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Dogmatic Theology

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 handed down.

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.

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