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glossaryDue to their intense love for scripture, Reformed Christians also love to discuss theology.

This Theological Glossary is offered to help non-reformed or newly-reformed Christians better understand and engage in such discussions.

If there is a theological term you like defined, contact Pastor McShaffrey and he will include it in the glossary.


Literally, “indifferent things”.  In Christian ethics, this is an activity which has neither been explicitly commanded nor forbidden by God.


That aspect of our salvation which conveys to the believer full assurance that he has been brought into God’s family and is thereby entitled to all the rights and privileges of a true child of God.


Literally, “a standing off”. Used in the Greek NT to designate those who appeared to be truly converted, but who fall away from the faith and forsake the fellowship.


A theological system named after its sixteenth-century founder Jacob Arminius. Main tenets:  (1) Man is not totally depraved, (2) God’s election is based on his foreknowledge of man’s faith,  (3) Christ made atonement for the sins of all men without exception, (4) God’s grace can be resisted by man, and (5) Christians can lose their salvation.


A description of the antagonistic relationship between God’s people and Satan’s people which began when God placed “enmity” between Eve and the Serpent (c.f., Genesis 3:15).


Literally, “Against-Law”.  A word to describe Christians who claim to be “under grace, not law” and who therefore fail to become sanctified through obedience to God’s commandments.


Literally, “No-millennium”. An interpretation of Revelation 20 which holds the 1,000 years to be symbolic and concomitant with the entire church age.


From a Greek term which means “to give a defense” (as in a court of law). Contemporary meaning: To offer a rational defense of the main tenets of the Christian faith (c.f., 1 Peter 3:15).


From the root “at one”. Describes what Christ accomplished through his death on the cross by satisfying the wrath of his Father: Reconciling sinners to God.


A theological system named after its sixteenth-century founder John Calvin. Main tenets: (1) Man is totally depraved, (2) God’s election is unconditional, (3) Christ made atonement for the elect,  (4) God’s grace is irresistible, and (5) Christians cannot lose their salvation.


A person who believes that the revelatory spiritual gifts of tongues and prophesy were given to the apostolic church for its initial establishment. Such gifts are therefore no longer exercised today.


A member of the church who has been admitted to the Lord’s Table after having made a public profession of saving faith.


A word to describe our view of redemptive-history.  A covenant is literally a promise or pledge made between two parties and this is how God relates to his people (e.g., Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, etc.). God’s pledge of salvation remained constant, while the recipients of that promise changed.

Creation Mandate

Sometimes called the “Cultural Mandate”. The original task given to mankind in the Garden of Eden: (1) Be fruitful and multiply, (2) Fill the earth and subdue it, and (3) exercise dominion over the creatures of earth (c.f., Genesis 1:28).

Common Grace

The observation that God demonstrates non-redemptive kindness to all men indiscriminately (c.f., Matthew 5:45).


From “credo” (to believe). That the sacrament of baptism is only properly applied to a person after an expression of personal repentance and faith.


The opposite of a “covenantal” view of redemptive-history. This view suggests that God’s relationship with people and plan of salvation changed many times through history. Specifically, it is inappropriate to confuse Israel with the Church.


From the Greek word for “church” (ekklesia): Things pertaining to the church.


Those whom God, from eternity past, and not due to anything in them, has chosen to save.


Literally, “the study of last things”. In theology, this is the study of death, the afterlife, judgment, the millennium, heaven, and hell.


At one time the word was used to distinguish mainline and liberal churches from those which held to the the historic “evangelical” Christian faith. Today, the word describes churches which emphasize  individualism, experientialism, and revivalism.

General Revelation

That God has revealed some of his attributes to men through creation and providence (c.f., Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 1:18-21). This revelation is not sufficient to communicate a saving knowledge of God.

Historia Salutis

Literally, “History of Salvation”. A theological perspective that focuses on the providential progression of God’s salvation through redemptive-historical events (i.e., creation, fall, OT covenants, the work of Christ, outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and consummation of all things).


A perversion of Calvinism which so affirms the sovereignty of God, that the free offer of the Gospel to the reprobate is denied.


The observation that scripture actually contains no errors.


The quality of not being able to err. Since scripture is inspired by God, it cannot therefore contain any errors.


The process by which God wrote scripture: Speaking through the agency of man by the Holy Spirit.


An act of God whereby he judicially declares a guilty sinner to be innocent based on the imputed righteousness of Christ.


A baptized member of the church who has not yet made a public profession of faith and who is not therefore admitted to the Lord’s Table.


From the Greek word for house (oiko): That the sacrament of baptism is properly applied to an entire household when the head of that house believes.


The official and public act of setting apart a man to serve in one of the special offices of the church (i.e., Pastor, Elder, or Deacon).

Ordo Salutis

Literally, “Order of Salvation”.  A conceptual or logical (i.e., not strictly chronological)  sequence of the process of salvation: Calling, Repentance, Conversion, Justification, Adoption, Sanctification, Perseverance, Glorification.


Literally, “straight teaching”.  Used to describe doctrine that is in strict adherence to what scripture teaches.


Literally, “straight practice”. Used to describe acts of worship and piety which demonstrate orthodox doctrine.


From the Greek word for child (paido): That the sacrament of baptism is properly applied professing believers and their children.


A religious movement which began in the seventeenth-century which emphasized a highly-personalized and experiential “religion of the the heart” over against the perceived coldness of historic orthodoxy.


Literally, “after the millennium”. An interpretation of Revelation 20 which holds that Christ’s second coming will come after a long period of steady gospel success, leading ultimately to a “Golden Age” of Christian dominance on earth.


Literally, “before the millennium”. An interpretation of Revelation 20 which holds that Christ’s second coming will precede his 1,000 reign on earth.


From the Greek word for “Elder” (presbuteros): The biblical form of church government in which local congregations are ruled by Elders (c.f., 1 Timothy  5:17, Titus 1:5-9)


A person’s most deeply held assumptions and beliefs which may or may not verifiable as true.


That God’s wrath against sinners was “appeased” or “satisfied” by the substitutionary suffering and death of Jesus Christ.


God’s constant upholding, directing, disposing, and governing of all his creation and creatures.


From the word “Psalms”. Historically refers to a song book containing only versified settings of the Psalms of scripture (i.e., as opposed to a Hymnal which includes non-inspired songs).


Those whom God, from eternity past, has chosen not to elect for salvation.


Commonly called “ordinances” in evangelical churches: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.


From the Latin “sanctus” which literally means “holy” or “consecrated”. In scripture, designates all Christians. In late medieval roman catholicism, use was limited to a special class. We retain the scriptural use.


The process of progressively becoming more holy.


That attribute of God which affirms his absolute control over all things at every single moment; without being the author or cause of sin.

Special Revelation

That God has revealed himself and his salvation through Scripture (c.f., Psalm 19:7-11, John 20:30-31).


Literally, “God-Law”. A method of Bible interpretation which believes that all of God’s Old Testament laws are perpetually binding upon believers unless they are fulfilled or rescinded in the New Testament.


The way a person interrelates and interprets every aspect of his experiences based on his presuppositions.