// Updated 1-11-11

Concepts

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My humble opinions are in RED type.

This is a glossary for many religions.

If you would like to see a term added, please email Rev. Su!!

Theology Concepts,
Vocabulary & Definitions
from Many Religions


CONCEPTS IN THEOLOGY, PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Agape (contrast with eros)

This Greek word was coined by NT writers to describe Deity's love for humanity and Christians' love of one another as members of the same faith community.

The Latin translation is usually 'caritas' which is 'charity' in English, and demmonstrates the original meaning of that word as well.

Agrapha

In general, the unofficial sayings of someone.

In specific, the sayings of Jesus not found in one of the four gospels. This actually includes Jesus sayings found in other canonical books of the NT as well as in apocryphal sources, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary.

Allegory

In this literary figure of speech, one thing is understood to represent another in the context of an entire poem, story or book. For example, the book Animal Farm is an allegory of 20th century Russia.

Many of the parables recorded as being told by Jesus were thought to be allegories for contemporary religious and political situations. NT writers often reinterpreted OT allegories as being prophecies of contemporary events such as the birth, ministry and persecution of Jesus. Hindsight is 20/20...can anyone say 'Nostradamus'? This practice, while still employed in the modern RC church, is generally frowned upon by Protestants.

FYI, a metaphor, by contrast, is a very brief allegory, usually communicated in a phrase, or a sentence or two. For example: "I am a bear in the morning." Obviously, I'm a human, not a bear, but in the morning I take on the stereotypical characteristics of a bear, e.g., gruff, grumbling, drowsy from hibernation, hungry, etc.

Amen

This is a Hebrew word meaning 'truly'. It is used anytime to denote agreement, or at the end of a prayer or rite to signal the end of the section and confirm will.

Many Pagans use the phrase "so mote it be" in a similar fashion. Some (like me) use 'amen', especially when in an ecumenical setting.

Anathema (compare to excommunication, shun)

A person or thing that is separated or cursed.

A person who is anathematized is cast out from the entire faith community, not just a particular congregation or set of rituals. In the Christian church, this would be someone who essentially has been de-baptized.

Apocryphal (contrast to pseudepigrapha)

Although usually considered to be inspired to some degree, apocryphal writings are usually rejected by mainstream religious authorities. Sometimes the word is used to describe secular writing with questionable claims of authorship or authenticity, or an outright falsehood.

The Apocrypha (note the proper case) are the seven OT books included in the RC version of the Bible, but which are omitted in Protestant version. Also considered apocryphal are various early Christian gospels that were not "canonized", or sanctioned.

The word is from Late Latin meaning 'hidden away'. This is interesting because it is not Deity who has hidden the books from the masses, but church authorities, to further define their theology and doctrine. IMHO not including a text as accepted is to restrict the ability of the parishioners to interpret the texts independently. It is often cults who attempt to make all decisions for their members. 1/1/11 - On the other hand, some radical interpretations may be truly antithetical to a religion's aims, so it would logically NOT be included as canon. I think what I really have a problem with is the whole destroying-what-we-don't-agree-with thing.

Apostolic Succession

Beginning with Clement of Rome in the 1st century CE, it became a really big deal to have a continuous line of ordination leading back to the original thirteen Apostles. If there is a theological schism, bishops do not lose their ability to ordain. That is how new denominations such as Lutheran and Episcopal can legitimately claim Apostolic succession.

This is the same concept as hereditary witchcraft, and hiving off to form new branches of the tradition.

Blasphemy (mortal sin) (compare to sacrilege)

Thoughts or words that are contemptuous of Deity. This includes claiming the rights and qualities of Deity. It literally means "hurtful utterances".

It is interesting to note that although the last successful prosecution of blasphemy laws in Britain occured in 1977, they weren't repealed until 2008.

Blessing

The pronouncement of Divine favor or holy nature, a praising. The origin of the word is “blood” which may indicate that originally a blessing required a blood sacrifice.

Bully Pulpit

A place of political or social prominence from which one can express personal views. This word has only been in use since the late 1970’s, and is included here because of its inherent religious reference. An example of someone on a bully pulpit is Bono, the lead singer of the rock band, U2.

Cabala, Cabbalah, Kabala, Kabbalah

There are no less than two dozen variant spellings. Cabala is a system of Jewish theosophy and theurgy believed to reveal hidden doctrines within the Old Testament regarding the relationship between an infinite, eternal and mysterious Creator with the finite and mortal universe of His creation by the use of methods known only to initiates. The word literally means “received tradition.” (Yes, the song from Fiddler on the Roof began playing in my head, too.)

This system seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence (ontology). As a by-product, Cabala gave greater meaning to traditional customs and sayings.

Cabala was developed by rabbis, and was formalized in the 12th and 13th centuries by the Zohar and the writings of Luria. It influenced and was influenced by an assortment of Hellenistic, Roman, and Arabic traditions. There is debate as to whether study of Cabala was ever prohibited within the Jewish community, or if it was in fact widely disseminated. A Christian version was fashionable in the 15th and 16th centuries. Study of the Cabala is popular in modern times, especially among orthodox Hasidic Jews, and strangely enough, celebrities such as Madonna. Because of its inherent mysticism, elements of Cabala are also popular in Pagan traditions.

Cabala is essentially Gnostic in nature, and influenced many Jewish and Christian philosophers and theologians as early as the 2nd century BCE. The cosmology of Cabala is dualistic, and comes directly from Gnosticism and Zoroastrianism. It holds that matter existed in the form of six elements (water, darkness, fire, light, air and wisdom) before God created the world. Cabalists also believe that the soul exists prior to incarnation.

Practical Cabala is essentially a form of “white” magic using various forms of the name (i.e., power) of God, as opposed to the names of demonic beings.  This distinction itself raises a whole other kettle of philosophical and ontological fish! It is ceremonial magic that focuses on the use of talismans, and is the foundation of modern ceremonial magic such as the Rosicrucians and the Golden Dawn.

Call, Calling

To be called, or to hear the call, is to be led directly by Divinity to the path of enlightenment (the calling), akin to a divine summons or divine invitation. Often a call leads to a vocation of service within a religious community or context, and is a deeply felt personal mission, or strong inner urge or prompting.

The word comes from a mix of words meaning ‘herald’ and ‘shout’. What comes to mind for me is the story of Saul of Tarsus the tax collector being accosted by the voice of God on the road to Damascus.

Cardinal Virtues, Natural Virtues (contrast with Theological Virtues)

According to Scholastic theologians, these are characteristics of which all humans are capable.

Prudence-discretion, frugality and foresight
Temperance-self-control
Fortitude-strength, firmness and courage in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation
Justice-moral rightness in action and attitude

Categorical Imperative, The

A doctrine of 19th century philosopher, Immanuel Kant, a categorical imperative is an unconditional moral law that applies to all rational beings and is independent of any personal motive or desire. Under this rule, one must do only what one believes all others should do under similar circumstances. It is the ultimate expression of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Catholic (contrast with orthodox, compare with ecumenical)

Literally meaning ‘according to the whole,’ this term means ‘universal, comprehensive, or general’ and refers to the greater body of believers as opposed to a local group. It is antonymous of heretical or schismatic. It also has connotations of an ancient tradition of all believers in a faith, regardless of sect.

The term is also used by the Western (Roman) Church to differentiate itself from the Eastern Church.

Concrete (contrast with transcendent, compare with immanent)

In a theological context, Divinity is concrete when it has a specific form and, usually, a name to go with it. Examples are the Greco-Roman and Egyptian pantheons, wherein Divinity is understood as multiple, discrete forms with individual spheres of influence

Covenant

A formal, conditional contract between two parties who have come together, usually to end a conflict. In Hebrew, berith (covenant) is derived from the root meaning ‘to cut,’ and refers to the dividing of spoils, responsibility, lands, etc within a contract, and also to the ancient practice of walking between the two halves of a sacrificed animal when sealing of the agreement. A covenant can be between humans, and be witnessed by Divinity, or can be between Divinity and humanity or an individual human.

Creed

A concise, formal and authorized statement of the important points of a doctrine or body of doctrine. Often it is a list of the doctrines believed by a certain religious organization. An initiate must first agree to the beliefs of the group.

Popular Christian creeds are the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. A popular Wiccan creed is “the Charge of the Goddess” by Doreen Valiente. Another is the Wiccan Rede, which ends with the oft quoted phrase, “Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An it harm none do what ye will.”

Cult (compare with sect)

A group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc., usually considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of an authoritarian, charismatic leader. The origins of the word, directly related to ‘culture,’ have meanings of farming, inhabiting and worship all rolled up in one.

Denomination (compare with sect)

Meaning ‘to name completely,’ a denomination is either a value of money, or – as is more appropriate to this index – a religious sect. The connotation is that it is a group of believers that have split off from a larger group at some point in the past, e.g. Episcopal and Methodist, or Gardnerian Wicca and Alexandrian Wicca.

Divine Spark (compare with inner light)

The divine spark is exactly what it seems – a portion of Divinity within that starts something. Some philosophers regard this as the soul, and have various theories about pre-incarnation existence, source, nature and purpose of the soul or divine spark.

In Gnosticism, the purpose of life is to free that spark from its fleshy prison to be reunited with Divinity. This is reflected in the opening passages of the Book of John 1:1-9:

“In the beginning was the word, that is, God's Son, and the word was at God, and God was the word. This was in the beginning at God. All things were made by him, and without him was made nought, that thing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in darknesses, and the darknesses comprehended not it. A man was sent from God, to whom the name was John. This man came into witnessing, that he should bear witnessing of the light, that all men should believe by him. He was not that light, but that he should bear witnessing of the light. There was a very light, that lighteth each man coming into this world.” (underlining added)

In Wicca and most Pagan traditions that divine spark is what makes us each God and Goddess. Eastern traditions such as Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism call this spark qi or prana.  Ancient medical philosophers believed imbalance within the divine spark had a hand in illness. They formulated a doctrine called vitalism.

Doctrine

A particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated by an organization or institution, such as a church or government.

The word is derived from the word doctor, perhaps meaning professor.

Dogma

A specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down that according to the word origin “seems good”. It is a doctrine or set of doctrines that is seen to be absolutely true with no room for interpretation or variation.

Someone who is dogmatic is rigid and somewhat fanatical.

Eclectic

Literally meaning ‘pick out and gather’, the adjective eclectic means selecting and using what are considered the best elements of a variety of systems.

There is a great deal of criticism, especially from dogmatics and fundamentalists, that eclecticism promotes “buffet religion.” Is there anything wrong with choosing the best parts of a faith system and rejecting the unjust or unreasonable? Might critics deride eclectics because they are jealous?

Ecstasy

Colloquially, ecstasy is intense happiness. In a spiritual context, ecstasy is a state of sudden, temporary paralysis during direct interaction with Divinity, often when acting as a channel or medium.

Ecstasy literally means ‘beyond standing’ and gives the sense of transportation beyond the physical body, which happens in both emotional and spiritual instances of ecstasy. Unlike an epileptic seizure, though, the ecstatic remembers what happened.

Ecumenical (compare to eclectic and interfaith)

A event or writing that is interreligious or interdenominational, and includes or containing a mixture of diverse elements or styles, literally ‘belonging to the inhabited world.’ In a Christian context, it refers to a service that includes or is meant to include all Christians regardless of denomination.

Elements (Natural, contrast with Eucharist)

The basic components of all existence, in the Celtic/European traditions they are Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.  They have their own complex natures and correspondences. Some also include Spirit as a fifth element. Alchemists and Ceremonial Mages call this fifth element Quintessence.

Traditional Chinese elements are Wood, Metal, Fire, Water, and Air.

Eros (contrast with agape)

This is the Greek word for sensual, physical, human love. It is also the Greek name of the Roman god, Cupid, the son of Venus/Aphrodite, goddess of love.

Joseph Ratzinger's first Encyclical in his role as Pope Benedict XVI was called "God Is Love."

Eternal Life

Many religions have a concept of life beyond this physical life, although they may have differing opinions of the nature, purpose and evolution of the soul. Eternal life as it understood today is a complete union with Divinity after physical life, wherein the soul or essential self remains intact and experiences the fullest life possible, forever.

Eternal life has come to mean the continuation of the soul or person without physical form. Physical immortality is something different. There is no Biblical support for a belief in eternal life, merely the hope for resurrection of the body and physical immortality. In ancient Greek, Jewish and Christian traditions, the soul is automatically eternal, but it is not the idyllic kind of existence popularized by evangelists.

Eternal life is also an unchanging life that is independent of time, therefore it cannot include reincarnation. (Is eternal life also independent of space?) This is well reflected in the Proto-Indo-European root aiw- which has the meanings of vital force, life and eternity combined.

In researching this term, I discovered that the Elysian Fields of Greek lore, which is also frequently and erroneously equated to the Pagan Summerland or the Christian concept of Heaven, were reserved for those who had attained physical immortality, not those who had died!  Similarly, the modern Christian visualization of Heaven is a misinterpretation of the NT's description of existence after the Apocalypse, since no soul will be resurrected until then, if at all, and only to physical immortality.

Faith (Theological Virtue)

Whereas hope is the confidence or trust that something will happen, faith is the confidence or trust that something has already happened or is happening now. In both cases, this belief is not empirical. The roots of the word are also in trust, loyalty, waiting, remaining, continuing, and portend, which gives added depth to its meaning.

For example, I do not have faith in God and Goddess because I have experienced them directly.  Although it may not be exactly reproducible by others, enough people have shared similar such experiences that, to me, my experiences are proof. I do not have faith; I have knowledge. 

Others, who have not experienced what I have or something similar enough to be generally the same, think I am wrong, and that belief in my wrongness is their faith.

Faith is also another way of saying 'set of beliefs' or ‘religion.’ Sometimes I hear (and use) the phrase ‘my faith community’ as a way to refer to all Pagans in order to differentiate them (and me) from all those of a specific or other religions.

Forgiveness (compare to absolution and justification)

Forgiveness is bestowed by the person who is or who feels wronged by himself or another person. This implies that something is given. In actuality, forgiveness is the stopping of a claim or loan, or feelings of resentment or indebtedness.

The word has been used since before 900 CE. It means "give up completely" or "give in completely."

Glossolalia

This is the ability to speak in 'tongues" (a spiritual language). Though common in gatherings of the early Christian congregations, in modern times it is primarily restricted to Pentacostalist denominations.

Gospel

A gospel is anything regarded as true and implicitly believed.

When used as a proper noun it refers to the first four books of the NT: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These writings contain the central tenets of Christian doctrine.

The word origins are not merely the relatively well-known “good story or good message” of godspel. Early uses indicate that it is the reward for good news, or that the good news is about a reward. ‘Reward’ is a common concept in evangelistic circles; perhaps there’s a connection.

Grace

Grace is a Christian concept that has traction in most religions. It is simply supernatural assistance bestowed by Deity upon a rational being to sanctify them.

This concept was first defined by an argument between Augustine and Pelagius. Augustine felt that divine grace was required by mankind to perform any good act because mankind alone can only do evil. Pelagius felt that mankind has free will to choose good or evil acts, and divine grace only makes good acts easier to accomplish.

The main theological controveries are around the interaction of grace and free will (see Molinism and Jansenism), and of grace and the reception of the sacraments.

Heresy, Formal Heresy (contrast with schism)

Heresy is a separation from a doctrine of the presiding church. For example, I could be labeled a Christian heretic; but, because my heretical views involve the central concepts that make define Christianity, I can honestly no longer be called any kind of Christian.

Hope (Theological Virtue)

Whereas faith is the confidence or trust that something has happened or is happening now, hope is confidence or trust that something will happen. It is an expectation, and, like faith, does not require empirical evidence. It is the opposite of seeing or possessing.

In its widest sense, hope is the desire and search for a future good that is possible, albeit possibly difficult, and in Christianity, the theological virtue is that God exists and loves humanity and individual humans.

No one is sure where or when this word originated, but it may be related to the verb, hop, meaning to spring up.  After all, one’s spirits are lifted by hope.

Humility (Moral Virtue)

Humility in the OT and NT is a tool to remain tranquil through tough times. Considered by Aquinas to be essential to spiritual life, he defined humility as the quality of keeping oneself within one’s “bounds” by not reaching beyond them. This implies not only the existence of a hierarchy of social status, like the feudalism of his lifetime, or spiritual status, like the caste system related to the karma-driven samsara of Hinduism, but its validity. I’m not sure I buy into that.

Humility is a virtue, but it seems rather negative when considering its etymological meanings of lowness, submissiveness and insignificance.  Of course, submission to the will of God is one of the pillars of Islam, so perhaps it’s not as far afield as it feels to this headstrong feminist ;-) The word humility comes from ‘humble’ which has its origins in several ancient languages as ‘earth’. Strangely, I always got the impression from the word ‘humble’ of dirtiness, or squalor and poverty.

Hypocrisy

In modern times, hypocrisy is used in a very broad sense to mean criticizing something in others that you do yourself. In a spiritual context, however, hypocrisy is disguising vice with false virtue. A much more serious situation. A biblical example of hypocrisy is the way the Pharisees did good works in order to be acclaimed, not just for “the glory of God.”

The etymology of hypocrisy is fascinating to me. The PIE root is krei- which means to distinguish as if with a sieve or strainer.  This led to the Greek words krinein and krinesthai, meaning ‘to separate’ and ‘to explain,’ respectively. Adding the Greek prefix hupo- (meaning ‘under’) in turn led to the Latin word, hypocrisis – which means ‘under explaining’ – in other words, to make a pretense, to play-act.

I think we should refrain from using words, like hypocrite and reprobate, without knowing what they really mean.  Just because someone says one thing but does the opposite does not mean they are attempting to deceive me out of wickedness. On the other hand, someone who pretends to be something good when they really mean me harm – that person is a hypocrite! I suppose there could be a hypocrite who is a good person pretending to be bad, but the consequences of revelation just aren’t the same.

 

Immanent (compare with 'transcendent')

An adjective meaning existing or residing within the universe, time, material experience, etc. as an inner activating spirit or force or principle

Immortality

Immortality is never-ending physical life, not the permanence of the soul. It is the inability to die, or to never stop living.

While immortality itself is not a belief or doctrine of Christianity, it is one of the eschatological subjects of Christian hope. Specifically, Christians do not seek immortality in this life, rather, resurrection by the returned Christ into eternal physical community with him/her after the apocalypse. The Bible speaks of death as an enemy to be destroyed and of “heaven” existing in the physical realm (“in earth”). So, why wait for the Second Coming, eh?

One theory of immortality is reconstitutionalism, which addresses how the molecules of a specific human will at some point be put back together. In Tibetan Buddhism, it is believed that each Dalai Lama is in fact a (pretty quick!) reconstitution of the previous one.  Another theory is dualism, which purports that humans are in fact two bodies, one physical (which dies) and the other spiritual, which lives on after bodily death.  Both theories raise their own dilemmas.

Impeccability

This is the inability to sin, or as the Latin root says, to go wrong. Many religions assert that Deity is impeccable, and some go so far as to also say their faith’s supreme leader is as well. Christians, well, some Christians, believe that Jesus was impeccable, or without sin.

Infallibility

This is the inability to be wrong (or the ability to always be right?), and in religious circles, usually refers to the preacher or, more often, the Roman Catholic Pope. In a religious context, it’s not that the Pope can’t screw up, rather, the Pope’s interpretation of the Bible and its commentators’ writings is (supposedly) always right. Even more specifically, at the First Vatican Council in 1870, infallibility was defined as the Pope always being able to tell if a doctrine was part of ‘divine revelation or not. So really, a pretty limited scope of rightness.

The literal meaning is ‘the inability to deceive.’ Well, gosh, that has nothing to do with being wrong or right, just with whether someone is expressing what they really believe or not! What if one Pope contradicts a previous one? How did we get from “can't deceive” to “can't be wrong”? I think

Inner Light (compare to divine spark)

This is phrase similar to soul, and it used extensively within the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. This concept of inner light refers to “God's presence within a person, and to a direct and personal experience of God” by anyone. This concept also played a part in the development of the doctrine of universalism.

 

Intention

actual, virtual, habitual

 

Interfaith

 

Justification

This is a key component of Protestantism.  To be justified means to be ‘pronounced just’ by Deity, in other words, to be forgiven of one’s sins. The RC Church held that one could be justified by their faith in God and by their good works; Luther taught justification by faith alone.

I believe works count, and that faith it not enough. To me, being forgiven requires repentance, a sincere desire to undo the wrong, and can only be demonstrated through actions. Therefore, faith is not enough. If forgiveness (justification) happens without works, it is by divine grace not faith.

Love (Theological Virtue)

Also known as charity, love is one of the three traits held up by Paul as necessary for Christian life. There are many kinds of love, ranging from spiritual charity to erotic love to filial piety, from the profound to the mundane, intimate to global. Ironically, in tennis it means ‘zero’ although it originally was meant as ‘playing for love’ (as opposed to competitiveness?)

The word love has been nearly unchanged (linguistically speaking) for thousands of years. Love, lufu, lubo, liaf, lieb, liufs, lube, Liebe, leubh-, libet, lubhyati, l’ubu – they all mean care, desire and affection.

 

Matter

 

Mental Reservation, Strict or Wide

 

Merit

Martin Luther and other Catholic Reformers repudiated this doctrinal concept, teaching instead that all human works are sinful. I don't agree that all human works are sinful.

Metaphysics

A branch of philosophy concerned with ultimate realities which are beyond empirical verification, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.  Sub-disciplines are ontology, cosmology and epistemology.

This term used as a proper noun means a specific body of work by Aristotle. Metaphysics literally means ‘after Physics’ and refers to its location within the treatise.

Modern Religion

 

Mystery Religion

 

Obedience (moral virtue)

Carrying out the will of one's lawful superior, human or divine, in accordance with chain of command and personal conscience. Most monotheistic paths believe absolute, unlimited obedience is due only to Deity.

This quality is also one of the vows taken by RC monks and nuns.

Ontology

Literally “the study of being”, ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality in general, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within an hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

Orthodox (contrast with catholic)

This term means ‘following the creeds’ and literally means ‘right thinking or right opinion’. Use of this word inherently compares oneself to those having the “wrong” opinion.

The term is also used by the Eastern Church to differentiate itself from the Western (Roman) Church.

Pride (Deadly Sin)

The inordinate love of one's own excellence

Pseudepigrapha (contrast to apocryphal)

This is the practice of attributing one person's writing to another, usually more famous and authoritative. Linguists and other literary forensics specialists can usually tell when a work doesn't match other known examples, you know, "One of these things is not like the other." This is more than just not recognized as part of the official canon of holy texts; this means not being recognized as legitimate sources. These books are essentially fan-fic.

Please keep in mind that this is all about validity of authorship, not the content. Many pseudepigraphical works, like many apocryphal works, are inspiring to readers.

Examples of pseudepigrapha are the Book of Enoch, the Assumption of Moses and the Psalms of Solomon.

Recollection

A stage in prayer or meditation on Deity. Livingstone writes, "Memory, understanding, and will are stilled by Divine action and the soul left in a state of peace in which grace can work without hinderance." Okay, so now we just need to know what she means by memory, understanding, will, soul, peace and grace.

In a broad sense, recollection is a renunciation of all avoidable dissipations and vices. One is gathered back into the fold, so to speak.

Redemption

The simultaneous "deliverance" from or expiation of sin and the restoration of mankind and the world to communion with Deity. Deliverance is a ruling or judgement that takes something negative away. Expiation is a very old concept and means complete appeasement by faith and devotion in a vicarious sacrifice. Our term scapegoat is an example of atonement for a crime through punishing someone other than the guilty party. The concept of redemption is common to many world religions.

In Christianity, humans were stained with Original Sin since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Edin, and it could not be removed by humans (for some reason I know not). This ultimate soul stain could only be eliminated by a supreme sacrifice, namely Christ's death.

How redemption is achieved is debated within Christianity, however. Catholics believe that human acts count toward redemption. Protestants believe that works count for naught and it is by faith alone that human sin can be forgiven. Calvinists and Jansenists believe that only a select few can be redeemed.

Regular

This word means according to rule, in other words, on an orderly, fixed schedule or in the usual manner.

A regular priest lives in a religious community following religious Rule, which includes when to pray, work, eat, sleep, how to dress, and how to act.

Reincarnation (compare with metempsychosis)

Some theologians, including Livingstone, equate the term 'reincarnation' with 'metempsychosis, which is a magical skill of Hindu yogis. This seems strange to me.

 

Reprobation

God's condemnation of sinners to eternal punishment; also, the punishment itself. In the doctrine of predestination, God chooses certain humans to be punished no matter what they do in life. A person who has been so condemned is called a reprobate.

Yeah, I don't think it's fair either. That's why I'm not a Calvinist. :-)

Revelation

Revelation is the body of Truth disclosed by Deity; also, the process of Deity disclosing Truth to a human.

'Truths of reason' can be learned; 'truths of faith' can only be believed.

There is a difference in how Catholics and Protestants view the source of divine truth. Protestants believe that revelation (recorded truths) are in the Bible and that's all we need. Cahtolics believe that the traditions of the Church are also part of God's revelation.

Revelation requires prophets to receive the divine knowledge, wisdom, blueprints, etc.

Sacrament

A sacrament is a visible expression of inward faith and grace, that "sanctifies men," in other words, makes people better for having performed it.

Roman Catholics have seven sacraments, although as many as thirty have been proposed. The traditional seven are: Baptism, Confirmation, Communion or Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction ( the so-called Last Rites), Ordination, and Marriage. These seven were made official at the Council of Trent, and have also been accepted by the Eastern Orthodox Church as well.

In the Catholic traditions, you need to have the right 'matter' (objects & tools) plus the right 'form' (words) plus the right intention (will) in order for a sacrament to be valid. This is also exactly what is required of a magical spell!

Three Christian sacraments need only be performed once because they magically transform the petitioner: Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination. Protestant Christian denominations focus most on the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist.

Sacred (contrast with secular)

 

Sacrilege (Deadly sin) (compare to blasphemy)

Abuse, violation, theft, or willful mistreatment of a sacred person, place or thing. It is an action, not words. It is the improper handling of something, somewhere or someone holy.

When the word was first coined in the very early 1300's, it refered only to "temple robbery". By the end of the century, however, it meant profaning in any way.

Unless the matter is trivial, sacrilege is a grave or 'deadly' sin in the Catholic traditions.

Salvation

 

Sanctuary

The concept of sanctuary essentially means a haven. Both the words sanctuary and haven have connotations of holiness. In fact, criminals would seek the sSanctuary in a church and invoke the Right of Ecclesiastical, or church, Sanctuary. This meant s/he would take an oath of abjuration before the coroner, and be escorted to the nearest seaport out of the country. No trial, no sentncing, no punishment.

Secular sanctuary is a bit more broad, and criminals often just went to a church for sanctuary anyway. By the mid-1750's, both types of legal sanctuary were disallowed by law. Too many had escaped from justice.

In modern times, and in fiction, one can ask a priest (usually Christian) for "sanctuary" and that means they will not be turned out, and no one will be told that they are hiding there. It does not mean the petitioner will get food, money or clothes, and if they leave to go get food, they'll have to ask for sanctuary again (or sneak out and back in), but it is a respite from flight and persecution.

Sect (compare with cult and denomination)

A sect is another word for denomination, A group of people forming a distinct unit within a larger group by virtue of certain refinements or distinctions of belief or practice. The word literally means ‘following a course’. Sometimes the word ‘sect’ is used in a negative way similarly to ‘cult’

Secular (contrast with sacred and regular)

Something that is secular is in the world of the current era. The word secular shares a root with the French word for century, siècle. The ancient Roman ludi sæculares was a 72-hour non-stop celebration coming once in an "age", which is every 120 years. 

A secular priest is a priest who lives in the real world instead of a closed religious community.

Schism (contrast with heresy)

A schism is a separation from the prevailing church in practice, but not doctrine. Essentially, it is going off on your own.

It is interesting to note that because Catholics believe that Ordination is one of those life/soul changing events that cannot be undone, a schismatic priest can still perform th Eucharist, and a schismatic Bishop can still ordain priests, they just wouldn't be Catholics. That's how Luther and Henry VIII were able to start "new" religions that still had the Apostolic Succession that shows pedigree within the Christian traditions.

Seven Deadly Sins

 

Sin, Actual Sin, Formal Sin, Original Sin, Material Sin, Mortal Sin

Sin is a primarily Judeo-Christian concept.  It can refer either to acts in daily life that pull the transgressor away from God (a Roman Catholic worldview called Actual Sin), or as an inherently flawed nature that prevents us from being with God until all are judged (a Protestant worldview called Original Sin). 

Mortal sin is a deliberatly bad act by a human to find satisfaction in another created being instead of Deity. It is only so labeled if a 'grave matter', and is punishabled by loss of divine grace and eternal damnation unless repented and forgiven.

Bishop Dennis Gregg, in an address at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Raleigh NC on September 27, 2009, defined sin as "doing what should have been left undone, and leaving undone what should have been done" and that it is the human condition to do so.

Neopagans generally believe that no creature can have (original) sin because we were made by a loving Creator, and are therefore blessed.  Neopagans generally reject sin, and thus any need for salvation or divine grace.

This web site has a great overview of the concept of sin.

Stigmata

Theological Virtues (contrast with Cardinal Virtues)

These are the three “graces” or characteristics infused into the human intellect by the grace of God. They were proposed by Christian theologian, Paul, in his letters to the Christian community in Corinth.

Faith-belief and trust without proof
Hope-belief that something will happen; usually refers to Christ’s Second Coming
Love/Charity-affectionate concern for the well-being of others

Theosophy

Religio-philisophical thought based on a mystical insight into the divine nature of

 

Transcendent (contrast with concrete, immanent)

Something (or someone) transcendent lies beyond the ordinary range of perception, above and independent of time and space.  Most mainstream religions of Earth, and a few “downstream” religions, have a cosmology that includes a transcendent concept of Divinity.

The word literally means ‘climbed beyond.’ The word ‘climbed’ implies a starting point, as does the word ‘beyond.’ That phrase evokes images for me of Divinity as an entity who was once material and became not, like the concept of ascension in the fictional Stargate SG-1 universe.

Vocation

A function or station in life to which one is called by God, a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career, a divine call to service

Sources: Dictionary.com, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Religioustolerance.org, National Endowment for the Humanities EDSITEment, London Telegraph, Jewish Encyclopedia, Wikipedia "Kabbalah", The Mystical Kabbalah, Physical Immortality Now, My Etymology, Online Etymology Dictionary, Philosophy of Religion, Wikipedia "Inner Light", Wikipedia "Forgiveness"