Socinianism

Socinianism (sōsĭˈnēənĭzəm) [key], anti-Trinitarian religious movement organized in Poland in the 16th cent. by Faustus Socinus. Antecedents of the movement were such Italian humanist reformers as Bernardino Ochino, Georgio Blandrata, and Laelius Socinus, who fled to Poland from persecution first in Italy and then in Calvinist Switzerland. Michael Servetus appears to have influenced their anti-Trinitarian views. Socinianist reformers organized (1556) the Minor Reformed Church of Poland and established Rakow as an intellectual center. Faustus went to Poland in 1579 and became the movement's leader and principal theologian. Socinianism represented an extreme attempt to reconcile Christianity with humanism. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity was rejected, the Scriptures were considered authoritative but were interpreted in the light of the new rationalism, and the sacraments were viewed as spiritual symbols. The Nicene and Athanasian creeds were rejected and Jesus was held to be only the human instrument of divine mercy and the Holy Spirit merely the activity of God. Under Faustus the movement became known as the Polish Brethren, and communities were formed in imitation of the early Christian church. Its members refused to hold serfs or to participate in war. Never strong, the movement dissolved (c.1638) in the face of severe Roman Catholic persecution. Some of its members settled in Holland and there played a part in liberalizing Reformed doctrine. Faustus's teachings were compiled by disciples as the Racovian Catechism (1605). Socinianism is sometimes called Old Unitarianism and, erroneously, Polish Arianism.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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