Dogmatic Theology – What is it?
Dogmatic Theology refers to a set of beliefs officially affirmed by a church body, especially in reference to the Roman Catholic Church. The word "dogma" comes from a Greek and Latin word meaning "opinion" that is often used alongside theology in reference to official teachings.
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L. Reinhardt introduced the use of the term "Dogmatic Theology" in the title of a book in 1659. During the Protestant Reformation, the term was used in reference to official statements of faith. Several creeds and statements arose during this period that became known as dogma.
In the Twentieth Century one of the best-known works of Dogmatic Theology was the massive, six million word series called Church Dogmatics by theologian Karl Barth. He lived in Germany during the rise of Nazism and was part of the Confessing Church that stood against the Nazi uprising of the time, leading to Barth leaving the country and continuing his works elsewhere. In his writings, Barth described God as "wholly other" and was widely read by both Catholic and Protestant leaders.
Roman Catholicism includes the most developed form of Dogmatic Theology. Its Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith is the official group responsible for ensuring that the official teachings of the Catholic Church are taught and followed by its leaders. This group also helps resolve any disputed issues regarding Catholic dogma and contemporary issues.
Dogmatic Theology is similar to Systematic Theology yet includes its own distinctions. For instance, Systematic Theology focuses on what Scripture teaches on a topic. In contrast, Dogmatic Theology focuses on what a particular religious body has agreed is what Scripture teaches on a particular issue. As a result, a particular Dogmatic Theology or statement of faith by a Reformed group of churches (such as the Westminster Confession) will be somewhat different from a Baptist statement of faith (such as the Baptist Faith and Message 2000) though both statements would affirm many similar beliefs in terms of Systematic Theology.
In summary, Dogmatic Theology involves the official teachings of a religious body and the interpretations of these teachings. Popularized during the Protestant Reformation, Dogmatic Theology arose to special prominence as new groups sought to articulate their beliefs in contrast with traditional Roman Catholic teachings. Karl Barth served as a popular theologian who wrote extensively on church dogmatics. Today, Roman Catholic teachings reflect the most developed and extensive body of Dogmatic Theology, seeking to offer official teachings and interpretations of teachings across a broad spectrum of members.
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