Big words for little ideas

big-words-for-little-ideasI thought it was a good idea to explain some words that tend to get thrown around in theological discussions but I realized, the folks over at Theological Word of the Day (TWOTD) have already done that. So here are some key words (and their meanings) about why we started this site. Hopefully we can have more fruitful discussions if we all used the same meanings when using our big words. Or at least be able to explain what we mean with our big words.

Oh, and if you haven’t already, you might want to subscribe to TWOTD.


(Gk. apologia “an answer”)

Apologetics is the discipline of defending or giving an answer for the faith to those who have questions or objections to the Christian faith. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Significant apologists today include J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Robert Bowman Jr., and Alvin Plantinga, among others.


Gk. theos, “God” logos “discourse”

A reasoned study of God. Theology is a set of intellectual and emotional commitments with regard to God and man which dictate one’s beliefs and actions. Theology is intellectual in that is provides for a reasoned study and defense of one’s beliefs about God. Theology is emotional in that we approach the subject as humans with deep subjective commitments to our personal experiences and feelings about God.


Also, “expiation”

Propitiation describes the act whereby God’s wrath toward sin is fully satisfied through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. It is debated among Christians as to whether Christ’s death was a propitiation for all sins of all people, or limited only to the elect. 1 John 2:2 seems to suggest that the propitiation is universal, but this is not without its problems. “Propitiation” translates the Greek words hilaskomai (Luke 18:13 “be merciful” and Heb 2:17 “to make expiation”, hilasmos (1 John 2:2 and 4:10 “expiation” or “propitiation”), and hilasterion (Rom 3:25 “an expiation” and Heb 9:5 “mercy seat”).



(Greek polemos, “war”)

Polemics is to engage in conversation, debate, or argumentation with a very aggressive approach. Sometimes this will involve an attack on (or refutation of) the opinions or principles of another. In the church, this often takes place when one argues for a particular theological position about which he or she is passionate. This is to be contrasted with the peaceful approach of “irenics.”


[iye-rehn’-ik or iye-ree’-nik]

(Greek eirene, “peace”)

Irenics is a method of discourse in which a peaceful approach of engagement is sought as opposed to a more polemic, war-like approach. In theology, this involves seeking to accurately understand and represent all positions, even when there is strong disagreement among them. The irenic method seeks to engage in disputes with a gentle, peaceful spirit, educating rather than indoctrinating.

Also “irenic theology” or “the irenic method.”

ad hominem

(Lat. ad, “to” + hominem, “the man”)

In rhetorical argumentation, an ad hominem is a method of argumentation in which a person attacks the character of the opponent(s) instead of dealing with the evidence or the substance of the argument. If someone were to attack the credibility of Reformation appealing to the character of Martin Luther as neurotic and incapable of making valid judgments, this would be an attack on his character in order to discredit his argument and, therefore, an example of an ad hominem.

also: argumentum ad hominem and ad hom for short

More [recent] big words from TWOTD.

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