Jacobus Arminius

A big name in the Protestant Reformation, because he didn’t agree with John Calvin’s idea that God chooses who goes to hell before they were born, and that the actions of people don’t make a difference with regard to that fate.

Atonement

Making up for something you did that offended or hurt someone else.

Elder

A person holding power in certain types of churches. A group of these, often elected by the congregation, sets policies, punishes members of the church who step out of line from church rules or doctrines, and decides how to spend the church’s money. Popular in Reformed Protestant churches, especially Presbyterian ones.

Eschatology

The religious study of the end of the world. Also, what happens to your soul after you die.

Fulcrum

A pivot point of a lever. The thing in the middle of a see-saw is a fulcrum, and so is the hinge at the back of a stapler.

Infralapsarianism

Infralapsarians believe God did the following things in the following order:

  1. Created Adam and Eve.
  2. Authorized Adam and Eve to eat some forbidden fruit, (the fall), thus jeopardizing access to Heaven for them and all human beings born thereafter.
  3. Decided to allow some of these fallen humans to get into heaven, while the rest are sent to hell.
  4. Provided atonement only for those chosen in step 3.

John Calvin

A French guy who is considered one of the big names in the Protestant Reformation. He was a lawyer, and wrote a very dense and difficult-to-read book called Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is a systematic theology from the Reformed Theology viewpoint.

Moral Transformation Theory of Atonement

A theory of the early Christian church. It says that Jesus’ life and teaching was meant to show us a good way to live, and that following his example results in atonement. Was accepted in the first 300 years after Jesus’ death.

Paul

Paul of Tarsus. A missionary of the early Christian church who went around starting churches and lecturing them when they did things he thought were bad. Considered by many to be an apostle of Jesus, although he and Jesus never met. Was really mean to Christians until he had an alleged religious experience while cruising down the road to Damascus. His letters are the foundation of modern Christian doctrine.

Pauline Epistles

These are books of the New Testament canon written by the alleged apostle of Jesus, namely Paul of Tarsus (referred to as Saint Paul by good Catholics, and a few other saint-friendly Christian subcultures). They are Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. “Epistle” is a $10 word for “letter”, and all of these were letters that Paul wrote in the 1st century A.D., and mostly to give advice to early Christian churches which were beset with political and social problems. These churches were in the following towns or regions:

  • Romans was written to the church in Rome
  • I and II Corinthians were written to the church in Corinth, Greece
  • Galatians was written to the church in Galatia, which was part of the Roman province “Anatolia”
  • Ephesians was written to the church in Ephesus.
  • Philippians was written to the church in Philippi, in ancient Greece.
  • Colossians was written to the church in a place called “Colossae” in ancient Phrygia.
  • I and II Thessalonians were written to the church in Thessalonica.
  • I and II Timothy were written to Paul’s missionary buddy Timothy, who was out doing church-y stuff in Ephesus at the time.
  • Titus was written to another missionary buddy of Paul’s, unsurprisingly named Titus, who was doing church-y stuff in places like Corinth, Crete, and Croatia.
  • Philemon was written to a rich guy from Colossae named Philemon, while Paul was in prison in Ephesus or Rome (probably).

The first person to collect these writings together and say that they should definitely be considered holy, scriptural, true, etc. (an act called “canonization”) was Marcion of Sinope, who did that around 140 years after Jesus died. Marcion thought that Paul had everything right, so much so that he didn’t include the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), except for a version of Luke that he heavily edited all by himself.

The Pauline Epistles (especially Romans) are the basis for pretty much all Protestant, and especially Evangelical, thinking and doctrine. If you go to a typical evangelical church, you’re likely to hear more about Paul than about Jesus.

Penal Substitution Theory of Atonement

A theory of atonement that basically says that sin creates debt, and that Jesus paid for it by dying on a cross. Pretty much universally accepted in Protestant churches.

Protestant Reformation

A movement started by Martin Luther in the 1500’s as a reaction to the Catholic practice of extortion by selling “indulgences” to people who wanted to reduce their loved ones’ time of suffering in purgatory. Prominent reformers include John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli. Followers of Reformation ideas believe that the actions of sinners play no part in the nature of the afterlife, instead believing that a few thousand years ago (there’s disagreement among Reformation buffs as to when; see infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism) God chose (or predestined) a select group of people to go to heaven (these are called the elect), and also chose who would be damned to hell for all eternity, where they would suffer third-degree burns and a bunch of crying people and gnashing teeth, kind of like the children’s book Where The Wild Things Are.

Purgatory

In Roman Catholicism, a place of suffering where sinners go for cleansing after death and before getting into heaven.

Reformed Theology

See Protestant Reformation.

Soteriology

The study of salvation as it relates to religious doctrine. Jesus dying on the cross to pay for the sins of mankind is an example of soteriology.

Supralapsarianism

Supralapsarians believe God did the following things in the following order:

  1. Decided to allow some humans to get into heaven, while the rest are sent to hell.
  2. Created the chosen ones and the condemned ones
  3. Authorized Adam and Eve to eat some forbidden fruit
  4. Provided atonement only for those chosen in step 1.

Synod of Dort

A meeting of Christians from the Dutch Reformed camp that happened in the 1600’s, to decide what they would do about a new splinter group that followed the teachings of a guy called Arminius, who was talking about some doctrines that didn’t jive with what John Calvin had said before.

Westminster Divines

A group of religious bigwigs from the Church of England and Church of Scotland who got together in the 1600’s to write documents like the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is supposed to explain what beliefs and activities are heresy or not.