When I began studying theology on my own, I needed three dictionaries at my elbow — one for theological terms, one for Christian denominations, and one for scholarly English! Here are some of the $5 words that I gleaned for myself, plus their pronunciations (always a challenge for the autodidact). I encourage you to make your own lexicon as you study — the more personalized the learning, the longer you’ll remember it.
apologetics /əˌpäləˈjetiks/: (n.) a field of study in Christian theology that is concerned with making a reasoned defense (literally an “apology”) for beliefs. Neatly expressed in 1 Peter 3:15 — “always being prepared to make a defense (Greek “apologia”) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
aseity /āˈsēətē/: (n.) the absolute self-derivation and self-sufficiency of God (i.e., He is uncreated and needs no one to sustain his existence)
atomistic /a-tə-ˈmis-tik/: (adj.) describes an approach to the Bible in which parts are considered without reference to one another or to the whole (as, e.g., a moral example or an inspiring verse taken out of context). (Contrast with a redemptive-historical reading, in which the historical context is recognized and the connections between the parts of the overarching story are emphasized.)
autodidact /ˌôdōˈdīdakt/: (n.) someone who is self-taught
biblical theology: the field of theological study that is concerned with the interconnectedness of the biblical parts as they convey an overarching story of God’s redemption of a people for himself. (Contrast with an atomistic approach; sometimes also called redemptive history.)
chiasm /ˈkī-ˌa-zəm/: (n.) a literary structure that presents some ideas in a certain order, then immediately repeats them in the reverse order, creating a verbal mirror-image effect.
empirical /əmˈpirik(ə)l/: (adj.) discovered or known through our five senses. “Empirical evidence” means that there’s something tangible to prove a thing, not just hearsay.
epistemology /iˌpistəˈmäləjē/: (adj.) the study of how we know things
eschatology, eschatological /es-kə-ˈtä-lə-jē/ /es-ˌka-tə-ˈlä-ji-kəl/: (n., adj.) Formally, the study of the “End Times” in Christian theology. But this isn’t just about things like the Rapture and the Second Coming. These terms are also used to describe an ultimate view of the final acts of history, regardless of the source of the convictions being articulated.
excursus /ekˈskərsəs/: (n.) an “excursion” into a related topic (i.e., a rabbit trail indulged)
exegesis /eksiˈjēsis/: (n.) the interpretation of texts, particularly Scripture
genre /ˈZHänrə/: (n.) a category of literature. Which shelves do you like to browse in a bookstore?
hermeneutics /hərməˈn(y)o͞odiks/: (n.) the branch of study that deals with the interpretation of texts; sometimes also, the specific interpretive approach that a person holds
heuristic /hyo͞oˈristik/: (adj.) allowing someone to discover something for themselves through problem-solving
homiletics /häməˈletiks/: (n.) the branch of study concerned with the writing and preaching of sermons. (See inverse homiletics, below.)
hortatory /hôrdəˌtôrē/: (adj.) exhorting or encouraging to action. (The hortatory sections of Paul’s letters give the marching orders.)
immanent /ˈimənənt/: (adj.) the word we use to say that God is near, permanently pervading and sustaining the universe (contrast with transcendent, below)
imminent /ˈimənənt/: (adj.) about to happen
imperative (n., adj.) a command, or having the force of command. Note the similarity to the word “imperial” — because the Emperor gives imperatives!
incarnate /inˈkärnət/: (adj.) embodied in flesh (human form)
inchoate /inˈkō-it,-āt/: (adj.) not fully formed, rudimentary
indicative (n., adj.) a statement of fact. Indicatives indicate things about the world.
inverse homiletics: (n.) my neologism for the art of listening to sermons!
irenic /īˈrenik/: (adj.) peaceable, gracious, and winsome in tone
metaphysics /medəˈfiziks/: (n.) the branch of philosophy that deals with what is really going on in the universe
monergistic, monergism /mon-er-jis-tik, mon-er-jizm/: (adj., n.) working alone (from Greek monos, one, and ergo, work). Relevant to our understanding of human responsibility and divine sovereignty — Is our salvation monergistic or synergistic (see below)? How about our sanctification? Neither being a settled question among Christians…
moribund /môrəˌbənd/: (adj.) at the point of death; lacking vitality and vigor
neologism /nēˈäləˌjizəm/: (n.) a newly coined word or expression. (Sometimes Paul just has to make one to get his idea across.)
otiose /ˈōSHēˌōs,ˈōtēˌōs/: (adj.) serving no practical purpose or result
peripatetic /perēpəˈtedik/: (adj.) characterized by walking around from place to place. (Jesus was a peripatetic preacher!)
polemical /pəˈlemək(ə)l/: (adj.) describes writing that is arguing or disputing with an opposing point of view
recondite /ˈrekənˌdīt/: (adj.) little known, obscure (e.g., a subject, or information)
redemptive history: (n.) the overarching story told in the Bible, revealing how our God worked in history to save a people for himself. (As opposed to an atomistic reading of Scripture; sometimes also called biblical theology.)
synergistic, synergism /sin-er-jis-tik, sin-er-jizm/: (adj., n.) working together (from Greek syn, with or together, and ergo, work). Relevant to our understanding of human responsibility and divine sovereignty — Is our salvation synergistic or monergistic (see above)? How about our sanctification? Neither being a settled question among Christians…
transcendent /tran(t)ˈsend(ə)nt/: (adj.) beyond or above the range of normal human experience (contrast with immanent, above)