Christian Cyclopedia

About the Cyclopedia


Systematic and critical arrangement of the faith and message of the ch. derived from the Word of God in the OT and NT The Bible was revealed to man in the course of cents. through different penmen; statements of divine truth are found in various parts of the Bible. Christian dogmatics tries to bring all teachings concerning each divine truth together and to arrange these truths in a systematic way. Thus the truths of the Bible must first be studied and understood (see Exegesis; Hermeneutics); then they may be stated and arranged.

A. Nature and Function.

1. Dogmatics (from Gk. dogma, “that which one holds to be true”; dokei moi, “methinks”) deals not only with that which seems best and right, but also that which is determined and to be held or believed. The term is used in the LXX for decrees and laws (Est 3:9; Dn 2:13; 6:9–10). In the NT it is used for Mosaic law (Cl 2:14; Eph 2:15) and for decisions of the Jerusalem council (Acts 16:4). In the ch. fathers it is used for est. truths of Christianity (e.g., Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, xiii, 1; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, VII, xvi) and for heretical doctrines (e.g., Origen,* Homilia XVI in Jeremiam, 9 [MPG, 13, 449]). For some time after the Reformation the terms sacra doctrina and theologia (cf. the Loci* theologici of P. Melanchthon* and others) included not only religious truths taken from the Word of God but also ethical principles (e.g., among scholastics). After the science of morals or ethics* had been separated from that of dogmas (chiefly as a result of G. Calixtus,* Epitome theologiae moralis, 1634), the name “dogmatic theology” (theologia dogmatica) was given (e.g., by L. F. Reinhart,* J. Hildebrand,* J. F. Buddeus,* and C. M. Pfaff*) to the part of theology* that presents Bible doctrines in systematic arrangement.

2. Particularly after the age of rationalism* there was widespread discussion regarding the scope and purpose of dogmatics. RCs continued to emphasize the position expressed by the Council of Trent* that Scripture and tradition determine doctrine. Prots. for some time after the Reformation gen. held that the Bible is normative, but views championed since that time include: (a) dogmatics is the systematizing of Bible doctrine; (b) it is the systematizing and evaluation of doctrines held by the ch. throughout hist.; (c) it is the systematizing of the creed of a particular ch. in which the material principle is basic and cen.; (d) it is the systematizing of the doctrines held by a ch. in a particular period of hist.; (e) it is the systematizing of religious truths as perceived by the individual dogmatician.

3. For Luth. dogmaticians the principle laid down 1521 by P. Melanchthon* in his Loci communes was formative: Evangelium est promissio, not philosophia coelestis or lex Christi. Melanchthon also emphasized the center of Luth. dogmatics: God's grace in Christ appropriated through faith (gratia universalis [see Grace], sola* gratia, sola* fide) as revealed in the Word (sola* Scriptura).

B. History.

1. From earliest times the ch. tried to systematize its teachings, though few treatments were complete systematizations. Religious and Platonic elements were prominent in the treatises of Clement* of Alexandria and Origen.* Athanasius,* Gregory of Nyssa (see Cappadocian Theologians, 3), and Cyril* of Jerusalem made the Trin. and esp. Christ cen. in their treatments. John* of Damascus was 1st to attempt a complete system of dogmatics (I. Trinity; II. Anthropology; III. Christology; IV. Ascension of Christ, Faith, Prayer, Sacraments, Resurrection). Gregory* of Nazianzus, Cyprian,* Hilary* of Poitiers, and Augustine* of Hippo also made important contributions to dogmatics.

2. In the 9th c. J. S. Erigena* gave Scholasticism* a Neoplatonic (see Neoplatonism) character. Later the influence of Aristotle became prominent. The scholastic movement caused dogmatics to become a logical system of deductions and dialectical elaborations. See Abelard, P.; Albertus Magnus; Alexander of Hales; Anselm of Canterbury; Biel, Gabriel; Bonaventura; Duns Scotus; Ockham, William of; Peter the Lombard; Roscellinus.

3. RC dogmatics is concerned with veritates revelatae (revealed truths) blended with the veritas (truth) of philos. Hence Aristotelian logic and philos. are united with the content of revelation in Thomas* Aquinas. Systematicians like R. Bellarmine* and Cajetan* (ca. 1468–1534) wrote in the Reformation era. Some prominent modern RC systematicians: Karl Adam, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Marie Joseph Congar (originally George Ives, or Yves), Jean Daniélou, Hans Küng, F. Diekamp,* Joseph Pohle, Erich Przywara, Peter Lengsfeld, Karl Rahner, Edward (Henry) Cornelis Florentius Alfons Schillebeeckx, Michael Schmaus, Dominikus Thalhammer, Gustave Thils, Gustave Weigel.

4. M. Luther* attacked the ontological orientation of dogmatic thought. But J. Calvin* and P. Melanchthon* operated with the unity of truth that used Aristotelian thought.

5. The Loci of Melanchthon and Institutes of Calvin laid the foundation for Luth. and Ref. orthodoxy. Some Ref. systematicians of the classical period: H. Bullinger,* W. Musculus,* B. Aretius,* Peter* Martyr, H. Zanchi,* T. Beza,* L. Daneau,* P. Viret,* W. Bucanus,* Z. Ursinus,* C. Olevian(us).* P. Boquin,* J. J. Grynäus,* J. Piscator,* C. Pezel,* A. Polanus,* von Polansdorf, G. Sohn(ius),* B. Keckermann,* J. H. Alsted,* M. Martini,* L. Crocius (see Crocius, 2), J. H. Alting and son Jakob (see Alting, 1, 2), L. Trelcatius,* Sr. and Jr., G. Voet,* W. Perkins,* W. Ames,* J. Cocceius,* H. Wits,* and J. H. Heidegger.* Some more recent or contemporary: C. Hodge,* H. F. Kohlbrügge,* K. Barth,* Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer, H. E. Brunner,* Arnold Albert van Ruler, Reinhold Niebuhr.*

6. Luth. dogmaticians in the age of orthodoxy (see Lutheran Theology After 1580, 3, 4, 5) tried to separate anti- and extra-Biblical teachings from Biblical truth. They are noted for their Scriptural learning, accuracy of statement, and devout application of theol. Outstanding Luth. dogmaticians of the 16th and 17th cents.: M. Luther,* P. Melanchthon,* M. Chemnitz,* A. Hunnius,* L. Hutter,* J. Gerhard,* J. F. König,* A. Calov,* J. A. Quenstedt,* D. Hollaz,* J. W. Baier,* J. R. Brochmand.*

7. The age of orthodoxy was followed by emphasis on piety, emotional warmth, and correct living (see Pietism) rather than correct doctrinal formulation (P. J. Spener,* A. H. Francke,* J. A. Freylinghausen*). The overemphasis on man led to rationalism,* which first sought to explain doctrine rationally, then treated the doctrines themselves rationally (e.g., J. S. Semler,* J. C. Döderlein*), and finally used Scripture only to corroborate logical deductions (J. F. Röhr,* J. A. L. Wegscheider*). Since this method could not lead to comprehension of God, F. D. E. Schleiermacher* turned the investigation to a consideration of the experience of man. G. W. F. Hegel* turned the investigation toward revelation by seeking a God who seeks to reveal Himself. This position influenced the dogmaticians known as “mediating theologians” (see Mediating Theology). The 19th c. produced more positive men, though their emphases varied, J. T. Beck,* A. Hahn,* K. I. Nitzsch,* K. A. v. Hase,* P. K. Marheineke,* A. D. C. Twesten,* Julius Müiler,* I. A. Dorner,* H. L. Martensen,* and K. F. A. Kahnis.* More positive still: E. W. C. Sartorius,* G. Thomasius,* F. A. Philippi,* C. E. Luthardt,* H. F. F. Schmid,* F. H. R. Frank,* A. F. C. Vilmar,* and A. v. Öttingen.*

8. In Scand., theol. followed the pattern of Ger. in the 17th and 18th cents. In the 19th c. distinctive characteristics developed.

9. In the 19th c. in Fin., A. F. Granfelt* approached the mediating theol. of H. L. Martensen* and I. A. Dorner,* tried to reconcile Christianity and culture, faith and reason. In the 19th and 20th cents.: G. Johansson* opposed liberal theol., materialism, and positivism with the theol. of J. T. Beck*; noted for loyalty to Scripture. His successor was G. G. A. Rosenqvist,* philos. and student of cultural ethics; espoused critical hist. approach to Scripture. A. J. Pietilä,* successor of Rosenqvist, is regarded by some as the greatest dogmatician in Fin. in the 1st half of the 20th c. (see also Finland, Lutheranism in).

10. The liberal movement in Norw. led to the est. of a free faculty at Oslo 1908. O. Hallesby,* leader of the free faculty for many yrs., advocated a theol. that combined orthodoxy and pietism.* At the U., dogmatics was taught by J. Ording,* C. Ihlen,* and H. N. H. Ording.* See also Norway, Lutheranism in.

11. In Den., Grundtvigianism, pietism,* and liberalism influenced theol. in the 19th c. In the middle of the 19th c. S. A. Kierkegaard* attacked the humanism and socialism of the ch. Toward the end of the 19th c. Olfert Ricard advocated a theol. of the ideal personality. After WW I the reaction against Christian idealism and humanism was very pronounced. Theol. was influenced by Kierkegaard and K. Barth (see Switzerland, Contemporary Theology in). Noted 20th c. theologians: Regin Prenter (b. 1907 Frederikssund, Den.; pastor Hvilsager and Aarhus; prof. dogmatics Aarhus 1945), Kristen Ejner Skydsgaard (b. 1902 Fünen, Den.; prof. dogmatics Copenhagen 1942), and N. H. Söe. See also Denmark, Lutheranism in.

12. Outstanding theologians in Swed. in the 19th–20th cents. include G. E. H. Aulén,* E. M. Billing, Ragnar Bring (see Lund, Theology of), A. T. S. Nygren,* and N. Söderblom.* See also Sweden, Lutheranism in.

13. In the 20th c. K. Barth strongly influenced Luth. and Ref. theol., and the existentialism* of R. Bultmann (see also Demythologization) is debated. The theol. of D. Bonhoeffer* influenced Eur. and Am. theol. Prominent Ger. Luth. dogmaticians (or systematicians) of the mid-20th c.: A. P. J. and P. A. W. H. Althaus,* Peter Brunner (b. 1900 Arheilgen, Ger.; prof. systematic theol. Heidelberg 1947), Oscar Cullmann (b. 1902 Strasbourg; prof. NT Strasbourg 1930, ch. hist. Strasbourg 1936, ch. hist. and NT Basel 1938, ch. hist. Paris 1949, NT Paris 1951), Hermann Diem (b. 1900 Stuttgart; prof. systematic theol. Tübingen 1957), Gerhard Ebeling (b. 1912 Berlin; prof. ch. hist. Tübingen 1946; prof. systematic theol. Tübingen 1954, Zurich 1956, Tübingen 1965), W. Elert,* Gerhard Gloege (b. 1901 Crossen on the Oder; prof. systematic theol. Jena 1946, Bonn 1961), Ernst Kinder (b. 1910 Barmen; prof. systematic theol. Neuendettelsau; prof. dogmatics and hist. of dogma Münster 1953), Walter Künneth (b. 1901 Etzelwang; prof. systematic theol. Erlangen 1953), Wolfhart Pannenberg (b. 1928 Stettin; prof. systematic theol. Wuppertal 1958, Mainz 1961), Edmund Schlink (b. 1903 Darmstadt; prof. systematic theol. Heidelberg 1946), Helmut Thielicke (b. 1908 Barmen; prof. systematic theol. Tübingen 1945, Hamburg 1954), Wolfgang Trillhaas (b. 1903 Nürnberg; prof. Göttingen 1946, prof. systematic theol. Göttingen 1954).

C. Arrangement. The material of dogmatics has been variously arranged. A popular arrangement: 1. Bibliology (doctrine of the Bible); 2. Theology (in the narrow sense: doctrine of the natural knowledge of God, the Trin., God's essence and attributes); 3. Cosmology (doctrine of creation, preservation, divine providence); 4. Angelology (doctrine of angels); 5. Anthropology (doctrine of man in his relation to God, of the image of God, state of innocence, fall, sin, free will); 6. Christology (doctrine of Christ's person, state, office); 7. Soteriology (doctrine of salvation); 8. Pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit and His work); 9. Sacramentology (doctrine of the means of grace); 10. Ecclesiology (doctrine of the ch.); 11. Eschatology (doctrine of the last things).

See also Christian Faith and the Intellectual; Doctrinal Theology; Doctrine, Christian, History of.

Historical treatments: E. H. Klotsche and J. T. Mueller, The History of Christian Doctrine (Burlington, Iowa, 1945); O. W. Heick, A History of Christian Thought, rev. ed., 2 vols., I originally by J. L. Neve and C. W. Heick (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1965–66); W. Rohnert, Die Dogmatik der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche (Braunschweig, 1902); F. Loofs, Leitfaden zum Studium der Dogmengeschichte, 4th ed. (Halle, 1906); R. H. Grützmacher, Textbuch zur systematischen Theologie und ihrer Geschichte im 16., 17., 19., trod 20. Jahrh., 2d ed. (Leipzig, 1923) and Textbuch zur deutschen systematischen Theologie und ihrer Geschichte yore 16. bis 20. Jahrhundert, ed. G. G. Muras, 4th ed., 2 vols. (vol. 1 Gütersloh, 1955; vol. 2 Bern and Tübingen, 1961); H. W. Bartsch, Handbuch der evangelisch-theologischen Arbeit 1938 bis 1948 (Stuttgart, 1949); H. L. J. Heppe, Die Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche, ed. E. Bizer (Neukirchen, 1958); F. Diekamp, Katholische Dogmatik nach den Grundsätzen des heiligen Thomas, ed. K. Jüssen, 12th and 13th ed. vol. 1, 11th and 12th ed. vols. 2–3 (Münster, 1954–59); R. F. Weidner, Theological Encyclop(a)edia and Methodology, 2d ed., 2 vols. (Chicago, 1898–1910).

Works by Luths. in Am.: S. S. Schmucker, Elements of Popular Theology, 5th ed. (Philadelphia, 1845); C. Löber, Evangelisch-Lutherische Dogmatik, with foreword by C. F. W. Walther (St. Louis, 1893); J. W. Baler, Compendium theologiae positivae, ed. C. F. W. Walther (St. Louis, 1879); S. Sprecher, The Groundwork of a System of Evangelical Lutheran Theology (Philadelphia, 1879); C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, first issued 1871 (Philadelphia, 1913); H. E. Jacobs, Elements of Religion (Philadelphia, 1894) and A Summary of the Christian Faith (Philadelphia, 1905); H. Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Latheran Church, tr. C. A. Hay and H. E. Jacobs, 3d ed. (Minneapolis, 1961); W. Linsenmann, Die Dogmatik der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche, 2 vols. (Saginaw, Michigan, 1901–02); M. Valentine, Christian Theology, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1906); A. L. Graebner, Outlines of Doctrinal Theology (St. Louis, 1910); A. Hoenecke, Ev.-Luth. Dogmatik, 4 vols. plus index vol. (Milwaukee, 1909–17); A. G. Voigt, Biblical Dogmatics (Columbia, SC, 1917); The Distinctive Doctrines and Usages of the General Bodies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States, 4th ed. (Philadelphia, 1914); J. Schaller, Biblical Christology (Milwaukee, 1919); C. E. Lindberg, Christian Dogmatics and Notes on the History of Dogma, tr. C. E. Hoffsten (Rock Island, Illinois, 1922); F. Pieper, Christliche Dogmatik, 3 vols. plus index (St. Louis, 1917–28), tr. T. E. W. Engelder, W. W. F. Albrecht, F. E. Mayer, L. F. R. Blankenbuehler, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols. plus new index vol. by W. W. F. Albrecht (St. Louis, 1950–57); W. E. Schramm, What Lutherans Believe (Columbus, Ohio, n. d.); G. H. Gerberding, Lutheran Fundamentals (Rock Island, Illinois, 1925); E. Hove, Christian Doctrine (Minneapolis, 1930); P. L. Mellenbruch, Doctrines of Christianity (New York, 1931); J. Stump, The Christian Faith (New York, 1932); C. H. Little, Disputed Doctrines (Burlington, Iowa, 1933); J. T. Mueller, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis, 1934); E. C. Fendt, Christian Dogmatics (Columbus, Ohio, 1938); H. Sasse, Here We Stand, tr. T. G. Tappert (New York, 1938); E. W. A. Koehler, A Summary of Christian Doctrine, 2d ed. (n. p., 1952); J. M. Reu, Lutheran Dogmatics, mimeographed (Dubuque, Iowa, 1941–42); T. E. W. Engelder, Scripture Cannot Be Broken (St. Louis, 1944); The Abiding Word, 3 vols., vols. 1–2 ed. T. F. K. Laetsch (St. Louis, 1946–60); W. J. Kukkonen, Faith of Our Fathers (New York, 1957); E. H. Wahlstrom, God Who Redeems (Philadelphia, 1962). EL

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

Stay Connected! Join the LCMS Network:

Contact Us Online
(Staff Switchboard)
(Church Info Center)
1333 S Kirkwood Rd
Saint Louis, MO 63122-7226 | Directions


Featured Publication

The Lutheran Witness

LCMS Communications

Interpreting the contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.
Visit TLW Online