Theological Glossary

This is an ever-growing glossary of terms that I use in the class I teach at Frisco Bible Church.

Anthropomorphism – Representation of God in the form of a human being in speech or writing. “Anthropomorphism,” derived from two Greek words, means literally “human form-ism.” It can refer both to a proper, biblical representation of God and to an improper, even corrupt, manner of representing deity.1

Christophany  — A manifestation or appearance of Christ either before the incarnation (OT) or after the resurrection (NT).Mangum, D. (2014).2

Chalcedonian Definition – The Chalcedonian Definition was prepared by over 500 Greek bishops at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In response to erroneous interpretations of the person of Christ advanced by Apollinarius, Nestorius and Eutyches, the Definition states that Jesus Christ is perfectly God and perfectly man, that he is consubstantial with God as to His divinity, and with mankind as to his humanity. Moreover, humanity and deity are joined in the God-man ‘without confusion, without change, without division, without separation’. Chalcedon represents the definitive statement, albeit in Greek ontological language, of how Jesus Christ was God and man at the same time.3

The heart of the statement says:

In agreement, therefore, with the holy fathers we all unanimously teach that we should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same Son; the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father in Godhead and the same consubstantial with us in manhood; like us in all things except sin; begotten of the Father before all ages as regards his Godhead and in the last days the same, for us and for our salvation, begotten of the Virgin Mary the Theotokos [God-bearer] as regards his manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the difference of the natures being by no means removed because of the union but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one person [prosopon] and one hypostasis, not parted or divided into two persons but one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets of old and Jesus Christ himself have taught us about him, and the creed of our fathers has handed down.4

Communicatio Idiomatum – Latin, meaning “the communication of properties”; the doctrine that the properties of the divine and human natures in Christ are the properties of a single person and that therefore both are ascribed to that person. Thus, He can be described as “Almighty” or “a man of sorrows.” This explains how Christ, spoken of under a human title, can have divine properties ascribed to Him (e.g., John 3:13), or how, when He is spoken of under His divine title, He can have human acts or properties ascribed to Him (e.g., Acts 20:28). In all this there is no confusion of the natures.5

Eschatology – The study of the end times, including death, the intermediate state, the afterlife, judgment, the millennium, heaven, and hell. Also refers to the time of Jesus’ second coming. The word eschatology comes from a combination of Greek words meaning “the study of last things.”6

Hermeneutics – Hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation. Exegesis consists of the actual interpretation of the Bible, the bringing out of its meaning, whereas hermeneutics establishes the principles by which exegesis is practiced.7

Hypostatic Union – The union of the Divine and human natures in the One Person (‘Hypostasis’) of Jesus Christ. The doctrine was elaborated by St *Cyril of Alexandria and formally accepted by the Church in the Definition of *Chalcedon (451).8

Immutability – The doctrine that God is unchanging. In some Greek thought, this teaching became virtually a static view of God. Properly understood, however, it is simply an emphasis upon the unchanging character and dependability of God.9

Omnipresence – A reference to the fact that God is everywhere present and has access to all portions of reality.10

Omniscience – State of being all knowing, which theology ascribes to God. Though Scripture affirms God’s immeasurable understanding (Ps. 147:5), God’s omniscience is not a matter of abstract speculation. Rather, God’s knowing is a matter of personal experience. God knows us intimately (Ps. 139:1–6; Matt. 6:4, 6, 8). Such knowledge is cause for alarm for the unrighteous but for confidence for God’s saints (Job 23:10; Pss. 34:15–16; 90:8; Prov. 15:3; 1 Pet. 3:12).11

Pantheism – Pantheism means all (“pan”) is God (“theism”). It is the worldview held by most Hindus, many Buddhists, and other New Age religions. It is also the worldview of Christian Science, Unity, and Scientology. According to pantheism, God “is all in all.” God pervades all things, contains all things, subsumes all things, and is found within all things. Nothing exists apart from God, and all things are in some way identified with God. The world is God, and God is the world. But more precisely, in pantheism all is God, and God is all.12

Panentheism – The view that the whole of the universe is included in God but does not exhaust God. The world is not distinct from God, as in theism, but neither is God identical with the world (pantheism). Panentheists sometimes think of the universe as the body of God, but they say God transcends his body in much the same way that a person transcends his or her material body. Panentheism is a common position in process theology.13

Prevenient Grace – The grace God extends to all people that enables them to respond to either accept or reject the gospel. Usually associated with Arminianism and contrasted with irresistible grace, though irresistible grace is simply prevenient grace that is only extended to the elect and cannot be rejected.14

Process Theology – An approach to theology inspired by the philosophical thought of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne, with Shubert Ogden as one of its main proponents. Process theology rejects the classical picture of God as immutable and transcendent in favor of a God who is partly evolving with and in relation to the created world. The problem of evil looks different in such a context. Since process theologians do not necessarily think of the natural order as created out of nothing, evil may be partly due to the recalcitrant nature of that order, in which God works persuasively along with his creatures for the good. Process theology should be distinguished from open theism, which questions the classical doctrine of divine foreknowledge, though there are points of similarity between the two theologies.15

Propitiation – Propitiation properly signifies the removal of wrath by the offering of a gift. In the OT it is expressed by the verb kipper (*Atonement). In the NT the hilaskomai word group is the important one. 16

Soteriology – Literally, “the study of salvation.” This topic within the corpus of systematic theology deals with the work of the triune God in bringing creation, and especially humans, to enjoy the divine purpose for existence. More specifically, “objective” soteriology speaks of the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ in relation to human salvation. In addition, “subjective” soteriology (the work of the Spirit in the application of Christ’s salvation) deals with the process whereby individuals are brought to God’s saving goals. Topics generally covered include election, calling, regeneration, faith, repentance, conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification.17

Syllogism – A syllogism is a sequence of two statements, called premises, the truth of which implies the truth of a third statement, known as conclusion. The term for deriving a conclusion from something known or assumed is “deduce,” which is why syllogisms are forms of deductive arguments. In a good deductive argument, if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. For example:

All dogs are mammals.

All mammals are animals.

Therefore, all dogs are animals.

In this example, if we accept the truth of the first two statements, then we must also accept the truth of the conclusion. Notice there is an underlying pattern to our example. If we substitute the terms (dogs, mammals, and animals) for letters (A, B, C) the pattern becomes more obvious:

All A are B.

All B are C.

Therefore, all A are C.18

Theophany – An appearance or manifestation of God; a compound word derived from the Greek noun for God and the Greek verb “to appear.”19

  1. Culver, R. D. (1988). Anthropomorphism. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 117). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  2. The Lexham Glossary of Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  3. Ferguson, S. B., & Packer, J. I. (2000). In New dictionary of theology (electronic ed., p. 180). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. Olson, R. E., & English, A. C. (2005). Pocket History of Theology: Twenty Centuries in Five Concise Acts (pp. 47–48). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
  5. Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms (p. 103). Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.
  6. Brooks, P. (2016). Eschatology. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  7. Ryrie, C. C. (1999). Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (p. 125). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.
  8. Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 818). Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press.
  9. Erickson, M. J. (2001). The concise dictionary of Christian theology (Rev. ed., 1st Crossway ed., p. 79). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
  10. Ibid, p. 80
  11. Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Omniscience. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1221). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  12. Geisler, N. L. (1999). Pantheism. In Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics (p. 580). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
  13. Evans, C. S. (2002). In Pocket dictionary of apologetics & philosophy of religion (p. 88). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  14. Mangum, D. (2014). The Lexham Glossary of Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  15. Evans, C. S. (2002). In Pocket dictionary of apologetics & philosophy of religion (pp. 96–97). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  16. Morris, L. L. (1996). Propitiation. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 975). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  17. Grenz, S., Guretzki, D., & Nordling, C. F. (1999). Pocket dictionary of theological terms (p. 108). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  18. Carter, J., & Coleman, J. (2009). How to argue like jesus: learning persuasion from history’s greatest communicator (p. 45). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
  19. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Theophany. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 2050). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
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