13 definitions by Theologist

The term “soteriology” comes from two Greek terms, namely, so„ter meaning “savior” or “deliverer” and logos meaning “word,” “matter,” or “thing.” In Christian systematic theology it is used to refer to the study of the biblical doctrine of salvation. It often includes such topics as the nature and extent of the atonement as well as the entire process of salvation, conceived as an eternal, divine plan designed to rescue lost and erring sinners and bring them back into eternal fellowship with God. Many regard it as the primary theme in Scripture with the glory of God as its goal.
Throughout the history of the church a number of different views regarding the nature of the atonement (i.e., the theological significance of Christ’s death) have been advanced. The Recapitulation view was advanced by Irenaeus (ca. 120-ca. 200). In this view Christ sums up all humanity in himself in that he went through all the stages of human life, without succumbing to temptation in any way, died, and then rose from the dead. The benefits of his life, death, and resurrection are then available to all who participate in Him through faith.

The Example or Moral Influence (or “subjective”) view has been advanced by theologians such as Pelagius (ca. 400), Faustus and Laelius Socinus (sixteenth century), and Abelard (1079-114233). Though there are certainly different moral example views,34 their essential agreement consists in arguing that the cross demonstrates how much God loves us and this, then, awakens a response of love in our hearts; we then live as Jesus himself lived. While there is biblical support for this idea (e.g., Phil 2: 6-11; 1 Pet 2:21), it is incomplete as it stands and fails to recognize the more crucial aspects of scriptural teaching on the issue.

Another theory of the atonement advanced in the early church—and really maintained as the standard view in the early church until Anselm—is the Ransom to Satan view. Origen (185-254) was one of the chief proponents of this understanding which asserts that Christ’s death was a ransom paid to Satan to secure the release of his hostages, i.e., sinful men and women. While ransom language is used in Scripture to refer to the atonement (e.g., Mark 10:45), it is probably incorrect to include in this the idea that a “price” was paid to Satan, for nowhere in Scripture is such an idea suggested.

In his work Christus Victor, the Swedish theologian Gustav Aulén (1879-1977) argued for a Divine Triumph or Dramatic view of the atonement, similar to the ransom theories of Origen and the early church. In the dramatic view God overcame all the powers of hell and death through the cross and in doing so made visible his reconciling love to men. This too has some biblical support, but it is unlikely that it adequately summarizes all of scriptural revelation on this issue.

The Satisfaction or Commercial view of Anselm (1033-1109) argues that man has dishonored God by his sin and that through the death of the perfect, sinless God-man, Jesus Christ, that honor and more—including Satan’s defeat—has been restored to God. This theory also finds support in scripture, but more than God’s honor was restored through the death of his son.

The Governmental view of the atonement, advanced by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), places a high value on the justice of God and the demand of his holy law. In this view, the death of Christ upholds God’s moral government in that it demonstrates His utter commitment to His holy law. He could have forgiven men, however, without the death of Christ, but this would have left men without the true knowledge of His commitment to His Law. The death of Christ, then, is not as a substitute for us, but rather God’s statement about what he thinks about his moral government of the universe. This view has much to commend it, but as a global theory it simply cannot account for the tight connection between three important facts in Scripture: (1) the reconciliation of the believing sinner; (2) the forgiveness of sin; and (3) the death of Christ. Peter says that “Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18; cf. Rom 5:8).

The Penal Substitution view of the atonement35—the view most often associated with the Reformers, in particular, Calvin—argues that Christ died in the sinner’s place and appeased the wrath of God toward sin. Thus there are a cluster of ideas in this view including redemption (ransom), sacrifice, substitution, propitiation, and reconciliation, Though there are tensions in this view, and though the other views each contribute important insights to the idea of Christ’s atonement in the NT, this one perhaps rests on the best scriptural support, and brings together the holiness and love of God, the nature and sacrifice of Christ, and the sinfulness of man in a way that all are properly maintained. It is important, however, that the valid insights from the other views not be lost or eclipsed by this model.
by Theologist May 02, 2005
Arminianism, which takes its name from Jacobus Arminius (Jakob Harmensen), is a moderate theological revision of Calvinism that limits the significance of Predestination. Arminius (1560 - 1609) was a Dutch Reformed theologian who studied at Leiden and Geneva. He became a professor at Leiden in 1603 and spent the rest of his life defending against strict Calvinists his position that God's sovereignty and human free will are compatible. He sought without success revision of the Dutch Reformed (Belgic) Confession; nevertheless, he was very influential in Dutch Protestantism.
A Remonstrance in 1610 gave the name Remonstrants to the Arminian party. They were condemned by the Synod of Dort (1618 - 19), but later received toleration. English revisionist theology of the 17th century was called Arminian, although possibly without direct influence from Holland. John Wesley accepted the term for his theological position and published The Arminian Magazine. The tension between the Arminian and Calvinist positions in theology became quiescent until Karl Barth sparked its revival in the 20th century.
by Theologist May 02, 2005
A conscious, willful decision to act disinterestedly for the benefit of someone wholly other than oneself. In certain theological worldviews, especially Christianity, love takes the form of self-sacrifice and self-giving, even for those to whom one is not chemically, emotionally, nor genetically predisposed to care for(the non-family member, those to whom no sexual attraction is felt, the ugly, the outcast, the societal reject, the unloveable, even the undeserving of love). In Christian theology love occupies such a prominent place that Love is not simply conceived of as a powerful yet impersonal force, but a Person (or, rather, Relationship of Persons), as Christians assert that God Himself not only loves, but IS Love. This is powerfully expressed in the passage from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, which attributes personal characteristics to Love (defined as "charity"), and in the Nicene doctrine of the Holy Trinity, envisioning the Holy Spirit as the Person that 'proceedeth' out of the love relationship between the Father and the Son.
Not to be confused with being "in love", which is purely a temporary neuro-chemical state triggered by the close physical proximity or thoughts of a particular person of the opposite, or same, sex, often linked, directly or indirectly, to the biological imperative to copulate. Such a state can be so powerful to the person experiencing it that it may lead one to actually believe that being "in love" is indeed magical or spiritually transcendent, when such a phenomenon requires no metaphysical explanations.
by Theologist September 11, 2006
The doctrine that God decreed both election and reprobation before the fall. Supralapsarianism differs from infralapsarianism on the relation of God's decree to human sin. The differences go back to the conflict between Augustine and Pelagius. Before the Reformation, the main difference was whether Adam's fall was included in God's eternal decree; supralapsarians held that it was, but infralapsarians acknowledged only God's foreknowledge of sin. Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin were agreed that Adam's fall was somehow included in God's decree; it came to be referred to as a "permissive decree," and all insisted that God was in no way the author of sin. As a result of the Reformers' agreement, after the Reformation the distinction between infra - and supralapsarianism shifted to differences on the logical order of God's decrees.

Theodore Beza, Calvin's successor at Geneva, was the first to develop supralapsarianism in this new sense. By the time of the Synod of Dort in 1618 - 19, a heated intraconfessional controversy developed between infra - and supralapsarians; both positions were represented at the synod. Francis Gomarus, the chief opponent of James Arminius, was a supralapsarian.

The question of the logical, not the temporal, order of the eternal decrees reflected differences on God's ultimate goal in predestination and on the specific objects of predestination. Supralapsarians considered God's ultimate goal to be his own glory in election and reprobation, while infralapsarians considered predestination subordinate to other goals. The object of predestination, according to supralapsarians, was uncreated and unfallen humanity, while infralapsarians viewed the object as created and fallen humanity.

The term "supralapsarianism" comes from the Latin words supra and lapsus; the decree of predestination was considered to be "above" (supra) or logically "before" the decree concerning the fall (lapsus), while the infralapsarians viewed it as "below" (infra) or logically "after" the decree concerning the fall. The contrast of the two views is evident from the following summaries.

The logical order of the decrees in the supralapsarian scheme is:

(1) God's decree to glorify himself through the election of some and the reprobation of others;
(2) as a means to that goal, the decree to create those elected and reprobated;
(3) the decree to permit the fall; and
(4) the decree to provide salvation for the elect through Jesus Christ.

The logical order of the decrees according to infralapsarians is:
(1) God's decree to glorify himself through the creation of the human race;
(2) the decree to permit the fall;
(3) the decree to elect some of the fallen race to salvation and to pass by the others and condemn them for their sin; and
(4) the decree to provide salvation for the elect through Jesus Christ.
Infralapsarians were in the majority at the Synod of Dort. The Arminians tried to depict all the Calvinists as representatives of the "repulsive" supralapsarian doctrine. Four attempts were made at Dort to condemn the supralapsarian view, but the efforts were unsuccessful. Although the Canons of Dort do not deal with the order of the divine decrees, they are infralapsarian in the sense that the elect are "chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction" (I,7; cf.I,1). The reprobate "are passed by in the eternal decree" and God "decreed to leave (them) in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves" and "to condemn and punish them forever...for all their sins" (I,15).
Defenders of supralapsarianism continued after Dort. The chairman of the Westminister Assembly, William Twisse, was a supralapsarian but the Westminister standards do not favor either position. Although supralapsarianism never received confessional endorsement within the Reformed churches, it has been tolerated within the confessional boundaries. In 1905 the Reformed churches of the Netherlands and the Christian Reformed Church in 1908 adopted the Conclusions of Utrecht, which stated that "our Confessional Standards admittedly follow the infralapsarian presentation in respect to the doctrine of election, but that it is evident...that this in no wise intended to exclude or condemn the supralapsarian presentation." Recent defenders of the supralapsarian position have been Gerhardus Vos, Herman Hoeksema, and G H Kersten.
by Theologist May 02, 2005
In Christian belief, one of the three Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Love) bestowed by God's grace upon the believer.
"And now these remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." - I Corinthians 3:13
by Theologist May 02, 2005
A heretical sect dating back to Apostolic times. Their name is derived from dokesis, "appearance" or "semblance", because they taught that Christ only "appeared" or "seemed to be a man, to have been born, to have lived and suffered. Some denied the reality of Christ's human nature altogether, some only the reality of His human body or of His birth or death. The word Docetae which is best rendered by "Illusionists", first occurs in a letter of Serapion, Bishop of Antioch (190-203) to the Church at Rhossos, where troubles had arisen about the public reading of the apocryphal Gospel of Peter. Serapion at first unsuspectingly allowed but soon after forbade, this, saying that he had borrowed a copy from the sect who used it, "whom we call Docetae". He suspected a connection with Marcionism and found in this Gospel "some additions to the right teaching of the Saviour". A fragment of apocryphon was discovered in 1886 and contained three passages which savoured strongly of Illusionism. The name further occurs in Clement of Alexandria (d. 216), Strom., III, xiii, VII, xvii, where these sectaries are mentioned together with the Haematites as instances of heretics being named after their own special error. The heresy itself, however, is much older, as it is combated in the New Testament. Clement mentions a certain Julius Cassianus as ho tes dokeseos exarchon, "the founder of Illusionism". This name is known also to St. Jerome and Theodoret; and Cassianus is said to be a disciple of Valentinian, but nothing more is known of him. The idea of the unreality of Christ's human nature was held by the oldest Gnostic sects and can not therefore have originated with Cassianus. As Clement distinguished the Docetae from other Gnostic sects, he problably knew some sectaries the sum-total of whose errors consisted in this illusion theory; but Docetism, as far as at present known, as always an accompaniment of Gnosticism or later of Manichaeism. The Docetae described by Hippolytus (Philos., VIII, i-iv, X, xii) are likewise a Gnostic sect; these perhaps extended their illusion theory to all material substances.

Docetism is not properly a Christian heresy at all, as it did not arise in the Church from the misundertanding of a dogma by the faithful, but rather came from without. Gnostics starting from the principle of antagonism between matter and spirit, and making all salvation consist in becoming free from the bondage of matter and returning as pure spirit to the Supreme Spirit, could not possibly accept the sentence, "the Word was made flesh", in a literal sense. In order to borrow from Christianity the doctrine of a Saviour who was Son of the Good God, they were forced to modify the doctrine of the Incarnation. Their embarrassment with this dogma caused many vacinations and inconsistencies; some holding the indwelling of an Aeon in a body which was indeed real body or humanity at all; others denying the actual objective existence of any body or humanity at all; others allowing a "psychic", but not a "hylic" or really material body; others believing in a real, yet not human "sidereal" body; others again accepting the of the body but not the reality of the birth from a woman, or the reality of the passion and death on the cross. Christ only seemed to suffer, either because He ingeniously and miraculously substituted someone else to bear the pain, or because the occurence on Calvary was a visual deception. Simon Magus first spoke of a "putative passion of Christ and blasphemously asserted that it was really he, Simon himself, who underwent these apparent sufferings. "As the angels governed this world badly because each angel coveted the principality for himself he Simon came to improve matters, and was transfigured and rendered like unto the Virtues and Powers and Angels, so that he appeared amongst men as man though he was no man and was believed to have suffered in Judea though he had not suffered" (passum in Judea putatum cum non esset passus -- Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. I, xxiii sqq.). The mention of the demiurgic angels stamps this passage as a piece of Gnosticism. Soon after a Syrian Gnostic of Antioch, Saturninus or Saturnilus (about 125) made Christ the chief of the Aeons, but tried to show that the Savior was unborn (agenneton) and without body (asomaton) and without form (aneideon) and only apparently (phantasia) seen as man (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., XXIV, ii).

Another Syrian Gnostic, Cerdo, who came to Rome under Pope Hyginus (137) and became the master of Marcion, taught that "Christ, the Son of the Highest God, appeared without birth from the Virgin, yea without any birth on earth as man". All this is natural enough, for matter not being the creation of the Highest God but of the Demiurge, Christ could have none of it. This is clearly brought out by Tertullian in his polemic against Marcion. According to this heresiarch (140) Christ, without passing through the womb of Mary and endowed with only a putative body, suddenly came from heaven to Capharnaum in the fifteenth year of Tiberius; and Tertullian remarks: "All these tricks about a putative corporeality Marcion has adopted lest the truth of Christ's birth should be argued from the reality of his human nature, and thus Christ should be vindicated as the work of the Creator Demiurge and be shown to have human flesh even as he had human birth" (Adv. Marc., III, xi). Tertullian further states that Marcion's chief disciple, Apelles, sightly modified his master's system, accepting indeed the truth of Christ's flesh, but strenously denying the truth of His birth. He contended that Christ had an astral body made of superior substance, and he compared the Incarnation to the appearance of the angel to Abraham. This, Tertullian sarcastically remarks, is getting from the frying pan into fire, de calcariâ in carbonariam. Valentinus the Egyptian attempted to accommodate his system still more closely to Christian doctrine by admitting not merely the reality of the Saviour's body but even a seeming birth, saying that the Saviour's body passed through Mary as through a channel (hos dia solenos) though he took nothing from her, but had a body from above. This approximation to orthodoxy, however, was only apparent, for Valentinus distinguished between Christ and Jesus. Christ and the Holy Ghost were emanations from the Aeons together proceeded Jesus the Saviour, who became united with the Messias of the Demiurge.

In the East, Marinus and the school of Bardesanes, though not Bardesanes himself, held similar views with regard to Christ's astral body and seeming birth. In the West, Ptolemy reduced Docetism to a minimum by saying that Christ was indeed a real man, but His substance was a compound of the pneumatic and the psychic (spiritual and ethereal). The pneumatic He received from Achamoth or Wisdom, the psychic from the Demiurge, His psychic nature enabled him to suffer and feel pain, though He possessed nothing grossly material. (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., I, xii, II, iv). As the Docetae objected to the reality of the birth, so from the first they particularly objected to the reality of the passion. Hence the clumsy attempts at substitution of another victim by Basilides and others. According to Basilides, Christ seemed to men to be a man and to have performed miracles. It was not, however, Christ, who suffered but Simon of Cyrenes who was constrained to carry the cross and was mistakenly crucified in Christ's stead. Simon having received Jesus' form, Jesus returned Simon's and thus stood by and laughed. Simon was crucified and Jesus returned to his father (Irenaeus, Adv. Char., 1, xxiv). According to some apocrypha it was Judas, not Simon the Cyrenean, who was thus substituted. Hippolytus describes a Gnostic sect who took the name of Docetae, though for what reason is not apparent, especially as their semblance theory was the least pronounced feature in their system. Their views were in close affinity to those of the Valentians. The primal Being is, so to speak, the seed of a fig-tree, small in size but infinite in power; from it proceed three Aeons, tree, leaves, fruit, which, multiplied with the perfect number ten, become thirty. These thirty Aeons together fructify one of themselves, from whom proceeds the Virgin-Saviour, a perfect representation of the Highest God. The Saviour's task is to hinder further transference of souls from body to body, which is the work of the Great Archon, the Creator of the world. The Saviour enters the world unnoticed, unknown, obscure. An angel announced the glad tidings to Mary. He was born and did all the things that are written of him in the Gospels. But in baptism he received the figure and seal of another body besides that born of the Virgin. The object of this was that when the Archon condemned his own peculiar figment of flesh to the death of the cross, the soul of Jesus--that soul which had been nourished in the body born of the Virgin--might strip off that body and nail it to the accursed tree. In the pneumatic body received at baptism Jesus could triumph over the Archon, whose evil intent he had eluded.
This heresy, which destroyed the very meaning and purpose of the Incarnation, was combated even by the Apostles. Possibly St. Paul's statement that in Christ dwelt the fullness of the Godhead corporaliter (Col., i, 19, ii, 9) has some reference to Docetic errors. Beyond doubt St. John (I John, i, 1-3, iv, I-3; II John, 7) refers to this heresy; so at least it seemed to Dionysius of Alexandria (Eusebius, H. E., VII, xxv) and Tertullian (De carne Christi, xxiv). In sub-Apostolic times this sect was vigorously combated by St. Ignatius and Polycarp. The former made a warning against Docetists the burden of his letters; he speaks of them as "monsters in human shape" (therion anthropomorphon) and bids the faithful not only not to receive them but even to avoid meeting them. Pathetically he exclaims: If, as some godless men atheoi, I mean unbelievers, say, He has suffered only in outward appearance, they themselves are nought but outward show. why am I in bonds? Why should I pray to fight with wild beasts? Then I die for nothing, then I would only be lying against the Lord" (Ad Trall. x; Eph., vii, xviii; Smyrn., i-vi). In St. Ignatius' day Docetism seems to have been closely connected with Judaism (cf. Magn viii, 1 x, 3; Phil, vi, viii). Polycarp in his letter to the Philippians re-echoes I John, iv 2- 4; to the same purpose. St. Justin nowhere expressly combats Docetic errors, but he mentions several Gnostics who were notorious for their Docetic aberrations, as Basilideans and Valentinians, and in his "Dialogue with Trypho the Jew" he strongly emphasizes the birth of Christ from the Virgin. Tertullian wrote a treatise "On the flesh of Christ" and attacked Docetic errors in his "Adversus Marcionem". Hippolytus in his "Philosophoumena" refutes Docetism in the different Gnostic errors which he enumerates and twice gives the Docetic system as above referred to.

The earlier Docetism seemed destined to die with the death of Gnosticism, when it received a long lease of life as parasitic error to another heresy, that of Manichaeism. Manichaean Gnostics started with a two-fold eternal principle, good (spirit) and evil (matter). In order to add Christian soteriology to Iranian dualism, they were forced, as the Gnostics were, to tamper with the truth of the Incarnation. Manichees distinguished between a Jesus patibilis and a Jesus impatibilis or Christ. The latter was the light as dwelling in, or symbolized by, or personified under, the name of the Sun; the former was the light as imprisoned in matter and darkness; of which light each human soul was a spark. Jesus patibilis was therefore but a sign of the speech, an abstraction of the Good, the pure light above. In the reign of Tiberius Christ appears in Judea, Son of the Eternal Light and also Son of Man; but in the latter expression "man" is a technical Manichaean term for the Logos or World-Soul; both anthropos and pneuma are emanations of the Deity. Though Christ is son of man He has only a seeming body, and only seemingly suffers, His passion being called mystical fiction of the cross. It is obvious that this doctrine borrowed from that of the Incarnation nothing but a few names. Scattered instances of Docetism are found as far West as Spain among the Priscillianists of the fourth and the fifth century. The Paulicians in Armenia and the Selicians in Constantinople fostered these errors. The Paulicians existed even in the tenth century, denying the reality of Christ's birth and appealing to Luke, vii, 20. God, according to them, sent an angel to undergo the passion. Hence they worshipped not the cross but the Gospel, Christ's word. Among the Slavs the Bogomilae renewed the ancient fancy that Jesus entered Mary's body by the right ear, and received from her but an apparent body. In the West a council of Orléans in 1022 condemned thirteen Catharist heretics for denying the reality of Christ's life and death. In modern theosophic and spiritist circles this early heresy is being renewed by ideas scarcely less fanstastic than the wildest vagaries of old.
by Theologist May 04, 2005
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