Definitions of Core Terms Used at Proto-Protestantism.
This list will grow all the time. Feel free to ask for any new definitions of unfamiliar terms you encounter at this site. I will be happy to add them.
I apologise in advance for formatting problems. I will attempt at some point to redo this page.
Anchoring- This is one of my terms I use to explain how Aristotelian Systematics in failing to recognize the dialectic in theology, the eternal/temporal dynamic, the eschatological age/present age tension, instead most force or shape all of theology to be seen from one axis, or through one lens or aspect.
Depending on certain theological foundations coupled with historical considerations, all dogmatic structures rooted in Systematics, have a tendency to focus on one of the sides or axes. The truth realized at this point becomes the foundational presupposition (akin to an A Priori principle) of the entire subsequent dogmatic structure. At this point all problematic or seemingly conflicting data (which I would argue is rooted in the other axis), is re-defined or explained in a way in which is compatible with the presupposed system.
Examples: Roman Catholicism anchors in the visible. In their ecclesiology and soteriology, the system fails to recognize an eternal reality. By only focusing on the visible, it becomes in some ways the eternal reality itself. Thus, Catholic theology can't think in terms of someone's baptism being of no value, because their heart is unregenerate. They won't recognize the reality of a visible church which might be filled with hyprocrites, thus when the gospel is lost they don't have a means to deal with the problem.
Hyper-Calvinism anchors in the invisible. They focus on election and all theology is developed with this in mind. Thus, the visible administration becomes really an abstraction. All externals which God has commanded for the administration of the church in this age, the temporal realm prior to the Second Coming, can't mean anything in a concrete sense. If they did, it would create a logical contradiction with the reality of election. Even the definition of faith is affected.
Aristotle's Razor- This is a term I made up, obviously a little tongue-in-cheek borrowing from Ockham's Razor. Just as Ockham's Razor sought to seek the simplest solution and eliminate universals or dualisms, I created this term to identify a tendency present in Aristotelian Systematics to sometimes create new categories or divisions in order to explain concepts which won't fit the working system. These are sometimes called false alternatives.
I'm all for recognizing complexity and dualistic tensions, but what's happening here is a failure to recognize the tensions and instead creating new tools or categories not because they're in the text, but rather to synthesize, to make the system work. Because the Bible presents verses which seem contradictory, the Systematician often will engage in hair-splitting and re-defining in order to find a way to reconcile.
I argue this ultimately strips the meaning away from certain verses and so I would say this tendency is something to avoid.
Westminster's division of the Mosaic Law into three categories would be an example of this.
Babel Impulse- click here for a definition and discussion.
Common Grace- The doctrine which teaches God exercises non-redemptive Grace in the world in order to restrain sin to provide a venue for the gospel to work. A temporary order, a delay as it were, where God shows mercy before the Final Judgment. This Common Grace in the end makes the unbeliever more accountable.
Common Grace functions through things like the rain falling on crops and societies having cultures and governments.
Constantinianism- synonymous with Sacralism, or specifically the Christian variety of it.
Constantinian Shift- beginning with the Emperor Constantine's Edict of Milan in 313, Christian persecution ceased and rapidly came into favour within the Roman empire. Constantine appropriated Christian symbolism and united it with the Imperial ideal. For the next few generations, there were advances and setbacks to this policy. But by 380, under Theodosius, it was permanently established.
This profoundly changed the nature of the Church and its understanding of the Kingdom principle. To Sacralists, this was a glorious shift. This position of this project is that this was the beginning of the Great Apostasy.
Covenant Transition- The period of time between the Resurrection (c. the year 29 or 30) and the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. The New Testament clearly teaches the passing of Judaism but during this time as many of the early believers were indeed Jews, there seems to be a certain tolerance of Old Covenant practice. The Temple still existed, and with the priesthood-sacrificial system there was a basis and ability to keep the Mosaic Law. After AD70, the transition was complete, there was literally no going back.
Decretal/Decretalism- This refers to the eternal Will of God, often referred to as His decree. When we speak of something like predestination we must remember that God does not relate to time as we do. Past, present, and future are all alike to him. That doesn't mean predestinarian language is then applied at the moment someone is converted, or that God 'looks ahead' to see if someone believes. Rather the Scriptures teach He has decreed all that shall come to pass, all transpires according to His will. An awe-inspiring concept both glorious and terrible, our only response can be to fall on our knees.
That said, though the Scriptures teach this eternal truth, we still live in the temporal realm. We live in the Not-Yet/This Age in light of the Already/Age to Come. And until the two merge at Christ's Parousia (2nd Coming)...God employs means and administrations to govern the affairs of men and those of the Church.
Though we have some knowledge of God's nature and a general sense of the Decree/Will which reveals to us more of who God is...this cannot be something that we try to integrate into the normal administration and life of the Church. We learn to submit to Providence, the outworking of His Will, but we don't know what His decretal will is from one moment to the next.
What is normative and regulative for us is what we call his Revealed Will. He has established an order for this world and given us direction in how to view it. He has established a structure for the Church which is at once the Body of Christ, but it is also in another sense the tool or means for Grace to administered by signs and seals here in this time before Christ's coming, the Last Days.
Are the two Wills of God contradictory? No. But we learns things like not all who were of Israel were truly of Israel...that is to say, not all who were God's people in the Old Covenant were really God's people. The Visible/Temporal Form in space and time is an often imperfect representation of the Invisible/Eternal Reality. This doctrine is Scriptural, but is subject to extreme abuse when joined with other concepts such as Sacralism.
Since His Will is eternal it transcends time and in many ways chronological consideration. Many have fallen into the trap of trying to consider multiples decrees of God and then placing them in some kind of logical order. This is the old Reformed debate between supra- and infra-lapsarianism. This is tying God to temporal succession and shows an example of a meta-systemic thinking driving questions which extend far beyond the scope of Scripture and are therefore to be rejected. Neither side is correct. The question and the system method which drives them to ask is wrong.
Dialectical Theology- A method this site advocates which allows for unresolved tensions in the Biblical data to be valid. It is a system which uses the Incarnation as the key hermeneutical principle, acknowledging the Person and work of Jesus Christ as being the main theme of the Scriptures. And in Christ Himself we find the unsolvable tension between Divine and human, the eternal and temporal.
This system finds some historical basis in Augustine's theology which acknowledged Divine Sovereignty but also an objective Ecclesiology.
*Don't confuse this with the Dialectical-type Theologies advocated by Barth and other Theological liberals. Their dialectical structure is quite different. Their dynamic allows them to say Christ is Risen/Christ is still in the grave. It's basically Liberal Theology but explained using orthodox terminology. That's not at all what I'm advocating. Nor am I arguing for the Hegelian Dialectic in terms of historiography.
Dialectical Theology sees no contradiction in many of the theological tensions that many find to be diametrically opposed. And rejecting mysticism, Dialectics seeks to understand the tensions as not illogical but supralogical.
Dialectical Theology allows for the validity of Aristotelian term logic in the temporal realm but insists it is insufficient to interpret eschatological or decretal data interacting with normative theological structures. Theology can be positively constructed but all metaphysical speculation and induction are to be avoided.
From Wikipedia article on Dialectic:
Another way to understand dialectics is to view it as a method of thinking to overcome formal dualism and monistic reductionism. For example, formal dualism regards the opposites as mutually exclusive entities, whilst monism finds each to be an epiphenomenon of the other. Dialectical thinking rejects both views. The dialectical method requires focus on both at the same time. It looks for a transcendence of the opposites entailing a leap of the imagination to a higher level, which (1) provides justification for rejecting both alternatives as false and/or (2) helps elucidate a real but previously veiled integral relationship between apparent opposites that have been kept apart and regarded as distinct. For example, the superposition principle of quantum physics can be explained using the dialectical method of thinking—likewise the example below from dialectical biology. Such examples showing the relationship of the dialectic method of thinking to the scientific method to a large part negates the criticism of Popper (see text below) that the two are mutually exclusive. The dialectic method also examines false alternatives presented by formal dualism (materialism vs idealism; rationalism vs empiricism; mind vs body, etc.) and looks for ways to transcend the opposites and form synthesis. In the dialectical method, both have something in common, and understanding of the parts requires understanding their relationship with the whole system.
Dynamic Principle in Sociology: All political and economic models break down due to competing interests and ideas. Academic models are based on stability or at least temporary equilibriums which do not exist in the reality of any given moment. Real world forces and contingencies always exert pressure and never allow any political or economic models to function in the sterile environment of the ivory tower. Sociological fundamentalisms are based on subjective frameworks both in terms of ideology and context and are therefore de facto invalid and unworkable.
From a Christian standpoint we might relate this phenomenon to Babel, the Fall of man and his depravity. Christian Worldview teaching attempts to create redeemed and thus redemptive frameworks that operate outside this tendency. They neither represent a Scriptural hermeneutic, epistemology or eschatological expectation. Transformationalist attempts within a Dominionist framework fall prey to these same forces which demonstrate man's finitude and inability to repair the curse.
To put it simply, all systems fail, all models fall apart. Christian so-called solutions prove to be more of the same and are thus rightly identified as sub-Christian and unbiblical. A permanent state of social fluidity and instability are the expected norm. Amidst these wars and rumours of wars we are to live in a state of antithesis as a pilgrim-sojourner people bearing witness to the Truth.
Because of this Biblical principle, all social expectations are severely tempered if not eliminated and all social endeavors are rendered of little value, potentially dangerous temptations, and exercises in frustration and futility. We rightly glorify God in pointing to the transcendent, bearing witness to the Eternal Kingdom and warning of the Eschaton and its implications. It is only in the New Heavens and New Earth that this principle will be eliminated by the same fires which remove all aspects and traces of the curse.Eschatology- The study of the Eschaton or End. The End times and the eternal state. The latter may or may not necessarily relate to future chronology, but to our present reality in time and space, coupled with our reality of being in Union with Christ who is already in Eternity.
At present the main Eschatological school in the Evangelical world is called Dispensationalism. This originated in the 19th century with a man named JN Darby and was popularized in the United States by the Scofield Reference Bible and later, Dallas Theological Seminary. This system insists on the validity of Judaism, to be re-instated in the future with a re-built Temple, two peoples of God (Jews and Christians), and a two-phase Second Coming of Christ. They teach a secret Rapture and place the Second Coming seven or so years after.
We believe this teaching to be completely erroneous and contrary to the theology of the New Testament.
Establishment Circle- the non-verbalized boundary set upon most private conversations, civil debate, and media reportings, discussion and analysis. It assumes an American bias and dominates our thought and discourse. This is something that's hardwired into our thinking from the time we're young children and anyone who steps beyond it is labelled extreme. As Christians I vigorously argue that we should never (for even a moment) be bound by such thinking. It is the antithesis of Pilgrim worldview and thinking. We need to be respectful, compassionate, and wise, but never bound. The Truth must always be paramount no matter who is offended, what flag is trampled, or what Sacral taboos are transgressed.
Hermeneutical Compression- click here for a definition and discussion.
Hyper-Eschatologized Ecclesiology- click here
Meta-Scriptura- (Beyond Scripture) A term I have coined to describe the doctrinal position that believes the Scriptures not only provide all that is necessary for the doctrine and life of the Church (which I believe to be correct)…but also uses a philosophical structure to argue the Scriptures provide blueprints for the Dominionist concept of Spheres and for the complete Transformation of culture. According to this position, since Common Grace is to be removed prior to Christ's return, the Bible must provide an macro- or societal models for politics, law, economics, the arts, etc…..
Meta-system- literally beyond-system
and Meta-system transition, or System Dilemma
This is the occurrence of a second-tier system derived from interrelation of attributes, abstractions and concepts from a primary system. This second-tier or meta-system can then take on a life of its own, so to speak. The concept is present in many branches of science and mathematics but here we argue this is highly problematic when a secondary system derived by men overrides the primary system given to us in the Biblical text itself.
For example, say the Scriptures give us concepts like A,B,C, and D.
Then we validly derive from these a,b,c, and d.
So now we have Aa, Bb, Cc, and Dd.
But certain methodologies, demand a,b,c, and d to interact, and synthesize the data. Systematic theology employs induction, taking things like a,b,c, and d, and placing them together and deducing additional data structure/facts. Theology is developed into topical heads which in themselves from mini-systems. Everything must cohere and cross-check.
This is now a meta-system. In some of the posts I raise the problem of how we define coherence and whether something like induction is valid? Most Systematic Theologians are conscious of the problems surrounding issues like induction, but the very method they're employing demands it.
So what happens after a,b,c, and d are cross-checked, tweaked, and developed. What results from a interacting b,c, and d....from b interacting with a,c, and d etc....?
Perhaps they then come up with ae, bf, c, and d.
Maybe it's right, but maybe not. We've now moved far away from A, B, C, and D, or even Aa, Bb, Cc, and Dd.
But perhaps we 'assume' ae and bf are true....we might even now interact with A and B and now, A and B are at risk. They might have to be re-defined a bit to make everything work together.
At this point the meta-system has taken over.
Wikipedia defines a meta-system transition as the emergence, through evolution, of a higher level of organization or control.
These terms are not usually applied to Theology, but the concepts have long been present and I am appropriating the terms because they help to explain this phenomenon.
I'm not condemning all Systematic Theology, nor do I mean to caricature it. Most Systematic Theologians also recognize the importance of Biblical Theology or more properly and less confusing, Redemptive-Historical Theology. This method doesn't start with a system-grid but rather is looking at the narration and thematic development of the text. It's looking at things likes typology and prophetic idiom in a way Systematic Theology cannot. The Systematic method cannot really formulate something like thematic-typology over a period of time. How do you express that using variables or a grid?
Reformed Theologians are especially careful to take Redemptive-History into account as they formulate their Systematics and they debate over how they should interact. It should be clear to all that I'm arguing Systematics must be subordinated.
There is an additional problem for those in Confessional traditions, because now they have an additional System (their Confessional Document) driving the whole discussion. Everything has to be examined through the lens of Confessional fidelity.
Hence I continue to find when reading, listening, or engaging in theological controversy, the discussion quickly dead ends. Because the Confession rather than a guide, is a chain, a stopping point. If Scriptural study leads someone to define something differently than the Confession, rather than admit the Confession is wrong, they insist the argument is wrong.
A double meta-system cannot be contended with and one is led to question whether or not an affirmation of Sola Scriptura can be honestly maintained when such a methodology is employed.
Monism (Theological)- or more properly, Christian Monism. Not to be confused with Buddhist, Taoist, or Hindu ideas.
This thought tendency fails to view This Age as abidingly composite. And instead views the ideal as a Singular construct prior to the Second Coming. Before Christ returns the City of Man will essentially be eradicated and/or transformed into the City of God. The present dualism is to be eliminated.
A plural or composite society is to be eradicated. The Kingdom of God is a visible, cultural and political entity which brings all the world under its domination.
This is the Christendom of the Middle Ages, when everything in society is subsumed to the Sacralist social ideal, society becomes a monolithic entity.
This theology in failing to understand the New Testament ideal concerning the Kingdom, and the New Testament interpretation of the Mosaic Covenant, turns to the Old Testament in an attempt to buttress and develop its concepts.
The discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments is functionally erased and even the whole of Scripture tends to be viewed in a mono-covenantal sense.
Kingdom, society, redemptive-history, and a great deal of Theology are all viewed in a one-tier, Simplistic (as opposed to composite) construct.
Nominalism- Philosophical school of thought which rejects the idea of concrete universals. Historically this either promoted fideism for those who accepted Biblical Revelation, or could generate a terrible skepticism regarding all certainty in the realm of metaphysics.
Nominalism (Theological)- Another of my terms, by which I mean a tendency driven by Aristotelian Systematics which disallows unresolved tensions, or even the acknowledgment of a dual categories. This type of thought struggles to acknowledge concepts such as the visible and invisible church. Some may acknowledge it, but depending on one's presuppositions, one or the other is view only in abstract or conceptual terms. It is not viewed as a valid function category.
I call it Theological Nominalism, because in the Biblical structure we find a dynamic between the visible/temporal and invisible/eternal somewhat reminiscent of the ancient problem of the universals. So in dealing with Special Revelation, there are some who struggle to accept the dynamic of visible administration (think particulars) validly functioning but pointing to an invisible reality (think universals). In some systems, the invisible is treated as the particular (in the Nominalist sense) and the universal which for that system would be the visible administration is treated as conceptual and not concrete.
This is just an attempt to explain the thought processes and system structure different groups employ to interact with Biblical texts and form theology.
Roman Catholic Theology would be an example of this, rejecting the eternal (think universals)
Hyper-Calvinism and Baptistic Theology would represent the opposite manifestation of the same way of thinking. In these systems the eternal is the particular, and they tend to conceptualize the visible (think universals).
Not everyone is going to get what I'm talking about. To put it real simply, it's theology that is one-sided or two-dimensional and will not recognize multi-layered or faceted constructs and interactions.
It's ultimately 'reason' explaining away parts of the Bible that won't fit a certain way of thinking and doing theology. It's a fruit of rationalistic thought that can manifest itself in different ways depending on where one 'Anchors'. See Anchoring
The reading of Gospel parables in a worldly literalistic fashion. This common error results from ignoring the full import of Christ's application of Isaiah 6 to the parables and his insistence that they are deliberately cloaked in mystery so that only those with eyes to see may understand their meaning. Inversion results from deriving some kind of sociological or economic principle from the parable... thus reading it in the very way Christ seems to imply a lost person would understand it. The cultural references were deliberately general and thus accessible to all, but the meanings are to never be understood prima facie. To do so is to reject the very nature of the parable as Christ defined it. The following article discusses this and places the issue within a larger context: http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2014/11/stewardship-and-parable-inversion.htmlPerspectival Soteriology- click here
Philosophy- click here for a definition and brief discussion.
Pietism- click here for a post dealing with this topic.
Politicizing the Gospel- click here for definition.
Sacralism- The confluence of church and state wherein one is called up to change the other. The theological impulse to create a holy society. This is a broader concept which can be applied to non-Christian societies as well. Sacralists will argue that historically all societies have been sacralist. While those opposed to it will agree, but insist it is a pagan notion of society, the foundation of the Tower of Babel system which rears its head all through history.
Israel was not a Sacral state, but a Theocracy. On the surface they may seem the same, but a Theocracy is directly chartered and ruled by God Himself. Israel was one, and The Kingdom of God is another, but the Kingdom of God is identified as a Kingdom invisible to the unregenerate man. At present, apart from the Church, there are no Theocracies on earth.
All other attempts at 'theocracy' are in fact pseudo-theocracies or Sacralist states. In the Christian version, an attempt is made to create a visible cultural and political establishment of the Kingdom, but this is a perversion of the true Kingdom of God, and theologically and historically very dangerous.
Sacralist Collective- click here for a definition and discussion.
Shapur Effect- This is a term I've coined to describe the historical phenomenon of a state persecuting Christians because its geo-political enemy is a Constantinian state. Christians had happily lived in Persia, but when Constantine embraced Christianity and made Church-support a policy of the Roman State, suddenly the Persian Emperor Shapur II viewed Christians within his realm with suspicion and eventually persecuted them. He feared they were a fifth-column, potential traitors and Roman spies. So, Roman policy unintentionally led to Christian persecution by tying in the Kingdom of God with the state. Suddenly Christianity was a political threat.
This is still happening today. Christians are often persecuted because their religious expression is linked with the policies of the United States and other Western Powers.
Transformationalism- click here
Triadic Nature of American Power- My argument that power in the United States rests in three-fold or triadic tension between political, military, and corporate-financial sectors. These three feed off of one another, manipulate each other, wax and wane and are completely intertwined. Yet, the corporate-financial sector seems to be the dominate force, checked only by the political wing when certain segments turn rogue or there is threat of civil breakdown. In these instances, even the political wing sometimes acts at the behest of corporate sector powerbrokers who police their own house. Civil collapse means they lose their money. The military straddles the two other sectors, has its own agenda, and grows in power during times of war or especially during a prolonged war.
These issues are discussed in the posts pertaining to power, politics, media, and the utter blind delusion of the American Christian mind to grasp the realities of the own culture, nation, history, and media.
Two Kingdom Theology- Doctrinal construct which insists the world dominion is composite in nature. There is the kingdom of this world or the City/Civilization of Man, and the City or Kingdom of God.
Luther taught something along these lines, though I do not agree with his model and many have argued he never followed through on it.
Augustine taught the City of Man/City of God model, but also was inconsistent in its application.
In some ways, the Two Kingdom definition is a misnomer, because in reality there is the City of Man which should be identified as the venue of Common Grace. Within this City, which will not survive the Eschaton, there are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and the kingdom of Satan.
So whether we want to understand Two Kingdoms as the City of Man/City of God construct or whether we want to understand it as the kingdom of Satan/Kingdom of God in time dwelling in the City of Man.....it doesn't really matter.
Both models recognize the abiding composite nature of This Age. Only in the Age to Come, will the plurality be erased. Prior to Christ's coming, no one city will triumph completely over the other.