Terminism and the Terministic Controversy
Terminism and the Terministic Controversy The word Terminism has reference to the terminus of the period of grace accorded to man as an individual or in the mass. The basis of the dispute which arose upon this matter was the Middle-Age, Augustinian theory, that the end of this earthly life is in every in-stance the end of gracious opportunity, so that even unbaptized children become at death the prey of hell.. The Reformation led the consciousness of Christians back to the dynamic conditions of salvation, namely, on the one hand, to the free grace of God, and, on the other, to the internal, religious, and moral state of repentance. In the light of the former condition it was possible to suppose that the terminus gratiae might be extended beyond the terminus vitae; under the latter it could be contracted to even narrower limits than the duration of earthly life. A recognition of the possibility of widening the period of grace led to the development of the doctrine of the Apocatastasis (q.v.), while its contrary gave rise to Terminism.
The leading promulgators of Terminism were the Friends, who taught that every person has a special day of visitation, which is but transient and may end. before the close of the life of earth (see. Winer, Comp. Darstellung, p. 87). The Pietists also contributed towards the growth of that idea by their depreciation of the worth of repentance late in life. The controversy upon the subject was fairly opened by the appearance of a work by J.G. Bise, deacon at Sorau (died 1700), entitled Terminus Peremptorius Salutis Humanoe, etc. (1698). A number of responses were written, the more important of them- by Neumann, professor at Wittenberg, Diss. de Term. Salut. etc. (Viteb. 1700), and Diss. de Tempore Gratiae, etc. (1701); also Ittig, professor at Leipsic, Vortrage iib. d. prophet., apostol. u. evang. — luth. Lehre, etc., With other works. Rechenberg, the son-in-law of Spener, came to the assistance of Bapse with his Diss. de Grat. Revocatricis Termino (Lips. 1700). The dispute was dropped on the death of Ittig, in 1710, and the advance of rationalism deprived the question of interest. For the theology of our time, the only importance of the discussion lies in its possible influence in occasioning profounder determinations with regard to the possibility of becoming hardened against grace in this life, and the infinite consequences depending upon the hour of death and the free sovereignty of God.
The literature of the controversy is largely given in the works of Rechenberg and Ittig. See also Winer, Theol. Literatur, p. 446; Bretschneider, Systemat. Entwickl. p. 693. On the dispute itself. see Einem, Kirchengesch. d. 18. Jahrh. 2, 737; Walch, Einl. in d. Religionsstreitigk. d. evang. — luth. Kirche, 2, 551 sq.; Baumgarten, Geschichte d. Religionsparteien, p. 1282 sq. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.