What is Socinianism?

Question
What is Socinianism?
Answer
Socinianism (or Psilanthropism, a compound word made up or psilo meaning "only" and anthropos meaning "man") is an anti-Trinitarian doctrine brought about by Lelio Sozzini and later taught by Fausto Sozzini. It essentially teaches that Jesus was merely human; a view rejected at Nicaea.

Though Christ is the pre-existing second Person of the Trinity (John 1:1, 17:5; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:8-12; Rev 13:8), Socinianism rejected the divinity of Jesus Christ. They maintained that the Son of God did not exist until he was born a man.

They had numerous other heretical beliefs as well: (1) they affirmed Unitarianism; taught in their Catechism of Unitarians, (1574); (2) they rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. See "What is the Trinity?" below; and (3) they rejected beliefs concerning the nature of God, especially his omniscience. This denial of God's omniscience led in part to the heresy of "open theism" espoused by some today. See "The Ever-Guessing god of Open Theism" below.

Against the truth of Substitutionary Atonement, they held to what is called the "Example Theory" of the atonement; that is that Christ bore the sins of his people only in the sense that his sacrifice incited others to abandon their personal sins. They rejected the idea that Christ made full satisfaction for the sins of his people (cf. Isa 53:10-11). They maintain that Christ saved no one; he only died to make people savable. However, Christ made the perfect guilt offering (Isa 53:10) for the sins of his people, God justified the ungodly (Rom 3:26), and guaranteed the justification of the many who would believe (Isa 53:11; Rom 3:30). "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21; cf. Isa 53:5; 1 Pet 2:24; 3:18).

Despite all the heresies in the early church (among them, Adoptionism, Albigenses, Apollinarianism, Arianism, Docetism, Ebionism, Gnosticism, Kenosis, Marcionism, Modalism, Monarchianism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, Patripassionism, Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Socinianism, Subordinationism, and Tritheism, etc.) the Word of God still abides (1 Pet 1:23). Amidst all these assaults against God and his church by numerous false religions, the church has grown stronger, not weaker. In many ways, the church should be thankful for the gift of opposition!

Related Topics:

The Ever-Guessing god of Open Theism
What is the Trinity?
Christological Heresies?
What is Adoptionism?
What is Albigenses?
What is Apollinarianism?
What is Arianism?
What is Docetism?
What is Ebionism?
What is Gnosticism?
What is Kenosis?
What is Marcionism?
What is Modalism?
What is Monarchianism?
What is Monophysitism?
What is Nestorianism?
What is Patripassionism?
What is Pelagianism?
What is Semi-Pelagianism?
What is Subordinationism?
What is Tritheism?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).