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The members of the church who are not in the clergy.
 Clergy are the body of people ordained to perform religious tasks, particularly the administration of the sacraments

     The Law (or Torah) includes, principally, the understanding of God's will and expectations for humanity found in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. The Law is the very reflection of the nature of God because God acts and is know to humanity in ways that are consistent with God's nature. Therefore, since God is just, the Law is just. Since God is holy, the Law is holy. Later the prophets of the Hebrew Bible and Jesus reaffirmed the authority and validity of the Torah. Jesus clearly stated that he came "not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it."

Law of non-contradiction
     The Law of non-contradiction is the law that something cannot be both true and not true at the same time when dealing with the same context. For example, the chair in my living room, right now, cannot be made of wood and not made of wood at the same time. In the law of non-contradiction, where we have a set of statements about a subject, we cannot have any of the statements in that set negate the truth of any other statement in that same set.

Laying on of hands
     Physical contact by touching of the hands. In the HB and NT it was sometimes used in reference to doing physical harm (
Gen. 22:12; Luke 20:19). In the NT it is also used to signify an attempt at healing (Acts 9:12) and commissioning of Holy Work (1 Tim. 4:14). Usually, during the ordination of an elder, hands are layed on him or her as symbolic of a transfer of authority and power.

     In Christianity, "liberal" is a word used of those who acknowledge the significant role of human reason, science, the arts, and other fields of research in the pursuit of truth, and attempt to frame and express the faith while taking such sources of knowledge seriously. Some more "conservative" Christians see this as a threat to the faith and urge, instead, a reliance upon the Bible as the exclusive source of truth, even though there are numerouse passages in the Bible itself that point to nature and human reason as valuable and important. See also: The Bible and Modern Science.

Limited atonement
     The teaching held in some Reformed (Calvinist) circles of Christianity that Jesus bore only the sins of the elect, and not that of the entire world. It maintains that the sacrifice was sufficient for all, but intended for the elect.

     From the Greek “logos” meaning “word.” Logic is study of the principles of reasoning. A set of premises that are examined and arranged so as to bring a conclusion. If A = B and B = C, then A = C.
     Deductive logic is the method of validating a claim by means of supportive information where both the claim and the information are necessarily true. For example, People exist. All people breath. Therefore, all people breath.
     Inductive logic is the method of drawing a conclusion from a set of supportive information, yet the conclusion has not yet been verified. For example, each night I get tired at 10 PM. Therefore, I conclude that tonight, I will be tired at 10 PM.

     The Greek word for "word."  Mentioned only in the writings of John. 
John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word [logos] and the Word [logos] was with God and the Word [logos] was God." The Logos is sometimes used to refer to the second person of the Trinity as the Son in preincarnate form.  Jesus is the word [logos] made flesh (John 1:1,14).  

Lord's Supper
See: The Sacraments

     Man or, more properly, "humaniity," is the creation of God. According to the creation narratives of the book of Genesis, humanity was created in the "image and likeness of God." (
Gen. 1:2627). Despite subsequently acting in ways that are entirely contrary to God's will, the capacity for justice and love remain a part of all that it means to be human. Further, the notion that all people are created equally in the "image of God" remains a solid foundation for contemporary concepts of human rights, civil liberty, and equality under the law.

     A document or a copy of an original writing. There are thousands of existing manuscripts of the biblical documents ranging from vellum (animal skins) to papyri (plant material) upon which the original and copies of the original writings were made.

     Someone who dies for a belief or cause.  A Christian martyr would be a person who dies because of his or her faith in Christian principles.

     In Catholicism, a reenactment of the sacrifice of Christ cross in a ceremony performed by a priest. This ceremony is symbolically carried out by the priest and involves Consecration where the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus.

     The position that only material things exist and that all other things can be explained in terms of matter and the physical properties of matter.

Means of Grace
This is associated with sacramental theology.  A means of grace is a manner in which the Lord imparts grace to a believer as he or she partakes in the sacrament.  A sacrament is a visible manifestation of a spiritual reality. The Lord's Supper is a sacrament in which the presence of Christ is visible in the bread and wine. But the critical aspect of this sacrament in the presence of Christ, rather than the particular words or objects used in the ceremony. For more on the sacraments.

Mediation, Mediator
     A mediator is someone who intervenes, someone who convenes and conciliates. The word "mediator" is not found in the H.B., but its principle is. God gave the Law to the people through a mediator, Moses (
Gal. 3:19), who was a prototype for Jesus. The word occurs only a few times in the N.T.: 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24. It is in the N.T. that the nature of mediation is understood in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the mediator of a new covenant (Heb. 8:6) in many ways fulfilling and supplementing the prior covenants with Noah, Moses, and the people of God. Note that these biblical covenants between God and the people are considered to be eternal. The new covenant in Jesus fulfills the covenant with Moses rather than replacing it.

     Mercy is the act of not administering punishment or other penalty even when it may be appropriate according to the law. Because of sin or separation from God, people may be considered deserving of punishment (
Rom. 6:23; Isaiah 59:2), but God shows mercy. That is, God choses to forgive and redeem.
     God saves people according out of a mercy divine (Titus 3:5) and, in gratitude, the faithful are also empowered to be merciful to others. (Heb. 4:16).

     Messiah is a Hebrew word. It means "anointed one." It is the equivalent of the N.T. word "Christ" which also means "anointed." Jesus, as the messiah, was anointed by God (
Matt. 3:16) to carry out His three-fold ministry of Prophet, Priest, and King. As the Messiah He has delivered those who identify with him from the bonds of sin and made reunion with God and reconciliation with other people possible. In that sense, Messiah means deliverer.

     The branch of philosophy involved with examining and discussing the ultimate nature of reality. The term comes from "meta" which means "after" and "phusika" which means "physics." Around A.D. 70 Andronicus applied it to the section of Aristotelian writings that came after the physics section; hence, metaphysics.

     Literally, this word means 1000 years. In the study of end times doctrines (eschatology) the millennium is the duration of Christ's rule over the earth. The debate has been over when the millennium will take place and what it actually is. The terms that have arisen out of this debate are premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism. Premillennialism teaches that the millennium is yet future and that upon Christ's return He will set up His earthly kingdom. Amillennialism teaches that the millennium is a figurative period and that Christ's rule began when He first became human. Postmillennialism teaches that through the preaching of the Word of God, the world will be converted and will then usher in Christ and the kingdom of God. There are good arguments for each position.

     The Greek characters of lower case: abgde, etc. Different copies of Greek manuscripts appear in minuscule form. By contrast, uncials are the Greek characters in upper case.

     A miracle is an out-of-the-ordinary, direct and divine act within the world of time and space. Examples would be the parting of the Red Sea, Jesus walking on water, the resurrection of Lazarus, etc. Some hold that it is a violation of the natural order of physical laws. Others maintain that there is no such violation, but rather that the natural explanation of such events is yet to be understood. Still others view many miracles as a product of wishful thinking on the part on the faithful.
     Miracles are also known as powers and signs (
Mark 9:39; Acts 2:22, 19:11) and mighty works (John 10:25-28). They are a manifestation of the power of God over nature (Joshua 10:121-14), animals (Num. 22:28), people (Gen. 19:26), and illness (2 Kings 5:1014).

     The view that there is only one person in the Godhead who is manifest in three forms:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

      Monarchianism (mono - "one"; arche - "rule") was an idea concerning the nature of God that developed in the second century C.E. It arose as an attempt to maintain Monotheism and refute tritheism. It was seen as contradicting the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. Monarchianism teaches that there is one God as one person: the Father. 

     The teaching that God alone is the one who saves. It is opposed to synergism which teaches that God and man work together in salvation.

     The view that there is only one basic and fundamental reality, that all existence is this one reality even though we perceive different aspects of this reality.

     This is a view regarding the two natures of Jesus (See Hypostatic Union). It states that Jesus' two natures are combined into one new one; the problem here is that rather than being fully human and fully divine, Jesus is neither.

     The belief that there is more than one God, but only one is served and worshiped. Therefore, monolatry is a division of polytheism, the belief in many gods.

     The belief that there is only one God in all places at all times. There were none before God and there will be none after. Monotheism is basic notion of God affirmed by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Moral government theology
     A point of view held by those who have difficulty with some notions of the atonement in which it appears that the death of an innocent man, namely, Jesus, is somehow required in order than salvation may occur. Many Christians find the logic of this problematic in that it makes God a child murderer in requiring the death of his own Son. The alternative view is that the saving work of Jesus is accomplished, not by the sacrificial death of Jesus, but by his entire life and work. His influence is felt as much by his loving action throughout his life as by his heroic death.

     A movement begun in the United States in 1830 by Joseph Smith.  Some see the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints as a new religion, separate and distinct from Christianity. Others see it as a new denomination within Christianity.

Mortal Sin
     In Catholicism, a serious and willful transgression of God's Law. It involves full knowledge and intent of the will to commit the sin. Mortal sin is more serious than venial Sin.

     The belief that all of human experience and events in the time-space continuum can be explained as a function of causes that are purely natural and open to scienctific understanding and explanation.

Naturalistic evolution
     The theory that the universe is many billions of years old and that after a long period of time, all galaxies, stars, planets, and life on earth evolved. Some see a conflict between "naturalistic" notions of evolution and the belief that God, as the Creator, set up all natural laws and processes in the first place. For further reading see: A Christian Case For Evolution.

     With a focus on existential and psychological aspects of religious experience, the neo-orthodox movement came to prominence in the mid twentieth century. It attempts to incorporate critical thinking into the work of biblical scholarship. Karl Barth and Paul Tillich are among the leading figures in the movement that remains highly influential. For more on Paul Tillich.

     States that the two natures of Christ were so separated from each other that they were "not in contact"; this complicates rather than explains the doctrine of the Incarnation. (See also Hypostatic Union)

     Especially in the Roman Catholic Church, those women who consecrate their lives to spiritual service and various religious orders.  They do not marry and are normally celibate, taking a vow of "poverty, obedience and chastity."

A branch of philosophy that asserts that reality exists apart from the human mind and that the knowability of this reality based upon observation. 

Occam's Razor
     The philosophical rule that the simplest explanation is preferred over the more complicated one and that explanations should be first proposed in relation to concepts that are already known.  Another way of seeing it is to say that the fewer assumptions that need to be made to support an explanation of something, the better.  The principle is attributed to William Occam of the fourteenth century.

     Occult means "hidden". It covers practices that are not approved of by relgious authorities, for example, astrology (
Isaiah 47:13), casting spells (Deut. 18:11), consulting with spirits (Deut. 18:11), magic (Gen. 41:8), sorcery (Exodus. 22:8), witchcraft (Deut. 18:10), and spiritism (Deut. 18:11).
     Occult practices such as Ouija boards, tarot cards, astrology charts, contacting the dead, séances, etc. thrive today, agruably because they are considered to be practices frowned on by organized Christianity and thus have the allure of the forbidden.

     An attribute of God. It is the quality of having all power (
Psalm 115:3). Go can do all things that do not conflict with God's own nature.

     An attribute of God. It is the quality of being present in all places at all times (
Jer. 23:23.4). God is not bound by time and space.

     An attribute of God. It is the quality of having all knowledge (
Isaiah 40:14). Omnipotence, Omnipresence, and Omniscience are central attributes of God within traditional Christian theology.

Ontological Argument
An attempt to prove God’s existence first postulated by Anselm. In brief, it states that God is a being of which no greater thing exists or can be thought of. Therefore, since we can conceive of God as the greatest of all things that exist, then God must exist.

     The study of the nature of being and its implications for theology. Paul Tillich is a leading example of an ontological theologian. He defined God as the "Ground of Being."

     Oracles are the divine revelations given to God's people. God's method of communicating these oracles varied from dreams and visions (
Num. 12:6-8), to wisdom (Prov. 30:1), and even the Urim and Thummim (Num. 27:21; 1 Sam. 14:337).1

     In Christianity it is the ceremony of consecration to ministry. It is usually administered by a commissioning and a laying on of hands.

Ordo salutis
     Latin for “order of salvation.” Theologically it is the order of decrees by God in bringing about the salvation of individuals. In the Reformed camp, the ordo solutis is 1) election, 2) predestination, 3) calling, 4) regeneration, 5) faith, 6) repentance, 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. In the Arminian camp, the ordo soluits is 1) calling, 2) faith, 3) repentance, 4) regeneration, 5) justification, 6) perseverance, 7) glorification.

Original Sin
     This is a term used in traditional Christian theology to describe the effect of Adam's sin on his descendants (
Rom. 5:12-23). Specifically, it is the inheritance of a sinful nature from Adam. The sinful nature originated with Adam and is passed down from parent to child.

     Belief in the standards of accepted and true doctrines as defined by the early Councils and Creeds of the Church. Some Protestants view the Bible as the sole source of truth for Christians and therefore it provides the only standard of what is "orthodox." The difficulty here is that Protestants differ on what the Bible actually teaches. see Heterodoxy.


1. The Urim and Thummim were placed in the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 28:30) and were used as a means of communication with God. They mean "light" and "perfection". Unfortunately, they are not described anywhere in the Bible. Some theories maintain that they were twelve stones that made up part of the High Priest's garments. The process of the communication with God is not given either.

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
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