Tag Archives: Definitions

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(HT:  blog post from the Reformation21 blog and the upcoming start of the school year that makes it desirable for me to have a schedule and structure...Sunday is "Reformed Theology Day"...although looking at the "what I believe" page, there are some aspects that I haven't posted on...)

There are a lot of terms that I'm not sure are being used correctly - I'm not sure if I'm using them correctly.  But the way they're used does make a difference in how you see things.

(all definitions are from Wiki)

Determinism is the view that every event, including human cognition, behavior, decision, and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences.

Indeterminism is a philosophical position that maintains that some form of determinism is incorrect: that there are events which do not correspond with determinism (and therefore are either uncaused, or caused in a manner that the corresponding form of determinism does not allow).

so...if you believe in determinism, as strictly defined, given any circumstances, you cannot NOT make the decision that you must make, given all the factors that led up to that circumstance.

If you believe in indeterminism, it's all up for grabs.  You might make that decision or you might not.  You are a product of your past, but you are not bound by it.

Will - simply the ability to make a choice.

Free will - the ability to make a choice without force

Libertarian free will - the ability to make a choice with no outside constraints whatsoever.

These are varying degrees, but the differences are important.  Whether or not you "must" make a particular choice (based on determinism), it is still you making the choice.  Free will is further down the road, there may be history or constraints that you may or may not even recognize, but you are still not "forced" to make a particular choice.  With libertarian free will, there is no outside influence that would constrain any choice you might make.  Influence, yes...constrain, no.

Compatibilism (...) holds that the sovereignty of God and the free will of man are both biblical concepts and, rightly understood, are not mutually exclusive. The all-knowing God (who sees past, present, and future simultaneously from the perspective of eternity) created human beings (who have the subjective reality of making choices in the present that have consequences for themselves and others in the future) in such a way that both are true: God is ultimately sovereign and therefore must have at least permitted any choice that a human could make, but at the same time God is right to hold humans accountable because from their perspective within the confines of serial time, humans make moral choices between good and evil. (from Theopedia, through Wiki)

Incompatibilism takes two different forms...at either end of the compatibilist spectrum.

compatibilism must be false because both the sovereignty of God AND the free agency of man cannot be true.

thus (choice 1) in order for man to have libertarian free will, God must choose to not take control over man's choices...


(choice 2), God is sovereign over all, thus man must not have the ability to make choices of the will.

This is an important question of theology for one who studies Reformed theology.  Where on the spectrum do I fall?

My belief is:  since Scripture teaches that God IS sovereign over all AND man makes choices, both good and evil, then some sort of compatibilism must be true.


Side note:  Spell check knew "glossolalia", but not "xenoglossy".

Both  can be referred to as "speaking in tongues", but they are different and (as one website put it) should be distinguished from each other as often as possible.


Glossolalia. From (from Greek γλωσσολαλιά and that from γλῶσσα - glossa "tongue, language" and λαλεῖν (lalein) "to talk") - this is copied and pasted so if it's not exactly correct, hopefully it's good enough for a lay person.
Trying to find an "official" definition that clearly defines glossolalia as different than xenoglossy and isn't biased in terms of Continuationist vs. Cessationist has turned out to be an interesting side trip.  It was easier to get the definition from a secular dictionary.

The ability or phenomenon to utter words or sounds of a language unknown to the speaker, especially as an expression of religious ecstasy. Also called glossolalia, speaking in tongues.

The important key words are "words or sounds".

A less generous defintion (both from answers.com):

Fabricated and nonmeaningful speech, especially such speech associated with a trance state or certain schizophrenic syndromes.

Xenoglossy.  (from Greek ξενογλωσσία - xenoglossia, from ξένος - xenos, "foreign" + γλώσσα - glossa, "tongue, language").

This was an easier defintion (from worldwidewords.com):

The ability to speak a language without having learned it.

The important key word:  language.


  • both glossolalia and xenoglossy use "sounds" or "words" that do not belong to a language that the speaker knows.
  • Both can be associated with religious activity.

and contrast:

  • glossolalia belongs to no known language.  Pentecostals call this "tongues of angels" and it may be referred to as a "private prayer language" that nobody (except presumably God) can understand.
  • xenoglossy can be identified as a real language and can be understood by a person who speaks that language.  In some cases it is claimed that a 2-way conversation has taken place between a native speaker and the "tongues-speaker" who has never been exposed to that language.

In short:  real language vs. not real language.

Other handy definitions:

  • Cessationism:  the view that the charismatic (or prophetic) gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy, and healing, were only given to the new church for a period of time and ceased either at the end of the apostolic era or shortly after.
  • Charismatic: the general term used to describe Christians who believe that these same gifts are available to Christians today (see "Continuationism").  Closely related to Continuationism, and I'm not sure of the difference, other than continuationism is the belief and charismatic is the movement.  Also see "Pentecostal" - although, you can be charismatic without being Pentecostal.    Mark Driscoll refers to his church as being "charismatic with a seatbelt", which I think is a way of saying, "we're charismatic but not Pentecostal."
  • Continuationism: the view that these same gifts continue to this present age and are available for all Christians alive today.
  • Pentecostal: the belief that a "born again" Christian can (and should) receive a subsequent experience of a "baptism of the Holy Spirit", the initial evidence of which is speaking in tongues as the Sprit gives utterance.  Some Pentecostals believe and teach that a person who has not spoken in tongues (received the baptism of the Holy Spirit) is not saved.  All Pentecostals believe that the "gift" of tongues is THE gift that proves the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).  The other gifts were given later and a believer does not have tongues or another gift...it is always tongues plus the rest of the gifts listed later.

Here's the problem:  Christians are not the only group of people who experience glossolalia and xenoglossy.