I've decided to start this blog series, Defining Terms, because many people don't know most of the theology nerd talk that I and many others like to use. I decided, to help as many out as I can, to start defining these words. I then thought about where to start, and thought, "Where better to start than defining the categories?" So in this article, I'll be defining these words (I will also briefly define each different position within them):
In it's most basic sense, Theology simply means the study of God and the Christian faith. It is the study of the world through a Christian lens, and every other term on the list above is a form of theology in some form or another.
Christology is the study of God the Son, Jesus Christ. Basic Christian Christology includes study of the Incarnation, the Nativity, the Hypostatic Union, the Atonement, and a whole bunch of other big words that I hope to define in future articles. It studies the life, death, and teachings of Jesus on Earth, and his relation to both believers and other members of the Trinity. It mostly consists of essential doctrines.
Ecclesiology is the study of Church Structure, Church Discipline, Church Government, and the Church's relation to God and the world. As opposed to Christology, Ecclesiology is mostly consisted of secondary/tertiary (Or Non-Essential) doctrines. Should a local church be led by a group of elders or a single pastor? That's ecclesiology. Another form of ecclesiology handles evangelism and missions, such as Open Air Preaching (Which I am strongly in support of). The most pressing two issues of Ecclesiology in these days are those of Church Discipline and Women Pastors. Church Discipline is clearly laid out in Matthew 18 and Women Pastors are clearly condemned in 1 Timothy 12 (Particularly verses 11-12). Most people don't think the Bible talks much on ecclesiology, but they'd be surprised.
Eschatology is by far the most complicated and diverse form of Theology there is. There are four main groups. As far as these groups go, John MacArthur, in the John MacArthur study Bible, does the best job at both defining them and explaining my position:
"No other NT book poses more serious and difficult interpretive challenges than Revelation. The book’s vivid imagery and striking symbolism have produced 4 main interpretive approaches:
Basically, Preterism is the belief that those shown as end times are actually events that happened in the First Century, and that Emperor Nero was the Antichrist along with a few other things. There are two different types: Full Preterism and Partial Preterism. Full Preterism states that all things in Revelation happened then while Partial Preterism states that only some things in Revelation happened then. Notable Examples: R.C. Sproul (Partial), Douglas Wilson (Partial).
Historicism states that it is an allegorical story about Church history while Idealism states that it is an allegorical story about the fight between good and evil. Not many follow either of these views, so finding one is rare.
Futurism, my view, states that the Book of Revelation is yet to happen. That splits up into four groups: Pre-Millennial Dispensationalist, Historic Pre-Millennial, Traditional Post-Millennial, and Theonomist. I am currently Pre-Millennial and whether Dispensationalist or Historic, I am still studying.
Pre-Millennial Dispensationalists (Or Dispys) believe that every bit of Revelation will happen in the future and that Physical Israel is heir to the promised land. There is a group of Hyper-Dispys known as Dual-Covenant theologians, such as John Hagee, that say that the Jews can be saved without believing Jesus if they obey the Mosaic law (This is a heresy). There are also many who fall into the ditch of Eschatological Craziness, such as William Tapley, Paul Begley, Jim Bakker, and Jonathan Cahn. Such examples of Good Dispensationalists include: John MacArthur, Ron Rhodes, H.A. Ironside, J.N. Darby, and Tony Miano.
Historic Pre-Millennials believe just like the Dispys, except they believe that the Church is Spiritual Israel and the promised land spoken of is Heaven. There are some who take this as far as to be Anti-Semitic (Anti-Jew), but such people are very rare (Despite accusations and stereotypes). Such Good Examples include: Charles Spurgeon, John Gill, and Al Mohler.
Traditional Post-Millennials believe that it is the belief that Christians have to work to make the world better in order to usher in the 1,000 year reign of Christ. Such good examples include: B.B. Warfield, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and nearly every Puritan.
Theonomists (Also called Dominionism or Reconstructionism) are an off-break of Post-Millennialism which adds to that that we are to follow the Mosaic Civil Law. This has been supported by R.J. Rushdoony, Gary North, Jeff Durbin, and Sye Ten Bruggencate. This has been heavily opposed by many, including Thomas Ice, J.D. Hall, Tim Hurd, Len Pettis, and Matt Slick.
I know I may have spent a long time on this, but, as I mentioned before, this is the most complex branch of theology.
Bibliology is the study of the Bible. It leaves very little wiggle room, as most of it is essential. Basically, there is the Literalist and the liberal. The literalist believes that the Bible is to be taken literally, word for word, whereas the Liberal will say (Heretically) that the Bible is a bunch of fables and allegories. The Essential Doctrines of Infallibility, Inerrancy, and Inspiration also fall into this. Infallibility states that the Bible is incapable of errors, Inerrancy states that the Bible is without error, and Inspiration states that it is God's word and what he uses to speak to the Church in these modern times.
There is a group known as the King James Only-ists, who believe that the King James Translation is the only true translation. This is a false doctrine (A heterodoxy, or a doctrine that comes close to being outside of Christianity), and is pushed by good teachers like Kent Hovind and false teachers like David J. Stewart alike.
Theology Proper is the study of God the Father. There is also little space for movement here, and it encompasses his holiness, his divinity, and his relations to the other members of the trinity.
Pneumatology is the study of God the Holy Spirit (Sometimes mistranslated as Holy Ghost). It is the study of his divinity, nature, presence, and how he interacts with the Church today. It strongly meets two other Doctrines known as Soteriology and Apostology, both of which will be discussed further in the article.
Soteriology is the study of Salvation. It is the most debated within the body of Christ, and it consists of three major groups. In the broad sense, there is Calvinism, Arminianism, and Molinism.
Calvinism, the stance I hold (After months of study and turmoil), is the belief that God chooses who he saves by granting them the gift of faith, as man can not choose to believe in and of himself. It can be divided into three main groups: Reformed, Moderate, and Amyraldist (I will define these later). I, myself, am reformed. Such good Reformed Calvinists include: John Calvin, John Knox, William Tyndale, Augustine of Hippo, John MacArthur, Charles Spurgeon, Phil Johnson, Francis Turretin, James White, Mark Spence, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Such good Moderate Calvinists include: Norman Geisler, Ron Rhodes, Erwin Lutzer, and Charles Ryrie. The only Amyraldist I know of is Moses Amyraut, for who the position is named.
Arminianism is the belief that people have the ability to chose to follow God, and those who do are those who he saved. This can be divided into Traditional Arminianism and Wesleyanism, and the debate really centers on the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints (Wesleyans believe we cannot lose salvation, Traditionals believe we can). I don't know who, of the Arminians, fall on either side of the debate, so I'll just list those I know end up Arminian: Jacobus Arminius, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, Dave Hunt, and Leonard Ravenhill.
Molinism is the belief that these two harmonize somehow in how the world was created. God chose who would choose him by making the world just the right way. The only two Molinists I know of are Luis de Molina and William Lane Craig, and I would advise you to avoid Molina, as he was a Jesuit priest.
There are also many heretical positions in soteriology, such as Inclusivism, Universalism, Legalism, and Pelagianism.
Demonology is the study of Demons, and the least touched area in theology. The two most common areas are concerning exorcisms and concerning their relationship with Christians. As a Cessationist (Read More in: Apostology), I do not believe that exorcisms are preformed by modern believers. I do not believe that a demon can possess a believer, because the Holy Spirit is already within them and he will not share space with a fallen angel.
Mariology is the study of Mary (Mother of Jesus, Wife of Joseph), and can usually be divided into two main groups, Catholic Mariology and Protestant Mariology. Catholic Mariology, which I believe to be heretical, states that Mary was/is 1. Perfect and without sin, 2. The Queen of Heaven, 3. A Co-Mediator with Christ, and 4. Raptured up to Heaven rather than died. Protestant Mariology, or Biblical Mariology, states that Mary was a woman favored by God who gave birth to Jesus in the Incarnation and Nativity, but was just like the rest of us in that she was sinful and in need of a savior.
Angelology is the study of angels, and the division of theology I know the least about. I don't know of any different camps in this division of theology.
Christian Anthropology is the study of mankind. Christian beliefs on this topic all agree that man is completely wicked, born in to sin, and unable to save himself. Many different groups confuse this. The Pelagians say that man is not born into sin. The Word of Faith people say that man has the power to speak things into existence with their words. The Self-Esteem people say that man is not totally wicked.
One place where True Believers disagree is man's ability to respond to the Gospel on his own free will. While Calvinists like myself say that men cannot respond to the Gospel without being regenerated (Because of our sinful nature), Arminians would say that man's can chose God.
Church History, which goes hand-in-hand with ecclesiology, is simply the study of the history of the Church. It follows the Early Church, the Counsels and times up until the Church of Rome, the Reformation, the Puritans, the Great Awakening, the Downgrade, and many other things. Certain figures considered central to this include Paul of Tarsus, Simon Peter, John the Beloved Disciple, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jacobus Arminius, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, B.B. Warfield, and even Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Apostology is the study of the Charismatic Gifts. There are two main camps on this issue, the cessationist and the continuationist. I, myself, am a strong cessationist, which means I believe the Charismatic Gifts (Prophecy, Healing, Miracles, the Office of Apostle, the Office of Prophet, etc.) have ceased. The Continualist believes that they continue to this day, just to a lesser degree. Notable Cessationists: John MacArthur, Irenaeus of Lyons, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards. Notable Continualists: Wayne Grudem, David Platt, Matt Slick.
Harmitology is the study of sin. Most people fall generally in the same area on this (The only exceptions being a few heretical groups). Sin entered the world through Adam, it is an eternal offense against a just and holy God, it will end someone up in Hell, and then there is the discussion about what is a sin. However, the Pelagian would say sin did not enter the world through Adam, but that everyone is without a sin nature until they get it over time. The Vinist would say that homosexuality is not a sin, which is a heresy according to Romans 1:32. Antinomians would say that it is okay to sin after you are saved, even that we must sin so that there may be more grace.
On each "Defining Terms" post, I will include a few questions so that I can get a general idea of who my readers are and what I need to be posting.
About the Author
Brandon C. Hines is a young writer from somewhere in northern Alabama who writes about Theology, Polemics, and Apologetics. His beliefs are best summarized by the 1689 London Baptist Confession.
You can search for various topics I have written about by going to Google and typing in a keyword, then typing site:Learningthepath.weebly.com after it.