Encyclopedia of Christianity Online

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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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See Social Partnership; Work


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Author(s): Drössler, Bernd T.
In Roman Catholic canon law “laicization” denotes the removal of the spiritual status that is conferred by ordination (Clergy and Laity). The legal consequence is the loss of the rights and duties associated with clergy status (e.g., Missio canonica). On the basis of 1983 CIC 290–93, laicization may take place by an invalidation of ordination, in punishment for an offense, or as an act of grace. A distinction must be made between the loss of clergy status and the setting aside of the obligation of celibacy, which is an obstacle to marriage. In the case of invalidation a judgment or an…


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See Clergy and Laity


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See Tibetan Religions

Lamentations, Book of

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Author(s): Kaiser, Otto
1. Name, Place in Canon, Authorship The Book of Lamentations consists of five songs. The book’s usual name in modern Bible versions comes, by way of the Vg (Lamentationes) and the LXX ( Thrēnoi [ Ieremiou]), from Jewish tradition, in which it is called qı̂nôt, “laments for the dead” ( b.  B. Bat.  15a). In Hebrew MSS and printed copies it is usually named after the first word: ʾêkâ, “alas, how.” Though Lamentations is placed among the Megilloth (i.e., festal scrolls), the LXX, followed by dependent and modern versions, inserts it after the Book of Jeremiah on the ba…


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Author(s): Phillips, Craig A.
1. General Definitions Language is a cognitive faculty and behavior that is central to human life. Languages are complex systems that communicate knowledge, information, thoughts, ideas, and human experience. There are many kinds of languages, ranging from the speech of concrete human communities to elaborate symbolic, mathematical, musical, and computational systems. Although researchers continue to question and investigate the possibility of language in nonhuman populations, it is still clear that language separates human beings from all other species. Language is a soc…

Language and Theology

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Author(s): Dalferth, Ingolf U.
In many respects language is an area of focus in theology: anthropologically as a basic dimension of human life (Anthropology), phenomenologically as a form of faith and religion (Phenomenology of Religion), theologically as the place and means of revelation (Revelation; Word of God), methodologically as the medium and material of theological reflection (Exegesis, Biblical; Hermeneutics), and practically as the instrument and medium of religious communication. Theories of theological language ma…


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Author(s): Gern, Wolfgang
1. Geography and Demographics Laos—in full, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic—is a landlocked nation in Southeast Asia dominated ¶ by jungles, with high mountains along its eastern border. Its longest borders are with Viet Nam to the east and Thailand to the west, with shorter borders also with China (north), Cambodia (south), and Myanmar (west). Ethnically, the largest groups in 2001 were the Lao Loum (or Valley Lao, 68 percent), Lao Theung (Hill Lao, 22 percent), and Lao Soung (Mountain Lao, which includes Hm…


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Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
The lapsi were apostates from the Christian faith during the persecution under Decius (249–51). An edict of the emperor in February 250 ordered the whole population to show loyalty to the gods of the Roman Empire by an act of sacrifice (Roman Religion). Local commissions supervised the execution of the edict and gave a certificate (libellus) for compliance. A shocking number of Christians yielded. Since the edict applied only for a set time, however, many sought readmission to the church’s fellowship. As might be expected, the question of readmission g…

Last Judgment

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Author(s): Otte, Klaus
1. Term The term “last judgment,” based on the “last times” of 2 Esdr. 7:73, is used for the last and definitive consummation of history. It is also called the universal judgment, for it pertains to all, both good and bad. It is the judgment of Christ insofar as it brings into play his nature and his action. Since the last judgment is not the mere completion of an immanent process but is subject primarily to the sovereignty of God, it is also called the judgment of God. 2. Bible 2.1. There is as yet no monographic account of the last judgment in the OT. Exposition of the OT tries to …

Latin America and the Caribbean

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Author(s): Prien, Hans-Jürgen | Lampe, Armando
In current U.N. usage the “major area” (i.e., continent) “Latin America and the Caribbean” includes the entire continental landmass south of the United States, plus the collection of islands roughly enclosing the Caribbean Sea. Besides the Caribbean (also called the West Indies), this major area comprises the regions of Central America (here referring to the eight countries from Mexico south to Panama) and South America. 1. Latin America 1.1. Term “Latin America” was from the beginning a cultural-historical rather than a geographic term. Although the origin of t…

Latin American Council of Bishops

(963 words)

Author(s): Beozzo, José Oscar
1. Origin The idea of founding the Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano (CELAM, or Latin American Council of Bishops) was proposed at the first General Conference of Latin American Bishops, held at Rio de Janeiro, July/August 1955. Leading concerns of the Roman Catholic Church that led to the founding were the shortage of priests and the need to take steps against “the Protestant threat.” On September 24, 1955, Pope Pius XII (1939–58) founded CELAM for the purpose of coordinating the various bishops’…

Latin American Council of Churches

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Author(s): Schwindt, Juan | Lopes, Sergio Marcos Pinto | Plou, Dafne Sabanes
The Consejo Latinoamericano de Iglesias (CLAI), or Latin American Council of Churches, is an ecumenical body covering the continent and including Latin America and the Hispanic Caribbean. It consists of 150 churches and ecumenical organizations. The latter are associate or fraternal members. Its headquarters is in Quito, Ecuador. 1. History The Panama Conference (1916) is traditionally recognized as the starting point of the ecumenical movement in Latin America. That conference was convened as a Latin American response to the great Edinburgh mi…

Latin American Councils

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Author(s): Henkel, Willi | Dussel, Enrique
1. Colonial Period 1.1. Significance Soon after their arrival in Latin America in the 15th century, missionaries from Europe met together to seek common answers to their problems. Thus some ten juntas (i.e., high-level meetings) took place in Mexico that one might call forerunners of the Latin American councils. Technically, councils involve the participation of several bishops. The Latin American councils dealt with the introduction of Indians to the Christian faith, the administration of the sacraments in the context of mis…

Latin American Theology

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Author(s): Schubeck S.J., Thomas L.
1. Origins For most of their 500-year presence in Latin America, Roman Catholic theologians and missionaries have employed methods and concepts taken largely from Western European theology. Most missionaries who came to Latin America had been previously schooled in scholastic theology, principally in the theological and philosophical writings of Augustine (354–430; Augustine’s Theology), Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225–74; Scholasticism), and the Dominican theological school at Salamanca, Spain, founded by Francisco de Vitoria (ca. 1480–1546). Scholastic theology predom…


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Author(s): Talonen, Jouko
1. General Situation Latvia, the central country of the Baltic States (Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south), is bordered by Russia and Belarus on the east. A democratic parliamentary republic, Latvia is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In 2001 the six largest ethnic groups were the Latvians (57.6 percent, vs. 75.5 percent in 1935), Russians (29.6 percent, vs. 10.6 percent in 1935), Belorussians (4.1 percent), Ukrainians (2.7 percent), Poles (2.5 per…

Laughing and Crying

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Author(s): Winkler, Klaus
Laughing and crying reveal a person’s inner feelings and emotional capacities. It is not surprising, then, that from antiquity they have been the theme of philosophical reflection and adduced in interpretation of what is human. In keeping with modern differentiation of the academic disciplines, they have been taken up in interdisciplinary studies making use of philosophy, theology, aesthetics, literary studies, psychology, and sociology. They bring out both the comic and the tragic aspects of human life. In all the detailed inquiries the main concern must be to see in l…

Lausanne Movement

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Author(s): Green, Jay D.
The Lausanne movement is an international, transdenominational movement of evangelicals associated with the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and dedicated to the study, promotion, and fulfillment of cooperative evangelism worldwide. The movement derives its name and spirit from the International Congress on World Evangelization, held at Lausanne, Switzerland, in July 1974. 1. Background The history of the Lausanne movement must be understood in the context of attempts to build a global strategy for evangelism before 1974. Since World Wa…


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Author(s): Würthwein, Ernst | Hübner, Hans | Peters, Albrecht
1. OT 1.1. Term The idea of law has many nuances in the OT, which we see from the different words used for it. Thus we have mišpāṭı̂m (ordinances), huqqı̂m (statutes), miṣwôt (commandments), dĕbārı̂m (words), and others. These terms cover civil and criminal law and both the ethical and the cultic sphere. More comprehensively after Deuteronomy we find tôrâ, which originally denoted only the direction of the priest in cultic, legal, and moral questions (Deut. 33:10; Hos. 4:6; Mic. 4:2; Jer. 18:18; Ezek. 7:26; Mal. 2:6–7) but in Deuteronomy is used for the whole revelati…

Law and Gospel

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Author(s): Kolb, Robert
1. Luther’s and Melanchthon’s Distinction 1.1. The concepts of law and gospel, each with a wide range of definitions and theological functions in the Bible, assumed a distinctive use within the theology of reformers Martin Luther (1483–1546; Luther’s Theology) and Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560) as a dialectical description of God’s judgment on sinners and his restoration of life for his elect children. Though the two colleagues placed different accents on elements of this dialectic, the use each mad…

Law and Legal Theory

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Author(s): Jr., John Witte
1. Definition The term “law” does not admit of easy or universal definition. Viewed in its broadest social terms, law consists of all norms that govern human conduct—moral commandments, state statutes, church canons, family rules, commercial habits, communal customs, and others—and all actions taken to formulate and respond to those norms. Viewed in narrower political terms, law consists of the social enterprise by which certain norms are formulated by legitimate political authorities and actualiz…

Law, International

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See International Law

Law, Natural

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See Natural Law

Lay Apostolate

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Author(s): Droel, William | Pierce, Gregory F. Augustine
1. History For many centuries in Europe, the church (both Roman Catholic and eventually also Protestant, depending on the country) was closely intertwined with secular social structures. On matters of public policy, for example, church officials would regularly consort with the monarchy or the local lord or ruler, and religious holy days were celebrated as secular holidays. Likewise, the early guilds were organized as much around religious affiliation as they were around specific occupations. As society began to separate from the church, becoming more and more autonom…

Laying on of Hands

(781 words)

Author(s): Senn, Frank C.
The gesture of laying hands on or over a person or an object conveys varied significance as an act of blessing, confirming, consecrating, commissioning, ordaining, setting apart for special use, absolving, healing, and other related uses. The act is understood to convey the transmission of authority, special grace, or spiritual power from someone recognized as specially authorized or charismatically endowed. In the OT, laying on of hands is used to transmit a vital force (Gen. 48:14–20), to identify the offerer (Leviticus 1–8) or the transfer of sin (Lev. 16:21) in the sacrificial …

Lay Movements

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Author(s): Minus, Paul M.
Overview Overview Until recently, the Christian laity has tended to be defined simply as the nonordained church membership. The long-standing second-class status of the laity within the churches has been reinforced by society’s low opinion of nonprofessional laity in all fields. Developments within the churches and society alike have led to a more positive view. Today Christian laity are increasingly regarded as baptized followers of Christ who are endowed with gifts of the Holy Spirit that fit them for service both within the church, …

Lay Preaching

(430 words)

Author(s): Stein, Albert
The obvious meaning of the phrase “lay preaching” is church proclamation by members of the congregation who are not ordained. The primitive Christian community was acquainted with speaking at worship as the Spirit freely prompted (1 Corinthians 14). In the early church, however, speaking was by right of office. The wandering preachers of the Waldenses and mendicant orders encountered prohibitions from the 12th century onward. The Reformation allowed lay preaching in case of need. Martin Luther (1483–1546) and article 14 of the Augsburg Confess…


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Author(s): Steppat, Fritz
1. General Situation The modern state of Lebanon was created by declaration of France, which held a mandate over it when the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1920. It was first called Grand Liban, but in 1926 the constitution named it the Republic of Lebanon. Apart from coastal states that were occupied by the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries, this area of the Near East had been under Muslim rule for almost 1,300 years. Because of the inaccessibility of the high parts of Lebanon and the politics of the Muslim rulers, the communities of…


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See Readings, Scripture


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Author(s): West, Fritz
The office of lector (Lat. “reader”) is necessitated by the public reading of Scripture, an essential element in both Jewish and Christian worship. The development of the role of lector in these two religious traditions exhibits striking similarities. 1. Jewish Setting By the fourth century b.c. the Israelites knew the public reading of the law (§1; Neh. 7:73b–8:12). The worship of the synagogue, however, provides the first evidence for lectors as a regular feature of Jewish prayer life. Both the Torah and the haftarah were read in the liturgy of the…


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See Nuncio


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See church law 6


(878 words)

Author(s): Huber, Wolfgang
Those who can accredit themselves, or who have letters of accreditation, can command legitimation. In this sense legitimation means justification before others or institutions by appeal to an authority that is recognized on both sides (Law and Legal Theory). In a narrower sense the term denotes the justification of a social order, especially of a legal type. In the modern period this focus has given rise to the problem that classic ideals of legitimation have lost their obvious cogency. As long …


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Author(s): Prahl, Hans-Werner
1. History Like Fr. loisir, the Eng. term “leisure” derives from Lat. licere, “be permitted.” In the ancient Greek polis the political and literary ruling class evolved the idea of scholē (rest, leisure), a period of freedom from work so as to make possible personal development, with a view to political and social office. The work of citizens was a-scholia (busyness, lack of leisure), whereas that of slaves was ponos (labor, toil). Ancient Rome put up huge buildings in which people could pass the time together. Under Constantine the Circus Maximus, the largest R…


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See Church Year

Leo I

(910 words)

Author(s): Markschies, Christoph
Leo I (d. 461), known as Leo the Great, was pope beginning in the summer of 440. Not much is known about Leo’s early years. Suggestions that he was born in Tuscany remain improbable as long as other signs point to an urban Roman origin. Before becoming pope, he was (arch)deacon at the papal ¶ court, and as early as 440 Empress Galla Placidia entrusted him with a political mission to Gaul. Leo devoted a great deal of energy to his urban Roman congregation, particularly through his sermons, and encouraged the production of narrative and pictorial cyc…


(738 words)

Author(s): Baker, Kenneth
1. General Situation The Kingdom of Lesotho, an enclave within the Republic of South Africa, is a small constitutional monarchy. Its capital is Maseru. The chief crops are corn, wheat, sorghum, and barley, with herding also important. Water is its most important natural resource, which, after completion of a major hydropower plant in 1998, it has been selling to South Africa. Other exports are clothing, footwear, wool, and mohair. South Africa employs large numbers of mine workers, whose earnings in 1996 accounted for one-third of Lesotho’s gross domestic product. During the early 1…

Leuenberg Agreement

(1,448 words)

Author(s): Rusch, William G.
The Leuenberg Agreement is a statement resulting mainly from theological conversations between Lutheran and Reformed churches in Europe. The drafting process was completed on March 16, 1973, and the agreement came into effect on October 1, 1974. The churches that officially subscribe to the Leuenberg Agreement grant to each other pulpit and table/altar fellowship and commit themselves to common witness and service on the basis of the agreement. Since 1974 over 100 European Lutheran, Reformed, Un…


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See Priest, Priesthood

Leviticus, Book of

(409 words)

Author(s): Soggin, J. Alberto
1. Title “Leviticus” is the title of the third book of the Pentateuch. It comes from the Gk. Leuı̈tikos by way of the Lat. Leviticus. The term offers no guidance as to the contents, for any supposed reference to the Levites is off the mark. The Hebrew title is simply wayyiqĕrā, “and he [the Lord] called,” from the opening word. 2. Contents In content, Leviticus first presents the laws of sacrifice, in two sequences (chaps. 1–5 and 6–7), including burnt offerings, grain offerings, sacrifices of well-being (or “peace offerings,” RSV), sin offerings, and guilt offerings. Next are …
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