Encyclopedia of Christianity Online

Get access Subject: Religious Studies
Editors: Erwin Fahlbusch, Jan Milič Lochman, John Mbiti, Jaroslav Pelikan and Lukas Vischer

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The Encyclopedia of Christianity Online describes modern-day Christian beliefs and communities in the context of 2000 years of apostolic tradition and Christian history. Based on the third, revised edition of the critically acclaimed German work Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon. The Encyclopedia of Christianity Online includes all 5 volumes of the print edition of 1999-2008 which has become a standard reference work for the study of Christianity past and present. Comprehensive, reflecting the highest standards in scholarship yet intended for a wide range of readers, the The Encyclopedia of Christianity Online also looks outward beyond Christianity, considering other world religions and philosophies as it paints the overall religious and socio-cultural picture in which the Christianity finds itself.

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(10,466 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich | Loewenclau, Ilse von | Lührmann, Dieter | Dalferth, Ingolf U.
Overview In the church and its milieu, the word “faith” is used with sometimes irritating generality (the English word perhaps even more crassly than its German equivalent, Glaube). One can distinguish at least three uses, as well as two areas of scholarly inquiry. In one of its uses, the term “faith” is almost synonymous with “religion”; it means essentially the basic personal disposition of individuals or communities. In analogy to “Christian faith,” we can speak also of “Jewish faith” and of the “faith” of Muslims, Buddhists, and so o…

Faith and Order Movement

(5,692 words)

Author(s): Jr., Paul A. Crow
1. Origins As a central expression of the modern ecumenical movement, the Faith and Order Movement was born in the early decades of the 20th century. Its fundamental purpose then and now is “to proclaim the oneness of the Church of Jesus Christ and to call the churches to the goal of visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ, in order that the world may believe.” Inherent in this purpose—one inspired by the biblical vision of the church—are several defining dimensions of the Faith and Order vocation: (1) the goal is the visible uni…


(552 words)

Author(s): Schmitz, Philipp
In opposition to an exaggerated individualism, Christian ethics upholds a freedom that is so free from self that it can grant space and a voice to others. Where this inclusion of the other involves unconditional commitment, we have faithfulness. The term denotes an unshakable commitment to someone else or to society, of which the foundation is trust. In a transferred sense we can also speak of faithfulness to a promise or a conviction. This virtue involves trust in its legitimacy and obedience to what it morally demands, independentl…

Faith Missions

(572 words)

Author(s): Beyerhaus, Peter
The term “faith missions” derives from the policy of conservative evangelical mission agencies to minimize, if not altogether avoid, public appeals for financial support; they support themselves “by faith.” Pioneers of the movement in the 19th century such as George Mueller (1805–98), who operated a large orphanage in Bristol, England, and J. Hudson Taylor (1832–1905), founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM), relied on secret prayer to “God alone” for their financial needs. While contemporary …

False Decretals

(631 words)

Author(s): Holze, Heinrich
The False Decretals (also known as Pseudoisidorian Decretals) are the most influential part of a comprehensive collection of church statutes that also includes the Collectio Hispana Gallica Augustodunensis, the Capitularies of Benedict the Levite, and the Capitula Angilramni. They had their origin in approximately 850 in the kingdom of the West Franks. Though naming Isidore Mercator of Seville as their author, they seem to have been written by clergy of the archbishopric of Reims. For their historical background we must look to the growing integration of the church in…


(8,203 words)

Author(s): Post, Stephen G. | Jr., John Witte | Lee, Cameron
1. Biblical Views The NT allows for an ambivalence toward marriage and the family by recognizing a place for singleness, in contrast to Judaism and many other traditions. Salvation within Christianity is not dependent on the continuation of a biological lineage. Jesus and Paul, for example, were both unmarried. Yet the NT also endorses monogamous and lasting marriage as an equally valid way of life. Jesus of Nazareth endorsed the possibility of voluntary singleness in the service of God’s kingdom, criticizing an overemphasis on the value of biological lineage…


(1,188 words)

Author(s): Heinen, Armin
1. Term Derived from It. fascio, “bundle, group” (from Lat. fascis), the term “fascism” was applied first to the regime of Mussolini. It is now used to denote right-wing political movements and nonsocialist authoritarian governments. This extension of use has led to a loss of linguistic clarity. The term ought to be restricted to the social movements that became a new political force between World War I and World War II. These movements opposed liberalism, socialism, Communism, and conservatism. They co…


(813 words)

Author(s): Grün, Anselm
1. Forms of Fasting 1.1. Israel and Judaism In the OT law only the Day of Atonement was a strict fast. The righteous, however, fasted also each Monday and Thursday. Fasting expressed expiation (Atonement) and a readiness for conversion. It intensified the prayer for help (2 Sam. 12:16; 1 Kgs. 21:27; Neh. 1:4–11) and gave force to prayer for the attainment of revelations (Dan. 9:3; 10:2–3). It was the mark of a pious life pleasing to God. Along with prayer and almsgiving, fasting formed a triad of good works. The prophets criticized the common practice of fast…


(379 words)

Author(s): Pye, Michael
In general the term “fatalism” denotes the idea that whatever happens is determined and caused by an irresistible, supernatural power that leaves no room for human decision. What is ordained for individuals cannot be foreseen in advance. The Romans gave the name fatum to the power that overrules birth and death (Roman Religion). The Greeks called it Heimarmenē or Moira (Greek Religion). The incalculable aspect of destiny was also known to the Greeks as tychē and to the Romans as fortuna. The Stoics made fate the dominant principle of the universe. Yet the question of freed…


(1,502 words)

Author(s): Karle, Isolde
1. OT, NT, Early Church In the OT the father is the ancestor of a line, the protector and patriarch of the family, and has almost unlimited authority. The promises to the patriarchs (Patriarchal History) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are central to the identity of Israel (and of the early church; see Romans 4). Yahweh, however, the God of the fathers, is rarely addressed as father, an attempt to avoid any proximity to the generative fertility gods in Israel’s surroundings (e.g., Ugarit; Mother Goddesses 1). Only during the postexilic period are more frequent references made to…


(5 words)

See Church Fathers


(349 words)

Author(s): Hübener, Britta
The beginnings of the Marian pilgrimage in Fatima, Portugal, are connected with six visions of Mary experienced in 1917 by the children Lucia dos Santos (b. 1907) and her cousins Francisco (1908–19) and Jacinta (1910–20) Marto. Most of the auditions related to the appearances were published, but there is debate about the so-called Third Mystery, which is preserved as a sealed document in the Vatican archives. After many controversies the visions were officially declared to be credible by the local bishop in 1930, but by then they had already made Fatima a pop…


(388 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
Under the influence of S. Kierkegaard (1813–55), later philosophers and popular authors have often distinguished “fear” from “anxiety.” The former denotes a debilitating emotion in the face of specific dangers and threats; the latter, an emotional reaction to what is unknown and indefinite. The distinction as such makes sense, but it is linguistically artificial and does not stand up to more exact analysis of academic, popular, or poetic usage. Nor do etymological findings help. Fear and anxiety are largely interchangeable. In psychological and psychiatric literature we fin…

Federal Theology

(6 words)

See Covenant 3

Fellowship Movement

(1,250 words)

Author(s): Pierard, Richard V. | Ohlemacher, Jörg
1. Definition The Fellowship Movement (Gemeinschaftsbewegung) is an umbrella concept encompassing a wide variety of pietistic and theologically conservative groups in Germany. The term arose in the 1880s and referred essentially to the merging of vestiges of the pietistic awakening earlier in the 19th century with Holiness and revivalistic influences from Britain and North America. This blending resulted in the flowering of religious and charitable organizations, both within and outside the framework of the established regional Protestant churches. As voluntary societies …


(1,895 words)

Author(s): May, Melanie A.
Feminism as a worldwide movement is founded in women’s consciousness that as a group they are, and historically have been, subordinate and that this subordination is not natural but is socially, culturally, and religiously determined. Furthermore, feminism is the conviction that women and men are created for full economic, political, social, and religious equality. Finally, feminism is women’s creation of alternative ways to arrange societies and institutions so that such an egalitarian future may become a reality. 1. History Contemporary feminism, particularly in the Unit…

Feminist Theology

(4,120 words)

Author(s): May, Melanie A.
Feminist theology is better referred to as feminist theologies. The theological perspectives and ways of working are as distinctive and diverse (culturally, socially, racially, ethnically, economically, geographically, and sexually) as the women writing them. These theologies engage both critical and creative work undertaken within and often across what have been discrete theological disciplines, including biblical studies, church history, doctrinal and systematic theology, ethics, and pastoral counseling. ¶ In most instances, therefore, feminist theologies int…


(493 words)

Author(s): Kohl, Karl-Heinz
In the religious studies and ethnology of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the term “fetishism” was used to describe the veneration of certain objects (rocks, trees, etc.—fetishes) that were thought to possess spirits or to have special powers. Such veneration was found especially in the so-called tribal societies. On the basis of the reports of Portuguese mariners, who said that dwellers on the coast of West Africa worshiped cultic objects that the Portuguese called feitic̦o (from Lat. factitius, “artificially made”), C. de Brosses used the term in his study Du culte des Dieux f…


(462 words)

Author(s): Boockmann, Hartmut
The word “feudalism” derives from Lat. feudum, “property held in fief.” In the narrower sense it has to do with feudal holding, but more broadly it denotes the social system of the Middle Ages and comparable stages of development (§1). In the Marxist view of history (Marxism), feudalism is one of the general constructs of human history and constitutes the stage between slavery and middle-class ¶ society (Bourgeois, Bourgeoisie). This usage, however, is now outdated. The medieval system that gave rulers vassals and also privileges of dues and dominion was not …