Glossary

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Anabaptists
From the Greek terms ana (which means “again, twice”) and baptidzo (which means “to baptize”) and so means “re-baptize”; refers to the group of Protestant Christians originating in the sixteenth century Radical Reformation who baptized only adults (baptizing adults though they had been baptized as infants) and rejected the state church.

Anglican Church
A global fellowship of Churches based on the teachings of the Church of England which recognizes the Archbishop of Canterbury as their leader and symbolic head.

Apocrypha 
From the Greek term which means “hidden”; refers to a collection of books    accepted in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions as part of the canon, but considered noncanonical by Protestants.

Apollinarianism 
An early Church heresy, based on the teachings of Apollinaris, which affirmed that in the Incarnation the man Jesus received a new divine soul (the Logos) which displaced his human soul.

apologist 
From the Greek term apologia (which means “a defense”); refers to one who offers a defense or justification of belief in God and Christianity.

Arianism 
An early Christological heresy with widespread influence, based on the teachings of Arius, in which Jesus Christ is viewed as the supreme creature of God’s creation, but not a member of the Godhead as the orthodox believed.

Arminianism 
Generally refers to the Protestant beliefs, originating with Jacob Arminius in the late sixteenth century, which affirm human free will and rejects the Calvinist view of predestination.

Atonement
From an old English word which literally means “at-one-ment”; while there are different theories of the Atonement the term broadly refers to the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross which brings reconciliation between God and human beings.  

baptism 
A Christian ritual utilizing water which symbolizes death to sin and resurrection with Christ; some denominations understand baptism as a sacrament and entrance into the Christian community.

Book of Common Prayer
The official prayer book of the Anglican Church.

bull
A decree or charter issued by a pope. 

Byzantium
An ancient Greek city; later referred to both the state and the culture of the Eastern Roman Empire in the Middle Ages.

Calvinism
Generally refers to the Protestant beliefs, originating with John Calvin in the sixteenth century, which include the doctrines spelled out in TULIP. (See TULIP)

canon 
From the Greek term kanon (which means “measuring rod” or “rule”); the body of writings officially accepted by the Christian church as the rule of faith—the Holy Scriptures.

Cappadocian Fathers
From the area of Cappadocia in ancient Asia Minor (modern Turkey), refers primarily to three theologians: Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa; they were influential in the development of Christian theology, most especially the Trinity.

catechumen
From the Latin catechumenus; refers to one receiving instruction in the doctrines of Christianity. 

catholic
A term which is used to refer to the universality of the Christian church.

Catholicism  See Roman Catholicism.

Chalcedon, Council of
Traditionally understood by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox to have been the Fourth Ecumenical Council which was held in Chalcedon (modern Istanbul, Turkey) in 451 and established the divinity formulation of Jesus Christ as one person with two natures.

Christology
The study of person and nature of Jesus Christ.

Congregationalism
Denominational structure in which each congregation is self-governing.

Council of Chalcedon
See Chalcedon, Council of

Council of Trent
See Trent, Council of 

crusades 
From the Latin term crux (which means “cross”; the Crusaders wore a cross on their garments); military expeditions during the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries in which Christians attempted to recapture Jerusalem (the Holy Land) from Islamic control. 

Dark Ages
Refers to a period of alleged cultural decline in European history from about the time of the fall of Rome in the fifth century to the eleventh century.

Dead Sea Scrolls
A large collection of texts discovered between 1947 and 1956 in caves along the Dead Sea.

deism  
Popularly, a view which affirms God as creator of the world but rejects any further divine involvement or interference in the world; when coined in the seventeenth century the term referred to those who believe in God on the grounds of reason, but reject the divinity of Christ and Christian revelation.

diet 
In the Holy Roman Empire, a  formal assembly.

Docetism 
From the Greek term dokeo (which means “to seem or appear”); an early Christological heresy in which Jesus was held to be an immaterial spirit who only appeared to be a human being.

Dort, Synod of
A National Synod or council that was held in Dordrecht (a city in the Netherlands) by the Reformed Church from 1618-1619 in order to deal with a controversy which arose on account of Arminianism.

double predestination
A view of predestination, developed by John Calvin, in which God predestines some people for salvation and others for damnation.

Eastern Orthodoxy
The stream of the Christian Church which separated from Roman Catholicism in 1054 and which developed from the earlier Greek-speaking traditions of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire (Byzantium). 

ecumenical council 
From the Greek term oikoumenikos (which means “universal”); assemblies of bishops from various locations which were convened by the Pope and accepted by the Church as authoritative (distinguished from a synod).

Edict of Milan 
A letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius in 313 CE which sanctioned religious toleration in the Roman Empire.

election
From the Latin term eligere (which means “choice”); the doctrine that God chooses certain individuals for salvation without reference to their faith or works.

encyclical
A papal letter addressed to the Church bishops or to the hierarchy of a country.

Enlightenment
Refers to the scientific and philosophical thought of eighteenth century Europe which emphasized reason over tradition and authority with respect to religious questions and issues.

eschatology
The branch of theology concerned with the final events in world history.

Essenes
An ascetic Jewish sect which flourished from the second century BCE to the first century CE; they lived communally in preparation for the Messiah.

Eucharist
From the Greek term eukharistos (which means “thankful”); the sacrament of Holy Communion. (See also Mass).

Evangelical
A member of any Christian denomination who affirms a personal conversion to Christ, the divine inspiration of the Bible, and the importance of preaching in contrast to ritual.

existentialism 
A movement that began in the nineteenth century, originating with Søren Kierkegaard, which emphasizes individual human existence and involves free choice, anxiety and despair.

Fall
The event which introduced sin into the human race—traditionally ascribed to Adam and Eve disobeying God in the Garden of Eden; this entailed a spiritual fall from a harmonious relationship with God.

filioque
A Latin term literally meaning “and from the Son”; added to the Nicene Creed by Western bishops in Rome so that it reads that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”; this was rejected by the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the dispute ultimately led to the Great Schism in 1054 between the Eastern and Western Churches.

Franciscans
Members of the Catholic religious order, founded by Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), who follow the rule of St. Francis, most notably living a life of poverty.

Gnosticism
From the Greek term gnosis (which means “knowledge”); a diverse group of religious believers who flourished in the second through the fourth centuries and affirmed that they could escape this evil, material world and be saved through secret knowledge.

Gospel
From the old English term godspell (which means “good news”); refers to the good news of salvation as taught and proclaimed by Jesus and the Apostles.

Gospels
Any of the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)—each of which proclaims the “good news” of salvation through Christ.

Grace
God’s unmerited favor given to human beings in order that they can be redeemed and sanctified.

Great Awakening
A series of religious revivals in colonial America which began in the 1730s.

Hellenism
The culture and influence of the Greeks in the ancient world.

heresy
From the Greek term hairesis (which means “a choosing; faction”); in church history the term was used by the Church Fathers to refer to doctrines which were not universal or orthodox.

hermit
From the Greek term eremia  (which means “desert”); a person who goes to a solitary place (such as the desert) for purposes of spiritual growth and a concentrated relationship with God.

Holy Spirit
The third person of the Trinity.

homo-ousias 
A Greek term which means “of the same substance”; this term was applied to the nature of Christ with reference to God at the Council of Nicea.

hypostasis
A Greek term which in the ancient Christian Church denoted “complete individual existence”; the term was at the heart of the Chalcedonian Christological discussion.

hypostatic union
A phrase used in the early Church to denote the presence of two natures in Jesus Christ: human and divine.

icon
From the Greek term eikon (which means “image”); pictures of God, Christ, and the saints which are venerated by those in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

immanence
From the Latin in manere (which means “to dwell in; remain”); refers to God’s indwelling and participating in the universe.

Incarnation
From the Latin term carnem (which means “flesh”); the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation is that the eternal Son of God (Second Person of the Trinity) took on human flesh, becoming truly human while remaining truly God.

indulgence
The remission, granted by the Catholic Church and based on the merits of Christ and the saints, of part or all of the temporal and purgatorial punishments due for sins.

infralapsarianism
From the Latin phrase infra lapsum (which means “after the Fall”); a Calvinist doctrine in which God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically came after God’s decree of the Fall. (Compare with supralapsarianism).

inspiration
The view that the Spirit of God moves individuals to write or speak the words of God; this is most notably applied to the Bible, but many early Christian theologians believed that God inspired many of the works that were not included in the biblical canon.

irresistible grace
A Calvinist doctrine in which the saving grace of God is effective in bringing those God chooses to salvation—even against their own fallen will.

justification
The doctrine regarding the act whereby God makes an individual just or righteous.

limited atonement
The Calvinist doctrine according to which Christ died only for the elect.

logos
A Greek term which means “word” or “discourse” or “rational principle”; in the Gospel of John the opening verse includes this term and applies it to Christ.

Magisterial Reformation
An element of the Protestant Reformation in which the reform movements were supported by magistrates or ruling authorities; Martin Luther and John Calvin were Magisterial Reformers.

martyr
A person who dies for her or his religious faith, often rather than renouncing that faith.

Mass
The Roman Catholic name for the Eucharist—“thanksgiving”; the sharing of the bread and wine in memory of the death of Jesus; also refers to the service as a whole.

Mennonites
An Anabaptist group named after Menno Simons (1496-1561); they are known today primarily for their commitment to nonviolence.

Messiah
From a Hebrew term which means the “Anointed One”—God’s deliverer; translated into Greek as “Christ.”

Methodism
A Protestant revival movement the roots of which are traced back to John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield; it is known primarily for its Arminian theology, mission work, and stress on personal holiness.

monergism
The theological position, often associated with Calvinism, that God brings about the salvation of an individual without the cooperation or will of that individual. (Compare with synergism).

Montansim 
A movement founded by Montanus in the second century CE which rejected the Church and which manifested ecstatic prophecies, affirmed a modalistic view of the Trinity, and maintained that Montanist prophecies superseded those of the Apostles; it was considered a heresy by the orthodox.

Moravians
A group of Protestant pietists from Moravia who followed Count Zinzendorf (1700-1760).

mysticism
A form of religious experience which places emphasis on direct awareness of, and sometimes personal union with, God; one classical Christian mystic is Theresa of Avila (1515-1582).

natural theology
A branch of theology in which it is maintained that the existence of God can be demonstrated through the use of reason unaided by special revelation (e.g., the design argument).

Neo-orthodoxy 
A movement which arose within Protestantism in the early twentieth century which opposes liberalism and which sought to recover certain traditional Christian doctrines which had been rejected by liberals, including the Trinity and a Chalcedonian view of Christ.

Neoplatonism 
A philosophical system rooted in Platonism and developed in the third century by Plotinus and his successors; includes mystical Christian and Jewish elements and emphasizes “the One” as the ultimate source from which all existence emanates.

New Testament 
The second part of the Bible (the Christian addition to the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible) containing twenty-seven books.

Nicene Creed 
The document that is based on the creed formulated at the Council of Nicea in 325 but which was formalized at the Council of Constantinople in 381 (sometimes called the Niceno-Constantinople Creed); it defined the nature of Christ as homo-ousious (which means “of the same substance”) with God.

Old Testament 
The first part of the Bible and the Christian name for the Hebrew Bible (as included with the New Testament).

original sin 
The sin of Adam and Eve which affected all future human beings; the act which ushered in the sinful nature of human beings.

orthodox
From the Greek terms ortho (which means “right”) and doxa (which means “belief”); adherence to traditional or standard doctrines of the Church (contrasted with “heretical”).

Orthodoxy 
See Eastern Orthodoxy.

ousia 
A Greek term which means “substance” or “essence” and refers to the nature of a thing.

parousia 
A Greek term literally meaning “being present”; refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Patripassianism 
From the Latin terms pater (which means “father”) and passus (which means “to suffer”); the idea that the suffering of Christ on the cross was equally experienced by the Father.

patristic 
A descriptive term for the early Church Fathers or their writings.

Pelagianism 
The view, originating with Pelagius (c.354-c.420), that grace is not necessary for salvation and that through their own efforts people can live without sin.

penance 
A discipline imposed on an individual by a priest for sins confessed.

Pentecost 
From the Greek term pentecoste (which means “fiftieth day”); Jewish holiday held fifty days after Passover and now celebrated by Christians commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecostalism 
A twentieth century Evangelical movement distinctive for its teachings on the necessity of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers in emulation of the Apostles at Pentecost (including speaking in tongues).

Pietism 
A Protestant reform movement that began in the seventeenth century which emphasized the need for personal holiness.

Pope 
The title given to the Bishop of Rome who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church and understood to be the successor of the Apostle Peter.

predestination 
The doctrine that God has preordained the salvation of the elect.

prevenient grace
From the Latin term praevenire (which means “to come before”); this is God’s grace which precedes and enables human decision for salvation.

Protestantism 
The stream of the Christian Church that originated with the “protests” against some of the practices and doctrines of the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century.

Purgatory 
According to Roman Catholic theology, a place or condition for Christians who, after death, need to have their souls purified from sins committed while on earth before entering into heaven.

rationalism 
An approach to knowledge that relies on reason rather than experience and authority; in religious contexts, it is often contrasted with revelation as the source of knowledge about God and the world.

Reformation 
A sixteenth century movement which began in Europe with objections to certain Roman Catholic doctrines and resulted in the formation of Protestant churches.

reprobation 
The part of the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination in which God predestines some people for eternal damnation.

resurrection 
An individual’s being fully and brought back to life after death; the same body is involved in the process. The resurrection of Jesus is central to traditional Christian belief.

Roman Catholicism
The stream of the Christian Church that traces its origin and authority to the Apostle Peter as the first pope; its ecclesiastical authority has been located in Rome for most of its history.

Sabbath 
In Jewish thought, the last day of the week which commemorates God’s resting from the act of creation by worship and rest.

sacrament 
A ritual recognized by the Church that is an outward sign of the inward administration of God’s grace.

sanctification 
From the Latin term sanctus (which means “holy”), the transformation of people into the likeness of Christ which follows conversion.

Schleitheim Confession 
The most important Anabaptist doctrinal statement, adopted by the Swiss Brethren in 1527, which distinguishes their beliefs from other Christian Churches.

Scholasticism 
In the Middle Ages, the university educational system which emphasized rational philosophical and theological speculation and disputation primarily involving the Latin authorities and Aristotle.       

sin 
Rebellion or offense against God typically characterized by a violation of religious or moral law.

sola fide 
The Latin phrase adopted by the Protestant Reformers about the doctrine of justification which means “by faith alone”.

sola gratia 
The Latin phrase adopted by the Protestant Reformers about the doctrine of salvation which means “by grace alone”.

sola scriptura 
The Latin phrase adopted by the Protestant Reformers about supreme authority in matters of faith and practice which means “the Bible alone”.

soteriology 
The branch of theology which is concerned with the doctrine of salvation.

supralapsarianism 
From the Latin phrase supra lapsum (which means “prior to the Fall”); a Calvinist doctrine in which God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically came before God’s decree of the Fall. (Compare with infralapsarianism).

synergism 
The theological position that God works with an individual’s free will in bringing about his or her salvation.  (Compare with monergism).

synod 
An official meeting of Church leaders typically from a particular locale (distinguished from an ecumenical council).

Synoptic 
From the Greek term synoptikos (which means “seen together”); refers to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke because of their similarities in structure and content.

theism 
The belief in the existence of a God or gods.

theosis 
A characteristically Eastern Orthodox conception of the process in which one becomes united with God.

theotokos 
A Greek term which literally means “God bearer”; applied to Mary by orthodox Christians because she gave birth to the Son of God.

Thirty-nine articles 
The doctrinal positions of the Church of England (Anglican Church), established in 1563.

Thomism 
The tradition of thought, rooted in the work of Thomas Aquinas, which dominated the scholastic period and has continued to our own day primarily among Roman Catholic thinkers.

transcendence 
From the Latin trans scandare (which means “to climb or go beyond”); refers to God’s existence beyond or apart from the physical universe.

transubstantiation 
The Roman Catholic doctrine that during the celebration of the Eucharist the bread and wine turn into the actual body and blood of Christ.

Trent, Council of 
An official response to the Protestant Reformation which lasted from 1545-1563 and instituted reforms within Roman Catholicism.

Trinity 
The Christian doctrine that within the nature of the one God there are three co-equal and eternal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

TULIP 
An acronym for the five distinctive doctrines associated with Calvinism: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.

Vatican II 
A council of the Roman Catholic Church, from 1962-1965, which recognized the need for updating some of the teachings and practices of the Church for the modern world.

Westminster Confession 
A confession of faith produced by a group of Presbyterian theologians assembled by English Parliament from 1643-1647.

A

Anabaptists
From the Greek terms ana (which means “again, twice”) and baptidzo (which means “to baptize”) and so means “re-baptize”; refers to the group of Protestant Christians originating in the sixteenth century Radical Reformation who baptized only adults (baptizing adults though they had been baptized as infants) and rejected the state church.

Anglican Church
A global fellowship of Churches based on the teachings of the Church of England which recognizes the Archbishop of Canterbury as their leader and symbolic head.

Apocrypha 
From the Greek term which means “hidden”; refers to a collection of books    accepted in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions as part of the canon, but considered noncanonical by Protestants.

Apollinarianism 
An early Church heresy, based on the teachings of Apollinaris, which affirmed that in the Incarnation the man Jesus received a new divine soul (the Logos) which displaced his human soul.

apologist 
From the Greek term apologia (which means “a defense”); refers to one who offers a defense or justification of belief in God and Christianity.

Arianism 
An early Christological heresy with widespread influence, based on the teachings of Arius, in which Jesus Christ is viewed as the supreme creature of God’s creation, but not a member of the Godhead as the orthodox believed.

Arminianism 
Generally refers to the Protestant beliefs, originating with Jacob Arminius in the late sixteenth century, which affirm human free will and rejects the Calvinist view of predestination.

Atonement
From an old English word which literally means “at-one-ment”; while there are different theories of the Atonement the term broadly refers to the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross which brings reconciliation between God and human beings.

B

baptism 
A Christian ritual utilizing water which symbolizes death to sin and resurrection with Christ; some denominations understand baptism as a sacrament and entrance into the Christian community.

Book of Common Prayer
The official prayer book of the Anglican Church.

bull
A decree or charter issued by a pope. 

Byzantium
An ancient Greek city; later referred to both the state and the culture of the Eastern Roman Empire in the Middle Ages.

C

Calvinism
Generally refers to the Protestant beliefs, originating with John Calvin in the sixteenth century, which include the doctrines spelled out in TULIP. (See TULIP)

canon 
From the Greek term kanon (which means “measuring rod” or “rule”); the body of writings officially accepted by the Christian church as the rule of faith—the Holy Scriptures.

Cappadocian Fathers
From the area of Cappadocia in ancient Asia Minor (modern Turkey), refers primarily to three theologians: Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa; they were influential in the development of Christian theology, most especially the Trinity.

catechumen
From the Latin catechumenus; refers to one receiving instruction in the doctrines of Christianity. 

catholic
A term which is used to refer to the universality of the Christian church.

Catholicism  See Roman Catholicism.

Chalcedon, Council of
Traditionally understood by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox to have been the Fourth Ecumenical Council which was held in Chalcedon (modern Istanbul, Turkey) in 451 and established the divinity formulation of Jesus Christ as one person with two natures.

Christology
The study of person and nature of Jesus Christ.

Congregationalism
Denominational structure in which each congregation is self-governing.

Council of Chalcedon
See Chalcedon, Council of

Council of Trent
See Trent, Council of 

crusades

From the Latin term crux (which means “cross”; the Crusaders wore a cross on their garments); military expeditions during the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries in which Christians attempted to recapture Jerusalem (the Holy Land) from Islamic control.

D

Dark Ages
Refers to a period of alleged cultural decline in European history from about the time of the fall of Rome in the fifth century to the eleventh century.

Dead Sea Scrolls
A large collection of texts discovered between 1947 and 1956 in caves along the Dead Sea.

deism  
Popularly, a view which affirms God as creator of the world but rejects any further divine involvement or interference in the world; when coined in the seventeenth century the term referred to those who believe in God on the grounds of reason, but reject the divinity of Christ and Christian revelation.

diet 
In the Holy Roman Empire, a  formal assembly.

Docetism 
From the Greek term dokeo (which means “to seem or appear”); an early Christological heresy in which Jesus was held to be an immaterial spirit who only appeared to be a human being.

Dort, Synod of
A National Synod or council that was held in Dordrecht (a city in the Netherlands) by the Reformed Church from 1618-1619 in order to deal with a controversy which arose on account of Arminianism.

double predestination
A view of predestination, developed by John Calvin, in which God predestines some people for salvation and others for damnation.

E

Eastern Orthodoxy
The stream of the Christian Church which separated from Roman Catholicism in 1054 and which developed from the earlier Greek-speaking traditions of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire (Byzantium). 

ecumenical council 
From the Greek term oikoumenikos (which means “universal”); assemblies of bishops from various locations which were convened by the Pope and accepted by the Church as authoritative (distinguished from a synod).

Edict of Milan 
A letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius in 313 CE which sanctioned religious toleration in the Roman Empire.

election
From the Latin term eligere (which means “choice”); the doctrine that God chooses certain individuals for salvation without reference to their faith or works.

encyclical
A papal letter addressed to the Church bishops or to the hierarchy of a country.

Enlightenment
Refers to the scientific and philosophical thought of eighteenth century Europe which emphasized reason over tradition and authority with respect to religious questions and issues.

eschatology
The branch of theology concerned with the final events in world history.

Essenes
An ascetic Jewish sect which flourished from the second century BCE to the first century CE; they lived communally in preparation for the Messiah.

Eucharist
From the Greek term eukharistos (which means “thankful”); the sacrament of Holy Communion. (See also Mass).

Evangelical
A member of any Christian denomination who affirms a personal conversion to Christ, the divine inspiration of the Bible, and the importance of preaching in contrast to ritual.

existentialism 
A movement that began in the nineteenth century, originating with Søren Kierkegaard, which emphasizes individual human existence and involves free choice, anxiety and despair.

F

Fall
The event which introduced sin into the human race—traditionally ascribed to Adam and Eve disobeying God in the Garden of Eden; this entailed a spiritual fall from a harmonious relationship with God.

filioque
A Latin term literally meaning “and from the Son”; added to the Nicene Creed by Western bishops in Rome so that it reads that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”; this was rejected by the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the dispute ultimately led to the Great Schism in 1054 between the Eastern and Western Churches.

Franciscans
Members of the Catholic religious order, founded by Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), who follow the rule of St. Francis, most notably living a life of poverty.

G

Gnosticism
From the Greek term gnosis (which means “knowledge”); a diverse group of religious believers who flourished in the second through the fourth centuries and affirmed that they could escape this evil, material world and be saved through secret knowledge.

Gospel
From the old English term godspell (which means “good news”); refers to the good news of salvation as taught and proclaimed by Jesus and the Apostles.

Gospels
Any of the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)—each of which proclaims the “good news” of salvation through Christ.

Grace
God’s unmerited favor given to human beings in order that they can be redeemed and sanctified.

Great Awakening
A series of religious revivals in colonial America which began in the 1730s.

H

Hellenism
The culture and influence of the Greeks in the ancient world.

heresy
From the Greek term hairesis (which means “a choosing; faction”); in church history the term was used by the Church Fathers to refer to doctrines which were not universal or orthodox.

hermit
From the Greek term eremia  (which means “desert”); a person who goes to a solitary place (such as the desert) for purposes of spiritual growth and a concentrated relationship with God.

Holy Spirit
The third person of the Trinity.

homo-ousias 
A Greek term which means “of the same substance”; this term was applied to the nature of Christ with reference to God at the Council of Nicea.

hypostasis
A Greek term which in the ancient Christian Church denoted “complete individual existence”; the term was at the heart of the Chalcedonian Christological discussion.

hypostatic union
A phrase used in the early Church to denote the presence of two natures in Jesus Christ: human and divine.

I

icon
From the Greek term eikon (which means “image”); pictures of God, Christ, and the saints which are venerated by those in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

immanence
From the Latin in manere (which means “to dwell in; remain”); refers to God’s indwelling and participating in the universe.

Incarnation
From the Latin term carnem (which means “flesh”); the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation is that the eternal Son of God (Second Person of the Trinity) took on human flesh, becoming truly human while remaining truly God.

indulgence
The remission, granted by the Catholic Church and based on the merits of Christ and the saints, of part or all of the temporal and purgatorial punishments due for sins.

infralapsarianism
From the Latin phrase infra lapsum (which means “after the Fall”); a Calvinist doctrine in which God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically came after God’s decree of the Fall. (Compare with supralapsarianism).

inspiration
The view that the Spirit of God moves individuals to write or speak the words of God; this is most notably applied to the Bible, but many early Christian theologians believed that God inspired many of the works that were not included in the biblical canon.

irresistible grace
A Calvinist doctrine in which the saving grace of God is effective in bringing those God chooses to salvation—even against their own fallen will.

J

justification
The doctrine regarding the act whereby God makes an individual just or righteous.

K

 

L

The Calvinist doctrine according to which Christ died only for the elect.

logos
A Greek term which means “word” or “discourse” or “rational principle”; in the Gospel of John the opening verse includes this term and applies it to Christ.

M

Magisterial Reformation
An element of the Protestant Reformation in which the reform movements were supported by magistrates or ruling authorities; Martin Luther and John Calvin were Magisterial Reformers.

martyr
A person who dies for her or his religious faith, often rather than renouncing that faith.

Mass
The Roman Catholic name for the Eucharist—“thanksgiving”; the sharing of the bread and wine in memory of the death of Jesus; also refers to the service as a whole.

Mennonites
An Anabaptist group named after Menno Simons (1496-1561); they are known today primarily for their commitment to nonviolence.

Messiah
From a Hebrew term which means the “Anointed One”—God’s deliverer; translated into Greek as “Christ.”

Methodism
A Protestant revival movement the roots of which are traced back to John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield; it is known primarily for its Arminian theology, mission work, and stress on personal holiness.

monergism
The theological position, often associated with Calvinism, that God brings about the salvation of an individual without the cooperation or will of that individual. (Compare with synergism).

Montansim 
A movement founded by Montanus in the second century CE which rejected the Church and which manifested ecstatic prophecies, affirmed a modalistic view of the Trinity, and maintained that Montanist prophecies superseded those of the Apostles; it was considered a heresy by the orthodox.

Moravians
A group of Protestant pietists from Moravia who followed Count Zinzendorf (1700-1760).

mysticism
A form of religious experience which places emphasis on direct awareness of, and sometimes personal union with, God; one classical Christian mystic is Theresa of Avila (1515-1582).

N

natural theology
A branch of theology in which it is maintained that the existence of God can be demonstrated through the use of reason unaided by special revelation (e.g., the design argument).

Neo-orthodoxy 
A movement which arose within Protestantism in the early twentieth century which opposes liberalism and which sought to recover certain traditional Christian doctrines which had been rejected by liberals, including the Trinity and a Chalcedonian view of Christ.

Neoplatonism 
A philosophical system rooted in Platonism and developed in the third century by Plotinus and his successors; includes mystical Christian and Jewish elements and emphasizes “the One” as the ultimate source from which all existence emanates.

New Testament 
The second part of the Bible (the Christian addition to the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible) containing twenty-seven books.

Nicene Creed 
The document that is based on the creed formulated at the Council of Nicea in 325 but which was formalized at the Council of Constantinople in 381 (sometimes called the Niceno-Constantinople Creed); it defined the nature of Christ as homo-ousious (which means “of the same substance”) with God.

O

Old Testament 
The first part of the Bible and the Christian name for the Hebrew Bible (as included with the New Testament).

original sin 
The sin of Adam and Eve which affected all future human beings; the act which ushered in the sinful nature of human beings.

orthodox
From the Greek terms ortho (which means “right”) and doxa (which means “belief”); adherence to traditional or standard doctrines of the Church (contrasted with “heretical”).

Orthodoxy 
See Eastern Orthodoxy.

ousia 
A Greek term which means “substance” or “essence” and refers to the nature of a thing.

P

parousia 
A Greek term literally meaning “being present”; refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Patripassianism 
From the Latin terms pater (which means “father”) and passus (which means “to suffer”); the idea that the suffering of Christ on the cross was equally experienced by the Father.

patristic 
A descriptive term for the early Church Fathers or their writings.

Pelagianism 
The view, originating with Pelagius (c.354-c.420), that grace is not necessary for salvation and that through their own efforts people can live without sin.

penance 
A discipline imposed on an individual by a priest for sins confessed.

Pentecost 
From the Greek term pentecoste (which means “fiftieth day”); Jewish holiday held fifty days after Passover and now celebrated by Christians commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecostalism 
A twentieth century Evangelical movement distinctive for its teachings on the necessity of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers in emulation of the Apostles at Pentecost (including speaking in tongues).

Pietism 
A Protestant reform movement that began in the seventeenth century which emphasized the need for personal holiness.

Pope 
The title given to the Bishop of Rome who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church and understood to be the successor of the Apostle Peter.

predestination 
The doctrine that God has preordained the salvation of the elect.

prevenient grace
From the Latin term praevenire (which means “to come before”); this is God’s grace which precedes and enables human decision for salvation.

Protestantism 
The stream of the Christian Church that originated with the “protests” against some of the practices and doctrines of the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century.

Purgatory 
According to Roman Catholic theology, a place or condition for Christians who, after death, need to have their souls purified from sins committed while on earth before entering into heaven.

R

rationalism 
An approach to knowledge that relies on reason rather than experience and authority; in religious contexts, it is often contrasted with revelation as the source of knowledge about God and the world.

Reformation 
A sixteenth century movement which began in Europe with objections to certain Roman Catholic doctrines and resulted in the formation of Protestant churches.

reprobation 
The part of the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination in which God predestines some people for eternal damnation.

resurrection 
An individual’s being fully and brought back to life after death; the same body is involved in the process. The resurrection of Jesus is central to traditional Christian belief.

Roman Catholicism
The stream of the Christian Church that traces its origin and authority to the Apostle Peter as the first pope; its ecclesiastical authority has been located in Rome for most of its history.

S

Sabbath 
In Jewish thought, the last day of the week which commemorates God’s resting from the act of creation by worship and rest.

sacrament 
A ritual recognized by the Church that is an outward sign of the inward administration of God’s grace.

sanctification 
From the Latin term sanctus (which means “holy”), the transformation of people into the likeness of Christ which follows conversion.

Schleitheim Confession 
The most important Anabaptist doctrinal statement, adopted by the Swiss Brethren in 1527, which distinguishes their beliefs from other Christian Churches.

Scholasticism 
In the Middle Ages, the university educational system which emphasized rational philosophical and theological speculation and disputation primarily involving the Latin authorities and Aristotle.       

sin 
Rebellion or offense against God typically characterized by a violation of religious or moral law.

sola fide 
The Latin phrase adopted by the Protestant Reformers about the doctrine of justification which means “by faith alone”.

sola gratia 
The Latin phrase adopted by the Protestant Reformers about the doctrine of salvation which means “by grace alone”.

sola scriptura 
The Latin phrase adopted by the Protestant Reformers about supreme authority in matters of faith and practice which means “the Bible alone”.

soteriology 
The branch of theology which is concerned with the doctrine of salvation.

supralapsarianism 
From the Latin phrase supra lapsum (which means “prior to the Fall”); a Calvinist doctrine in which God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically came before God’s decree of the Fall. (Compare with infralapsarianism).

synergism 
The theological position that God works with an individual’s free will in bringing about his or her salvation.  (Compare with monergism).

synod 
An official meeting of Church leaders typically from a particular locale (distinguished from an ecumenical council).

Synoptic 
From the Greek term synoptikos (which means “seen together”); refers to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke because of their similarities in structure and content.

T

theism 
The belief in the existence of a God or gods.

theosis 
A characteristically Eastern Orthodox conception of the process in which one becomes united with God.

theotokos 
A Greek term which literally means “God bearer”; applied to Mary by orthodox Christians because she gave birth to the Son of God.

Thirty-nine articles 
The doctrinal positions of the Church of England (Anglican Church), established in 1563.

Thomism 
The tradition of thought, rooted in the work of Thomas Aquinas, which dominated the scholastic period and has continued to our own day primarily among Roman Catholic thinkers.

transcendence 
From the Latin trans scandare (which means “to climb or go beyond”); refers to God’s existence beyond or apart from the physical universe.

transubstantiation 
The Roman Catholic doctrine that during the celebration of the Eucharist the bread and wine turn into the actual body and blood of Christ.

Trent, Council of 
An official response to the Protestant Reformation which lasted from 1545-1563 and instituted reforms within Roman Catholicism.

Trinity 
The Christian doctrine that within the nature of the one God there are three co-equal and eternal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

TULIP 
An acronym for the five distinctive doctrines associated with Calvinism: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.

V

Vatican II 
A council of the Roman Catholic Church, from 1962-1965, which recognized the need for updating some of the teachings and practices of the Church for the modern world.

W

Westminster Confession 
A confession of faith produced by a group of Presbyterian theologians assembled by English Parliament from 1643-1647.