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Dictionary of Theological Terms
Don Matzat

The rejection of the notion of a 1,000 year reign of Christ upon this earth. Most "amillennialists" are preterists. They believe that biblical prophecies were fulfilled in the first 300 years of Christian history.

Literally, against the law. Antinomians teach that the law is no longer applicable in the life of the Christian. (see "Legalism").

To fall away from the truth by embracing false teaching or heresy.

A position taught by Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). Arminius, reacting against Calvinist predestination (see "Election"), taught that there is no conflict between the sovereignty (see "Sovereignty") of God and human free will. The position was adopted by John Wesley, the father of Methodism. (see "Decision Theology"). Arminianism rejects human total depravity. (see "Total Depravity").

A description of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. We are restored in our relationship with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus "atoned" for our sins. He paid the penalty. The word "atonement" occurs in Romans 5: 11.

The application of water in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (see "Sacraments") The Bible compares Baptism with the Old Testament practice of Circumcision (see Colossians 2: 9-15). From the earliest days, the Christian Church practiced infant baptism. Some churches teach a non-Sacramental adult "believers baptism" by immersion, others baptize in Jesus name only, while others reject "water baptism" and believe that baptism is an inward act of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 6: 1-7).

From the Greek word charisma which means "gift." In modern usage, a Charismatic is one who claims to have received spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit such as speaking in tongues (see "Glossolalia"), healing, miracles (see 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11). The theology of Charismatics is similar to Pentecostalism (see "Pentecostalism") and includes the second experience or baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Church Growth Movement
A movement that originated at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Growing out of a concern for diminishing church membership, the movement offered practical suggestions to "grow a church." While there is no doubt that the Church Growth Movement has produced some positive results, it has been widely criticized for attempting to appeal to the modern culture.

Christian researchers are divided over the definition of a cult. Some say cults are only characterized by aberrant teaching, such as denial of the doctrine of the Trinity, while others include in the definition the use of psychological techniques for capturing adherents.

Decision Theology
Arising out of a reaction to the Reformed teaching on predestination (see "Election"), advocates teach that man is saved and born-again when he makes a decision to accept Jesus Christ (see "Arminianism").

A nineteenth century distortion of Biblical history. Dispensationalists teach that there are seven distinct "dispensations" within biblical history. The seventh being the 1000 year reign of Christ or the millennium. The primary error is the "two covenant" teaching. According to Dispensationalists, God's covenant with Israel continues even through the present "church age." Most Protestants believe that the new covenant in Christ replaces the old covenant with Israel (see "Premillennialism").

Also known as "predestination." The Grolier's Encyclopedia states: "Predestination is a Christian doctrine according to which a person's ultimate destiny, whether it be salvation or damnation, is determined by God alone prior to, and apart from, any worth or merit on the person's part." While Martin Luther acknowledged Divine Election, he believed that it was a part of God's secret wisdom and was only a secondary concern since we do not know the mind of the Lord. Divine Election is applicable to the Christian who doubts his salvation. Luther believed that debates over Election led to confusion and were "of the devil." Debates over the subject produced the distortions of Arminianisn (see "Arminianism") and Universalism (see "Universalism").

Originally applied to Christians who center their theology in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (literal: Good News). Modern Evangelicalism took shape in the American revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries. New or neo-Evangelicalism arose in the 40's and 50's to refine anti-intellectual Fundamentalism (see "Fundamentalism"). Modern day Evangelicalism has widely sold out to modern culture and thereby lost sight of the centrality of the Gospel.

The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith. (see Ephesians 2: 8-9) What is faith? Since God has completed our salvation in Christ Jesus, faith receives or apprehends that finished work. Faith is produced by the Holy Spirit through the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (see Romans 10: 14-17). It is a supernatural work. It is a dangerous error to teach that faith causes salvation to occur. This is called synergism (see "Monergism") and leads to the errors in the Word/Faith Movement (see "Word/Faith Movement").

God forgives our sins because of the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. God does not merely overlook our sins. He demands that payment be made (see "Redemption"). Our sins are forgiven because the penalty for those sins was paid by Jesus. The just demands of God have been met. The assurance of our forgiveness is only found in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ (see "Sacrifice").

A late 19th and early 20th century Protestant movement that opposed the accommodation of Christian doctrine to modern scientific theory and philosophy, specifically Darwinian evolution. Identified as anti-intellectual, Fundamentalism prompted the rise of neo-Evangelicalism.

Glossolalia (literal: "tongue-speaking")
A biblical experience described in Acts 2: 4; 10: 46; 19: 6; 1 Corinthians 14.
Charismatics and Pentecostals claim to speak in tongues but there is little evidence (such as actual languages being identified) to support the claim. While the Bible does not promise that speaking in tongues would continue, neither does it say that speaking tongues would not continue.

The "good news" of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. The Gospel is a message of pure grace, (see "Grace") having nothing to do with our response, feelings, faith, decision, good works, "Jesus in our hearts," or the Law. To preach the Gospel is to preach what God has done, not what we should do or have done.

The undeserved favor of God whereby he forgives (see "Forgiveness") our sins and makes us right with him (see "Justification") through Jesus Christ.

The study of the methods and techniques for the interpretation of Scripture.

Historical-Critical Method
A method of interpreting Scripture whereby human reason, based on critical analysis, determines the validity of the biblical text. The hallmark of liberal theology manifested in the present day Jesus Seminar.

Holiness Movement
A 19th century movement producing the "Holiness Churches." Primary doctrinal emphasis is on entire sanctification by which believers are freed from original sin via a "second work of grace" (see "Sanctification").

Jesus Christ, the pre-existent Son of God, came "into the flesh" through the Virgin Mary (literal: "in the flesh").

Inerrancy (Biblical)
The Bible, in all points, is without error. A truth affirmed against 19th century liberalism.

Inspiration (Biblical)
The writers of the words of the Bible were inspired (literal: "in-breathed") by the Holy Spirit.

The cardinal doctrine of the sixteenth century Reformation. Luther rediscovered that the "righteousness of God" in Romans 1:17 was not a quality in God but the gift of righteousness which God gives to those who trust Jesus. This righteousness is legally imputed to the sinner and is always outside of the sinner. We cling to Jesus! His righteousness causes us to become acceptable to God. Objective justification means that God has declared the entire world of sinners to be right with him. Subjective justification occurs when the sinner comes to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of the preaching of the word.

God's commandments telling us what we should do and not do. The divine Law has a threefold purpose: To hinder the outbreak of sin (curb); to demonstrate sin in preparation to hear the Gospel (mirror) (see "Gospel"); and to guide the Christian life (rule) (see "Antinomianism").

The wrong use of the Law as the basis for righteousness or sanctification.

Lord's Supper, The Sacrament of the Altar, Holy Communion, the Eucharist.
The Lord's Supper was instituted by Jesus on Maundy Thursday evening. In the Sacrament (see "Sacrament"), Jesus gives to us his true body and blood in, with, and under the physical elements of bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins (see "Forgiveness" and "Sin").

The non-Biblical traditions that have arisen within Roman Catholicism concerning the role of the Virgin Mary. Romans Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without sin, was bodily assumed into heaven, and intercedes for Christians as their co-redeemer.

Monergism (literal "one work.")
Monergists correctly assert that conversion is the single work of God. It is God who saves through Christ. It is God who creates faith through the hearing of the Gospel. As opposed to synergism. Synergists believe that conversion is a cooperative work between man and God (see "Pelagianism").

The fifth century heresy of Pelagius who taught that man is not totally corrupt and can be saved by an act of his own will (see "Arminianism," "Monergism," "Revivalism," "Total Depravity").

A movement that arose in the beginning of the 20th century resulting in the Pentecostal denominations. Emphasized the second experience of the "baptism in the Holy Spirit," and the gifts of the Spirit, especially speaking in tongues. Forerunner of the modern Charismatic Movement (see "Charismatics," "Glossolalia.").

God demands perfect righteousness but grants it as a gift. Charles Finney (see "Revivalism") and the Holiness Churches (see "Holiness Movement," "Sanctification") teach that a Christian can arrive at inherent spiritual perfection in this life. Perfectionism undermines the truth of justification (see "Justification") since the righteousness of Christ is unnecessary.

Perseverance of the Saints
The last point of "Five-Point Calvinism." Those elected will be eternally saved.
Some Arminians (see "Arminianism") teach a doctrine of Eternal Security or "once saved, always saved" based upon regeneration (see "Regeneration"), not election. Once born-again, it is claimed that the Christian cannot be "unborn-again."
Lutheranism teaches that a Christian can fall away by rejecting Christ. For Luther, eternal security was found in Christ.

The end-time belief that Jesus will physically return after (post) the Church has established his 1000 year reign in the earth (see "Reconstructionism," "Theonomy").

The end-time belief that Jesus will return physically to the earth to establish a 1000-year reign. Most pre-millennialists are dispensationalists (see "Dispensationalism") who believe in the Rapture (see "Rapture") and a literal seven year tribulation (see "Tribulation) in which the anti-Christ will appear.

Promise Keepers
A popular modern men's movement with Charismatic roots (see "Charismatic") calling Christian men to make seven promises relating to their Christian life (see "Legalism").

Propitiation (literal: "causing one who has been justly hostile to another to become favorable via a payment.")
Jesus is our payment or "propitiation" (see "Reconciliation," "Redemption" ). Redemption (literal: "to buy back.") Jesus redeemed us, "not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death (Luther)" (see "Atonement," "Propitiation," "Reconciliation.").

A 19th century end-time notion based upon a faulty interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17. Rapturists believe that they will be "snatched" out of this world prior to the great tribulation (see "Tribulation"). Those who believe in a rapture are pre-millennialists (see "Pre-millennialism") and are a thorn in the side of the post-millennialists. (see "Post-millennialism") Amillennialists (see "Amillennialism") simply smile and say, "You're both wrong!"

Reconciliation (literal: "overcoming an estrangement")
Theologically, because of the sacrificial (see "Sacrifice," "Atonement") death of Jesus Christ, God has reconciled sinners unto himself. God has made us his friends because of Christ (see "Propitiation").

The Post-millennial (see "Post-millennialism") teaching that the Church, by the preaching of the Gospel, will be enabled to reconstruct the culture around biblical laws (see "Theonomy").

Reformation Theology
A theology based upon the three solas (literal: "alone") of the 16th century Reformation. We are saved by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone. These truths are drawn from Scripture Alone. Today there is a significant revival of Reformation theology to counter the experience-based theology of modern Evangelicalism (see "Evangelicalism") and the Pelagianism (see "Pelagianism") of Revivalism (see "Arminianism," "Revivalism").

Renewal or Renovation
The change that takes place in the Christian's life as a result of being brought to faith in Jesus Christ through the Gospel and being born-again (see "Gospel," "Faith," "Regeneration," "Sanctification."). Such renewal is merely begun in the Christian's life (see "Perfectionism").

Regeneration (literal: "to be born-again" John 3: 3-5)
We need to be born-again because we were born wrong (in Adam) the first time. The new birth is totally the work of God (see "Monergism"). Much controversy exists over when that new birth takes place. Lutherans believe in "baptismal regeneration" (see "Baptism").

Repentance (literal: "to change your mind")
Reformation theology (see "Reformation Theology") teaches that repentance is the combination of contrition (sorrow over sin) and faith in the forgiveness of sins promised in Jesus Christ. Such repentance is the result of hearing the Law and the Gospel.
Many Evangelicals (see "Evangelicalism") erroneously teach that repentance is a human decision to forsake sin and live a moral life prior to coming to faith.

A 19th century movement spearheaded by Charles Finney.
Finney, a classic Pelagian, (see "Pelagianism") taught that man is not dead in his trespasses and sin (see "Decision Theology," "Total Depravity") but is capable of deciding to be a Christian. The new birth (see "Regeneration"), according to Finney, was nothing more than an individual deciding to repent (see "Repentance") and live a moral life. Finney was a perfectionist (see "Perfectionism") who rejected the cardinal truth of justification (see "Justification"). His influence is widely felt today in much of Evangelicalism (see "Evangelicalism").

Sacrament (literal: from the Latin sacramentum, "mystery")
According to the Reformation perspective: A sacrament is a sacred act, instituted by the Lord Jesus, containing visible elements in which God promises and offers the forgiveness of sins. According to this definition, there are two sacraments: Baptism (see "Baptism") and the Lord's Supper (see "Lord's Supper"). The Roman Catholic definition of a sacrament allows for five additional sacraments: Confession, confirmation, marriage, ordination, and last rites.

God appointed sacrifices as a means whereby the guilty could offer acceptable worship. The idea of sacrifice pervades the whole Bible.

Old Testament sacrifices were of two kinds:
1. Unbloody, such as (1) first-fruits and tithes; (2) meat and drink-offerings; and (3) incense.
2. Bloody, such as (1) burnt-offerings; (2) peace-offerings; and (3) sin and trespass offerings.
We learn from Hebrews that sacrifices had no inherent value or efficacy. They were the "shadow of good things to come" and pointed to Jesus' death on the cross.

Salvation (literal: "to be delivered, taken out of a snare, or set free.")
Salvation involves the totality of what God has done for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have been delivered from sin, death, and the power of the devil. It is God who has saved us in Christ.

Sanctification (literal: "to be set apart or separated")
As a theological category, sanctification defines the Christian life lived as a result of justification (see "Justification"). While justification and sanctification must be distinguished and not confused, they can never be divided. While justification is a completed work in Christ, sanctification is progressive.

The transgression of God's Law. Original sin defines human nature (see "Total Depravity"). Actual sins are thoughts, words, and deeds contrary to God's Law or the failure to do the good that God commands. We sin, because we are sinners from birth.

Theonomy (literal: "God's Law.")
The post-millennial (see "Post-millennialism") view that God's Law will be established in the earth prior to the coming of the Lord Jesus (see "Reconstructionism").

The biblical doctrine specifically formulated at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) defining the person of God. There is one God in Three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All Christian denominations embrace the Doctrine of the Trinity.

Total Depravity
Also know as the doctrine of Original Sin. Man from birth is spiritually dead and alienated from God and totally unable to contribute anything toward his salvation (see "Monergism")

The view taught by pre-millennialists. (see "Pre-millennialism") The tribulation is a seven year period of time in which the anti-Christ will be revealed prior to the coming of Jesus to establish his earthly reign. Most teach that Christian will not experience the tribulation but will be raptured (see "Rapture").

Word/Faith Movement
A distorted and in some cases heretical view held by many Charismatics (see "Charismatic"). Word/Faith teachers claim that faith is a power which, when joined to a positive confession and, for some, visualization, will produce results. Our words have the same power and effect as God's Word. It is claimed that we are "little gods." Also known as "name it and claim it," or prosperity teaching.

A response to what God has done for us, especially in Christ Jesus. We are enabled to worship God because God himself has made us holy and acceptable to him in Christ Jesus (see "Justification," "Sacrifice"). Historic Christian worship is a structured response to God in which context his grace is also received in the Word and the Sacraments.

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