Dogmatic theology

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Dogmatic theology is that part of theology dealing with the theoretical truths of faith concerning God and his works, especially the official theology recognized by an organized Church body, such as the Roman Catholic Church, Dutch Reformed Church, etc. At times, apologetics or fundamental theology is called "general dogmatic theology", dogmatic theology proper being distinguished from it as "special dogmatic theology". However, in present-day use, apologetics is no longer treated as part of dogmatic theology but has attained the rank of an independent science, being generally regarded as the introduction to and foundation of dogmatic theology.

The term "dogmatic theology" became more widely used following the Protestant Reformation and was used to designate the articles of faith that the Church had officially formulated. A good example of dogmatic theology is the doctrinal statements or dogmas that were formulated by the early church councils who sought to resolve theological problems and to take a stance against a heretical teaching. These creeds or dogmas that came out of the church councils were considered to be authoritative and binding on all Christians because the church officially affirmed them. One of the purposes of dogmatic theology is so that a church body can formulate and communicate the doctrine that is considered essential to Christianity and which if denied would constitute heresy.

Definition[edit]

Dogmatic theology may be defined as the scientific exposition of the entire theoretical doctrine concerning God Himself and his external activity, based on the dogmas of the Church.

Dogmatic theology emphasizes the importance of propositional truth over experiential, sensory perceptions.

The Roman Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is charged with ensuring fidelity to Catholic teaching regarding theology and doctrine among all members of the Church – especially in disputes or unsolved issues involving theology and the faith, and in dealing with individuals (especially clergy, religious, and catechists, where orthodoxy is a special concern, but also laypeople) whose teachings or statements have been judged erroneous at the local level. In 1989, the Congregation's International Theological Commission) prepared a document on doctrinal theology called "The Interpretation of Dogma". This happened when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (who was a proponent of doctrinal orthodoxy, and who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, succeeding Pope John Paul II) was Prefect of the Congregation and thus President of the Commission.[1]

Origin of the term[edit]

The term dogmatic theology is thought to have first appeared in 1659 in the title of a book by L. Reinhardt. A. M. Fairbairn holds that it was the fame of Petau which gave currency to the new coinage dogmatic theology; and though the same or related phrases had been used repeatedly by writers of less influence since Reinhard and Andreas Essenius, F. Buddeus (Institutiones theol. dogmat., 1723; Compendium, 1728) is held to have given the expression its supremacy. Noel Alexandre, the Gallican theologian, possibly introduced it in the Roman Catholic Church (1693; Theologia dogmatica et moralis).

Both Roman Catholic and Protestant authorities agree that the expression was connected with the new habit of distinguishing dogmatics from Christian ethics or moral theology, though Albert Schweizer denies this of Reinhard. In another direction dogmas and dogmatic theology were also contrasted with truths of reason and natural theology.

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Further reading[edit]

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.