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Wednesday
Nov052008

Theological Term of the Week

Continuing with Trinitarian heresies.

adoptionism
A heretical teaching that denies the pre-existence of the Son, claiming that Jesus was an ordinary human being until he was adopted by God and became divine by adoption. This adoption took place either at the baptism of Jesus or the resurrection. Also called dynamic monarchianism.

  • From scripture:
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1: 1-3)
  • From the Nicene Creed:

    I believe in … one Lord Jesus Christ,
    …very God of very God,
    …who for us men and for our salvation
    came down from heaven,
    and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost
    of the Virgin Mary,
    and was made man….

  • From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, pages 243-244:
    “Adoptionism” is the view that Jesus lived as an ordinary man until his baptism, but then God “adopted” Jesus as his “Son” and conferred on him supernatural powers. Adoptionists would not hold that Christ existed before he was born as a man; therefore, they would not think of Christ as eternal, nor would they think of him as the exalted, supernatural being created by God that the Arians held him to be. Even after Jesus “adoption” as the “Son” of God, they would not think of him as divine in nature, but only as an exalted man whom God called his “Son” in a unique sense.

    Adoptionism never gained the force of a movement in the way Arianism did, but there were people who held adoptionist views from time to time in the early church, though these views were never accepted as orthodox. Many modern people who think of Jesus as a great man and someone especially empowered by God, but not really divine, would fall into the adoptionist category.

Learn more:

  1. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: Adoptionism
  2. James White: The Pre-Existence of Christ
  3. Early Church.org: Monarchianism

Related terms:

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion, and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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