God would not ask Christ to suffer for those who would not ultimately choose to believe in Him.

Perseverance of the Saints: The Calvinist view that once a person is saved by God there is nothing they can do to lose that salvation. Once saved, always saved.

Polemics: Theological argumentation in order to refute doctrinal error (Dr. K. Gardoski, Baptist Bible Graduate School).

Postmillennialism: The belief that we are currently living after Christ’s 1000 year reign. Postmillennialism teaches that, in the future, the entire world will be converted to Christianity and that this will usher in the Kingdom of Christ.

Premillennialism: The belief that in the future Christ will return to earth and reign for 1000 years. At the beginning of His reign, Satan and his minions will be bound in Hell. Satan will be released after 1000 years to wage war on Christ. After Satan is destroyed, there will be a final judgement and new Heaven and earth will be created.

Reformed Theology: Rather than write my own definition of this, I thought I would provide a link to Tim Challies’ excellent summary.

Sanctification: The process whereby God transforms the believer to more and more like Christ.

Soteriology: The doctrine of salvation.

Synoptic Gospels: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They are called “synoptic” because they are similar.

Systematic Theology: The study of the doctrinal content of the whole of Scripture in a manner that crosses authorial, chronological and historical boundaries. Systematic Theology allows for extra-biblical sources while considering the Bible alone as the final authority and formulated in a spiritual, coherent, logical and practical manner.

Total Depravity: The Calvinist belief that mankind is totally unable to save himself. Salvation must be an act of God. 

Trinity: The three manifestations of God. The Father, the Son [Jesus Christ], and the Holy Spirit. It is a complex concept for some people to grasp and is sometimes misconstrued as pantheism. There are not three Gods, but rather three ways in which our single God is manifested.

Unconditional Election: The Calvinist belief that God elects those He will save unconditionally rather than basing salvation on the merits of mankind.


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