THE DOGMATIC LABOR OF THE Church has always been
directed towards the confirmation in the consciousness of the faithful of the
truths of the Faith which have been confessed by the Church from the beginning.
This labor consists of indicating which way of thinking is the one that follows
the Ecumenical Tradition. The Church’s labor of instructing in the Faith has
been, in battling against heresies: to find a precise form for the expression
of the truths of the Faith as handed down from antiquity, and to confirm the
correctness of the Church's teaching, founding it on Sacred Scripture and
Sacred Tradition. In the teaching of the Faith, it is the thinking of the holy
Apostles that was and remains the standard of the fullness and wholeness of the
Christian world view. A Christian of the twentieth century cannot develop more
completely or go deeper into the truths of the Faith than the Apostles.
Therefore, any attempt that is made-whether by individuals or in the name of
dogmatic theology itself — to reveal new Christian truths, or new aspects of
the dogmas handed down to us, or a new understanding of them, is completely out
of place. The aim of dogmatic theology as a branch of learning is to set forth,
with firm foundation and proof, the Orthodox Christian teaching which has been
Certain complete works of dogmatic theology set
forth the thinking of the Fathers of the Church in an historical sequence.
Thus, for example, the above-mentioned Essay in Orthodox Dogmatic Theology
by Bishop Sylvester is arranged in this way. One must understand that such a
method of exposition in Orthodox theology does not have the aim of
investigating the "gradual development of Christian teaching"; its
aim is a different one: it is to show that the complete setting forth, in
historical sequence, of the ideas of the holy Fathers of the Church on every
subject confirms most clearly that the Holy Fathers in all ages thought the
same about the truths of the Faith. But, since some of them viewed the subject
from one side, and others from another side, and since some of them brought
forth arguments of one kind, and others of another kind, therefore the
historical sequence of the teaching of the Fathers gives a complete view of the
dogmas of the Faith and the fullness of the proofs of their truth.
This does not mean that the theological exposition
of dogmas must take an unalterable form. Each epoch puts forth its own views,
ways of understanding, questions, heresies and protests against Christian
truth, or else repeats ancient ones which had been forgotten. Theology
naturally takes into consideration the inquiries of each age, answers them, and
sets forth the dogmatic truths accordingly. In this sense, one may speak about
the development of dogmatic theology as a branch of learning. But there
are no sufficient grounds for speaking about the development of the Christian
teaching of faith itself.
Return to the first page