50 Most Important Theological Terms • J. Brian Tucker & David B. Finkbeiner

September 2021 • Paperback • 978-0-8024-2260-6

Some people make theology complicated. Here’s what you need to know.

Theology can be intimidating, full of big words and lofty ideas. Yet theological terms aren’t just for professors to argue about in the ivory tower. These powerful words have important meanings for the everyday Christian, too. They aren’t reserved for academic theologians. These terms belong to you!

In 50 Most Important Theological Terms, Moody professors David Finkbeiner and Brian Tucker offer helpful explanations of the –isms and –ologies of Bible doctrine that you’ve heard of but aren’t sure what they mean. Beyond mere explanations, the authors help you understand why these terms matter, not just for classroom textbooks but for the book of real life. You’ll learn about questions like:

  • How is Jesus fully God and fully human at the same time?
  • By what means was sin passed to everyone from Adam?
  • Do humans have only a body and soul, or a body, soul, and spirit?
  • Is repentance from sin part of saving faith?
  • And much more . . .

Despite what you may have heard, theology actually is relevant. Don’t miss out on the meanings of theological terms. Get the answers from experts and let your confusion turn to understanding.


J. Brian Tucker is Professor of New Testament at Moody Theological Seminary in Plymouth, MI, and External Affiliate at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, London. He is coeditor of The T & T Clark Social Identity Commentary on the New Testament and the author or coauthor of several books including Reading Romans after Supersessionism, and All Together Different. Brian earned his DMin from Michigan Theological Seminary and his PhD from the University of Wales, Lampeter. In his spare time he enjoys science fiction and playing and listening to jazz.

David B. Finkbeiner is Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL, where he has taught since 1998. He served as Chair of the Theology Department for several years and he ministers in Chicago-area churches through preaching, teaching, and serving as an elder. David earned his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his wife, Kathy, have three daughters, Katie, Emily, and Rebecca.



The idea of revelation can seem rather mysterious, maybe even a bit spooky. For many, it conjures up ideas of deeply religious people having ecstatic experiences in which a divine being communicates to them. Christians may think of ancient prophets boldly issuing proclamations of “thus says the Lord” or even of the last book of the Bible, filled with all sorts of strange images. No wonder revelation can sound like an idea far removed from our day-to-day lives.

But revelation is a wonderful reality that makes our relationship with the living God possible. Think about it. We are tiny creatures in a vast universe. God is the unlimited, eternal Creator of all. Not only is He a being far greater than the universe He has made, but He is also separate from that universe (since He is Creator and it is created). On our own, we could never know Him or anything about Him. He must make Himself known.

This is exactly what revelation is about: God disclosing to human beings who He is, what He does, and what He wants for us. His self-disclosure not only reveals personal facts (factual knowledge), but it also makes it possible to have a relationship with Him (personal knowledge). This is why God’s work of revelation is such a gracious blessing. Without it, we could never know God.

Who was received revelation from God? In one sense, everyone has. This is called general revelation, God’s self-disclosure to all people everywhere. Scripture tells us God does this in various ways. He reveals Himself through creation itself (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-25), through His providential working in nature (Acts 14:14-18) and history (Acts 17:22-31), and even in the human conscience (Rom. 2:12-16). General revelation indirectly communicates general truths about God, such as His existence, glory, power, holiness, and goodness. But its message lacks specifics beyond those generalities. This limits its effect.

Some have argued that general revelation, despite its limited message, is still sufficient to potentially save anyone who responds positively to it. Scripture indicates that this is unlikely. For one thing, Paul insists that the message of general revelation is not sufficient. He argues that saving faith comes through the specific message of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 10:13-17). Further, even if general revelation were sufficient to save, no one left to their own devices responds rightly anyway. Instead, they suppress general revelation and turn their hearts to worship something other than God. Consequently, general revelation leads only to universal condemnation (Rom. 1:18-25).

If we are to be saved, we need revelation in another sense. This is called special revelation, which is God’s direct self-disclosure to specific people at specific times with a specific message or appearance. The Scriptures give us many examples of special revelation in biblical history. These include theophanies or visible manifestations of God (e.g., Gen. 18:1-19; 32:24-32; Ex. 3:1-4; 13:21; 33:9-23), direct speech (Ex. 3:1-4:17; 19:3-7; 1 Sam. 3:1-11; Acts 26:12-16), dreams (Gen. 20; Dan. 2; Matt. 1:18-24), visions (Isa. 6:1-10; Dan. 10:4-20; Acts 10:9-17), angels (e.g., Dan. 9:20-22; Luke 1:26-38), prophets (e.g., 2 Sam. 12:1-15; Jer. 1:1-3; Isa. 38:1-8), and miraculous events (Deut. 4:32-35; John 20:30-31). But Scripture also affirms that there is one form of special revelation that surpasses all others: Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh (John 1:1-18; 14:7-11; Heb. 1:1-3). The gospel message through which we are saved is all about Him – and for good reason, since we come to know God through Him.

There is another form of special revelation different from the others: Scripture. What makes Scripture unique is that it preserves special revelation for God’s people. All other forms of special revelation, including Jesus Christ in His first coming, happened in the past. Scripture preserves those past events of special revelation so that we have access to them today. What’s more, the words of Scripture themselves are special revelation, for Scripture itself is the very Word of God.