Saturday, June 16, 2007

Theological Dictionary word of the day: denomination
Glasgow Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland. Taken by Finlay McWalter on 2nd March 2004A religious denomination, (also simply denomination) is a large, long-established subgroup within a religion that has existed for many years. However, in Islam such subgroups are referred to as "sects", not denominations.

The term is frequently used to describe the different Christian churches (Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and the many varieties of Protestantism); it is also used to describe the four organised branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist), and (less often, though it would not be inappropriate) to describe the two main branches of Islam (Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims).

Hinduism is also traditionally divided into four major denominations: Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Theological Dictionary word of the day: seven churches of Asia
The Seven Churches of AsiaThe seven churches of Asia (properly Asia Minor) are seven
major churches of the early Christianity, as mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation. All sites are in modern-day Turkey. In Revelation, Jesus Christ instructs 'Saint John the Evangelist' to:
"Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea." (Revelation 1:11)

It should be understood that "churches" in this context refers to the community of Christians living in each city, and not merely to the building or buildings in which they gathered for worship. This letter should also apply to the community of Christians today.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Theological Dictionary word of the day: First Council of Nicaea
Icon depicting the First Council of NicaeaThe First Council of Nicaea, convoked by the Roman emperor Constantine the great in ad 325, was the first ecumenical conference of bishops of the Christian church.

The purpose of the council (also called a synod) was to resolve disagreements in the church of Alexandria over the nature of Jesus in relationship to the father: in particular whether Jesus was of the same or of similar substance as God the Father. St. Alexander of Alexandria took the first position; the popular presbyter Arius, from whom the term arian controversy comes, took the second. The council decided against the Arians.

Another result of the council was an agreement on the date of the Christian Passover, now called Easter, the most important feast of the church's life. The council decided in favour of celebrating passover on the first Sunday after the Spring Equinox, independently of the bible's Hebrew calendar, and authorized the Bishop of Alexandria (presumably using the Alexandrian calendar) to annually announce the exact date to his fellow bishops.

The Council of Nicaea was historically significant because it was the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom. "It was the first occasion for the development of technical Christology". Further, "Constantine in convoking and presiding over the council signaled a measure of imperial control over the church."


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Theological Dictionary word of the day: Body of Christ
Million man march, Wasington, D.C.The Body of Christ is a term used by Christians to describe believers in Christ. Jesus Christ is seen as the head of the body, which is seen as the church. The "members" of the body are seen as members of the Christian Church.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the term "Body of Christ" refers most specifically to the "bread" received at the Eucharist, while the "wine" is referred to as the "Blood of Christ." It is, however, doctrinally incorrect to refer to these elements as "bread" and "wine" after the Consecration; according to Catholic doctrine, at the moment of Consecration, the elements (or "gifts" as they are termed for liturgical purposes) are transformed (literally transubstantiated) into the actual Body and Blood of Christ. Catholic doctrine holds that the elements are not only spiritually transformed, but rather are actually (substantially) transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The elements retain the appearance or "accidents" of bread and wine, but are indeed the actual Body and Blood of Christ. This is what is meant by Real Presence; the actual, physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Other traditions accept this doctrine in various forms, often utilizing the term “consubstantiation” to refer to a spiritual change into the Body and Blood, without changing the substance of the elements. For this reason, what remains of the sacrament after the Communion procession is reserved in the Tabernacle, where it can be utilized for later Masses, for private devotion and prayer, as well as for public Eucharistic adoration.

In the context of the local churches it is a metaphor used to describe the synchronicity between different localities and God. In this, God is the head and the people who make up the Church in each locality are termed "members of the body". The "members of the body" may look different and/or may perform different functions, but they all work as one under the will of the head (God). For example, a person who is a gifted orator is encouraged to use his or her talents to act as a mouthpiece for God. Other such personal strengths would be similarly applied towards the "expression of Christ". In this way people can be functioning and active members of the "Body of Christ".

The Body of Christ, meaning the entire community of Christians, is also called the Bride of Christ, for whom Christ will return.

Theological Dictionary word of the day: cessationism
the Healing of the Lame manIn Christian theology, cessationism is the view that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy and healing, ceased being practiced early on in Church history.
Cessationists usually believe the miraculous gifts were given only for the foundation of the Church, during the time between the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, c. AD 33 (see Acts 2) and the fulfillment of God's purposes in history, usually identified as either the completion of the last book of the New Testament or the death of the last Apostle. Its counterpart is continuationism.

Types of cessationist

Cessationists are divided into four main groups:

  1. Concentric Cessationists believe that the miraculous gifts have indeed ceased in the mainstream church and evangelized areas, but appear in unreached areas as an aid to spreading the Gospel (Luther and Calvin, though they were somewhat inconsistent in this position. Daniel B. Wallace is now the most prominent scholar to hold this view).

  2. Classical (or "Weak") cessationists assert that the miraculous gifts such as prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues ceased with the apostles and only served as launching pads for the spreading of the Gospel. However, these cessationists do believe that God still occasionally does miracle-like activities today, such as healings or divine guidance, so long as these "miracles" do not accredit new doctrine or add to the New Testament canon (Warfield, Gaffin). John MacArthur is perhaps the best-known classical cessationist.

  3. Full Cessationists argue that along with no miraculous gifts, there are also no miracles performed by God today. This argument, of course, turns on one's understanding of the term, "miracle."

  4. Consistent Cessationists believe that not only were the miraculous gifts only for the establishment of the first-century church, but the so-called five-fold ministry found in Eph 4 was also a transitional institution (i.e., There are no more apostles, prophets, but also no more pastors, teachers, or evangelists).


Monday, June 11, 2007

Theological Dictionary word of the day: Eucharist
Statue of The Last Supper, used during the Good Friday procession in Qormi, Malta Translated from Greek noun "Eucharistia") meaning thanksgiving. This noun or the corresponding verb (I give thanks) is found in 55 verses of the New Testament. Four of these verses recount that Jesus "gave thanks" before presenting to his followers the bread and the cup that he declared to be his body and his blood. The Gospel of John affirms this. It is a sacrament of the church which comes from the Last Supper when Jesus said to his disciples "Do this in remembrance of me…" (Luke 22: 14-23; Matthew 26: 26-29; Mark 14: 22-25). The Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, the Mass are other ways of referring to this sacrament. The gifts of wine and bread are brought forward, blessed and shared with the gathered faithful.

Christians generally do recognize a special presence of Christ in this rite, though they differ about exactly how, where, and when Christ is present. The word "Eucharist" is also applied to the bread and the cup consecrated in the course of the rite.

Most Christians classify the Eucharist as a sacrament. Some Protestants view it as an ordinance in which the ceremony is seen not as a specific channel of divine grace but as an expression of faith and of obedience to Christ.