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Contending For The Faith

Some Definitions



Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself.
Irenaeus
Against Heresies 1.2
Irenaeus (c. 175-195) was the Bishop of Lyons in southern France; one of the most important Christian writers of the second century. Irenaeus grew up in Asia Minor under the preaching of the apostolic father Polycarp and moved to southern France, becoming "elder" (presbyter) in Lyons. When the aging bishop was martyred, Irenaeus succeeded him as bishop in the West.In his primary work, Against Heresies, Irenaeus gave his theology as statements of the Christian faith to refute the heresies of Valentinus (the Gnostic) and Marcion.

THEOLOGY is the study of God. This, in turn, has led man to define beliefs in God in general "catch-all" terms. There is some benefit to understanding these terms, at least in broad concepts. It will help us place religions together as to their overall world views of God.

ATHEISM, outright denial of the existence of God, is a position that many claim to hold. If you are an atheist, you believe that man is alone and life is meaningless. This is the Soviet cosmonaut&s view of the universe ("I can&t see God, so He must not exist."). It is contradicted by evidence in nature, the conscience, and the spiritual makeup of the individual, as well as by biblical teaching. At heart, it is a rejection of the self-revelation of the personal God of the Bible, who has on innumerable occasions communicated with human beings for their benefit. Many people are practical atheists because they have not bothered to inquire about the existence and character of God.

AGNOSTICISM, the belief that one cannot know if God exists or not, amounts to a suspension of knowledge. As with atheism, it rejects the many self-disclosures of God. It is an affront to the God Who has spoken, is based on pride, and offers no hope for life now or after death. Both positions are contrary to the basic makeup of human beings, who desperately need contact with their Creator and have the spiritual capacity to interact with Him.

PANTHEISM is an often sophisticated but actually illogical view of God. It denies the existence of a personal God who interacts intelligently with human beings. Instead, God is the same thing as the universe, and, in turn, the universe of God. Of course, in this view we are part of God and He is part of us. If you are a pantheist, then you have to conclude that at any given moment you are sitting or standing on God! It actually sacrifices God&s personhood for His infinity, and, in some forms of the view, makes God physical, although in some variations everything is supposedly nonmaterial and spiritual, including the universe. Pantheism is an attempt to reduce God to identity with His creation.

POLYTHEISM, the belief in a plurality of gods (equal or differing in rank) is prevalent throughout the world, as is pantheism. This view clearly contradicts the biblical teaching that there is only one deity and that He is unique in power and position. In polytheism in general, the adherent can never know if he has pleased the right god. We might call this the Alka-Seltzer view of God. Like a medicine that covers all the bases, polytheism, by encouraging placating all the gods to obtain favor, assuages the conscience--at least it attempts to!

DEISM is the view that God exists and can interact with human beings, but has withdrawn from contact with them. It generally involves a denial of a Trinity, the incarnation, miracles, and other orthodox doctrines. The analogy frequently used to paint a picture of Deism is that of a watch maker, who have made the watch, throws it in the sand and walks away, never to tinker with it again.

MONOTHEISM is the belief in only one God, a God who is active in the universe. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are the only monotheistic religions.

MONISM is the belief of all-in-one. It is the unity of all reality, not the belief in a single God. It is similar in results to pantheism.

A CULT, then, is a perversion or distortion of biblical Christianity. It is a rejection of the historic teachings of the Christian church. A cult is a group of people based upon someone's interpretation of the Bible and is characterized by major deviations from orthodox Christian beliefs. This deviation is particularly concerned with the Trinity and the Person of Jesus Christ.

Gnosticism was one of the early "cults" or false doctrines. At the time of Paul, only the roots of Gnosticism existed. Over time, Gnosticism would develop along, at least, two different paths. The Docetic Gnosticism viewed Christ as a phantom. Christ did not really take on human form, it only appeared that way. The other, Cerinthian Gnosticism, viewed Jesus as an ordinary person upon whom God "came," like a piece of clothing, between the time of Christ&s baptism until a short while before the Cross. Under this approach, only the human was Crucified.

EPICUREANS (named after Epicurus (d. B.C. 270) are the adherents of the Epicurean philosophy (Acts 17:18). This philosophy was a system of atheism teaching men to seek as their highest aim a pleasant and smooth life. They have been called the "Sadducees" of Greek paganism.

STOICISM was the doctrine of a Greek school of philosophy known as the Stoics. This group taught that human beings should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law, calmly accepting all things as the result of divine will. It is a Greek pagan version of the Islamic, Kismet, "what ever will be, will be."

APOSTASY is the continual falling away of people from God. It is a denial of God, not a perversion to His Word. In classical Greek, apostasia is a technical term for political revolt or defection. The Septuagint relates the term and definition to rebellion against God (Joshua 22:22; 2 Chron 29:19) as originally instigated by Satan, the apostate dragon of Job 26:13.

DOCTRINE is the body of beliefs about God, humankind, Christ, the church, and other related concepts considered authoritative by the community of faith, becoming the standard of interpretation and application of the Bible and the Christian faith.

ORTHODOX comes from two Greek words which mean "right" and "honor." Thus, the term orthodox in Christian usage means to rightly honor God. It may be viewed as meaning that one should rightly accept and obey all of the foundational teachings of the Bible.

Those who corrupt the foundations of orthodoxy are called heretics. The Greek words from which we get "HERESY" and "HERETIC" simply mean to "act of choice" or "an attachment." Thus, in Christian terms, a heresy is a false doctrine - but not just a false doctrine. Rather, it is a false doctrine so important to those who believe it, that it must be considered an abandonment of the faith.

 

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