Dogmatic theology

Dogmatic theology

[dawg-mat-iks, dog-]
Dogmatic theology is that part of theology which treats the theoretical truths of faith concerning God and his works, whereas moral theology has for its subject matter the practical truths of morality. Basically dogmatic theology refers to the official or "dogmatic" theology as 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, according to present-day usage, 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.


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.

Origin of the term

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 kindred 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.


See also

External links

Further reading

  • ISBN 0-8024-3428-2 Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul P. Enns
  • ISBN 0-8407-5743-3 Dogmatic Theology by William Greenough Thayer Shedd
  • ISBN 0-8010-2182-0 Christian Theology (2nd Ed) by Millard J. Erickson

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