Glossary of Trinitarian Terms, part 2

Today, we continue our look at various trinitarian terms. We have covered some in past post, but this will hopefully add a little extra insight or clarity on a couple of old and new topics. All this, we continue to build a foundation of  Trinitarian theology. We look at what the early church fathers and the developing church struggled with and what many of people today still have struggles with.

Cataphatic Theology: (Gr. kataphasis, affirmation) In contrast to apophatic (or negative) theology, this line of thought is employed to describe God in positive language, particularly based on God’s own self-disclosure in the language of Scripture (e.g., God is eternal, holy, love, etc.)

Chalcedonian Definition: The edict of the 4th Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon (451) generally accepted in the East and West that affirms the divine and human natures of Christ are united in his single person (hypostasis), thus in hypostatic union. It stands as the definitive statement of Christology against both exaggerated separateness of natures (Nestorianism) and exaggerated commingling of natures (Eutychianism). See Eutychianism; Hypostasis, Nestorianism.

Circumincession and Circuminsession: (Gk. perichoresis) Latin terms describing the interrelation, mutual immanence, and interpenetration of the members of the Godhead; this is the basis for declaring that in every action of a member of the Godhead all three persons are present. Circuminsession accentuates “the abiding reality; Circumincession the dynamic circulation of Trinitarian life from each to the others” (M. O’Carroll, Trinitas: A Theological Encyclopedia, 69). See Perichoresis.

Constantinopolitan Creed (381): Also called the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, this statement of faith reaffirmed and strengthened the Nicene Creed (325) especially in the East, also expanding the confession regarding Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary. While not well documented until later, the Constantinopolitan Creed effected the Athanasian insistence of the primacy of Scripture as well as the final defeat of Sabellianism and Arianism. See Nicean Creed.

Consubstantial: English translation of the Greek word homoousios, meaning “of one and the same substance or being”; it is used in the Nicene Creed to describe the essential divine equality the Son with the Father, as against the Arian homoiousios (“of similar substance”) and anomois (“of different substance”). See Homoousios, Essence, Nature, Ousia, Substance.

Divinization (deification): Developing through the early Christian centuries, especially in the East, the theology of divinization affirms that believers are to “participate in the divine nature” (2Pe 1:4), infused by the divine presence, hence becoming godly, godlike, indeed gods and God by grace. Later Eastern fathers ascribed such Christian deification to the penetration of the divine energies, thus distinguishing between the absolute Trinitarian persons and the divine nature that infuses the believer.

Deism: Until the 17th century synonymous with theism, the term Deism came to distinguish a view that affirms that a Supreme Being created the world but has little or no direct involvement in that creation; knowledge of this God comes through natural reason as opposed to divine revelation. Nevertheless humankind has obligation to worship, live ethically, and repent of sin in light of eventual divine judgment.

Demiurge: An often Platonic view of a god or God as one who crafts the visible world as a sculptor would shape a piece of stone or clay (cf. Heb 11:10, demiourgos, builder); the term is also used in Gnostic philosophical systems to describe an inferior or “lesser” being as creator of the world but inferior to the supreme God.

Docetism: A Christianized form of Gnosticism on the periphery of the early church which believed that the divine Jesus only appeared to have a human form; because the physical world is perceived as evil, it was unthinkable that the divine incarnate in human flesh (cf. 1Jn 1:1-4); deemed heretical. See Gnosticism.


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