Adoptionism. Technically, an eighth century doctrine originating with Spanish theologians who taught that the man Jesus was adopted into the Sonship by an act of God. In general, any belief that Jesus was a man who was elevated to divinity at some point in his life.
Agnosticism. The denial of any knowledge concerning the existence of God. Usually, the agnostic also denies the possibility of knowing whether or not God exists.
Anthropomorphism. The use of human characteristics to describe God; for example, the attribution of human emotions and human body parts to God. This is usually considered to be symbolic or figurative language to aid man in understanding the nature of God.
Apollinarianism. The Christological position of Apollinaris, bishop of Laodicea (died 390?). In general, he believed Christ had an incomplete human nature - specifically, that Christ had a human body and soul, but not a human spirit. Instead of a human spirit he had the divine Spirit or the Logos. The Council of Constantinople in 381 condemned Apollinarianism.
Apologist. One who defends Christianity against intellectual objections. In early church history, the Greek apologists were Christian leaders from approximately 130 to 180 A.D. who wrote treatises in Greek defending Christianity against attacks by pagan philosophers.
Arianism. The Christological views of Arius (280?-336), a priest at Alexandria. Arius held that there is only one God, and that the Son or Logos is a divine being like God but created by God. Thus, Jesus was a demigod. This view came very close to sweeping Christendom in the fourth century, but was condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325 and again at the Council of Constantinople in 381.
Atheism. The assertion or belief that there is no God.
Athanasianism. The trinitarian doctrine of Athanasius (293-373), bishop of Alexandria. The Council of Nicea in 325 gave the first official approval to this doctrine and the Council of Constantinople in 381 established it even more thoroughly. It is the orthodox view of Roman Catholics and Protestants alike. Basically, it holds that there are three eternal persons in the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. These three persons are co-equal, co-eternal, and of co-essence.
Athanasian Creed. An ancient trinitarian creed not formulated by Athanasius. It developed in the fifth century and probably reflects the theology of Augustine. The western part of Christendom (the Roman Catholic Church) officially adopted it and the Protestants have generally retained it, but Eastern Orthodoxy has never accepted it because it states that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son instead of the Father only. It is the most complete statement in ancient church history of the doctrine of the trinity. See Chapter 11 - TRINITARIANISM: DEFINITION AND HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT for part of the text of this creed.
Binitarianism. The belief in two persons in the Godhead: God the Father and God the Son. A form of this doctrine was prevalent among the Greek apologists. It also exists today.
Christology. The doctrine of Jesus Christ and the Incarnation. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 expressed what is the traditional Christian formulation on this subject when it affirmed that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures - human and divine.
Christocentric. A system of theology in which the person and work of Christ is the foundation and focus of everything is called Christocentric.
Cerinthianism. A first century Gnostic doctrine named after an early proponent, Cerinthus, who held that Jesus and Christ were separate beings. According to this view, Jesus was a human born naturally (not of a virgin), while Christ was a spirit that came upon Jesus at his baptism and left before his crucifixion.
Ditheism. The belief in two separate and distinct gods.
Docetism. A first century Gnostic belief that Christ was a spirit being only. According to this view, Christ appeared to have a real human body but actually did not.
Dynamic Monarchianism. See Monarchianism.
Ebionitism. A first century heresy originating with Jewish Christians. The Ebionites rejected the teachings of Paul and emphasized the importance of the law of Moses. Generally, they regarded Jesus as a divinely inspired prophet but not as God.
Gnosticism. A term covering a wide range of religious thought in the first few centuries after Christ. It originated in paganism, but adopted many Christian elements, and became a major threat to Christianity. In general, Gnosticism held that spirit is good, matter is evil, salvation consists in deliverance of the spirit from matter, and salvation is achieved by means of a secret or higher knowledge (Greek, gnosis). Gnosticism as applied to the Godhead and to Christology held the following: The Supreme God was transcendent and unapproachable, but from Him came a series of progressively more inferior emanations (called aeons). The lowest of these aeons was Jehovah. Christ is one of the highest aeons. Since all matter is evil, Christ was a spirit being only and had only an apparent body (the doctrine of Docetism). Or, some taught that Christ was a spirit being temporarily associated with a man Jesus who died (the doctrine of Cerinthianism). These Gnostic views on the Godhead were opposed by John in his writings and by Paul in Colossians.
Godhead. Synonym of the word deity. Refers to the state of being God, and to the sum total of God's nature.
Greek apologists. See Apologist.
Homoiousios. Greek word translated as "like in nature" or "similar in nature." The Arians used it to describe the relation of Jesus to God. Many of those who advocated its use at the Council of Nicea apparently were not Arians, but opposed the Sabellian connotations of the alternate word, homoousios. Nicea rejected Arianism and the use of homoiousios.
Homoousios. Greek word translated as "same in nature." Athanasius advocated its use and the Council of Nicea adopted this word to describe the relationship of Jesus to God although some opposed it because of its earlier use by the Sabellians. Thus, it began as a Oneness word, but was adopted by the trinitarians.
Hypostasis. (Plural: hypostases.) Greek word meaning subsistence or individualized manifestation, and usually translated as "person." According to the doctrine of the trinity, God exists as three hypostases. According to traditional Christology, Jesus Christ has two natures but is only one hypostasis. Hebrews 1:3 says that the Son is the express image of God's hypostasis, not a second hypostasis.
Immutable. Eternally unchanging. A quality belonging to God alone.
Incarnation. In general, the embodiment of a spirit in a human form. Specifically, the act of God in becoming flesh; that is, the union of divinity and humanity in Jesus Christ.
Islam. Monotheistic religion founded by Mohammed in the seventh century in Arabia. Followers are called Moslems or Muslims. The Islamic confession of faith is, "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the prophet of God." Islam identifies Allah as the God of Abraham and accepts the Bible as God's Word. However, it regards Jesus as merely a good prophet, asserting that Mohammed is the greatest of all prophets. It also holds that Mohammed's book, the Koran or Qur'an, is the ultimate revelation of God's Word for mankind today. Islam is the dominant religion in the Middle East, North Africa, and a number of Asian countries.
Judaism. Monotheistic religion based on the Torah (the law of Moses), or the Christian Old Testament. Judaism teaches that God is absolutely one in numerical value, accepts the law of Moses as God's Word for today, and totally rejects the deity or Messianic role of Jesus of Nazareth.
Kenosis. Derived from the Greek word kenoo, which appears in Philippians 2:7 and means "to make nothing, to empty, or to strip." It describes God's choice in stripping Himself of His prerogatives and dignity as God in order to appear in flesh as a man. Some trinitarians hold to a kenotic theory which states that "God the Son" emptied Himself or laid aside His divine attributes when He was incarnated.
Logos. The Greek for "word." Translated as the "Word" in John 1:1. In that passage it means the thought, plan, activity, utterance, or expression of God. That is, it can refer to the thought in the mind of God or to the thought of God expressed, particularly as expressed in flesh through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In ancient Greek philosophy it meant reason as the controlling principle of the universe. Neo-Platonic philosophy, particularly that of the Greco-Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, personified the Word and described it as a secondary deity created by God or emanating from God in time. Some of the Greek apologists adopted this view and equated the Logos with the Son. Trinitarianism incorporated this belief, equating the Logos with "God the Son" but eventually holding that the Logos was co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father. John's writings were particularly designed to refute these false concepts about the Logos and the Son.
Manifestation. To manifest means "to show, reveal, display, make evident, or make clear." A manifestation is an act or instance of manifesting. First Timothy 3:16 says, "God was manifest in the flesh." This book uses the word manifestation to describe any method, mode, role, or relationship by which God reveals Himself to man. Thus, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are manifestations of God rather than persons, for the latter word contains nonbiblical connotations of individualized personalities that the former word does not.
Modalism. Term used to describe a belief in early church history that Father, Son, and Spirit are not eternal distinctions within God's nature but simply modes (methods or manifestations) of God's activity. In other words, God is one individual being, and various terms used to describe Him (such as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are designations applied to different forms of His action or different relationships He has to man. See Chapter 10 - ONENESS BELIEVERS IN CHURCH HISTORY for further historical discussion. Also called modalistic monarchianism, Patripassianism, and Sabellianism. Basically, modalism is the same as the modern doctrine of Oneness.
Modalistic Monarchianism. See Monarchianism.
Mode. A form or manner of expression; a manifestation; not an essential or eternal distinction in God's nature.
Monarchianism. Term used to describe a belief in early church history that emphasized the undivided unity and sovereignty (monarchia) of God. It rejected any essential distinctions in God's being, thus denying the doctrine of the trinity. Historians use the term to describe two sharply differing beliefs - dynamic monarchianism and modalistic monarchianism - but this does not imply any historical association between the two groups or doctrines. Dynamic monarchianism held that Jesus was a human being who became the Son of God by reason of the indwelling of divine wisdom or the Logos. Apparently, the dynamic monarchians refused to consider Jesus as God in the strict sense of the word and did not worship Him as God. Far more influential historically than dynamic monarchianism was modalistic monarchianism (modalism). Modalistic monarchianism held that God is one individual being and that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are terms which apply to different modes of action of the one God. Unlike dynamic monarchianism, modalistic monarchianism identified Jesus Christ as God Himself (the Father) manifested in flesh.
Monophysitism. Christological doctrine that appeared after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and opposed Chalcedon's declaration of two natures in Christ. The monophysites held that Christ had only one dominant nature, and it was the divine nature.
Monotheism. The belief in only one God, from Greek words meaning "one God." The Bible teaches strict monotheism. Only three major religions of the world are monotheistic: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jews and Moslems see the doctrine of the trinity as a rejection of true monotheism. Oneness believers also reject trinitarianism as a departure from biblical monotheism.
Monotheletism (or monothelitism). Christological doctrine in the seventh century which held that Christ had only one will. The majority view in Christianity is that Christ had two cooperating wills - human and divine - but the monotheletes believed Christ had one divine-human will.
Nature. "The inherent character or basic constitution of a person or a thing" (Webster's Dictionary), This book uses the word to describe the humanity and divinity of Christ. We express this by saying Christ had a dual nature or by saying Christ had two natures. Christ had a complete human nature (see Chapter 5 - THE SON OF GOD) and also the complete divine nature (see Chapter 4 - JESUS IS GOD). Both humanity and deity are essential components of Jesus Christ's being.
Nestorianism. The Christology of Nestorius (Patriarch of Constantinople, 428-431). Nestorius held that Christ had two complete natures - human and divine. He taught that one could not call Mary the "Mother of God" because she was the mother of the human nature only. The Council of Ephesus in 431 condemned Nestorius for dividing Christ into two persons, but Nestorius denied the charge. Possibly, he taught that the two natures of Christ were united morally or in purpose only rather than essentially or physically. However, many historians conclude that Nestorius actually taught two natures in one person, but became the victim of misunderstanding and opposition because he emphasized the distinctions between the two natures and refused to call Mary the mother of God.
Nicene Creed. The product of the Council of Nicea in 325. The present version includes additions made at the Council of Constantinople in 381 and in the fifth century. The original creed condemned Arianism by stating that the Son was of the same nature (homoousios) as the Father. It also stated that the Son was eternal and implied the eternal existence of Father and Son as distinct persons in the Godhead. The Council of Constantinople added phrases establishing that the Holy Ghost also was an eternally distinct person in the Godhead. Thus, the Nicene Creed is important for three reasons: it rejected Arianism, it was the first official pronouncement to express a trinitarian view of God, and it was the first official pronouncement to reject (albeit by implication) modalism.
Omnipotence. An attribute that God alone possesses, and meaning that He has all power.
Omnipresence. An attribute that God alone possesses, and meaning He is present everywhere at the same time. Note that this is more than just the ability to appear anywhere at any time or the ability to be many places at one time.
Omniscience. An attribute that God alone possesses, and meaning He has all knowledge of all things, including foreknowledge.
Oneness. In reference to God, oneness means the state of being absolutely and indivisibly one, or one in numerical value. Also, there can be oneness between God and man and between man and man in the sense of unity of mind, will, and purpose. This book uses the term Oneness (capitalized) to mean the doctrine that God is absolutely one in numerical value, that Jesus is the one God, and that God is not a plurality of persons. Thus Oneness is a modern term basically equivalent to modalism or modalistic monarchianism,
Ousia. Greek word meaning substance, nature, or being. Translated as "substance" in the trinitarian formula "three persons in one substance."
Patripassianism. Name given to modalism, modalistic monarchianism, or Sabellianism. It came from Latin words meaning "the Father suffered." Some historians use it to describe modalism because Tertullian accused the modalists of believing that the Father suffered and died. However, the modalists apparently denied Tertullian's accusation. The word therefore represents a misinterpretation of modalism by trinitarians, for modalism did not teach that the Father is the Son, but that the Father is in the Son. The flesh was not the Father, but the Father was in the flesh. Thus, modalism did not teach that the Father physically suffered or died.
Pantheism. A belief that equates God with nature or the substance and forces of the universe. Thus, it denies the existence of a rational, intelligent God. Rather, it asserts that God is everything and every thing is God.
Person. The primary meaning of the word is an individual human being, or the individual personality of a human being. In Christology, the term describes the union of the two natures of Christ; namely, there are two natures in the person of Christ. Trinitarians use the term to represent three eternal distinctions of essence in God (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). Thus, we have the trinitarian formula, "three persons in one substance" or "one God in three persons." Although trinitarians usually state that God does not have three separate personalities or minds, the word person does carry strong connotations of individuality of personality, mind, and will. For a discussion of the Greek and Latin words translated as "person," see Hypostasis and Persona respectively.
Persona. (Plural: personae.) Latin word translated as "person." Tertullian used this word in his trinitarian formula, "una substantia et tres personae" ("three persons in one substance"). Early Latin usage did not restrict the word to its modern meaning of a self-conscious being. At that time, it could mean a mask worn by an actor, a role in a drama, or a legal party to a contract. However, it apparently could also apply to individual persons. It did carry connotations of individualized personality that the Greek word hypostasis did not have originally. (See Chapter 11 - TRINITARIANISM: DEFINITION AND HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT.) Although the Nicene Creed used hypostasis, which was later translated as "persona," Tertullian had already used persona much earlier to describe the members of the trinity.
Polytheism. The belief in more than one god, from Greek words meaning "many gods." Ditheism and tritheism are forms of polytheism. The Bible strongly rejects polytheism. Most ancient religions were polytheistic, including those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Canaan, Greece, and Rome.
Post-apostolic fathers. Leaders of the Christian church in the days after the twelve apostles. In this book, the term specifically refers to the leaders from approximately 90 to 140 A.D., the most prominent of whom were Polycarp, Hermas, Clement of Rome, and Ignatius.
Sabellianism. Another term for modalism or modalistic monarchianism. It is derived from Sabellius, the most prominent exponent of the doctrine in ancient church history. Sabellius preached in Rome around 215 A.D. The doctrine is basically equivalent to modern Oneness.
Subordinationism. Belief that one person in the Godhead is subordinate to or was created by another person in the Godhead. Of course, this presupposes a belief in a plurality of persons in the Godhead. In early trinitarianism, it surfaced as the belief that the Logos is the divine Son and is subordinate to the Father. This was the view of some Greek apologists, Tertullian, and Origen. Arianism is an extreme development of this doctrine. Also, the term applies to any belief that the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Father or the Son. Orthodox trinitarianism as expressed by the Nicene and Athanasian creeds theoretically rejects any form of subordinationism, but the tendency towards it remains. (See Chapter 11 - TRINITARIANISM: DEFINITION AND HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT.)
Substantia. Latin word meaning substance, and used by Tertullian in his trinitarian formula, "Three persons in one substance."
Theophany. A visible manifestation of God, usually thought of as temporary in nature. The Old Testament appearances of God in human or angelic form were theophanies. Jesus Christ is more than a theophany; for He is not merely God appearing in human form but God actually robing Himself in a real human person (body, soul, and spirit).
Trinitarianism. The belief that there are three persons in the one God. History credits Tertullian (died 225?) with being the father of Christian trinitarianism, for he was the first person to use the Latin word trinitas (trinity) for God. He was also the first to use the formula, "una substantia et tres personae" ("three persons in one substance"). Modern trinitarianism asserts that there are three persons in the one God - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost - and that these three persons are co-equal, co-eternal, and of co-essence. Thus, trinitarianism teaches three eternal distinctions in God's nature but denies there are three separate gods. The Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. marked the first official acceptance of trinitarianism by Christianity. The Council of Constantinople in 381 reaffirmed and further clarified the doctrine. The most complete statement of trinitarianism in ancient church history is the Athanasian Creed, which dates from the fifth century.
Trinity. The Godhead in trinitarian belief; namely, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
Tritheism. Belief in three gods. As such, it is a form of polytheism. Advocates of trinitarianism deny that they are tritheists; however, trinitarianism certainly has tritheistic tendencies and some extreme forms of trinitarianism are tritheistic. (See Chapter 11 - TRINITARIANISM: DEFINITION AND HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT.) For example, any belief that there are three self-conscious minds in the Godhead or three eternal bodies in the Godhead can properly be called tritheism.
Unitarianism. In general, the belief in only one person in the Godhead. In particular, this term usually describes a movement that emphasizes the unity of the Godhead but does so by denying the deity of Jesus Christ. It arose as an antitrinitarian movement in Protestantism, and organized as a denomination now called the Unitarian-Universalist Association. In addition to denying the deity of Jesus Christ Unitarianism denies a number of other evangelical or fundamental beliefs including the virgin birth of Jesus and the substitutionary atonement. It can be misleading to identify Unitarianism with Oneness for two reasons. First, Oneness does not say God is one "person," but rather there is one God. Second, Oneness believers affirm the full deity of Jesus, His virgin birth, and the substitutionary atonement, unlike the modern Unitarian-Universalist denomination.
The Oneness of God