the First Week of Advent
Click here to join the effort!
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Lat. Theologia Dogmatica; Germ. Dogmatische Theologie, Dogmatik) is a special branch of theology, the object of which is to present a scientific and connected view of the accepted doctrines of the Christian faith. In English theology the name has not come into general use, but dogmatics are included in Systematic Theology. In Germany it became common, particularly after Danmus and Calixt, to separate systematic theology into dogmatics and ethics, and this arrangement is now generally adopted. In the following article we speak of "Dogmatic Theology" with special reference to its cultivation in Germany, and to its place in the theological literature of Germany, reserving the English literature on the subject for the article "Theology."
I. Idea and Scope of Dogmatics. — The functions of dogmatic theology are twofold: first, to establish what constitutes a doctrine of the Christian faith, and to elucidate it in both its religious and its philosophical aspects; secondly, to connect the individual doctrines into a system. As regards the second function, all writers on dogmatic theology have more or less the same aim in view; but with regard to the former, there is between them the widest possible divergence. There are, in particular, three radically different views of what constitutes a doctrine, of the sources from which dogmatic theology has to derive its chief material, and of the value of the doctrines shown to be articles of the Christian faith. These views we may call the Evangelical, the Roman Catholic, and the Rationalistic.
1. From the stand-point of an Evangelical theologian the Bible alone is recognised as the rule of faith, and as the source from which we have to derive our religious beliefs. The Evangelical dogmatic theologian presupposes the divine inspiration of the Bible, which another special branch of systematic theology, Apologetics (in English literature commonly called Evidences), has to demonstrate. He does not enter into a minute interpretation of the true sense of the word of the Bible, which is the proper function of exegetical theology, but his aim is, by combining all which the Scriptures teach on one particular subject, to establish a doctrine of the Bible. Among those who accept the Bible as the inspired word of God and as the only rule of faith, there has been from the beginning of the Christian Church a wide difference of opinion as to the meaning of many passages of the Bibleword. Thus different theological parties have arisen in the Church, and different ecclesiastical organizations (churches, sects, heresies). The latter, in many instances, have adopted "symbolical books" setting forth their conception of the teaching of the Bible on the most important articles of faith, and have demanded from their members, and in particular from ministers, an acceptance of their distinctive views. Hence we have Lutheran dogmatics, Reformed dogmatics, etc. Julius Muller (in Herzog's Encyklopä die, s.v. Dogmatik) objects to denominational dogmatics, and asserts that Protestants should have only Christian dogmatics — not Reformed, Lutheran, etc. But in this respect we think Schleiermacher is correct (Darstellung d. theol. Studiums, § 98) in stating that dogmatic theology must be written from the point of view of some Church Confession, while he is entirely wrong in making it a branch of Historical Theology. Protestant dogmatics treats, not of opinions, but of doctrines accepted as such by the Church.
2. The dogmatic theology of the Roman Catholic Church recognises, besides the Scriptures, the tradition of the Church as part of the rule of faith. The Scriptures are only to be understood in the sense which the Church declares to be the true one. The dogmatic theology of the Roman Catholic Church consequently contains only those doctrines which that Church has declared to be such. All other doctrines that have not received this formal definition by the Church, however clearly they may appear to be grounded in the Scriptures or demonstrated by theological science, have only the value of "theological opinion" (theologumenon). With regard to the Biblical proof for the doctrines, Roman Catholic writers distinguish between Biblical and ecclesiastical doctrines, the latter of which can only be proved by tradition. Other distinctions made by them are: Dogmata implicita and explicita (fully defined); pure (if they can only be known from divine revelation) and mixed (if they can also be demonstrated by reason), necessary (those a belief in which is declared to be necessary for salvation) and useful (which are not necessary for salvation).
3. The first Rationalistic writers on dogmatic theology did not refuse belief in any doctrine they found in the Bible; but, demanding that the conformity of every Biblical doctrine with reason should be demonstrated, they introduced a new interpretation of the Bible, explaining away a number of doctrines which thus far had been generally accepted both by Evangelical and Roman Catholic theologians. Subsequent schools of Rationalism denied the authenticity of most of the books of the Bible, and consequently rejected all doctrines as Biblical which could only be proved by the books rejected by them; and the authority of the Old Testament was denied in toto. In the New Testament a distinction was drawn between the opinions of the apostles and the words of Jesus, and infallibility claimed for the latter exclusively. Finally, schools arose which maintained the fallibility of Jesus himself, and which regarded the doctrines taught in the Bible as entitled to no more authority than any system of human opinions. (See RATIONALISM).
II. History. — The beginnings of a systematic exhibition of Christian doctrine are seen in the Apostolic and the Nicene Creeds. Among the writers of the ancient Church, Origen, in his work περίάρχῶν, presented the first outline of what may be called a system of (dogmatic) theology. Among the works of Augustine, the following were of a similar character: Enchiridion ad Laurentium (de fide, spe et caritate); de doctrina christiana; de civitate Dei; de fide ac symbolo; de ecclesiae dogmatibus. They were followed by Fulgentius of Ruspe, Gennadius, and Junilius. In the Greek Church, the Catecheses of Gregory of Nyssa (ὁ λόγος κατηχητικὸς ὁ μέγας ) and of Cyril of Jerusalem (Catecheses ad baptizandos et baptizatos) belong to this class of literature, though they have chiefly a practical object. The first scientific system of dogmatic theology was written by John of Damascus (ἔκδοσις ἀκριβὴς τῆς ὀρθοδόξου πίστεως ), whom, however, Isidor of Hispalis (died 636) had preceded as a compiler (in his Sententiae). Dogmatic theology in the Middle Ages finds its foremost expression in Scholasticism, which is supplemented by Mysticism. In the 9th century Scotus Erigena was distinguished as a thinker; but his principal work, De divisione naturae, is not a dogmatic theology in the strict sense of the word. At the close of the 11th and the beginning of the 12th century, Anselm of Canterbury, Roscellin, and Abelard gave a new impulse to the treatment of dogmatic theology, and aimed at a reconciliation between philosophic speculation and faith. But a strictly scientific method was for the first time introduced by the Magister Sententiarumn (Peter Lombardus), whose followers (Robert Pulleyn, Peter of Poitiers, etc.) were called Sententiarii. The school of St. Victor (Victorines), on the other hand, tried to unite profound mysticism with dialectics. Scholasticism was further developed by the greater acquaintance of the theologians with the works of Aristotle, which dates from the Crusades. Alexander of Hales (Doctor Irrefragibilis, 1222-1245), Albertus Magnus (1222-1280), Thomas Aquinas (1221-1274, the head of a new theological school which embraces nearly all the theologians of the Dominican order), compiled works of immense extent, called Summae, in which every chapter was subdivided into questions, distinctions, etc. But, chiefly owing to the ascendency of Nominalism, scholastic theology soon degenerated into absurd subtleties. In opposition to the Thomistic school, the mystic school of Bonaventura (Doctor Seraphicus, died 1274) and the dialectic school of Duns Scotus (Dr. Subtilis, died 1308) arose, both from the Franciscan order. The conflict of theological schools became a conflict of monastic orders. The Summae were succeeded by Quodlibets; the multiplicity of questions was infinitely increased. The liberal but sceptical Occam (died 1347) was followed by the "last of scholastic theologians," Gabriel Biel (died 1495), while Mysticism, which had taken a practical turn in the works of Master Eckart, Tauler, Ruysbroek, and Suso, was brought into a scientific shape by Gerson (Dr. Christianissimus, died 1429). (See SCHOLASTICISM).
The progress of humanistic studies secured for dogmatic theology a more complete and thorough treatment, but only externally. Its regeneration begins with the Reformation. Luther was a preacher rather than a dogmatic theologian. The foundation of evangelical dogmatics was laid by Melancthon, the praeceptor Germanic, in his loci communes (subsequently loci theologici). He was followed in the Lutheran theology by Chemnitz, Egidius and Nicolaus Hunnius, and the zealous Hutter (Lutherus redivivus), whose loci were particularly opposed to the moderate school of Melancthon. One of the greatest works of this period is the Loci theogici of J. Gerhard; and among other great writers were Quenstedt, Calov, Hollaz, Baier, etc. In these works a new school of Scholasticism arose, which again called forth an opposing school of Protestant mysticism (Jacob Bohme, Weigel, Arnd). In the Reformed churches there was from the beginning a less strict adherence to symbolic books, and a prevalence of the exegetical treatment of theology over the dogmatic. Zuingle wrote several dogmatical works of considerable value; but the standard work of the Reformed Church is Calvin's Institutio Christianas religionis. Other Reformed writers on dogmatic theology were Bullinger, Musculus, Peter Martyr, Hyperius, and, in the 17th century, Keckermann, Polanus of Polansdorf, Alsted, Alting, Wolleb, Burmann, Heidanus, F. Heidegger. New methods of treating dogmatic theology were attempted by Cocceins ("Federal Theology") and Leydecker (the "econominal" method, dividing the subject according to the persons of the Trinity). In the Lutheran Church, Calixtus endeavored to substitute the analytical way ("final method") for the synthetical, which had been followed since Melancthon. At the close of the 17th and in the earlier part of the 18th century, Pietism, and the philosophical systems of Des Cartes, Leibnitz, and Wolf, began to exercise a considerable influence upon dogmatic theology both in the Lutheran and in the Reformed Church.
In the Reformed Church, Arminianism, represented by Limborch and the French school of Saumur, gained numerous adherents; while in the Lutheran Church new methods were attempted by Pfaff, Buddeus, Carpzov, Rambach, and J.S. Baumgarten, the last named being wholly under the influence of the Wolfian philosophy. The new method was more fully developed by Semler, Michaelis, Teller, Tollner, Doderlein, Morus, and others, who prepared the way for Rationalism, among whose early representatives were Gruner, Eckermann, and Henke. A new epoch began with the philosophy of Kant, by which the works of Tieftrunk, Stiudlin, and Ammon were more or less influenced. The orthodox system was adhered to by Storr and Reinhard, more, however, with regard to its supranaturalistic character than to all its ecclesiastical definitions and developments. Augusti pleaded the authority of the old doctrinal system, and the same was done by De Wette, who distinguished himself for dialectical keenness, and by Daub and Marheineke, who tried a mediation between the old theology and Hegelian speculation. In opposition to these attempts, Wegscheider consistently developed the views of the former Rationalists, and gave to the Rationalistic system the last finish. Bretschneider also proceeded from a Rationalistic stand-point, but in many questions tried to mediate between Rationalism and the old Church doctrine. A powerful influence upon German theology was exercised by Schleiermacher, who undertook the bold task of not only mediating between Rationalism and Supranaturalism, but of merging the two into an entirely new system, which was to acknowledge the claims of both. He based his Christliche Glaube neither upon historical authorities nor upon philosophical speculation; but, regarding the Christian revelation solely as a new, divine, world-redeeming principle of life, he represented dogmatic theology as the exhibition of the Christian consciousness manifesting itself in the Church. Several theological schools sprung from Schleiermacher; and even the schools opposed to his system felt and acknowledged its importance and its influence. Some of the adherents of Schleiermacher defended from his stand-point all the essential doctrines of Biblical orthodoxy. Others attempted a middle course between the system of Schleiermacher and the symbolical books of the German Protestant Church, as Twesten (Vorlesungen uber die Dogmatik der ev. luth. kirche, 2 volumes, Hamburg, 1826-1829; 4th edit. 1837) and Nitzsch (System der christlichen Lehre, Bonn, 1829; 6th edit. 1851).
A third school rejected these two as deviations from the true spirit of Schleiermacher, and claimed the fullest independence of theological investigation with regard to both the doctrines of the Bible and the Church Confessions. To this school belong Schweizer (Die Glaubenslehre der evang.-reform. Kirche, 2 volumes, Zurich, 1844-1847) and Baumgarten- Crusius (Grundriss der ev.-kirchl. Dogmatik, Jena, 1830). They were succeeded by Schenkel, who developed a system of dogmatics from the stand-point of conscience (Christliche Dogmatik, Wiesbaden, 2 volumes, 1858-59). While one school of Hegel, already referred to, claimed that the new speculative philosophy of the absolute was identical with the orthodox dogmas, another school, the Young Hegelians, proclaimed that religion, carried to its perfection by reason, is only a god worshipping himself; that a god-man, as an individual, had never an existence upon earth. From this school proceeded Dr. F. Strauss, who, after declaring in his "Life of Jesus" the Biblical account of the life of Jesus a myth, attacked in his "Christian Doctrine in its Historic Development" (Die christliche Glaubenslehre, Tubingen, 1840-41, 2 volumes) even the belief in the personality of God and the immortality of the soul and tried to undermine every fundamental doctrine of Christianity by tracing its history. L. Feuerbach, in his essence of Christianity (Wesen des Christenthums, 1841, Leipzig), went even beyond Strauss to the extreme limit of nihilism, rejecting religion itself as a dream and an illusion. Under the influence of both Schleiermacher and Hegel, the so-called Tubingen school, of which F.C.
Baur was the founder, sought to comprehend the historic development of the dogma as the dialectic process of the idea itself, and as the development of the undeveloped doctrine of the Bible into a more adequate unity of contents and form. We have no complete system of dogmatics from any prominent writer of this school. Many German theologians sustain either an eclectic or an independent relation with regard to the philosophical schools just mentioned. Thus Liebner (Christliche Dogmatik, Gotting. 1849, volume 1) and Lange (Christliche Dogmatik, Heidelberg, 1849-1852) were called the Epigoni of speculative theology, and Hase, the Church historian, was a prominent representative of speculative rationalism (Lehrbuch der evangel. Dogmatik (Stuttg. 1826, 5th edit. 1860). In direct opposition to the rationalistic and speculative theology, as well as to the vague supranaturalism of the 18th century, there developed itself at the beginning of the present century a school which demanded a restoration of the original theological method of the Reformed churches, as it existed in the 16th century, especially of the old Lutheran dogmatics. Among the works of this class are H. Schmid (Dogmatik der evluth. K. Erlangen, 1843, 5th edtiion, 1863) and Philippi (Kirchliche Glaubenslehre, Stuttgardt, 1854- 63,4 volumes). Ebrard wrote a manual of dogmatics from the standpoint of the evangelical school in the United Evangelical Church, which is based upon the doctrines common to the old Lutheran and old Reformed churches (Christliche Dogmatik, Konigsberg, 1851-52, 2 volumes, 2d edit. 1862-63). Previously Tob. Beck, abandoning the traditional method of theological schools, sought to bring the doctrines of the Bible, without regard to theological controversies and symbolical books, into a system, using many new terms (Die christl. Lehrwissenschaft. Stuttgardt, 1840).
In the Roman Catholic Church, the writers on dogmatics for a long time after the Reformation adhered to the scholastic method. Prominent among them were Bellarmin, Canisius, Maldonat, and Becanus. Noel (Alexander Natalis, died 1724) introduced a new dogmatic method, more simple, and in many respects emancipating itself from the clumsiness of scholasticism. In Germany a number of writers appeared (e.g. Schwarz, Zimmermann, Brenner, Dobmayer), leaning on the reigning philosophical schools. Among works aiming merely at a systematic exhibition of the doctrines of the Church, those by Liebermann and Perrone (a Roman Jesuit) have acquired permanent reputation. Klee (Kathol. Dogmatik, Mainz. 1835, 3d ed. 1845) paid prominent attention to Biblical and patristic arguments, but neglected the philosophical development of doctrines. This feature is more conspicuous in the manuals of dogmatics by Staudenmaier (Christl. Dogmatik, Freiburg, 1844-54, 4 volumes), Dieriger (Lehrbuch der kath. Dogmatik, 4th edition, 1858). and Kuhn. The establishment of a new theological school was attempted by Hermes (q.v.), who, conceiving doubt as the necessary condition of truth, sought through doubt to advance to the proof of the Roman Catholic doctrine; but his system was condemned by the Pope. The same fate happened to the system of Gü nther (q.v.), and to most of the works of Franz Baader (q.v.), who was largely under the influence of Schelling.
On the history of dogmatics, see Heinrich (Versuch einer Geschichte der verschiedeene Lehrarten, etc. Leipz. 1790); Schickedanz (Versuch eiser Gesch. der christl. Glaubenslehre, Brunsw. 1827); Hermann (Geschichte der protest. Dogmatik von Melanchthon bis Schleiermacher, Leipz. 1842); and Gass (Geschichte derprotestantischen Dogmatik in ihrem Zusammenhange mit der Theologie uberhaupt, Berlin, 1854-1866, 4 volumes); Frank, Geschichte d. prot. Theologie (Leips. 1862-65, 2 volumes); Dorner, Geschichte der protestant. Theologie, besond. in Deutschland (1867, 8vo). See also Herzog, Real-Encyklopä die, 3:433; Hagenbach, Encyklopadie, page 321; German Theology (in New American Cyclopaedia, 8:192), and our art. (See DOCTRINES, HISTORY OF).
These files are public domain.
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Dogmatic Theology'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​d/dogmatic-theology.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.