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Those Pesky Phrases and Words

Anyone who has read even a little theology quickly discovers Latin phrases and theological words that are used as if everyone knew their meanings. I for one don't. What's more, I seem to quickly forget them once I've looked them up. Thus this page.

The following is a collection of Latin phrases and theological words with brief definitions. Note that they are not necessarily dictionary definitions as sometimes I found those definitions even more confusing. Of course, I realize that my definitions may confuse you too. If so, please let me know so I can fix it.

A more complete theological dictionary can be found at

[ A ] [ C ] [ D ] [ E ] [ F ] [ G ] [ J ] [ O ] [ P ] [ R ] [ S ] [ T ]
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A -
a priori
Before evaluating the evidence.
The view that the 1,000 year reign of Christ as mentioned in Revelation is symbolic this time period and will end with the return of Christ.
The belief that there is no law for Christians and therefore anything is permissible.
The belief that all men are enabled to either choose or reject Christ as saviour when they hear the gospel. Technically, man is only polluted by sin and not actually dead. Also known as Semi-Pelagiansim. See comparison chart
C -
The system of theology that recognizes that salvation is by God's grace alone as man is totally unable and unwilling to turn to Christ for salvation. See also Calvinism and comparison chart
One who fully trusts the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only substitutionary sacrifice for their sin and sins. (An admittedly over-simplified definition.)
covenant theology
The view that the predominant theme of the whole Bible is the continuity of God's redemptive plan, from one administration of the covenant of grace to the next.
D -
doctrines of grace
A phrase that refers to the five points of Calvinism, which is specifically related to soteriology. The five points of TULIP are often referred to as the Calvinistic "Doctrines of Grace."
E -
effectual calling
Those who God calls to salvation will come to faith.
Reading into a text a meaning. See exegesis for its opposite.
Before Creation God selected out of the human race those whom He would redeem, bring to faith, justify, and glorify in and through Jesus Christ.
The study of future or final times.
Reading out of a text its meaning. See eisegesis for its opposite.
Cleansing away sin
F -
five solas
Five latin phrases that developed during the Protestant Reformation summarizing the basic beliefs of the Reformers..
G -
The unmerited act of kindness of God toward His creation.
J -
The judicial act of God pardoning sinners, accepting them as just, and thus putting them in a right relationship with Himself.
O -
ordo solutis
Order of salvation from a "logical" perspective, not a "time" perspective.
P -
The belief that mankind has an innate ability to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation on his own. This stems from the belief that man is morally able to make decision for either good or evil from a total free will. Declared to be heresy and non-christian.
The view that Jesus Christ will return after the symbolic 1,000 years mentioned in Revelation.
premillenialism - dispensational
The view that God has two economies - one for the Jews and one for the Church. As such they see the Church Raptured, usually mid-Tribulation period, and 3.5 years later Jesus Christ comes back to establish a literal 1,000 year reign on earth.
premillenialism - historic
Also known as classical premillenialism. The view that Jesus Christ will return and establish a 1,000 year reign. Distinguished from dispensational because they see one economy and plan of God. Reject Rapture and Tribulation period.
The belief that prophecies have been fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.
Appeasement of the wrath of God.
God's governing and preserving all His creatures and creation.
R -
A system of theology that recognizes and stresses God's sovereignty over His creation. Views history from a covenantal basis rather than dispensational. Adheres to Westminster Confession of Faith and the 5 points of Calvinism. See also Warfield on the Reformed Faith or another brief definition.
God's making a person alive spiritually and implanting a new principle of desire within them.
S -
I like this definition from Thomas Watson's Sanctification. "It is a principle of grace savingly wrought, whereby the heart becomes holy, and is made after God's own heart. A sanctified person bears not only God's name, but his image." Also see Concise Theology chapter.
The belief that all men are enabled to either choose or reject Christ as saviour when they hear the gospel. Technically, man is only polluted by sin and not actually dead. Also known as Arminianism.
sine qua non
something that is indispensable
sola fide
Salvation is by faith alone.
solo Christo or sola Christus
salvation is through Christ alone
soli Deo gloria
To God alone be the glory.
sola gracia
Salvation is by God's grace alone.
sola scriptura
Scriptures alone as our rule and guide.
A short-hand word for the subject of the method and means whereby we are saved.
T -
The Roman Catholic view that the bread and wine become - really, truly, and literally - the body and blood of Christ during the Mass.

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