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Salty Words: A Theological Vocabulary for Spiritual Growth

T. Michael W. Halcomb


  1. Anthropology: Study of or discussion about humans. (The root of the term comes from the Greek word ανθρωπος, which means “human.”)

  2. Atonement: This word, an English portmanteau (i.e. combining of words or parts of words to form a new word), attempts to get at the notion of being “at one” with God. It is thought to be a fill-in term for “sacrifice.” The underlying idea is that Jesus’ self-giving sacrifice as the Son is what puts humans who profess their allegiance to Jesus “at one” with God; that is, there is an at-one-ish-ness they now have. Jesus, by coming and identifying with humans, has invited and incorporated us into the life of the Triune God.

  3. Bibliolatry: The act of raising Scripture (or: The Bible) to the status of idol. This has been prominent especially amongst Protestants, particularly Evangelicals, who have numerous pet doctrines about Scripture. It is not a book, however, that believers worship, but a person, namely, Jesus.

  4. Christosis: This word, a play on the term “theosis” (see “theosis”), is essentially the result that comes from cruciformity (see “cruciformity”). That is, the result of living a cruciform life is one in which humans begin to look like Christ (in terms of their heart, soul, mind, and strength).

  5. Colloquy: A term used by St. Ignatius to speak of a divinely initiated conversation with humans. He used this term to speak of prayer. I have borrowed and repurposed it to speak of Holy Scripture. As a colloquy, Holy Scripture has 5 main talking points: 1) Creation; 2) De-creation; 3) Re-creation; 4) New creation; and, 5) Co-creation.

  6. Cruciformity: A combining of the words “crucifixion / crucify” and “conformity.” Living a life of cruciformity is living a life that is conformed to the way of the cross.

  7. Cursus Honorum: This is a Latin phrase meaning “Course of Honor.” This was the typical course that an ancient man had to follow, the ladder he had to climb, to become active in the political system of his day. The way Jesus is described in “The Christ Hymn” of Philippians 2 subverts this. The course of downward movement or downward mobility made by Jesus might be called, instead, Cursus Pudorum, that is, the “Course of Shame.”

  8. Diaphanous: See “Self-effacing.”

  9. Godhead: The divine Trinity (see “Trinity”).

  10. Hallelujah: You’ve certainly heard the term “Hallelujah” before. But here’s a bit of detail you might not have known: “Hallelujah” (הללויה) is a Hebrew command or imperative meaning “Y’all praise God!” Hallel (הלל) means “praise!”, u (ו) means “y’all,” and Yah (יה) means “God.” Thus, “Y’all praise God!” Today, this is said less like a command and more like a simple exclamation, which is a bit different than it’s intended meaning but not too far off.

  11. Hamartiology: Study of or discussion about sin. (The root of the term comes from the Greek word αμαρτια, which means “sin.”)

  12. Haphtara: A Hebrew term referring to the ancient synagogue practice of linking a reading from the Law with a reading from the Prophets. These combined texts would set the stage and provide the content for a homily (.e. a sermon). 

  13. Kenosis: This is a Greek term (κενουν) found in Philippians 2:9 and has the meaning of self-emptying or emptying. Jesus emptied himself of his divine prerogatives to become fully human and, in doing so, set an example for us of what it means to sacrifice our power, status, rank, etc., for the good of the community.

  14. Munus Triplex: This is a Latin phrase used to speak of the threefold office or duty of Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King. Jesus is all three of these at once and is never not one these. These are usually discussed in relation to the concept of atonement (see “atonement”). In Trinitarian perspective, Jesus as King is the Father’s Victor over death; as Priest, he, the Son, offered himself as a blood sacrifice; and, as Prophet, he is empowered by the Spirit to proclaim the truth about his identity as the Messiah.

  15. Pathétique: This is a French term meaning pathos-filled. The idea is that God the Father is pathos-filled, which means that he is deeply moved. As opposed to Aristotle’s depiction of God as “The Unmoved Mover,” the God of the Bible is “The Most Moved Mover.” He has the ability to be deeply and intensely moved by what we humans are going through, both good and bad.

  16. Perichoresis: A Greek term (περιχωρησις) meaning “circle dance.” The image, when applied to the Trinity (see “Trinity”), is of the three members dancing together in an unending circle dance. The circle, which is never broken, is open to all who desire to know and experience God’s grace.

  17. Self-effacing (or: Diaphanous): The act of purposefully hiding oneself from plain sight. In the case of the Holy Spirit, this is done in order to point to or glorify the Father and Son. It is as if the members of the Trinity are ready to take a photo together and, just before the photo is snapped, the Spirit jumps out of frame to go push the button. You know he’s still there, still present, but he’s pointing to the Father and Son.

  18. Soteriology: Study of discussion about salvation and things related to salvation. (The root of the term comes from the Greek word σοτερ, which means “Savior/Salvager.”)

  19. Theology: Study of or discussion about God and things related to God. (The root of the term comes from the Greek word Θεος, which means “God.”)

  20. Theosis: A theological tenet expressed strongly in Eastern Orthodox circles which describes a transformative process that, as believers go through it, both increases their union with God and their likeness to him. (This term is often a synonym for “divinization.”)

  21. Trinitarian: Either a) Someone who professes their allegiance to the Trinity, or b) Having to do with the Trinity or matters related to the Trinity. (See “Trinity.”)

  22. Trinity: A term used to refer to the three individuals of the one Godhead, that is, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. 

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