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Glossary on the Trinity
and Related Topics

Arianism: The teaching of Arius, who was condemned by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He maintained that Jesus Christ was a created being, that He was not eternal, that though He might be called "God" as a courtesy title, He did not share in the essence or being of the Father and thus was not truly God. (Similar to the belief of Jehovah's Witnesses.)

Anarthrous: Lacks the definite article (the); in the Greek language, emphasizes character or nature.

Articular: Has the article; in Greek, emphasizes identity or person.

Athanasian Creed (ca. 500): Erroneously ascribed to Athanasius. States in part, "We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity - neither confusing the Persons, nor dividing the substance.

Athanasius (292-373): Bishop of Alexandria, opposed Arianism.

Being: One's basic or essential nature.

Chalcedon Definition: The definitive creed of the Church which refuted all the major Christological heresies was formulated at Chalcedon in AD 451. It proclaimed Christ as truly God and truly Man and asserted that in the one Person of Christ reside two natures without confusion, without change, without division and without separation. (The "major heresies" one way or another denied the full Deity and/or the full humanity of Jesus.)

Christology: The doctrine concerning the Person and work of Christ.

Christophany: When such an appearance of Jesus before before His incarnation occurs in the OT, He is often called "the Angel of the LORD" (Exod 3:2,4).

Conservative/ Evangelical/ Fundamentalist: A person or group which affirms the essential doctrines of historic Christianity. The Confession of Faith of this ministry lists these indispensable beliefs.

Contradiction, Law of: A principle of logic which states that a thing cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same respect. Or, "You cannot affirm and deny the same thing, at the same time, and in the same resect." The Trinity avoids being a contradiction by stating God's "threeness" is in a different respect than His "oneness" (See NOT xxx).

Creed: A statement of faith binding upon a given religious body.

Cult: A religious group which denies the essential doctrines of Christianity. The term is usually reserved for groups founded after 1750.

Economic Trinity: The differing manifestations and functions of the three Persons.

Economy: The functional arrangement of elements within a structure of system.

Essence: The full nature of what God is. The intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something. The inherent, unchanging nature of a thing.

Exegesis: The study of the text of Scripture in order to bring out the meaning of it. This is to be distinguished from the error of eisegesis, i.e. reading a meaning into the text.

Heresy: A teaching which denies a doctrine essential to the existence of the Gospel.

Incarnation: Literally, the word means, "in flesh," and it refers to the coming of the eternal Son of God, Jesus, in flesh of man through His birth at Bethlehem (John 1:1,14).

Inerrancy: The quality of freedom from error which is possessed by the Bible.

Infallibility: The quality of never misleading or deceiving. The Bible possesses this quality because it is inspired by God, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Kenosis: A reference to the "emptying" of the Son in the incarnation (Phil 2:7). Biblically it entails the temporary and voluntary surrender of the exercise of certain divine attributes by the Son while He was on the earth.

Modalism: The view that the three members of the Trinity are different modes of God's activity rather than separate Persons.

Monotheism: Belief in only one God.

Nature: The essential characteristics and qualities of a person or thing.

Nicene Creed: Produced at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Affirmed that Jesus is, "true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance (Greek, homoousios) with the Father." In 381, the Council of Constantinople added, "The Holy Spirit .. .proceeds from the Father. Together with the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified."

Ontological Trinity: Each of the three members of the Gdhead possess the same essential nature.

Ontology: The study of being.

Orthodox: That which is consistent with correct doctrine and practice as established by the authority of Scripture.

Pneumatology: The doctrine of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Polytheism: The belief in more than one god.

Person: A self-conscious being. ... capable of thought, feeling, will and interaction with other persons.

Personification: A rhetorical figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities.

Propitiation: That which turns aside the wrath of God from the sinner. The atonement of Jesus satisfies the just demands of the righteousness and wrath of God against sin (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1ohn 2:2; 4:10).

Sabellianism: God is one being, one person, who successively takes on three different forms or manifestations (from Sabelius, 3rd. cent).

Substance: Essential nature; essence.

Tertullian (ca.155-220): Coined the term "Trinity" (Tri-unity; Latin, Trinitas). First to described God's three-in-oneness as "three Persons in one essence."

Theology: The science of the knowledge of God. Theology seeks to think God's thoughts after Him, insofar as He allows man through the Scripture to enter into His thinking.

Theophany: A visible appearance of God in bodily form in OT times. The one who appears is the second Person of the Triunity (Josh 5:14-6:2; John 1:18; 6:46; 12:41; Isa 6:5).

Tritheism: Belief in three separate gods.

Tri-unity (Trinity): The distinctive and essential doctrine that there is one God in three Persons. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. There is a distinction between the Persons so that the Father is not the Son, the Father is not the Spirit, and the Son is not the Spirit. Each is a Person. The Holy Spirit is not to be envisioned as a mere force or influence.

Verbal-Plenary Inspiration: Not just the ideas, but the actual words of every portion of the Bible are inspired. It is thus the believer's sole guide to faith and practice (2Tim 3:16f).

Various Christological Heresies:
Adoptionism: Jesus, a human being, was chosen by God to be elevated to divine sonship, either at His baptism or after the resurrection.

Apollinarianism: The divine Christ did not take on a full human nature, but only its flesh; the human soul was replaced by the Logos.

Docetism: Jesus only seemed to be human (from Greek, dokeo, to seem).

Ebiontism: Jesus was merely human. The "Christ" descended on Jesus at His baptism and departed before the crucifixion.

Eutychianism: Jesus had one nature neither human nor divine but a third (theantropic- part God, part man) nature.

Nestorianism: Residing in Christ are two separate natures and two separate persons, one divine and one human.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

Criswell, W.A. ed. The Believer's Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
The American Heritage Dictionary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1985.
Erickson, M.J. Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: MI, 1986.
Lane, Tony. Harper's Concise Book of Christian Faith. Philadelphia: Harper and Row, 1984.

Glossary on the Trinity and Related Topics. Copyright 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).

The above Glossary was posted on this site January 1998.

Doctrine of the Trinity: Verse Evaluations & Miscellaneous
The Doctrine of the Trinity

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