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(523 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
The imprecise term “biblicism” is commonly used disparagingly (cf. “historicism”) to denote a particular way of dealing with the Bible, especially the expectation that it can be transposed directly into modern thought forms or lifestyles. European theologians who attempt to classify types of biblicism—for example, into broader and narrower forms (W. Wiesner), or into a theoretical and doctrinaire form, a practical and programmatic form, and a salvation-history form (G. Gloege)—have failed to make the t…

Autogenic Training

(248 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
After 1920 J. H. Schultz developed an autosuggestive, easily learned, and concentrated system of training that he presented in 1932 in his work Das Autogene Training. It is used in psychotherapy (though not much in the United States) as a means of coping with physiological or psychosomatic disturbances, but it is also commonly used in the world of sports and art as a method of relaxation and concentration. It is meant to be practiced three times a day, in reclining or sitting positions. Autogenic training brings physiological functions such as circulation, the vascular system,…


(947 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
Anxiety is an emotion that functions on different levels. Any adequate definition must therefore take account of these levels, explaining and distinguishing them, and finally weaving them philosophically or theologically into an anthropological whole. Concepts ¶ of anxiety depend on the interrelationship between these levels, even when they are viewed as a totality. The way of viewing the distinction between normal and pathological forms of anxiety also plays an important part in the construction of helpful concepts of anxiety. Sh…


(1,071 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
1. Concept No single, comprehensive psychological theory of aggression can encompass the various phenomena covered by the term “aggression.” Three theories or groups of theories are most commonly cited, namely, impulse theory, frustration theory, and learning theories. But even this division is finally imprecise and not very helpful because of the overlapping of some features and many unanswered questions. The theories rest on deductions from questions put to empirically perceptible attitudes of a…

Golden Age

(437 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
In his epic poem Works and Days (lines 109–201), the Greek poet Hesiod (fl. ca. 800 b.c.) tells the story of a golden age in which humans lived like gods with no cares, illnesses, or wickedness. This period was followed by successive declines into the silver age and then the bronze. A heroic age arrested the decline but was followed finally by the iron age, which was full of plague and evil. To the ancient idea of an ideal primitive age there correspond the myths in different cultures concerning an ideal place, paradise (an Iranian word), a garden (Eden, see Gen. 2:4–3:24), the mountain of Go…


(904 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
Today the term “conflict” denotes a wide variety of collisions of impulses, interests, powers, and groups on the psychological, social, political, and international levels, with or without the use of force, and with or without a symmetry of the conflicting interests or parties. The exclusively negative evaluation of conflict today in popular parlance is only partly shared by psychology (Psychotherapy) and not at all by sociology. Since the term is used so broadly on so many different levels, whi…


(248 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
The term “act” figures in the philosophical analysis of becoming, of the phenomenon of change. Parmenides (d. after 480 b.c.) regarded all change as appearance, while Heraclitus (ca. 500 b.c.) considered all that is unchanged as appearance. Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) made an extensive analysis of becoming in his doctrines of substance and accident, dynamis and energeia, potency and act. These doctrines were greatly refined in medieval metaphysics, especially by Thomas Aquinas (1224/25–74), who related them to the doctrines of God and creation. A potency seems to precede every act (e…

Medical Ethics

(3,338 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
1. Problem Medical ethics (or ethics in medicine) is not a special ethics but the application of ethical theories, principles, and processes of decision (Ethics) to the themes and problems that in the broadest possible sense arise in relation to health and illness, health policy, suffering, healing, research, and the responsibility for the health of future generations. Hence it is not merely “doctors’ ethics,” as it was in ordinary parlance and literature up to a few decades ago. Distinct but over…

Middle Axioms

(361 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
Preparing for the world conference on practical Christianity at Oxford in 1937, the ecumenist and social thinker Joseph H. Oldham (1874–1969) described “middle axioms” as guidelines for the action of Christians in specific political situations, guidelines to which non-Christians could also subscribe out of their own moral convictions. Such axioms could not be deduced directly from higher Christian principles (“broad criteria,” e.g., love), but they are in harmony with them and are more concrete, though not so concrete as actual directives for action, or …


(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…


(912 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
1. Concept It is not surprising that the understanding of authority has greatly changed over the centuries in popular speech and philosophical, theological, legal, and educational reflection. The phenomenon of authority is too close to our self-regard, our anxieties and hopes, to remain static in conception. It is all the more interesting, then, that the Roman distinction between potestas (of the government) and auctoritas (of the senate and individuals) has persisted in modern sociological and political thought (Sociology). Power is something enforced (by …


(193 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
The early church distinguished between apostates and the weak who gave way under pressure. Until the Decian persecution (250/51), apostasy, like murder and adultery, ranked as an unforgivable sin. Then (against Novatian protests) penances were introduced (Penitence), and in later canon law distinctions were made. In contrast to heresy, apostasy was defined as a voluntary lapse from the Christian faith (1917 CIC 1325.2) or the Catholic faith (can. 646), or as a willful renunciation of orders or ordination vows (1983 CIC 751, 1364). Excommunication followed automatically. Whereas…


(1,081 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
Healing deals therapeutically with sicknesses or injuries, whether of body or soul, in a living organism (Health and Illness). It does so in at least four ways: (1) It may be self-healing. The organism reachieves stability, the balance of all bodily and psychological functions and cycles. The aggression of infection, injury, sickness, and so forth is warded off, resolved, set aside, or addressed. Self-healing is also an important aspect of psychotherapy, though percentages are hard to ascertain. “Time heals” many ills. (2) Healing takes the form of restoration. The ideal state prio…


(197 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
This broad term denotes deviation from an accepted norm, doctrine, or morality. Its use is for the most part derogatory. Libertines include the following: 1. In Acts 6:9 the members of a synagogue who had been slaves abroad and were now freedmen (KJV: “libertines”). They promoted the persecution of Stephen. 2. The Genevan patriots who had fought for the city’s independence and who at first supported J. Calvin but then (as Perrinists) opposed his strict church order (Church Discipline) and the French influx. 3. A movement of spiritualists (Loists) in Antwerp against whom M. Lu…

Mediating Theology

(839 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
1. “Mediating theologians” are attested in the history of dogma of the early church (Christology 2.1–2.2; Trinity), during the Middle Ages (Sacrament 2.3; Scholasticism), as well as during the Reformation and in connection with more recent British and 19th-century North American theology (§§3–5). Not every such theologian, however, has sought a genuine mediation between opposing positions or intellectual currents. The ideals of unity and harmony (e.g., G. Calixtus [1586–1656]; later, e.g., S. T. Coleridge [1772–1834], the so-called early Oriel school, the libera…

Office of Christ

(231 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
From the days of the early church, with a view to interpreting the title “Christ,” it was the tradition, unformulated doctrinally, to speak of Christ’s priestly office (munus sacerdotale) and his kingly office (munus regium). The question was left open whether we should speak instead of a triplex munus by adding the prophetic office (munus propheticum). J. Calvin took this view in Inst.  2.15, though not in all his writings. So did the Catechismus Romanus 1.3.7, Lutheran orthodoxy, and, even more so, Reformed orthodoxy. What was in view was a threefold off…

Systematic Theology

(8,308 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich | Sattler, Dorothea
1. Term The attempt is made here to describe systematic theology by comparing its understanding in Protestant and in Roman Catholic thought. 1.1. The term “systematic” as an attribute of theology is often viewed as unfortunate because it seems to imply that the full truth of the living God can be summarized in a system. The Anglican ¶ Church (Anglican Communion) did not use it for fear of theological system-building, but in Roman Catholic theology it encompasses the various disciplines of dogmatics, fundamental theology, moral theology, and canon law. …

Holy Spirit

(4,686 words)

Author(s): Pratscher, Wilhelm | Ritschl, Dietrich
1. Biblical Data 1.1. OT and Early Judaism Statements about the rûaḥ (spirit) of Yahweh are of direct pneumatological interest. The working of the rûaḥ is at first ecstatic, equipping charismatic leaders (Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 1 Sam. 10:6; Charisma) and prophets (1 Sam. 10:6; 19:20–24) for their tasks. Time and again those concerned are gripped by the Spirit. More permanent endowment first appears in the case of David (1 Sam. 16:13). The great preexilic prophets appeal to the Word of Yahweh rather than to his Spirit (though see Hos. 9:7 and Mic. 3:8; Word of God). Perhaps they wished t…


(1,053 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich | Hugen, Melvin D.
1. Definition In the broader sense, “counseling” refers to almost any oral or written assistance that is given by a qualified counselor to those who seek counsel. The spectrum reaches from educational and vocational counseling to medical consultation, marriage and family counseling, and family or individual psychotherapy. The narrower technical sense relates less to the variety of those that seek counsel, or to the nature of their problems, and more to the actual process and goal of counseling. He…


(4,080 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten | Ritschl, Dietrich | Hailer, Martin
1. Religious History 1.1. Variety of Terms and Views The word “soul” (cf. Ger. Seele) embraces the meanings of many other words with a history of their own. These meanings differ not only in ancient cultures but also among themselves. They stand for various human experiences, of which we no longer know whether they were as numerous as the terms used—but do know that historically they represent basic realities of existence. A common feature of these realities is that they are regarded as essentially different from the materials of which we and nature and our world are composed. We may divide …


(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…

Marriage and Divorce

(7,760 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich | Burgsmüller, Alfred | Stevenson, Kenneth W. | Wall, John
1. Dogmatics and Ethics 1.1. Historical Data Historical research has never been able to establish the original form of marriage—monogamy or polygamy (polygyny or polyandry)—or whether one form developed into the other. Yet it is striking that in so-called primitive cultures, as well as more civilized ones, we always find a religious or cultural understanding of marriage and weddings. Behind or “above” the institutionally regulated and celebrated uniting (not merely monogamously) of a man and a woman, w…


(13,361 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich | Luz, Ulrich | Mühlenberg, Ekkehard | Kallis, Anastasios | Döring, Heinrich
Overview Overview Christology is systematic reflection on the basis and significance of the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ, along with its expression and application throughout the history of the church. It has long been a classic part of theological teaching. It seeks to fashion explicit statements that can be tested and used in close connection with other central areas of Christian doctrine (e.g., Church; Anthropology; Justification; Hope; Ethics; Pastoral Theology). It begins, however, with implicit as well as explicit Christological statements. The…


(6,436 words)

Author(s): Roloff, Jürgen | Grünberg, Wolfgang | Albrecht, Horst | Rouleau, Jean-Paul | Ritschl, Dietrich
1. NT 1.1. Term The word “congregation” has become established alongside “church” as English translations of the central NT word “ecclesia” (Gk. ekklēsia, originally meaning “assembly, gathering”). In modern theology a distinction is seen that is materially, though not semantically, based on the NT but that raises ecumenical problems. The congregation is the specific local assembly, whereas the church is the people of God as a universal entity and in its extralocal forms of organization. 1.2. Beginnings In its beginnings, emerging Christianity was mostly organized loca…


(6,709 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich | Schmidt, Werner H. | Brandenburger, Egon | Hofmeister, Heimo | Schöfthaler, Traugott
Overview Theological anthropology is systematic reflection on human nature and destiny ( Human and Civil Rights) in the light of the biblical witness. As a classic theological discipline (Dogmatics), anthropology holds an important place. It does not simply challenge the various anthropological sciences, nor does it necessarily transcend or endorse them. Insofar as these sciences say true things about humanity, theological anthropology regards their findings neither as competition nor as threat b…


(13,726 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten | Heintel, Erich | Reichenbach, Bruce R. | Preuss, Horst Dietrich | Roloff, Jürgen | Et al.
1. Ideas of God in the Religions Ideas are phenomena. We may interpret them in broader social and intellectual contexts, but they also speak for themselves in images, words, names, and texts. Even when deity is their content, they can display only themselves, not show whether revelation or merely human imagination underlies them, though this observation does not mean that we can rule out divine revelation. To speak of an idea of God tacitly presupposes horizontal comparison between societies and cultures. We set different ideas of God on different levels, thou…


(14,936 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich | Derbolav, Josef | Boraas, Roger S. | Merk, Otto | Gründel, Johannes | Et al.
Overview One may rightly ask whether Jews and Christians really have an ethics per se. For them the law of the Lord is perfect, “reviving the soul” and “making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7; see also Psalm 119). The Jews carefully expound and specify this law in the Talmud, while Christians see it fulfilled in the risen Lord and find in it an offer of comprehensive freedom and direction. Theologians have made this point, especially when criticizing systems of ethics. Yet believers in every age have theorized about their conduct and fo…
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