- Dogmatics is a branch of theology that attempts to expound in a coherent way the teachings (dogma) of the church. In the Protestant context, dogmatics attempts to lay out more or less systematically the teachings of the Protestant tradition, a particular Protestant family tradition (Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist, Baptist), or a particular denomination.Dogmatics will typically treat such central Christian ideas as God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the human situation, salvation, ecclesiology, and eschatology. Most of this work is done in the context of a seminary where a new generation of church leaders are being trained.Increasingly in the post-Enlightenment world, dogmatics has attempted to relate church teachings to contemporary reality by discussing church teachings that no longer seem relevant or even possible to affirm, and highlighting the problems that demand the attention of the church. In the 19th century, new theologies have accommodated the findings of science (especially the idea of evolution). In the 20th century, some theologians announced their inability to affirm traditional beliefs from the virgin birth of Jesus to the afterlife. Some have called for a reworking of theology in the name of various groups who had been excluded from its work (liberation theology).No dogmatics can claim to speak for more than a minority of Protestant churches, which is itself only a part of the Christian communion.Each dogmatic exposition becomes part of an ongoing theological conversation that slowly moves the church in one direction or another. The modern context demands a heightened degree of self-consciousness from the individual theologian, who speaks out of a particular context while attempting to be aware of different contexts and true to the universal implications of Christianity.Dogmatics should not be confused with dogmatism, which refers to the narrow-minded way opinions are sometimes asserted. Dogmatic conclusions may be asserted dogmatically, and on many occasions theologians have done so. However, dogmatism is by no means a necessary correlate of the theological disciplines.See also doctrine.Further reading:■ Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline (London: SCM, 1958)■ Walter Elwell, ed., Dictionary of Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1984)■ Justo Gonzales, A History of Christian Thought, 3 vols. (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1987)■ Donald K. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox, 1996)■ Alan Richardson and John Bowden, eds., The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.