SO AS TO GUARD the right path of faith, the Church
has had to forge strict forms for the expression of the truths of faith: it has
had to build up the fortresses of truth for the repulsion of influences
foreign to the Church. The definitions of truth declared by the Church have
been called, since the days of the Apostles, dogmas. In the Acts of the
Apostles we read of the Apostles Paul and Timothy that "as they went
through the cities, they delivered them the decrees (dogmata) for to keep, that
were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem"
(Acts 16:4; here the reference is to the decrees of the Apostolic Council which
is described in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts). Among the ancient
Greeks and Romans the Greek word dogmat was used to refer a) to
philosophical conceptions, and b) to directives which were to be precisely
fulfilled. In the Christian understanding, "dogmas" are the opposite
of" opinions," that is, inconstant personal conceptions.
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