Understanding God’s Covenants Glossary

Understanding God’s Covenants Glossary

Where noted below, glossary entries are from Exploring Christian Theology, Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel, eds. (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2014).

Abrahamic Covenant—The covenant made with Abraham and recommitted to Isaac and Jacob promising land, blessing, and a great nation.

Adamic Covenant—The covenant made with Adam emphasizing humans ruling in the image of God.

Amillennialism—Held by most theologians since Augustine (fourth century), this view understands the millennium described in Revelation 20:4–6 as occurring presently and spiritually either through Christ’s reign at God’s right hand or through the righteousness of the church. Thus, those who maintain this view deny that Christ will reign over a literal earthly kingdom after His return. Amillennialists believe in a single, general resurrection of the righteous and the wicked for reward and punishment. (Holsteen and Svigel, Exploring Christian Theology, Vol. 3, 237).

Anthropology—The study of humans, including their relationship to the rest of God’s creation, the concept of imago Dei (image of God) in people, and the person’s constitution as both a spiritual and physical being. (Holsteen and Svigel, Exploring Christian Theology, Vol. 2, 249.)

Classical Dispensationalism—A form of dispensationalism popularized by John Nelson Darby, C. I. Scofield, and Lewis Sperry Chafer. This view sees an eternal distinction between Israel and the church. It teaches that the New Covenant is only for Israel.

Davidic Covenant—The covenant made with David promising an everlasting kingship that points toward the Messiah.

Deification—see Theosis

Dispensationalism—A system of theology built around dispensations, viewed as (1) periods of time during which God established different regulations governing human behavior or (2) distinct “administrations” by which He providentially governs humanity or parts of humanity. Despite diverse views on some details, all dispensationalists believe Israel (the people of God in a previous dispensation, with their unique promises) and the church (the people of God in the present dispensation, with their unique promises) are distinct. Therefore, the dispensations at least include a past Old Testament dispensation, present church age, and future millennium. Dispensationalists necessarily hold to premillennialism and almost always hold to a pre-tribulation rapture. (Holsteen and Svigel, Exploring Christian Theology, Vol 3., 240.)

Dispensation of Conscience—After Adam and Eve fell from grace, they knew good from evil but they did not have the law. They followed their consciences—the morality written on their hearts.

Dispensation of Government—After Noah’s flood, God commanded the people to exact consequences on those who take a life. In addition to the internal check on ourselves, conscience, God gave the people an external check, government.

Dispensation of Theocracy—God promised to make Abraham into a great nation, a nation that would be ruled by God’s values. This nation held back wickedness in the world by serving as a light to the Gentiles.

Dispensations—The means by which God administers His governance of humanity throughout history. Some adherents view the dispensations as completely separate periods of time, each with a clear beginning and end; others view them as various means of administration that may overlap or progress toward a final and ultimate expression of God’s administration under Jesus Christ in the future. (Holsteen and Svigel, Exploring Christian Theology, Vol 3., 240.)

Eschatology—Study of ultimate Christian hope and the end times, including the rapture, tribulation, final resurrection, millennium, and God’s plan of the ages as history moves ahead. (Holsteen and Svigel, Exploring Christian Theology, Vol 1., 259.)

Hamartiology—Study of humanity’s fall and resulting depravity, including the origin, extent, consequences, and transmission of the sinful nature. (Holsteen and Svigel, Exploring Christian Theology, Vol. 2, 253.)

New Covenant—The covenant first promised in the Old Testament, which is the means of fulfilling all the Bible’s promises and covenants through Jesus Christ.

Mosaic Covenant—The covenant made with the people under the leadership of Moses promising prosperity in the land for obedience and removal from the land for disobedience.

Noahic Covenant—The covenant made with Noah reaffirming the Adamic Covenant and promising preservation of the human race.

Revised Dispensationalism—A form of dispensationalism popularized by John F. Walvoord and Charles C. Ryrie. It continues to emphasize the literal interpretation of Old Testament promises to the nation of Israel and a distinction between Israel and the church. It teaches that the church does receive some spiritual blessings from the New Covenant, though the covenant is for Israel.

Progressive Dispensationalism—A form of dispensationalism popularized by Darrell L. Bock and Craig A. Blaising. It sees a softer distinction between Israel and the church. Under this interpretation, the church is currently receiving blessings from the New Covenant though Israel is the ultimate recipient of the full New Covenant blessings.

Theosis—A classic doctrine, especially emphasized in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, that emphasizes the Godward, Christ-ward, heavenward trajectory of salvation through mystical union with Christ. From an ancient Greek concept related to passing from mortality to immortality, or partaking of the divine nature by God’s transforming grace, theosis teaches that in their glorious states redeemed humans will be forever growing toward, though never ultimately arriving at, a likeness with God through conformity with Jesus Christ, the God-Man. (Holsteen and Svigel, Exploring Christian Theology, Vol. 2, 258.)


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