Let’s explore five theological Latin terms.
First is fides. This is one of the three theological virtues alongside of love and hope. Fides is faith. The Reformers looked at faith by using three more Latin words to fully understand what saving faith is. The first is noticia. This is the idea of knowledge of propositions. This is the content of the gospel. Noticia has to do with the intellect. The next word is assensus. This also has to do with the intellect. It is the acknowledgement of the noticia. That is to say, it is to acknowledge the truth of the gospel, the propositions of the gospel. These are both intellectual activities. The third moves us into the category of apprehension. It is fiducia, which literally means “trust,” but it is the idea of apprehending the noticia, the truth of the gospel. It is an act of the will that appropriates personally the truth of the gospel. Sometimes it’s described as whole-personed trust in the gospel.
Our second Latin theological word is imputatio. This is where we get our theological word imputation. To impute means “to reckon.” There are two kinds of imputation, and again we’ll use Latin for this. First is imputatio peccati, the imputation of sin. That’s Adam’s sin that is put on my account. So I am reckoned a sinner; I am a sinner. But then there’s the imputatio satisfactionis Christi. That is Christ’s righteous satisfaction of the divine justice of God’s wrath. That work of Christ is directly and immediately imputed to me, so I’m not a sinner, but I am reckoned righteous. And it’s not because of anything I have done, but because of what Christ has done and how it has been applied to my account.
The third Latin theological word is lex. It means “law.” Samuel Rutherford used it in the title of his book Lex Rex, or The Law Is King. The Latin expression lex divina refers to the law that is established by God. Lex humana refers to the law established by men. We also speak of lex naturalis, or natural law, the order or the rule that is in creation. Another Latin phrase is lex praescribit evangelium inscribit: “The law prescribes, the gospel inscribes.” Or we would say, “The law’s written on stone. ” It tells us what to do, and it calls us up short. But the gospel, we know, is “written on the heart.”
Our fourth Latin theological word is sanctus. This means “holy.” In Isaiah 6 we find, “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus.” God is holy, holy, holy. Sanctus is also part of the word sanctificacio or “sanctification,” which means we are to grow in holiness.
Our fifth Latin word is actus. Aristotle saw action at the root of being. That is, beings are beings who act. There is potential, which is possible being; and there is actual which is being. So actus is key to who we are. Aristotle even spoke of the actus purus, the “pure act.” That is God. God in Himself is eternally perfect, eternally complete, eternally unchanging. We use the attribute here of immutability to define who God is because God is pure act. God creates—creation. And so there we have a bonus Latin word.