In conversation with a friend recently I heard him refer to his church as ‘evangelical’. I asked him what he meant by that and he said, ‘There’s a strong emphasis on reaching out to people.’

‘Oh’, I replied, ‘You mean evangelistic?’

It’s not just ‘evangelical’ that is so often misunderstood or misapplied. There’s plenty of others as well. At best we may just mean one thing but say another, but on another level our misunderstanding of a word can unhelpfully skew our theology. So here’s my take on some of the most common misunderstandings and mix ups.


Evangelical and Evangelism

Evangelism is the act of sharing the message of the gospel.

Evangelical means being gospel centred in message and ministry.


Predestination and Predetermination

Predestination is the doctrine that God elects those who are to be saved (which the bible teaches).

Predetermination is the belief that all events in life, large and small, have already been predetermined and all actions are merely playing them out (which the bible doesn’t teach).


Worship and Music

Worship is the all-encompassing life of the Christian: devoted to and given for the service of God in all areas of life.

Music is music. Corporate singing is a wonderful expression of corporate worship – but my bone to pick here is that worship has become a synonym for gathered singing…which is true, but not fully.


Saint and saint

A Saint in Roman Catholic theology is anyone who has lived righteously on earth and has performed miracles either in life or in passing. Catholic saints can be prayed to as mediators to God.

A saint in New Testament theology is anyone who is a Christian.


Arminian and Armenian

Arminian, and Arminianism, generally refers to the systematic theology as developed by Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) in response to the systematic theology of John Calvin (1509-1564). Arminian theology has an emphasis on prevenient grace (grace conferred on all mankind sufficient for belief despite sinful corruption) and the exercise of free will.

Armenian refers to someone from the Republic of Armenia (tucked away between Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran).


Pentecostal and Charismatic

This one is slightly more tricky, so let me just add my two cents into the mix and share how I understand it. Briefly: A Pentecostal is necessarily charismatic, but a Charismatic need not necessarily be a Pentecostal.

Pentecostal Christians emphasise direct personal experience with God through baptism of the Holy Spirit as manifested in tongues and other supernatural spiritual gifts.

Charismatic covers a much broader tent, including Pentecostals, as well as even those who would hold to reformed theology. Speaking of which…


Reformed, Reformation and Protestant

Reformed theology generally holds to the doctrines recaptured during the period known as the Reformation – generally encapsulate by the ‘Five Solas’. Sola means ‘alone’ in Latin and the five solas form the foundation for Reformed theology: scripture alone, faith along, grace alone, Christ alone, glory to God alone.

The reformation was a period of time, across a few countries in Europe, during which Christians sought to regain the Bible’s teaching on salvation and mankind.

Protestants are Christians who do not follow the teachings and traditions of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.

And finally…


Revelation and Revelations

Revelation – the book written by the apostle John – is singular, not plural.

As an aside, the theological doctrine of revelation refers to God’s progressive revealing of himself through the pages of scripture.


Well, there’s a few I’ve had a crack at. Let me know in the comments below which Christian words you’ve often seen misused or misunderstood. Maybe we can do a part two!


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