Useful Definitions

These brief descriptions were assembled by Dixon Cartwright and Ken Westby. (Some have added commentary on the relevant teachings of the old Worldwide Church of God—WCG).

Anthropomorphism—The attribution of human characteristics, activities, or emotions to God. Philosophical theologians, both Catholic and Protestant, have traditionally argued that in so far as such language is used it is to be considered analogical or symbolical or metaphorical.

Arianism—The doctrines of Arius, especially that the Son is not the same substance as the Father, but was created as an agent for creating the world. The term comes from Arius, who lived A.D. 250-336, the Greek theologian, who taught the Neoplatonic doctrine that God is unknowable, that Christ is created, not fully divine. His teaching declared heresy by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.

Athanasian—Of or relating to Athanasius or his advocacy of the homoousian doctrine against Arianism. Athanasius (A.D. 293-373) was an Egypt-born Greek church father, chief battler against Arianism.

Binitarianism—The belief that two members, persons or beings comprise the Godhead or (in old-WCG doctrine) the God family.

Bitheism—Same as ditheism.

Calcedon Council—Chalcedon, Council of, fourth ecumenical council, convened in 451 by Pulcheria and Marcian, empress and emperor of the East. Its great work was its Definition regarding the nature and person of Jesus. Based upon the formulation given by Pope St. Leo I in his famous Tome to Flavian, it declared that, contrary to the view taken by Eutychianism that the second Person of the Trinity has two distinct natures—one divine and one human. It was also proclaimed that these two natures exist inseparably in one person. This difference was a major factor in the Monophysite schism that divided the East for centuries.

Christocentric—Generally, it refers to those types of theology in which the person and work of Christ are the bases for all theological and ethical propositions.

Christology—The study of Jesus Christ and the understanding of who he is. There have been and presently are many different “Christologies.” There are “high” and “low” Christology; Spirit Christology, Logos Christology, Jewish Christian Christology, Christology from “above,” from “below,” Ebionite Christology, etc. A purpose of these seminars is to establish a logical and coherent biblical Christology that is faithful to the historical record of Jesus.

Constantinople Council—Creed of Constantinople 381A.D.

Ditheism—Belief in or worship of two Gods. Ditheism is a form of polytheism. See also polytheism.

God—The supreme deity. For many, Yahweh is God and is the only one that can be called God. He is the uncreated Creator, the Father of Jesus and the God of the Old Testament. For others, God is defined as a Trinity of “persons” comprising a Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the old WCG teaching, the Father and Son were considered God. In addition is was believed that Christians once resurrected would be born into the Kingdom of God (family of God), and would also be God-beings. This latter concept was sometimes (but not always) explained as each changed believer would “be God” or “be a God.” This is what this glossary refers to as ditheistic, or polytheistic, leanings.

God Family—In the old WCG, “God Family” was sometimes given as the definition of “God.” Strictly speaking, by this definition the Father was not God, and Jesus was not God; only when taken together were they God. This is what the glossary refers to as the WCG’s binitarian version of its nature-of-God belief.

God is a family vs. God has a family—The old WCG would say God is a family (of two beings) and considered the concept that God has or will have a family to be in error; that is, the old WCG taught that God is a family, not that God has a family.

Hellenism—Devotion to or imitation of ancient Greek thought, culture, customs or styles (the name derives from Helen, daughter of Zeus); The Roman world absorbed Greek civilization, including its philosophy and notions of religion, the soul and the afterlife. The philosophy of Plato heavily influenced the Hellenistic religious world view. Hellenism is the cultural milieu in which the orthodox church debated the nature of God and Christ in the 2nd to 4th centuries A.D.

Holy Spirit—In Trinitarianism, the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Godhead. In old WCG doctrine and in monotheistic unitarianism (sometimes “unitary monotheism”), the Holy Spirit is the power of God or a manifestation of God.

Homoousian—An adherent of an ecclesiastical party of the 4th century holding the doctrine of the Nicene Creed that the Son is of the same substance with the Father.

Hypostatization—Generally means making an idea or a concept into a real thing. To hypostatize is to interpret a concept as an existing being, to concretize or materialize an idea. It is to reify, in which process reification means to construe the object of a figure of speech as a reality. By contrast, the symbols Wisdom, Word, and Spirit, which are found in the Jewish scriptures and refer to God, are not hypostatizations but personifications. Personification is a figure of speech in which the symbol is consciously or deliberately treated or spoken of as a person (see Proberbs 8). As a figure of speech, the personification of wisdom does not intend that wisdom is a distinct or discrete entity or being.

Hypostasis (plural: hypostases)—Person; that is, one of the three modes of being—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—in the Trinitarian Godhead.

Jesus—The Son of God. Most Christians accept Jesus as Messiah and Savior. The disagreements concern Jesus’ nature: whether he was and is God or man or both; whether, though he appeared to die, he died in reality; the nature of his sacrifice on the cross; whether he preexisted (lived before his conception in Mary); and whether, if he preexisted, he had a beginning; whether he had two (or more) natures; whether Jesus and Christ are the same personalities and/or beings.

Jesus’ Sacrifice/Nature—Pertinent to the discussions regarding the nature of God is the nature of Jesus. Was he half man, half God, fully man, fully God (simultaneously)? Could he die? If he died, does that mean, “God died”? Or did only his human side die while his God side remained alive? Was the second (spirit) member of the Godhead transformed into flesh? Was he a God spirit being inside a human body? If the latter is the case (that is, that his death may have been an illusion in the sense that the God spirit within the human body did not die), how meaningful was his death as a sacrifice for our sins?

WCG binitarians/ditheists (and Trinitarians) will say that a man who was not also God could not die for the sins of the world; that is, that the death of a mere man could not pay for the sins of everyone else; only the death of a God being could do that. The death of a mere man, they will say, even if he never sinned, could pay for the sins of one person.

Unitarian monotheists, however, reply that just the opposite is true: that the sacrifice of a man who could have sinned but did not, whether the son of God with no human father or not, could pay for the sins of mankind. Additionally, what makes a sacrifice acceptable is its acceptance by God. The sacrifice is efficacious because God found it pleasing and accepted it. The blood of a lamb was not equal to that of a man it was intended to save, but if God favored the offerer, and the offering itself was unblemished, it is acceptable and effective.

Logos—Greek meaning word. A common concept in philosophy among paganism, Judaism, and Christianity. It is variously used for the Word of God, God’s communication, a personification of God’s Word, the hypostatization of God as Logos (Christ), or in other metaphysical constructions.

Monotheism—Belief in or worship of one God. Compare with unitarianism. Trinitarians, binitarians (but not ditheists and other polytheists) and Unitarians are commonly defined as monotheists.

Modalism—A doctrine of the nature of God traced to a Libyan priest living in Rome in the 3rd century named Sabellius, who believed God is one person who reveals himself in three forms or modes. God, to modalists, is one in number rather than, as Trinitarians might say, one in unity.

Pantheism—A doctrine that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe. Also defined as the worship of all gods of various creeds, cults or peoples indifferently. Also defined as the tolerance of worship of all gods (as at certain periods of the Roman Empire).

Nicean Council—The ecumenical church council convened by Emperor Constantine in Nicaea in A.D. 325 to resolve the dispute on the nature of God and Christ.

Personification—A figure of speech: the literal meaning of a personification, that is, the meaning intended by the author of the personification, is not that the “wisdom” is a woman, or that “logos” is a person distinct from God, but are fitting symbols of God and his immanence in the world.

Socinian Christology — A challenge to orthodoxy vigorously advanced by two  Italian theologians in the Sixteenth Century. They were related and both had the name Socinus. They challenged Calvin and others raising questions about the divinity of Christ and teaching against the natural immortality of the soul. Socinianism pioneered a scholarly approach to scripture which positively influenced Christianity centuries later.

Subordinationism—A pervasive position in the early patristic period. Modalism and subordinationism are contrary solutions to the problem of a second God. Modalism denies real distinctions within the Godhead; subordinationism, however, holds that that which was incarnate in Jesus was a “second God,” that is, truly of God, but of a status subordinate to the Father.

Trinitarianism—The doctrine of the Trinity: the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three persons (or hypostases) in one Godhead. Trinitarians make the distinction that they are not tritheists. A tritheist worships three Gods; a Trinitarian worships one God who is manifest in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity developed in response to the controversy over the nature of Christ.

Tritheism—Belief in or worship of three Gods. A form of polytheism.

Unitarianism—For our purposes here, this word does not refer to the denominations with names similar to Unitarian Universalist Association, Unitarian Universalist, or just Unity. Unitarianism in our context is the belief or worship of a deity who exists only in one person. Compare with monotheism: a belief in one God. Trinitarians and binitarians also claim belief in one God and are, by definition monotheists. The old WCG was monotheistic when it said God was a family, but polytheistic (ditheistic) when it said it believed in two Gods (and in the future many Gods). The old WCG made both binitarian and ditheistic statements orally and in print.

Unitary monotheism—See Unitarianism.

Wisdom—True wisdom is a gift of God available to mankind. It’s source is God and it is a manifestation of God and is attendant to all he does. Sometimes wisdom is portrayed as a women, Sophia, and as a personification of God.

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Other terms that may be used during the One God Seminars:

Canon of Scripture—Canon (Gk kanon=“measuring stick) the rule or standard for determining the body of authoritative scripture. There is an OT (Hebrew) canon, a NT canon, and a Christian canon which includes both.

Canonical Approach to Theology—Also known as the “Whole Bible Approach” which sees Scripture as a structured and planned whole. Its composition the result of divine inpiration upon the lengthy development process involving many people and religious communities. The shape of and material in the texts reflect the timeless wisdom and unified purposes of God.

Oral Torah—Factual data as old as the Hebrew Bible which has been conveyed to the present in the:

1) Mishnah (oral Torah in its most crystallized written form, mostly presenting traditions about Jewish law);

2) Talmud (expounding upon the Mishnah including a great deal of aggadah—a generic designation for material that fills the gaps of the sparse biblical narrative);

3) Midrash A filling out of the narrative with stories, not included in the Bible, by ancient and medieval commentators.

Eisegesis — Reading one’s ideas into the text. Slanted or biased exegesis. (Gk eis = into).

Exegesis — To explain. To get out of the text its true meaning through critical analysis and interpretation (Gk “ex” = out).

Orthodoxy — The established beliefs or doctrines. In Christianity, the approved, convential and conforming doctrines formulated in various creeds and confessions. (Gk. ortho = straight; doxa = opinion).

Hetrodoxy—any opinions or doctrines not considered orthodox. Often called heresy.