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Christian Terms


This glossary of terms will help the reader distinguish among the various kinds of Christians within Protestantism. Some of these ideas are not exclusive to any one group, and there exists much overlap among the denominations or individual churches.

 

Calvinism-a system of theological thought taken from the work of John Calvin (1509-1564), one of the Reformation's most prominent theologians. Calvin's best known work was his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvinism's tenets were codified by the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) in what is popularly known as the TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and the Perserverence of the Saints). Within Calvinist theology is the doctrine of predestination, which is the foreknowledge and sovereignty of God. God foreknows all that is to happen, and chooses some to eternal life and others to eternal damnation. This contradicts any notion that humanity is endowed with free will to choose salvation since humanity is Totally Depraved to choose God. God must choose the individual person, and since the atonement of Christ is limited only to whom God chooses (the Elect), not all will be saved. When God chooses some to eternal life, the individual cannot resist God's call (Irresistible Grace) and real salvation is evidenced by the individual's Perserverence to serve God and remain in the Christian life.

 

Charismatic-also known as "Neo-Pentecostalism" that arose in the mid-twentieth century among members of mainline Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism. This movement practiced such Pentecostal doctrines as speaking in tongues, faith healing, and stressed subjective experiences with the Holy Spirit. Although initially interdenominational, the Charismatic movement spawned non-denominational Christian groups that do not necessarily fit into the category of Protestantism or Roman Catholicism.

 

Evangelical- a designation for Christians who hold to basic conservative interpretations of the Bible, including the belief in the literal supernatural conception (virgin birth) of Jesus, his resurrection from the dead, and the proclamation of the "evangel" or "good news" of salvation through Christ. This term arises out of the Greek word euangelion, meaning "good news." Evangelical is also a generic term that includes Christians from a wide variety of Protestant denominations, Eastern Orthodoxy and even evangelical Roman Catholics. It's not exclusively a Protestant term. Although Evangelicalism is conservative in a traditional view of the Bible as the Word of God, they tend not to be separatist (avoiding other Christian churches who disagree with their theology-see Fundamentalism). "Evangelical" is also an umbrella term that covers Christians who hold to such beliefs.

 

Fundamentalism- a term to describe the movement of conservative Protestant Christians on the North American continent in the early twentieth century that arose in the wake of the publishing of a series of pamphlets known as "The Fundamentals," edited by R.A. Torrey. Basically, Fundamentalism was a rejection of the liberal "modernist" trend among mainline Protestant churches that accepted "biblical higher criticism," and doubted the literal supernatural claims of the Bible. Fundamentalist churches tend to be separatist, and often do not associate with other churches whose interpretation of the Bible are not literal. Fundamentalists tend to accept the view that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues (see Pentecostalism) ceased when the canon of the Bible was completed, and thus are not meant to be practiced in present times. Fundamentalism is characterized by a literal interpretation of the Bible.

 

Pentecostalism- a major movement in the early twentieth century with origins from Wesleyanism that teaches a post-conversion experience called "the Baptism in the Holy Spirit" typified by the phenomena known as "speaking in tongues" or ecstatic speech also known as "glossalalia." Pentecostalism stresses faith healing and supernatural phenomena for present times, unlike it's fundamentalist counterpart. Pentecostalism tends to agree with Fundamentalism in the doctrine of understanding the Bible literally and supernaturally. Examples of classic Pentecostal denominations include the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland, TN), and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

 

Protestant- a designation for the movement that arose in the sixteeth century in Europe to "reform" the Roman Catholic Church traced to former Augustinian monk Martin Luther. Originally applied only to Lutherans, the term "Protestant" came to be applied to non-Roman Catholic and non-Orthodox Christians whose theology came about because of a "protest" of the use of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. Protestantism's major doctrines include "sola Scriptura" meaning that the Bible alone is the final written authority for doctrine, and salvation by grace through faith alone apart from "good works" resulting in eternal life. Individual believers are to read and understand the Bible apart from the interpretation of church authorities. Major Protestant traditions include Lutheran, Calvinist, and Episcopalian.

 

Wesleyanism- a term associated with churches whose origins came from the teachings of John Wesley (1703-1791). Wesley taught the doctrine of "entire sanctification" wherein a Christian is progressively made holy by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit resulting in eventual sinless perfection. Wesleyanism teaches the doctrine of the "second blessing" whereby one is "sanctified" after conversion. The idea of subsequent experiences with the Holy Spirit later found it's way into Pentecostal theology. Methodism originated with Wesley as did the "holiness" movements of the eighteenth and nineteeth centuries.



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