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Doctrine (from Latin: doctrina, meaning "teaching, instruction") is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or in a belief system. The etymological Greek analogue is "catechism".[1]

Often the word doctrine specifically suggests a body of religious principles as promulgated by a church. Doctrine may also refer to a principle of law, in the common-law traditions, established through a history of past decisions.

Religious usage[edit]

Examples of religious doctrines include:

Roman Catholic and Orthodox doctrine generally comes from the writings of the Church Fathers, which has been clarified in various Ecumenical councils. Short versions can be found in brief statements of Christian doctrine, in prayer books.[6] Longer versions take the form of catechisms. Protestants generally reject Christian tradition and instead derive their doctrine solely from the Bible.[7]

Philosophical usage[edit]

Measure of religiosity[edit]

According to sociologist Mervin Verbit, doctrine may be understood as one of the key components of religiosity. He divides doctrine into four categories: content, frequency (degree to which it may occupy the person's mind), intensity and centrality. Each of these may vary from one religion to the next, within that religious tradition.[8][9][10]

In this sense, doctrine is similar to Charles Glock's "belief" dimension of religiosity.[11][12]

Military usage[edit]

The term also applies to the concept of an established procedure to execute an operation in warfare. The typical example is tactical doctrine in which a standard set of maneuvers, kinds of troops and weapons are employed as a default approach to a kind of attack.

Examples of military doctrines include:

Cold War doctrines[edit]

The Cold War saw the enunciation of several strategic doctrines designed to contain Soviet expansion.

Carter Doctrine was announced in 1980 by American President Jimmy Carter after the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. It declared that any Soviet aggression towards the Persian Gulf would be considered a danger to the essential interests of the United States. This led to the creation of significant American military installations in the area and the formation of the Rapid Deployment Force. The proclamation reinforced the previous Truman Doctrine and Eisenhower Doctrine and to some extent it rejected the Nixon Doctrine. See also Reagan Doctrine.[13]

Peacekeeping doctrines[edit]

In modern peacekeeping operations, which involve both civilian and military operations, more comprehensive (not just military) doctrines are now emerging such as the 2008 United Nations peacekeeping operations' "Capstone Doctrine"[14] which speaks to integrated civilian and military operations.

Political usage[edit]

By definition, political doctrine is "[a] policy, position or principle advocated, taught or put into effect concerning the acquisition and exercise of the power to govern or administrate in society."[15] The term political doctrine is sometimes wrongly identified with political ideology. However, doctrine lacks the actional aspect of ideology. It is mainly a theoretical discourse, which "refers to a coherent sum of assertions regarding what a particular topic should be" (Bernard Crick). Political doctrine is based on a rationally elaborated set of values, which may precede the formation of a political identity per se. It is concerned with philosophical orientations on a meta-theoretical level.[16]

Legal usage[edit]

A legal doctrine is a body of interrelated rules (usually of common law and built over a long period of time) associated with a legal concept or principle. For example, the doctrine of frustration of purpose now has many tests and rules applicable with regards to each other and can be contained within a "bubble" of frustration. In a court session a defendant may refer to the doctrine of justification.[citation needed]

It can be seen that a branch of law contains various doctrines, which in turn contain various rules or tests. The test of non-occurrence of crucial event is part of the doctrine of frustration which is part of contract law. Doctrines can grow into a branch of law; restitution is now considered a branch of law separate to contract and tort.[citation needed]


The title of Doctor in fact means "one with the authority to establish doctrine in his or her respective field of study"; a doctorate is a terminal academic degree that legally confers said authority within its respective field. For more information, see Doctor (title).

See also[edit]

  • Betancourt Doctrine
  • Bush Doctrine – Foreign policy principles of US President George W. Bush
  • Carter Doctrine – 1980 US policy
  • Doxa – Greek word meaning common belief or popular opinion
  • Dogma – Belief(s) accepted by members of a group without question
  • Drago Doctrine – announced in 1902 by the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luis María Drago
  • Eisenhower Doctrine – American policy on the Middle East
  • Giedroyc Doctrine – political doctrine
  • Hallstein Doctrine – 1955–1970 one-Germany policy during the Cold War
  • Monroe Doctrine – US foreign policy regarding the Western Hemisphere first articulated in 1823
  • Truman Doctrine – Anti-Soviet American Cold War foreign policy


  1. ^ Doctrine – Definition at WordIQ.com 2010
  2. ^ Salvation Army International Theological Council (2010). Handbook of Doctrine. London: Salvation Books. ISBN 978-0-85412-822-8.
  3. ^ "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Roman Catholic Church) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
  4. ^ "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith". Ewtn.com. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
  5. ^ Doctrine of the Methodist Church, accessed 25 May 2018
  6. ^ Callan, Very Rev. Charles J. (1925). "Brief Statement Of Christian Doctrine" . Blessed be God; a complete Catholic prayer book. P. J. Kenedy & Sons.
  7. ^ Wisse, Maarten (2017). "PART I: Systematic Perspectives – Contra et Pro Sola Scriptura". In Burger, Hans; Huijgen, Arnold; Peels, Eric (eds.). Sola Scriptura: Biblical and Theological Perspectives on Scripture, Authority, and Hermeneutics. Studies in Reformed Theology. Vol. 32. Leiden: Brill Publishers. pp. 19–37. doi:10.1163/9789004356436_003. ISBN 978-90-04-35643-6. ISSN 1571-4799.
  8. ^ Verbit, M. F. (1970). The components and dimensions of religious behavior: Toward a reconceptualization of religiosity. American mosaic, 24, 39.
  9. ^ Küçükcan, T. (2010). Multidimensional Approach to Religion: a way of looking at religious phenomena. Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, 4(10), 60–70.
  10. ^ "Microsoft Word - M-26.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-09-24.
  11. ^ Glock, Charles Y. (1972-06-01). "On the Study of Religious Commitment". In Faulkner, Joseph E. (ed.). Religion's Influence in Contemporary Society: Readings in the Sociology of Religion. Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co. p. 39 (of 38-56). ISBN 978-0675091053.
  12. ^ Glock, Charles Y. (July 1962). "Religious Education: On the Study of Religious Commitment". University of Georgia Libraries. Survey Research Center, University of California, Berkeley. pp. 98-110 (Volume 57, Issue 4). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-09-27.
  13. ^ Melvyn P. Leffler, "From the Truman Doctrine to the Carter Doctrine: Lessons and Dilemmas of the Cold War." Diplomatic History 7.4 (1983): 245-266.
  14. ^ "Peacekeeping Resource Hub" (PDF). pbpu.unlb.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 August 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  15. ^ "Political doctrine (definition)". Eionet.europa.eu. 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
  16. ^ Dr. Daniel Șandru. "Ideology, Between the Concept and the Political Reality". The Knowledge Based Society Project. Sfera Politicii nr. 169. Archived from the original on April 24, 2018. Retrieved March 10, 2013.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of doctrine at Wiktionary
  • Quotations related to Doctrine at Wikiquote