The other day, I jumped into the pond over at Slice of Laodicea in a post on salvation terminology ("Salvation" Is Out--"Reconciliation" Is In). Feel free to go there and see the discussion--such as it is.

I got to thinking about the theology class I took near the beginning of my program at Talbot, and the piles of terminology we studied. So, for informational purposes, I post here a list of the terms in short definitions discussed in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology ("Glossary" by Jeff Purswell, pp. 1235-1257):

  • Adoption: "An act of God whereby he makes us members of his family."
  • Conversion: "Our willing response to the gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation."
  • Glorification: "The final step in the application of redemption."
  • Justification: "An instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ's righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight."
  • Perseverance:
  • Propitiation: "A sacrifice that bears God's wrath to the end and in so doing changes God's wrath toward us into favor."
  • Reconciliation: "The removal of enmity and the restoration of fellowship between two parties."
  • Redemption: "Christ's saving work viewed as an act of 'buying back' sinners out of their bondage to sin and to Satan through the payment of a ransom..."
  • Regeneration: "A secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us."
  • Sanctification: "A progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and more like Christ in our actual lives."

Granted, these are terms from a systematic theology with a particular perspective and not directly from scripture. But what is clear, nonetheless, is the broad and rich vocabulary needed to explain what is doing.

One thing that is worth noting: the term 'salvation' is not in Grudem's glossary. Certainly the term 'salvation' is used in scripture. In fact, the Greek term normally translated 'salvation' (sozo) is used 471 times in the LXX and NT--that's a ton. 'Salvation' is obviously an important term and we must not neglect it or change its meaning or exchange it for one we prefer. But if this is the only term we use to talk about what God is doing, then we have made his eternal work to be shallow and small.

We dare not shortchange the richness and breadth of God's eternal work.


  1. Laura, I have been waiting to read what you might say on the subject. This is a wonderful list of words, and most of the definitions are ok.

    However, most of us have not been in theology class to study them. These words only appear in books, and seldom if ever in conversation with people who want to know about the Lord Jesus forgiving them of their sins.

    This raises a touchy issue to me, and that is if we don't regularly understand the meanings of these words, or use them regularly, are we in any way disqualified in being a disciple of Christ in a more than
    surface way. You hinted at that a little by implying we make His work shallow and small when we only use one or two words when talking about His work.

    Would we be unqualified to be a worker, preacher, Bible teacher if we hadn't studied these words, and don't use them?

    If we only knew "salvation" would it not be enough to help those who need it?

    To try once again to clarify the posting before, I got in a huff because someone appeared to get tired of the word "salvation" and want to alter it's use. That's all. There seems to be a potential for that in many places today, and some of us are getting edgy.

    Thank you for continuing to think about it. No one wants to shortchange God.

  2. I think what disqualifies someone from being a worker is assuming that the notion of salvation as only 'being saved from sin'as sufficient. The picture of the kingdom of God--both in its partial 'already' state and in its complete 'not yet' state--is so much richer than that.

    I think what many in the EC are seeing--that some do not see and that is missing from SOME more traditional churches--is that life with God here (on earth and in time) is an incredible, holistic, whole-life walk with God in the way of Jesus. I think the issue with the term 'salvation' is that it has become so identified with 'the walk down the aisle' that people have forgotten--or have never known--that life with God is so much more. Because of this common use of the term 'salvation', it has become insufficient for many. I agree this is unfortunate and I wish it were not so. But, frankly, clear communication is more important that which particular words are used. The term 'reconciliation' clearly communicates the healing of the sin-broken relationship between humanity and God, and has to bonus of communicating that in Jesus, God is making all things new.

    It is unfortunate that the heat produced in the discussions with EC overcomes the light that can be shed.

    Salvation is a rich and wonderful thing. This list of terms from Grudem shows a tiny bit of that richness. Maybe through open discussion, some of that richness can be restored to the term 'salvation'. For now, though, I think we do need to expand our vocabularies.