Is “Theory” the Right Word?

On occasion, someone will criticize my use of the word “Theory”, presumably on the grounds that any proper theory must be falsifiable.  This objection always surprises me, however, since I researched the word before using it in my title, and found no such requirement.  I have listed several dictionary definitions below—more than enough to establish that no such strict definition of the word is necessitated in English usage.

One definition, buried deep within Wikipedia’s article on “Theory”, requires falsifiability in scientific theories:

In science, the term “theory” refers to “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.”[11][12] Theories must also meet further requirements, such as the ability to make falsifiable predictions with consistent accuracy across a broad area of scientific inquiry, and production of strong evidence in favor of the theory from multiple independent sources.

Obviously, the Temporary Ekklesia Theory is not scientific in nature.  Interestingly, however, it does seem to qualify as theory with regard to the Wikipedia sentence that follows the section pasted above:

The strength of a scientific theory is related to the diversity of phenomena it can explain, which is measured by its ability to make falsifiable predictions with respect to those phenomena.

TET makes several predictions, which I have listed in another article.  Should these predictions prove false, then TET would thus be falsified.

It should be noted that the Temporary Ekklesia Theory is an interpretive theory of the Bible, which can most certainly be falsified by rational proofs that such interpretation is logically, factually, and/or linguistically untenable.  For example, if it were proven that the Greek word “ekklesia” contains a root that mandates permanency upon the earth, this would irreconcilably undermine the Temporary Ekklesia Theory.  Or, alternatively, if someone were to produce a passage from scripture that prophesied that the ekklesia would remain perpetually upon the earth, that also would falsify the TET.

Here are entries for “theory” from several dictionaries.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

: the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another
: abstract thought : speculation
: the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art <music theory>
a : a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action <her method is based on the theorythat all children want to learn>b : an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances —often used in the phrase in theory <in theory, we have always advocated freedom for all>

: a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena <the wave theory of light>
a :a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigationb : an unproved assumption : conjecture

c : a body of theorems presenting a concise systematic view of a subject <theory of equations>


a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena: Einstein’s theory of relativity. Synonyms: principle, law, doctrine.

a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact. Synonyms: idea, notion hypothesis, postulate. Antonyms: practice, verification, corroboration, substantiation.

Mathematics . a body of principles, theorems, or the like, belonging to one subject: number theory.

the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice: music theory.

a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles: conflicting theories of how children best learn to read.

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (as found at

1. A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.
2. The branch of a science or art consisting of its explanatory statements, accepted principles, and methods of analysis, as opposed to practice: a fine musician who had never studied theory.
3. A set of theorems that constitute a systematic view of a branch of mathematics.
4. Abstract reasoning; speculation: a decision based on experience rather than theory.
5. A belief or principle that guides action or assists comprehension or judgment: staked out the house on the theory that criminals usually return to the scene of the crime.
6. An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.

Collins English Dictionary (as found at

1. a system of rules, procedures, and assumptions used to produce a result
2. abstract knowledge or reasoning
3. a speculative or conjectural view or idea I have a theory about that
4. an ideal or hypothetical situation (esp in the phrase in theory)
5. a set of hypotheses related by logical or mathematical arguments to explain and predict a wide variety of connected phenomena in general terms the theory of relativity
a nontechnical name for hypothesis [1]

The American Heritage Science Dictionary (as found at

A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena. Most theories that are accepted by scientists have been repeatedly tested by experiments and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena. See Note at hypothesis.