Let’s make Dogmatic Theology great again

Share Button

Disclaimer: This is not an article or a formal position paper. It is merely a blog post to informally share my position on this subject. 

Sadly, the following ‘D’ words have become dirty words in today’s evangelicalism. 

  • Dogma (a Doctrinal set of beliefs)
  • Dogmatic (to be firm in Doctrine) 
  • Dogmatic Theology (to do Theology)
  • Dogmatism (the principle or practice of being Dogmatic)
  • Dogmatist (a person who practices Dogmatism)
  • Dogmatize
  • Dogmatician

Most today have been brainwashed to believe the aforementioned words are negative. Without apology or reservation, I freely embrace them and will apply them while embracing the Scriptures, doctrines of grace, and reformed theology.

Dogmatic Theology means to be firm in sound Doctrine and Theology. Christians must earnestly contend for the faith, sound doctrine, and Biblical ecclesiology. We embrace orthodoxy (right thinking or straight belief), and orthopraxy (right practice), the practice of such.

Though being Doctrinal or Dogmatic divides, it is the most loving thing we can do. Churches corporately, and Christians individually, are superlatively called and commanded to be dogmatic.

The following admonishment was not written during today’s casual comfortable Christendom. No, it was written in the face of persecution. 

Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17,

“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”

He said in 1 Timothy 1:3-11, 

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”

“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:1-5

“holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” – Titus 1:9

“But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:” – Titus 2:1

So, if the above commands were written during persecution, even under a sure martyrdom. Then, how much more should today’s Christians be Dogmatic? 

Dogmatic Theology and Systematic Theology are synonymous, and to truncate these principles is theological malpractice. 

I love what Herman Bavinck said in his Reformed Dogmatics,

“Because revelation is of such a nature that it can only be truly accepted and appropriated by a saving faith, it is absolutely imperative that the dogmatician be active as believer not only in the beginning but also in the continuation and at the end of his work. The theologian can never arrive at knowledge that is higher than the faith.”

The following are some technical definitions of dogmatics.

Dogmatic theology. An orderly summary and exposition of the topics or loci of theology as confessed by the *church on the basis of *Scripture. The place of dogmatics in relation to other disciplines such as *biblical, *systematic, philosophical and historical theology has been a matter of significant debate. In the Reformed tradition, however, it is generally agreed that dogmatic theology involves a combination of what Herman *Bavinck called “divine authority and churchly confession.” In other words, dogmatic theology presents truths of the Christian faith in a way that is not only carefully organized but also confessionally oriented. John *Calvin’s The Institutes of Christian Religion and Zacharias *Ursinus’s Commentary on the *Heidelberg Catechism represent nascent forms of dogmatic theology, and in the nineteenth century Heinrich Heppe compiled a famous compendium of sixteenth-and seventeenth-century *Reformed theology called Reformed Dogmatics, which provides a sample of the tradition’s handling of various topics. Major examples of constructive Reformed dogmatics in the last two centuries include Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, Karl *Barth’s Church Dogmatics and G. C. *Berkouwer’s Studies in Dogmatics.

Kelly M. Kapic and Wesley Vander Lugt, Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition, The IVP Pocket Reference Series (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013), 42.

And one more.

Dogma, dogmatics. In Protestant circles dogma is nearly synonymous to doctrine, that is, a theological teaching. In Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox circles dogmas are the officially accepted teaching of the church and not simply the theories of individual theologians. The term dogmatics generally refers to the churchly task of summarizing and systematizing the teaching of Scripture and tradition into a coherent whole according to the theological categories (such as anthropology, Christology, soteriology) traditionally used throughout much of the history of the church.

Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 40–41.

Now go make Dogmatic Theology great again. Especially Reformers and those who embrace His doctrines of grace. That will make His church great again!

One Comment

Add a Comment