Encyclopedia of Christianity Online

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

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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Reformed Alliance

(661 words)

Author(s): Guhrt, Joachim
The Reformierter Bund, or Reformed Alliance, was founded at Marburg, Germany, in 1884 as a free association of churches, congregations, and individuals. The first statutes stated its aim as the preserving and promoting of the Reformed church in doctrine, worship, and constitution. The main thrust of its work initially was to foster theological literature and education, for example, by means of study centers at Halle, Erlangen, and Göttingen, and later through a school of theology at Elberfeld (1…

Reformed and Presbyterian Churches

(5,200 words)

Author(s): Guhrt, Joachim
1. Term and Origins The adjective “reformed” refers first to what the Reformation was seeking to accomplish: ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda, that is, the church reformed and always self-reforming. Later, usually beginning with capitals, it came into use for those churches reformed according to the Word of God that received official recognition in the empire by the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. In the English-speaking world churches of this kind have come to be known for the most part as Presbyterian because they rejected episcopalianism in favor of presbyterianism. The origins …

Reformed Ecumenical Council

(669 words)

Author(s): van Houten, Richard L.
The Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) in 2004 comprised 38 Reformed and Presbyterian denominations in 25 countries, with approximately 12 million believers in all. The REC began in 1946 as the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, an international body that grew to some 30 members over the next couple of decades. It appointed its first permanent staff in 1963, giving it more permanence and visibility. In 1988 it adopted its current name. Members of the REC agree to the basis and purpose of the council, as found in its constitution. The REC bases itself on the “Holy Scriptur…

Reformed Tradition

(5,782 words)

Author(s): Weeks, Louis B.
1. Terms All Christians share more in worldview and theology than they differ among themselves in distinctive beliefs. All Protestants and Catholics in the Western tradition rely, for example, on the theology of Augustine (354–430; Augustine’s Theology). In general use, the term “reformed” refers to all the portions of Western Catholicism that emerged in Protestantism during the European Reformation of the 16th century, frequently termed the triumph of Augustine’s doctrine of grace over his doctri…


(5,590 words)

Author(s): Miller, Gregory
1. Term The term “Reformers” refers specifically to the 16th-century theologians and churchmen who were associated with the beginnings of Protestantism. As commonly used, this group includes first-generation leaders such as Martin Luther (1483–1546), John Calvin (1509–64), Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), and Menno Simons (1496–1561) and extends (at most) to their immediate successors, such as Theodor Beza (1519–1605) in Geneva and the authors of the Lutheran Formula of Concord (1577). In traditional P…


(1,522 words)

Author(s): Deffenbaugh, Ralston
The church is well acquainted with the plight of refugees. The Holy Family fled to Egypt to escape the persecution of Herod (Matt. 2:13–23). Athanasius (ca. 297–373) was exiled from his diocese of Alexandria to live in far-off northern Gaul. John Calvin (1509–64) was forced to flee France, finding a home in Geneva. Cardinal József Mindszenty (1892–1975) was sheltered in the American embassy in Budapest for 15 years during the Communist era. And the Bible throughout calls on God’s people to show ¶ hospitality to the stranger: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you s…


(1,388 words)

Author(s): Bernhardt, Reinhold
1. NT 1.1. According to the history-of-religions school, the NT references to regeneration derived from the Hellenistic mystery religions, whose adherents thought that present salvation could be achieved by cultic participation in the death and regeneration of the deity (the myth of the dying god). The NT understanding of regeneration, however, differs from that of the mystery religions. For the latter, regeneration represented a magical, ritual transforming of human nature by the inflowing of div…

Regula fidei

(7 words)

See Rule of Faith


(845 words)

Author(s): Einsele, Helga | Snyder, T. Richard
1. Term and General Survey The term “rehabilitation,” for which “resocialization” is often used as a synonym, is a central one in social work ( Social Services); it refers to the reincorporating of those who have been guilty of misconduct into society and its norms and values. In the process it is often overlooked that values and norms are also socially conditioned and mediated and that there may also be social causes for individual misconduct. Legally, resocialization describes the goal of remedial punishment. The point here is that prisoners are viewed as suffering f…

Reign of God

(8 words)

See Kingdom of God


(779 words)

Author(s): Bernhardt, Reinhold
1. Term The term “reincarnation” refers to doctrines of transmigration, which speak of the passage of the soul after death into another body (i.e., metempsychosis) or the migration of different souls into one body (metensomatosis). Transmigration may take place in the present world or in some future world. ¶ What is reincarnated may be the personal self or the spirit of the ancestors. 2. History of Religion 2.1. From the very beginning of religious history, belief in reincarnation found a place in many religions. It was part of the cult of ancestors among the E…


(1,241 words)

Author(s): Hanreich, Herbert
¶ The term “relativism” came into vogue with the increasing importance of historicism at the end of the 19th century. It reflects insight into the fact that our theoretical and practical dealings with the world are conditioned historically, culturally, socially, economically, politically, and anthropologically. Relativism, then, contests the view that we have objective and universally valid criteria by which to say that our theoretical knowledge or moral action is true or right. True knowledge, a…

Relativity Theory

(1,546 words)

Author(s): Van Baak, David A.
The theories of relativity arise from the study of the motion of objects in space and time, particularly from the fact that such motion may be viewed by observers who themselves might be in a state of motion. The result of this study has been three related and far-reaching theories, which provide the deepest picture yet of the nature of physical space and time. 1. Galilean Relativity Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) was the first to state the “principle of relativity,” which asserts that the state of rest and any state of uniform translational motion are indistingui…


(1,062 words)

Author(s): Beinert, Wolfgang
In religion relics (Gk. leipsana, Lat. reliquiae) are artifacts that are related to deceased saints and that are venerated as a result. First we have bodily parts, then objects they touched, such as portions of silk or cloth (brandea) or mantles (palliola), then things connected with their graves ( eulogia, hagiasmata, e.g., dust from the grave). We find veneration of relics in Egyptian and Greek religion, as well as in Buddhism and Islam. 1. Christian History In the Christian world the development and understanding of relics was closely linked to the veneration of sa…

Relief and Development Organizations

(5,650 words)

Author(s): Ryman, Björn
Relief and development organizations (RDOs) of Christian origin belong to the 20th century. As humanity during that century lived through violence, oppression, and wars in a magnitude never before experienced, a Christian response was to organize relief and development organizations. Secular, government, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also grew at an escalating pace in the middle of the 20th century as a response to disasters, wars, and oppression. One of the foremost tasks of the United Nations has been to set up specialized agencies for human needs generally, like the U…


(2,567 words)

Author(s): Antes, Peter | Bernhardt, Reinhold
1. Study of Religion 1.1. Term In modern usage the term “religion” is a master concept primarily in the description of ideas, attitudes, and actions vis-à-vis the reality that we accept and call forces or power, spirits or demons, gods or God, the holy or the absolute, or simply transcendence. This reality is supremely important for us, meriting respect and in most cases worship (E. Feil, 29). Defining the term intellectually in this way shows plainly how related it is to time and space. The questions…

Religion, Criticism of

(2,802 words)

Author(s): Suda, Max Josef | Steinacker, Peter
1. In Philosophy 1.1. Basic Problem Insofar as thinking is part of faith, a critical and questioning element is involved in faith as well as an interpretive element. This form of criticism of religion is immanent or intrinsic, involving distinction between inalienable contents and those that are less central. We find examples in Wisdom literature, for example, Job and Ecclesiastes in Judaism or the Upanishads in Hinduism, then in the Enlightenment, with its interest in the philosophy of religion (e.g., G. Berkeley, G. E. Lessing, I. Kant), then in the modern philosophy of religion. Exter…

Religion, Legal Protection of

(693 words)

Author(s): Bromiley, Geoffrey W.
In the Middle Ages and Reformation and post-Reformation eras, most European states had strict laws against blasphemy and attacks on religion, whether verbal or physical, though enforcement might vary, as, for example, when the Reformers staged their assaults on the papal church. Even modern states that are religiously neutral (Church and State) may prohibit some attacks on religion, confessions, and worldviews when these actions might come under the rubric of disturbing the peace. A constitution…

Religionless Christianity

(794 words)

Author(s): Gremmels, Christian
1. Background Many attempts have been made since the Enlightenment to differentiate essential Christianity from (1) the church and from (2) religion. Regarding the former, R. Rothe in 1862 raised the question whether, if Christ were again to come among us incognito, many of those who cannot accept the church’s confession would not feel attracted to him and be unwilling to forsake him, whereas many of those in the church would pass him by without recognizing him (E. Klinger, 165). If Christianity a…

Religion, Personal Sense of

(1,341 words)

Author(s): Fraas, Hans-Jürgen
1. General Concept Whereas the relationship between the individual and God or the gods in tribal religion is determined by participation in group-specific rituals (Rite), individual relationships with God become possible in the so-called high religions. Hence the personal sense of religion in the narrower sense (American usage refers more frequently to “spirituality”; P. B. Vaill, 177–88) is associated with modern subjectivity. Against the backdrop of the separation of society and religion and the …
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