OCC Essential Terms and Definitions

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Essential Terms and Definitions OCC Academics Office

OCC Academics Office

Table of Contents



Message from Academic Dean Chad Ragsdale

Essential Terms and Definitions


Important words and definitions to know

Mapping of Biblical-Theological Terms Key terms covered in OCC courses


OCC Academics Office



At Ozark Christian College, a critical element of our academic goal is that our graduates will be well grounded in the firm foundation of Scripture. To that end, one of our institutional learning outcomes is that our students will come to know the historical and theological content of the Bible. To accomplish this outcome, the Bible remains at the center of our curriculum. OCC makes it our priority to teach the content of Scripture as well as sound principles for studying and applying Scripture. An important aspect of becoming grounded in Scripture is learning theological concepts. This booklet is a summary of the various theological terms that you will learn during your time as a student at Ozark. As you make your way through our curriculum, these terms will be explained and analyzed in various courses. This booklet will be a helpful resource and guide for your theological study. Chad Ragsdale OCC Academic Dean

Essential Terms and Definitions


A Adoptionism the belief that Jesus was adopted by God at some point in his life in contrast to being eternal with God

Agnosticism the belief that knowledge about God cannot be known or proven

Allegory a literary form in which the surface details of a text are interpreted to reveal a latent meaning

Ancient Near East a term referring to early civilizations in a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East

Anthropology the study of humanity; theologically, humanity as understood within the framework of creation, fall, and redemption

Apocalyptic a literary genre that discloses a heavenly, eschatological perspective on the events of human history (from a Greek word meaning “unveiling” or “revelation”)

Apocrypha a collection of documents not included in the Protestant Old Testament canon (from a Greek word meaning “hidden”)

Apologetics the reasoned defense of the Christian faith

Arianism the belief that Jesus was God’s first creation, thus denying his full equality with God the Father

Arminianism a theological framework associated with Jacob Arminius that views God’s foreknowledge as the basis for predestination and affirms libertarian free will

Ascension the belief that Jesus returned to the Father’s right hand after his resurrection, where he is exalted and intercedes for his people

Atheism the belief that there is no God or gods

Essential Terms and Definitions


B Baptism the act of being immersed in water to enact one’s faith in Jesus

C Calvinism a theological framework associated with John Calvin that emphasizes humanity’s total depravity and God’s unconditional election of certain individuals for salvation

Catholic a word meaning “universal” that is often associated with the Roman Catholic Church

Chiasm a literary device in which words or concepts are stated and then similar words or concepts are stated in reverse order (e.g. ABCBA)

Christology the study of the person and work of Christ

Christus Victor the belief that Christ’s death on the cross defeated the powers of evil

Circumcision the practice of cutting off the male foreskin as a sign of the covenant between God and Israel

Complementarianism the view that men and women are equal in value and have distinct but complementary roles, with men serving as primary leaders in marriage, family, and the church

Cosmology the study of the origin, nature, and purpose of the universe

Covenant an agreement in which two parties become obligated toward one another in certain ways, often referring to God’s promises to his people

Creation ex nihilo the belief that God created the universe without any pre-existing materials (from a Latin phrase meaning “out of nothing”)

Essential Terms and Definitions


D Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) a collection of manuscripts discovered in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea written by a Jewish community around the first century AD

Decalogue the Ten Commandments (from a Greek phrase meaning “ten words”)

Deism the belief in a God who created the universe but does not interact with it

Denomination an institutionalized structure of multiple congregations united on the basis of certain commonalities (i.e. doctrinal, organizational, geographical, cultural)

Diaspora the dispersion of a people from their homeland, typically associated with Jews living outside the land of Israel

Dispensationalism a theological framework popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible which views God as working distinctly during different time periods of history, associated with ideas such as the rapture, Christ’s literal thousand-year reign, and the re-establishment of Israel as a nation

Docetism the belief that Jesus was fully God but only appeared to be human

Doctrine a term referring in general to what the church believes and teaches, and specifically to summary statements of scriptural teaching on a particular topic

Documentary Hypothesis the theory that suggests the Pentateuch is a composition from Yahwist (J), Elohist (E), Deuteronomist (D) and Priestly (P) sources, instead of being compiled and written primarily by Moses

E Ecclesiology the study of the nature and purpose of the church

Ecumenism the promotion of worldwide unity among Christian denominations through increased dialogue and cooperation

Essential Terms and Definitions


Egalitarianism the view that men and women are equal not only in value but also as relates to roles in marriage, family, and church leadership

Eisegesis reading meaning into a text

Election God’s choosing of individuals or peoples to receive benefits and/or to fulfill a particular role in his saving plan

Epistemology the study of what counts as knowledge and how it may be obtained

Eschatology the study of the last things (e.g. death, resurrection, judgment, heaven, and hell)

Eucharist the church’s liturgical consumption of bread and wine (or juice) as a remembering of Christ’s saving death and proclamation of his imminent return (also known as the Lord’s Supper or Communion)

Evangelicalism a transdenominational movement within Protestantism that emphasizes the authority of Scripture, the exclusivity of Christ’s saving work on the cross, salvation by grace through faith, and the church’s call to evangelize the lost and serve the needy

Exegesis drawing meaning out of a text

Exegetical Theology an approach to theology that prioritizes the emergence of doctrine from the exposition of biblical texts

F Faith taking God at his word, such that one believes what God reveals and obeys what God commands

G Genre a distinct type of literature with common characteristics and specific guidelines for interpretation

Essential Terms and Definitions


Glossolalia speech in a language unknown to the speaker, whether another human language or ecstatic speech not identifiable with any human language (i.e. speaking in tongues)

Gnosticism heretical belief systems oriented around salvation obtained through access to secret knowledge

Grace favorable disposition, often better than what is deserved

H Hamartiology the study of the nature and consequences of sin

Heaven(s) the area above the physical earth, often associated in Scripture with the realm of God; often used today in reference to the eternal destination of God’s people

Hell the realm of eternal punishment for all who reject God

Heresy the belief or teaching that denies something essential to the Christian faith

Hermeneutics the theory and methods of interpreting texts

Heterodoxy belief or teaching that differs from historic Christian doctrine

Higher Criticism the study of the literary methods and sources behind a text, especially as applied to biblical writings (e.g. Source, Form, Redaction, Rhetorical)

Historical Jesus what may be known about Jesus by reconstructing facts about him using the tools and methods of modern approaches to the study of history

Historical Theology an approach to theology that prioritizes how the church has interpreted Scripture and developed doctrine throughout its history

Essential Terms and Definitions


Holiness God’s absolute perfection, or the state of created things being set apart for his service

Hypostatic Union The indivisible union of divine and human natures in the single person of Christ

I Imago Dei The belief that humans are unique among created beings as those made to reflect God’s likeness (from a Latin phrase meaning “image of God”)

Immanence the belief that God is present in, close to, and involved with creation

Immutability the belief that God’s nature is unchanging

Impassibility the belief that God cannot be overcome by external circumstances, particularly the experience of suffering and its effects

Imputed Righteousness the transference of Christ’s righteousness (i.e. his legal status before God) to those who believe in him

Incarnation the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the divine Son of God in human flesh

Inerrancy the belief that the Bible is free from falsehood or mistake

Infallibility the belief that the Bible never fails to tell the truth and is therefore reliable in all the matters it addresses

Inspiration the belief that God enabled the biblical authors to write what he intended

Intertestamental the roughly 400-year time period between the events recorded at the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament

Essential Terms and Definitions


J Justification God’s assessment and declaration that an individual is free from the guilt of sin through faith in Jesus Christ

K Kerygma the gospel message as preached by the apostles (from the Greek word for "proclamation")

Kingdom the reign of God, specifically as proclaimed and inaugurated by Jesus Christ

L Logos a term identifying Jesus as God’s eternal Word and agent of creation (from the Greek word for “word”)

M Marcionism a movement following the teachings of Marcion, who viewed the God of the Old Testament as incompatible with the God revealed in Jesus Christ

Masoretic Text the Hebrew text of the Old Testament as preserved and marked with vowels by Jewish scholars called the Masoretes

Messiah a royal title for Jesus of Nazareth that declares his fulfillment of God’s promise to save and restore his people (from the Hebrew word for “anointed one”)

Millennialism the study of various eschatological views based on Christ’s thousand-year rule in Revelation 20:1-6 (e.g. historic premillennialism, dispensational premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism)

Mishnah a collection of Jewish teachings codified in the late second century AD but based on earlier oral traditions and oriented around the interpretation of biblical laws

Missiology the study of the mission of the church, typically with specific reference to cross-cultural engagement

Essential Terms and Definitions


Modalism a heresy that views the Father, Son, and Spirit as three manifestations or modes of the one God without seeing them as distinct and coexistent persons within the Trinity (also known as Sabellianism)

Monotheism belief in only one God

O Omnipotence the ability to do whatever one wills

Omnipresence the quality of being present everywhere simultaneously

Omniscience the state of knowing all things

Open Theism the belief that God does not possess exhaustive knowledge of the future because he has chosen to leave the future partially conditional upon human will

Orthodoxy belief or teaching that aligns with traditional Christian theology (from a Greek phrase meaning “right thinking” or “right worship”)

P Pelagianism a theological framework associated with Pelagius that views salvation as attainable through human effort

Pentateuch a term referring to the first five books of the Old Testament (from a Greek word meaning “five scrolls”)

Pneumatology study of the person and work of the Holy Spirit

Postmodernism a series of shifts in Western philosophy and culture in the late 20th century that rejects many principles of modernism and distrusts metanarratives

Predestination the belief that God’s plan for salvation in Christ was set before the world began; in Calvinism it comes to mean that God has predetermined the eternal state of all people

Essential Terms and Definitions


Propitiation Christ’s work of turning away God’s wrath by dying in place of sinners

Providence the belief that God preserves and guides all creation toward the ends for which he made it

Pseudepigrapha ancient Jewish and Christian writings composed under pseudonyms that were excluded from the canon

R Reconciliation Christ’s work of restoring believers to peace with God through his blood

Redemption Christ’s work of liberating believers from bondage to sin

Regeneration Christ’s work of bringing believers from death to life

Relativism a philosophical view that regards meaning as bound to particular cultures and so denies that one may possess objective truth

Restoration Movement a Christian tradition initiated in 19th-century America that emphasizes the unity of all believers through a return to church practice as revealed in the New Testament

Resurrection the belief that Jesus Christ was physically restored to new life after his crucifixion and that upon his return all believers will receive transformed bodies like his

Revelation God’s disclosure of his nature, character, and purposes

Righteousness the quality of meeting an appropriate standard; of God, conformity to his own perfection; of people, either legal status or the moral quality of living up to God’s command

Essential Terms and Definitions


S Sabbath a day of rest instituted by God and patterned after God’s resting on the seventh day of creation

Sanctification being made holy; initial sanctification refers to God setting apart believers as his own, and progressive sanctification refers to the process by which God forms believers into the likeness of Christ

Satan the spiritual adversary of God and his people

Septuagint (LXX) the earliest known Greek translation of the Old Testament (from a Latin word meaning “Seventy,” named after the approximate number of scribes believed to have begun its production)

Soteriology the study of salvation

Sovereignty the belief that God has supreme authority to bring about his ultimate will

Substitutionary Atonement the belief that Jesus makes salvation possible by dying in our place as a sacrifice for sins

Synoptic Gospels the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which bear certain similarities not shared by the Gospel of John (from a Greek phrase meaning “seen together”)

Systematic Theology an approach to theology that prioritizes the logical organization of biblical teaching into doctrinal categories (e.g., Christology, Pneumatology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology)

T Talmud the written record of the Jewish oral law (Mishnah) and subsequent commentaries on it (Gemara)

Textual Criticism the theory and methods of determining earlier forms of a text

Essential Terms and Definitions


Theism belief in the existence of God or gods who interact with the universe

Theistic Proofs a set of arguments for the existence of God

Theology the study of God and all things in relation to God

Theology Proper the study of God the Father and the nature of the Trinity

Torah a term referring to the first five books of the Old Testament (from a Hebrew word meaning “instruction”)

Transcendence the belief that God is not bound by the limitations of creaturely existence

Transubstantiation the view that the bread and wine of Communion transform into Christ’s body and blood at consecration, even while retaining their natural characteristics

Trinity the belief that God eternally exists as one being in three distinguishable but inseparable persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Typology the study of correspondences between people, offices, or events throughout history, often used of Old Testament correspondences to the New Testament

U Universalism the belief that all people will eventually be saved

W Wesleyan Quadrilateral a heuristic tool outlining four chief factors that contribute to theological reflection: Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience

Mapping of Biblical-Theological Terms


Mapping of Biblical-Theological Terms


Mapping of Biblical-Theological Terms


Mapping of Biblical-Theological Terms


OCC Academics Office 1111 N Main • Joplin, MO 64801 • 417.626.1222 • occ.edu/academics

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