Glossary of Christianity (2): D-E-F-G

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A geographical region headed by a bishop, which usually includes several congregations. In Orthodoxy, a diocese is called an eparchy.


(Greek "to seem"). The belief that Christ only appeared to have a human body. Associated with Gnosticism and based on the dualistic belief that matter is evil and only spirit is good.

Domine quo vadis?

(Latin, "Lord, where are you going?"). According to a legend found in the Acts of St. Peter, Peter was fleeing persecution in Rome when he met Christ on the Appian Way and asked him this question. Christ replied, "I am coming to be crucified again." Peter took this to mean that Christ would suffer again in him, so Peter turned back to Rome, where he was crucified. The small church of Santa Maria delle Piante on the Appian Way, commonly called Domine Quo Vadis, commemorates this event.


Fourth century North African Christian faction, named for Bishop Donatus. The Donatists believed the church should be pure, and therefore church leaders who had handed over scripture during persecution (traditores) should not retain their positions. They were opposed most notably by Augustine, the prominent North African bishop. Augustine's influential doctrine of the church developed primarily in response to the Donatist controversy.


(Greek doxa, "glory"). A short hymn glorifying God.

Dynamic Monarchianism

Form of Monarchianism in which Jesus was a man who was adopted as the Son of God, or given the "power" (Gk. dynamos) of God, at his baptism or after his resurrection. Essentially synonymous with Adoptionism.


(Hebrew ebionim, "poor men"). An ascetic sect of Jewish Christians that taught Jesus was only a human prophet who had received the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Rejected Paul, and held that the law of Moses must be obeyed by Christians.


(Greek ekklesia, "church"). Branch of theology dealing with the doctrine of the church.

ecumenical council

A council of the Christian church at which representatives from several regions are present. To be distinguished from a "synod," which is a meeting of the local church.


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The largest Lutheran church body in the U.S. and more liberal than the LCMS.


Branch of theology dealing with end times or last things. Includes such subjects as the afterlife, the Day of Judgment, the Second Coming, and the end of the world.


A sacrament recognized by all branches of Christianity. Commemorates the Last Supper of Christ with the sharing of bread and wine. See also transubstantiation and Real Presence.


A penalty imposed by the Catholic Church prohibiting a person from receiving or administering sacraments or holding church office.

ex cathedra

(Latin "from the throne.") Authoritative statements made by the Pope in Roman Catholicism.

Fall, the

Disobedience of Adam and Eve (chronicled in Genesis 3) that resulted in ill effects for the remainder of humanity. See Christian Beliefs: Human Nature.


Monastic order founded by Francis of Assisi in 1210 AD.


Not a unified belief system, but a complex of religious movements that predate Christianity and have roots in both paganism and Judaism. By about the second century AD, Gnostic Christianity had developed and was labeled a heresy by the established church. Distinctive Gnostic beliefs include: two separate divine beings (the unknowable supreme deity and an inferior, evil creator god); the inherent goodness of spirit and evil of matter; the importance of gnosis, or special knowledge, for salvation; and a view of Christ as a messenger of the supreme deity who only appeared to take on a body. Major Gnostic teachers include Valentinus, Basilides, and Marcion.


(Greek evangelion; Old English godspel, "good news"). The content of Christian preaching; that is, that Christ died to save humans from the penalty of sin and reunite them with God. When capitalized, the word usually refers to one of the first four books of the New Testament, which relate the life of Christ.


The undeserved gift of divine favor in the justification and then sanctification of sinners. The Greek term charis, usually translated in English as "grace," is about 150 times in the New Testament, mostly in the Pauline epistles.


Name given to the Franciscans in England because of their gray robes.

(to be continued)


Glossary of Christianity (1)

A-B-C... Alexandrian School: School of thought associated with Alexandria, Egypt. It was influenced by Platonic philosophy and tended to emphasize the divinity of Christ over his humanity and interpret scripture allegorically. Compare with the Antiochene School. Notable Alexandrians include Clement and Origen.