Random Theology Terms Part 1

The following is a partial list of terms that I needed to know for a theology test.  Some of the terms are defined from tertiary sources found online, some from notes I took in class, and others from a peer in the class with me.  Enjoy reading through this random list. 

Accidents and Substance according to Aristotle

Substances are the ultimate things in the universe – typically these are nouns – people and things.  Accidents are the features of the substances.

Altered Augsburg Confession

The Altered Augsburg Confession (Lat. Confessio Augustana Variata) is a later version of the Lutheran Augsburg Confession that includes substantial differences with regard to holy communion and the presence of Christ in bread and wine.

Authority (primary authority, secondary authority, tertiary authority)

A Primary Source offers first-hand evidence on the subject you’re investigating. Written or created by an eyewitness or participant, it presents an insider’s perspective. For example:

  • Diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, speeches
  • Journal articles reporting original/new research or findings

A Secondary Source is NOT the original source. Written or created after the subject you’re investigating, it offers interpretations, analyses, or criticisms of primary sources. For example:

  • Journal articles that review an existing body of scientific literature, rather than describe new research
  • Biographies
  • Historical studies
  • Reviews (e.g. movie, music, play, art, etc.)

Tertiary Source synthesizes information from other sources–primary and secondary–and presents it with relevant context. For example:

  • Reference materials (e.g. encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, etc.)
  • Textbooks

Calling or Vocation

One’s God given roles through which God works to care for and provide for his creation.

Catechism

A catechism is the summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, used for the instruction of Christians.

Catechism’s components

Luther’s Small Catechism

Section 1- 10 Commandments, Creeds, Lord’s Prayer, Sacrament of Baptism, Confession, Sacrament of the Altar

Section 2 – Daily Prayers

Section 3 – Table of Duties

Section 4 – Christian Questions with their Answers

Commands of God or Virtues of Christian life

God’s will for his creation.

Confession (as understood by Lutherans)

Two Terms/ideas

  • Confession: to say again.  A statement of belief which summarizes the whole teaching of Holy Scripture in addition to serving as a hermeneutical guide for understanding Scripture, the World, and the Christian’s place in that world.
  • Also means to speak/admit one’s sins in order to receive absolution.

 Confessional subscription

To subscribe to a confession or confessional statement means to attach oneself to that confession and make it one’s own.  The LC-MS requires its pastors to subscribe to the Confession of the Book of Concord stating they believe it is a proper understanding and interpretation of the Scriptures.  The two main types of subscription are quia and quatenus subscription (SEE BELOW).

Contradict – They Can’t All Be True

A book written by Andy Wrasman, published by WestBow Press in 2014.

 Corpus doctrinae

This term, meaning “body of doctrine,” is used for a collection of writings that was meant to summarize authentic apostolic teaching and doctrine.

Creatio ex nihilo

God created all things out of nothing by his spoken word.

Ecumenical creeds

Ecumenical creeds is an umbrella term used in the Western Church to refer to the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed and, less commonly, the Athanasian Creed. The ecumenical creeds are also known as the universal creeds.

The Apostle’s: Foundation of the Christian faith.  Believed to be an early baptismal creed.  Clearly articulates the identity and roles of the three persons of the trinity.

Nicene: Creed created in response to Arianism and later refined to combat Pneumatomachians.  Affirms the divinity of Son and Spirit.  Further expounds details of Apostle’s Creed

Athanasian creeds: Expounds comments on particular theological issues.

Epistemology of faith (or epistemology of Saint Paul, 1 Corinthians 1)

Epistemology is the study of knowledge.

Paul outlines four areas of knowledge:

  1. Empirical (Experimental) knowledge
  2. Logical (Reason) knowledge
  3. Aesthetic (Having to do with beauty) knowledge
  4. Authoritative knowledge (Knowledge above) – above all other knowledge.  This is God’s knowledge which must be trusted and taken without question.

Fear of God

Luther explains the fear of God using this analogy of his son: “little Hans knows I love him, but he also knows I’m much bigger and stronger than him and can whop him clear across the room if I so choose”

 Gnosticism

Greek religious movement that emphasized secret knowledge for its initiates.  Gnosticism had and has many variants.  Gnostics commonly emphasized a radical distinction between the material world (which was evil) and the spiritual dimensions (which were good).

Furthermore, this belief had an influence the early Christian Church.

God as defined in Luther’s Large Catechism, Creed, first article

Anything you fear, love, and trust above all else.

Law

The will of God for his creation.  Often times this is defined as God’s commands and demands.

Thomas Aquinas’ four types of law:

  1. Eternal Law – Exists in the mind of God.
  2. Divine Law – The part of eternal law that has been revealed (Namely the Ten Commandments).
  3. Natural Law – The law of the universe that is discernable by human reason (Paul reverences this in Romans- Law written on their hears).
  4. Human Law – Application to natural law in a specific context/situation/culture.  Ex. We have Laws in the USA.

Natural law

Will of God for creation which is best summarized in the Decalog (Ten Commandments).

Ninian Smart’s seven component parts of all religions

Ritual: Forms and orders of ceremonies (private and/or public) (often regarded as revealed)

Narrative and Mythic: stories (often regarded as revealed) that work on several levels. Sometimes narratives fit together into a fairly complete and systematic interpretation of the universe and human’s place in it.

Experiential and emotional: dread, guilt, awe, mystery, devotion, liberation, ecstasy, inner peace, bliss (private)

Social and Institutional: belief system is shared and attitudes practiced by a group. Often rules for identifying community membership and participation (public)

Ethical and legal: Rules about human behavior (often regarded as revealed from supernatural realm)

Doctrinal and philosophical: systematic formulation of religious teachings in an intellectually coherent form

Material: ordinary objects or places that symbolize or manifest the sacred or supernatural

Original sin

AKA – Inherited Sin.  From Adam’s fall, the sinful nature was beget to all humans, so that we are by nature sinners.

Quatenus

Definitions:

  1. how far/long?, to what point
  2. since
  3. to what extent
  4. where
  5. while, so far as

I subscribe to the Book of Concord quatenus (so far as) it is a faithful exposition of the teachings of the Bible.

Quia

Definitions:

  1. because

I subscribe to the Book of Concord quia (because) it is a faithful exposition of the teaching of the Bible.  

Relationship of the first commandment to the other commandments in Luther’s Small Catechism

All the commandments are essentially a breaking of the first commandment.  When a person lies, cheats, steals, kills, covets, or commits adultery, he is ultimately putting his fear, love, and trust in something or someone else over the fear, love, and trust that is rightly due to God alone.  Essentially – idolatry is the root problem of all sin.

Relationship of Scripture and the Book of Concord

Scripture is the Word of God.  The Book of Concord is a faithful exposition of the teachings found in the Book of Concord.

The Bible norms the confessions.  The confessions norm our teachings and practices.

Relationship of the spiritual and material realms of creation

The Spiritual and material realms are God’s way of working in the world. Lutherans are often accused of dualism here, but that is a blatant misunderstanding of Luther since these realms intersect in the life of the Christian and the life of the church.

  • The Spiritual realm involves things pertaining to God such as confession and absolution, the sacraments, the word of God, and Christian individuals who are called to a higher virtue of loving their neighbor.
  • The Temporal or Material realm includes government, commerce, and the laws of the world which are used primarily to curb evil rather than to point an individual to God.

Regula fidei

Rule of faith.

Subjective – everyone has a rule of faith that they run with

  • But this rule of faith must be in submission to Scripture
  • As to confessions the rule of faith has a flexible guide
    • This flexible guide shifts to the needs of the people
      • Confessions don’t always address the concerns of the day
      • Is it Left Behind? Is it speaking in tongues and spiritual gifts?  Is it transgender issues?  It depends.

Operative rule of faith

  • A rule that one would write for his current situation to operate by

Righteousness, human

Being in a right relationship with one’s neighbors and within one’s society.  A person can be righteous in the human sense, but not in the divine.  To be in a right relationship with God, a person must have faith in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

Spirit of Augsburg

  1. Evangelical – tells the Good News of Jesus Christ
  2. Eschatological – sees itself as part of Christian witness in these end times (the Antichrist is present in the office of the Papacy)
  3. Ecumenical – yes, even though the LCMS thinks this is sometimes a dirty word
  4. Edicatory – imparts knowledge intended to be used for helping others grow
  5. Evangelistic – desires to share the Word of God with others

Symbol (as document)

From the second century on Christians have expressed the biblical faith in summaries that served to identify the church’s public message.  The Greek word symbol – a technical word for creed – identified the function of such summaries of church’s teachings as its identifying statement of belief, purpose, and mission.

Tables of the law

The “First Table of the Law,” then, describes our fear, love, and trust of God, our exclusive worship God, our prayers, and our hearing the Lord’s Word.

The “Second Table of the Law,” beginning with the commandment “Honor your father and your mother” gives shape to our love for our neighbors.

Unaltered Augsburg Confession

The original text of the Augsburg confession written by P. Melanchthon for the Diet of Augsburg on June 25th, 1530 A.D.  Also called the Confessio Augustana Invariata: the original text of the 1531 edito princeps.

Later editions “watered down” chief principles of this confession which permitted a “spiritualized” view of the Lord’s Supper.

Valentianism

The gnostic heresy of Valentianism was a dualistic sect. Founded by an ex-Catholic Bishop by the name of Valentius, he taught that there were three kinds of people, the spiritual, the psychical, and the material. This meant that only those of a spiritual nature (his followers) received the gnosis (knowledge) that allowed them to return to the divine Pleroma (totality of Divine Power). Those of a psychic nature (the ordinary Christians) would attain a lesser form of salvation, and that those of a material nature (the pagans and the Jews) were doomed to perish.

Valentinus (also spelled as Valentinius, c.100 – c.160) was the best known and most successful early Christian gnostic theologian for some time.

Walks of life (estates)

Luther saw all of human life ordered across three spheres of structured relationships: the politia, the oeconomia, and the ecclesia. These indicate government and state, the household and economic human interactions, and the church. Each estate or sphere is ordered hierarchically (thus the alternative designation, “the three hierarchies”). In each estate there exists a set of hierarchically structured relationships that organize human life under God’s care. The top of each hierarchy stands God himself who endows those ruling and governing in the given hierarchy with their given authority. The basic premise of all hierarchies is that the authority that subsists in each is finally divine.

Creeds! What are they good for?

The following is an example of an all too common conversation that arises when certain Christians encounter confessional subscription for the first time. 

Lucy: Hey, Andy, I know you are studying at a Lutheran seminary.  I was hoping you could explain to me what just occurred during this installation service for Pastor Forde.

Andy: (Starts to nod yes to give a reply, but is cut off.)

Lucy: During the service, the pastor said he confessed the Bible to be (she throws up her fingers for air quotes) “the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”  But then he also pledged himself to the creeds and the Lutheran Confessions.  Then he promised that everything he would do as a pastor would be (throws up her fingers for air quotes again) “in conformity with Holy Scripture and these Confessions.”  This seems like a contradiction.

Andy: How so?

Lucy: It seems to me that the promise he made puts the Confessions on the same plain of authority as the Bible.  Is this correct?

Andy:  No.  That isn’t correct.  Before I answer your question, let me first share with you what the Confessions are, so that you know what it is he subscribed to believe to be in conformity with Scripture. The Lutheran Confessions are called The Book of Concord which contains the three ecumenical creeds of the Church, the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasius Creed, as well multiple documents written during the 16th century during the Reformation: Luther’s Small and Large Catechism, Philip Melanchthon’s Augsburg Confession and Defense of the Augsburg Confession, Luther’s Smalcald Articles, Melanchthon’s Treatise on the Authority and Primacy of the Pope – in which he calls the office of the pope the office of the Anti-Christ – it’s awesome!  You’ll love it Lucy – and the Formula of Concord, which was written by many authors.

I can give you more information on any of these writings, if you would like them, but to answer your question; what the pastor just subscribed to was that he unconditionally recognizes that these writings are a correct exposition of the Bible.  In other words, The Book of Concord accurately represents the teachings of Scripture.  It is not “the infallible rule of faith and practice.”  Instead, the Confessions are normed by “the infallible rule of faith and practice” – the Bible.

Lucy: Do I understand you to be saying that these Confessions are true only insofar as they represent accurately what is in Scripture?

Andy: Some Lutherans might be open to accepting such a subscription, but my church body, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, expects our pastors to subscribe unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions not insofar as they are a correct exposition of the Word, but because they are a correct exposition of the Word.

Lucy: To my way of thinking this still seems like splitting hairs.  It appears as if the Confessions are being raised to the level of Scripture.  Why is it necessary to have the Confessions?  In my Church, we don’t believe in creeds or have confessions; we just believe in the Bible.

Andy: I understand how this can be a bit confusing to you, as I do understand how this might seem as if we are adding words to the Bible, since you are not familiar with confessions or their use.  I ensure you that’s not what we are doing, and I might be able to help you understand how we are not doing this by pointing out that you just shared a creed of your church body.

Lucy: I didn’t share a creed.  We only believe the Bible.

Andy:  That’s your creed.  (Pausing to let it sink in)

Lucy: …That’s not a creed.  It’s an anti-creed.

Andy: A creed is simply a statement of belief.  You believe that creeds are not necessary for a church body to have and confess, but that is a statement of belief, thus creedal.  Essentially, everyone has creeds.

Lucy: So maybe what I’m asking and really wanting to know is, why isn’t the Bible enough?  What task or function do the Confessions play that make them necessary, or really important?

Andy: Great questions.  When we consider the Bible, it’s not that large of a book, but certainly there are many interpretations that emerge concerning it, wouldn’t you agree?

Lucy: Yes.  I know that you Lutherans believe that baptism saves you, but I reject that idea entirely.

Andy: That’s an example of division in the Body of Christ.  And from my experiences, when discussing this teaching, both sides of the debate end up using the same verses.  When I point to verses that I believe demonstrate the promises of forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation that God has given to us in baptism, Christians from your position typically say those verses are about spiritual baptism.

Lucy:  That’s right.  My church body would say such gifts are received in Spiritual Baptism when we receive the Holy Spirit and faith – or when we are born again.

Andy:  Because of these differing interpretations and the different hermeneutics – rules of interpretation – that bring forth these contradictory teachings, confessions are necessary and helpful.  They place a stake in the ground concerning what one understands to be the proper interpretation of Scripture.  You and I both would agree that we what we believe is found in Scripture, but we believe different things are taught by Scripture.  For instance, how would I know what you and your church body believes concerning the Bible, since all you believe is the Bible?  Would I have to read the whole Bible?  And then because of different hermeneutics, I still likely wouldn’t arrive at knowing what you believe when you say, “I just believe the Bible.”

Lucy: You’d go to our church website and you can find our “What We Believe” page.

Andy:  And when I click on it, would the page simply show a picture of a Bible, or would it take me to the entire text of the Bible, since that’s “just what you believe?”

Lucy: (Pausing a moment in thought) Are you suggesting that our “What We Believe” page functions as our Confessions.

Andy:  Yes, I am.  And I think when you understand that, you’ll understand more fully the function of confessions. I’m sure you believe that your church’s “What We Believe” page is in submission to Scripture.

Lucy:  I do.

Andy: And as such, that page and the beliefs found on it, are a helpful tool for you to share your faith with others.  It’s a good summation of what you (throwing up air quotes with his fingers) “confess” to be true as a Christian – even though the Bible is (again, throwing up air quotes with his fingers) “the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”

Lucy:  I’m glad we’re having this conversation.  I’m understanding creeds and confessions in a brand new light.

Andy: Thanks for taking the time to understand our position and use of the Lutheran Confessions.  We certainly don’t want anyone to think that we are adding to or taking away from Scripture with our use of creeds and confessions.  I think it is also helpful to understand the origins of confessions.  Many scholars consider 1 Corinthians 15 to contain an early church creed.  Paul says that what he first received he passed on to the Corinthians as of first importance.  As I said, creeds are useful for sharing and teaching the faith with others, because they formulate what is in Scripture in precise statements that Scripture doesn’t always do for us.  The idea then is that Paul received this instruction when he became a believer and then he used that instruction to pass the faith on to others.  It’s a very simple creed: “Christ died for sins, was buried, and raised on the third day according to Scripture,” and then a list of eyewitnesses to the resurrected Lord is given.  If someone were to ask me what the Gospel is, I’d use that creedal statement that in this instance, interestingly, goes back to before Scripture was even written!

Lucy:  Are there other reasons creeds and confessions are used, or other reasons they were formulated besides simply confessing and teaching?

Andy: I do think we take for granted much of the doctrines we know in the Church today.  For instance, if I looked on your church’s website’s (throwing up air quotes) “creedal page,” I imagine that I would find statements about the Trinity – God being three persons, yet one God.  That doctrine and the wording we use to describe the nature of God is not clearly defined or formulated in Scripture.  We can see that all three persons are fully God in Scripture and we can see that Scripture is clear that there isn’t three Gods, so what do we do with that?  Well… thankfully, the early Church handled such problems for us by formulating doctrinal statements on the Trinity – a word that is not in the Bible by the way.  The Church was forced to do such work, because they recognized that teachings were emerging that were against the witness of Scripture.  Because the saints that have gone before us have done such work formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, such as what is recorded in the Nicene Creed, we don’t have to and that creed can serve as a boundary marker for us on what is correct and incorrect concerning the person and nature of the Triune Lord.

Lucy:  So what do you do if a new controversy or false teaching arises that isn’t addressed in the Confessions of the Lutheran Church?

Andy:  I’m glad you asked.  The Confessions can serve as a flexible guide that shifts to the needs of the times, since the Confessions don’t always address the concerns of the day.  For instance, a couple of decades ago, the book series, Left Behind, sparked a lot of conversation concerning the return of Christ.  The Lutheran Confessions don’t directly make statements on the Rapture or the Millennium found in Revelation chapter 20, yet they do provide guidance on what is allowed and not allowed to believe concerning such matters by the boundary markers they set concerning how we can interpret Scripture.

Lucy:  It is interesting that you mention that example, because when that series was so popular, our church made an addition to our “What We Believe” page.  Do you think your church body would ever add or update your Confessions to meet the needs of the day?

Andy:  It is possible.  We however have the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) that provides study documents, opinions and statements on theological issues that are not directly and specifically addressed by the Confessions in our current context.  Their reports serve as guidance to the pastors and congregations in our church body, but pastors are not bound to subscribe to them as they are the Confessions.

Lucy:  This is all very fascinating.  Thank you for taking the time to explain the Book of Concord to me.

Andy:  I’m glad you found my answers helpful.  Let me send you a text message of an image I have saved that I think will serve as a good summary of what we’ve discussed that you can use as a tool to help explain this conversation to others in your church.  I probably should have pulled this up at the start of our conversation. (Sends text message)

Lucy: (Opens message and sees the following image)

Creeds and Confessions