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Commemorative plaque of the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary (entrance of the Church of Our Lady of Glory in Rio de Janeiro )

Under a dogma ( old Gr . Δόγμα, dógma , "opinion, doctrine ; decision, ordinance") one understands a fixed definition or a basic, normative doctrinal statement, the truth of which is established as irrefutable.

In Christian theology in particular , the term dogma is used for a doctrine that is considered true and relevant with reference to divine revelation , the authority of the ecclesiastical community or the ecclesiastical magisterium, or special knowledge. The systematic development and interpretation of dogmas is called dogmatics .

On the other hand, the term is mainly used as an adjective ( dogmatic ) pejoratively by people who see the corresponding doctrines as not sufficiently well-founded, for example because they do not recognize the teaching authority of the church or because they are fundamentally skeptical of worldviews and values that make the claim to apply as solely true, generally valid or binding or even to be valid for all time.

Concept history

In ancient Greek, the term dogma initially means “that which is believed, meant, judged, decided” - the unreflected opinion as well as the philosophical principle or tenet, the decision about the coexistence of society as well as the regulation issued by rulers and therefore not to be questioned . The biblical usage corresponds to this understanding. In philosophy writing in Latin, the following equivalents are used: decretum (basic decision), assertio (legally binding declaration or asserting assertion), scitum (something that is presupposed as consciousness), placitum (something that is presupposed as sensible) or primum principium ( basic sentence, also the translation of the Greek synonym " axiom "). The dogma stood - as a consistently positive term - for clarity and unambiguity , for the unquestionable basis for discussion, life or action. In ancient philosophy, the Stoic Seneca in particular reflected on dogma.

The term migrated into Christian theology in the course of the Gnostic crisis in the early church and, in addition to the structural meaning of the term philosophy, was given a concrete object: It now described the doctrine of the Christian community as a whole, that of God in Jesus Christ and the doctrine of Apostle holds on to revealed truth (e.g. in the regula fidei , the Apostolic and the Nicano-Constantinopolitan Creeds, and others ). Opposed to it were the errors of individuals (nova dogmata) , which had to be warded off. In contrast to their individualisms, the dogmata (also known as “symbols”, Greek symbola ), according to the old church understanding , record the supra-personal, objective faith content in which the church is established. Accordingly, it is the church that formulates it as the binding norm of doctrine and belief on which it is based. Up to the fourth century this took place in the form of consensus (agreement, Latin magnus consensus ), from the fourth century onwards in the form of councils . In the linguistic form of dogma, doxology , doctrine, prayer, and witness initially coincided; But this then shifted more and more towards teaching and preaching. In the course of church history, the church as a collective authority and then in particular the church's magisterium as the authority that forms dogma gained ever greater importance. Vincent of Lerinum (5th century) formulated as a binding norm and frame of reference "what has been believed everywhere, always and by everyone"; Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century) assigned the guardianship to the popes.

During the Reformation , Martin Luther turned against Vincent's view and placed the church dogmas as norma normata ("standardized norm") under the norma normans ("normative norm") of the Holy Scriptures . It is not the church that determines the dogma as the frame of reference for the interpretation of the Bible, but, conversely, the Bible determines the content of faith, which in dogma is merely adapted by the church and becomes its own confession ; therefore, in the Protestant world, people like to speak of “ confession ” instead of “dogma”. The Council of Trent (1545–1562) and the First Vatican Council (1869–1870), among other things, aimed at this approach, which - for the sake of the restoration of dogma (Harnack) - renounced the authority of the Church as a foundation for dogma constitutive significance of the church teaching office. What the Pope proclaims ex cathedra is in itself unchangeable (so-called infallibility dogma ). Only in the course of this development towards a “dogma of dogma” since the 18th century is the term defined theologically.

Parallel to the post-Reformation development - and in some cases in an explicit way - dogmas have been critically rejected since the Age of Enlightenment as a way of thinking or belief based on authorities. One of the central guiding principles of the Enlightenment, the saying by the Latin poet Horaz Sapere aude ( Latin: "Have the courage to use your own understanding!"), Quoted by Immanuel Kant and thus made famous again, forms an irreconcilable contrast to dogma or dogma . to the corresponding doctrine, dogmatics . In the Protestant theology of modern times, in the wake of Kant, the (old) church dogmas were partly destroyed ( Adolf von Harnack ), but partly restored ( Karl Barth ). In Roman Catholic theology there has been a move to include the historicity of dogma in its concept.

Current definitions of terms

The complex history of its origins means that the term “dogma” can have different meanings and connotations depending on the context .


In theology, a distinction is made between “dogma” in the narrower and the broader sense.

  • In a narrower sense, the “symbols” of the seven ecumenical councils as well as those council decisions of the Roman Catholic Church which have dogmatic rank. The dogmas in this sense claim to be binding. The confessional writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (namely the " Confessio Augustana ") are less often referred to as this, although they have a position comparable to the latter.
  • In a broader sense, one speaks of “dogma” (in the collective singular) to denote the whole of Christian teaching, namely “the church proclamation, provided that it really agrees with the Bible as the word of God” ( Karl Barth ). What is meant is the entirety of the Christian faith in its concentration on the consensus with the biblical scriptures and the previous church proclamation, but with the deferral of innovative attempts to bring the faith up for the present in a new form. This usage (taking up the concern of the old church “magnus consensus”) appears almost congruent with the term “dogmatics” (as a literary genre) and is a sub-area of ​​the theological subject “ systematic theology ”. The dogma in this sense does not claim , but teaches and opens up what is binding and connecting.
  • In addition, there is a third meaning that includes the (long neglected in theology) structural conceptual meaning of ancient philosophy in the debate. It leads to a phenomenological consideration of the concept . This extends the theological meaning of the word “dogma” to include empirical reality, which is exemplarily expressed in the pejorative use of the adjective “dogmatic” . "Dogmatic is defined as someone who is considered to be stubborn when expressing his or her opinion, who closes himself off to the demands of the time and the knowledge of contemporaries and instead is inevitably caught up in the thinking of the past and remains backward" (Slenczka). "Dogma" describes the (preconscious) basic conviction that determines consciousness and forms the basis for forming opinions and judgments. Critics of the dogmatic often fail to notice that in this very criticism they are starting from unquestionable basic convictions (“dogmas”). According to this approach, the question is not whether one has a dogma, but which one ; Dogma criticism appears as a dogma conflict between different assumptions of thought ( axioms ), which is recognizable by the emotional explosiveness and about which an understanding is difficult to lead. Phenomenologically, a distinction is made between at least three levels in the term “dogma”: the subjective, the collective and the authoritative level. On the subjective level, "dogma" denotes personal conviction that forms the basis of one's own personal consciousness and the prerequisite for all knowledge. On the collective level (close to Vinzenz von Lerinum) the term describes the connection of individuals to schools through the commonality of these foundations and convictions. On the authoritative level (which comes closest to Vatican 1), "dogma" denotes the doctrinal norm enforced by a recognized authority. The "dogma" as a thought structure , as an integral (and necessary) component of human thought, describes what is binding and binding for people. It is not restricted to the ideological-religious area, but can be found in all branches of science as well as non-scientific (e.g. in religions and political and economic systems).

Other sciences

In philosophy , Immanuel Kant's dogmatism means philosophizing without a previous criticism of the conditions of knowledge. In contrast, for Kant, the “dogmatic procedure” (which he considered legitimate) consists in proving strictly a priori based on certain principles . For Critical Rationalism , dogmatism is opposed to the principle of critical examination. For Hans Albert , a methodology based on the principle of sufficient justification basically has an authoritarian-dogmatic basic structure. Critical immunity and thus dogmatization of any statements can always be established and not a peculiarity of certain statements, but a question of social cognitive practice. As part of his philosophical-historical analysis of the emergence of science among the pre-Socratics , Helmut Spinner replaces the alternative criticalism vs. Dogmatism through fallibilism vs. Certism , since dogmatism is not an epistemological category. Thomas Metzinger describes dogmatism as "the thesis that it is completely legitimate to hold on to a conviction, simply because one already has it - pure tradition, without empirical evidence and without reasonable reasons."

In social psychology , the dogmatism scale is a construct developed by Milton Rokeach for a relatively closed system of statements about reality that are believed or doubted. It focuses on assumptions of absolute authority, which in turn provide the basis for patterns of intolerance towards others. Characteristic are thus intellectual unity, a rigid and authoritative thinking style as well as intolerance. Dogmatism is measured using a “multi-item” cumulative Likert scale (originally 66 items with six points each; shorter versions were later developed).

Dogmas in Christianity

In the course of church history, dogmas are sentences formulated by the magisterial authority and, since the Second Vatican Council , statements in descriptive texts that are important for the profiling of their faith. They “are lights on the path of faith. They enlighten and secure it. ”The context in which dogmas arise is usually a contentious situation in matters of faith.

Councils and synods are convened to clarify the factual questions and, if necessary, to undertake appropriate dogmatization.

Different understanding of dogma

The term dogma is understood and used differently depending on the denominational tradition and theological doctrine :

  • In the Orthodox churches, this primarily refers to the doctrinal statements of the first seven ecumenical councils and some later pan-Orthodox synods.
  • In the First Vatican Council , the Catholic Church defined that a dogma is a set of divine and Catholic faith that is definitely proclaimed as truth revealed by God and to be believed by the general and ordinary magisterium (affirmative) or by conciliar or papal definition .
  • For Martin Luther and other reformers only dogmas validity, through the Scriptures had occupied are - only this applies its opinion, as "norma normans" theology (lat "normative standard."). While the church dogmas, according to the Roman Catholic understanding, belong to the revelation side of faith, that is, they are identical in terms of revelation , according to the Reformation understanding they are only related to revelation , an expression of faith instead of a prescription of faith , “norma normata” (Latin for “standardized norm”) . Therefore one speaks here of the confession (instead of dogma), the original form of which is Peter's confession of Christ : “You are Christ” ( Mk 8.30  EU ). In an existential view it opens up the revealed truth guaranteed in the biblical scriptures.
  • Karl Barth sees dogmas as systematic forms of expression of the content of the Holy Scriptures ("church dogmatics").
  • The Protestant tradition has refrained from formulating dogmas at the latest since the processing of inquiries and criticism on the part of the Enlightenment, since in the Protestant Church there is no teaching post which could formulate binding beliefs for the community. It is true that clear witness by the church is the necessary condition for faith - accordingly the church has the task of opening up the possibility of encountering biblical witness. An inner certainty in detail, however, cannot be established through the church and her work, since certainty is something unavailable. The insight that the church witness communicates the truth about God, the world and man comes about, according to evangelical conviction, through the claiming of this public witness by the Holy Spirit .

Overview of the Christian dogmas

The following is a list of the dogmas that are in force in the Christian churches. Their explanation (including the historical framework of their creation) is the subject of the history of dogma .

Old church

Pre-conciliar era:
Council period:

These five and two other dogmatic definitions of the seven ecumenical councils of the early church are recognized in all Christian churches. The proclaimed dogmatic definitions were always confirmed by the Popes. Whether this confirmation is necessary for the validity of the dogmas is disputed in theology, especially since in the case of the 5th Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 553 Pope Vigilius , who actually rejected the decision, was subjected to the ruling of the council and ratified it against his will had to.

Dogmas in the Roman Catholic Church

Dogmas in the broader sense are first of all only doctrinal statements that are the subject of dogmatics . The term dogma was not used as a technical term for a long time in the history of theology. Only the post-Tridentine theology sharpened the term. In the First Vatican Council (1870) the term dogma was recorded in the narrower sense:

“With divine and catholic faith (fide divina et catholica) everything is to be believed (ea omnia credenda) that is contained in the written or traditional Word of God (in verbo Dei scripto vel tradito) and by the Church in solemn doctrinal judgment or by ordinary people and general doctrinal preachings as revealed by God to be believed (tamquam divinitus revelata credenda proponuntur) . "

- 1st Vatican Council (DH 3011)

Dogmas in the sense of the First Vatican Council are only:

“In all previous statements by councils, synods and popes on the important questions of the theology of the Trinity, Christology, the doctrine of grace and eschatology, etc., the factual question must be asked. The question of the weight of church teaching does not depend on the term 'dogma', but on the binding nature of the statement. A mere schematic application of this late technical term 'dogma' is not appropriate to the facts. "

The Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965 teaches the necessary immutability of the truth of faith as a whole, but opened it to dialogue with those who think differently. The competence to distinguish the essential from the changeable lies with the ecclesiastical teaching office of the Pope - alone or with the college of bishops of the universal church. In its ecumenism decree Unitatis redintegratio ("UR") the council speaks of a "hierarchy of truths": the church dogmas and doctrines are not all of the same weight and are not all equally central and relevant to the question of church community:

"When comparing doctrines with one another, one should not forget that there is a ranking or 'hierarchy' of truths within Catholic doctrine, depending on the various ways in which they are related to the foundation of the Christian faith."

Confessions valid in the Protestant churches

As part of the evangelical interpretation of dogma, the Evangelical Churches belonging to the EKD officially recognize the confessions of the seven ecumenical councils as binding (albeit open to interpretation). In place of the unrecognized Roman Catholic dogmas, depending on the internal Protestant denomination,

Dogma and dogmatics

To be considered in connection with dogma is dogmatics , a designation for the doctrine of dogmas that was created in the 17th century. The task of dogmatics is not just the systematic development and interpretation of dogmas. Their central task is the intellectual approach and the rational handling of faith and the striving to understand it. It is the science of interpretation of faith, the hermeneutics of our time, and works with scientific methods and according to scientific criteria. Dogmatics is the theological subject that tries to interpret the entire content of the Christian faith, not just dogmas. By being bound to revelation , dogmatics forms the “center of theology”. Dogmatics differentiates between different degrees of certainty and commitment in statements of faith .

Dogma criticism

The philosophical dogma criticism has its origins in the 16th century, especially among the Socinians , and was further developed by Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768). The Socinians initially gave religion an ethical instead of a metaphysical justification; This very idea then found further dissemination in the Enlightenment . Reimarus criticizes theology because it deals with mysteries : The mysteries “dress in the dark garment of allegory and seduce the theologians who deal with them to quarrel.” At this point one of the basic concerns of the Enlightenment becomes clear, namely overcoming "Obscurant" ways of knowledge and the concentration on what is philologically (Socinians) or historically (Reimarus) comprehensible.

From the dogma criticism in the 19th century, the Free Religious Movement emerged under the motto “Let the spirit be free and without compulsion the faith” , which dispenses with formal teachings and confessions and does not know a “dogmatic bond”.

See also


  • Dogma. In: The Brockhaus Religions. Faith, rites, saints. Lexicon editor of the FA Brockhaus publishing house, Mannheim, p. 150.
  • Ralph Weimann : Dogma and progress with Joseph Ratzinger. Principles of continuity. Paderborn 2012, ISBN 978-3-506-77375-3 .
  • Johanna Rahner : Introduction to Catholic dogmatics. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2008, pp. 20–33.
  • Walter Kasper : Dogma / dogma development. In: New manual of theological basic concepts (new edition) 1 (1991), pp. 292–309.
  • Peter Neuner : What is a dogma? Lectures Senior Studies, November 2006. Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich 2006 ( full text ).
  • Ulrich Wickert , Carl Heinz RatschowDogma - I. Historically, II. Systematic-theological . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 9, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1982, ISBN 3-11-008573-9 , pp. 26-41.
  • Reinhard Slenczka : Church decision in theological responsibility - bases, criteria, limits. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1991, pp. 63-94, 272-280.
  • Karlmann Beyschlag : Outline of the history of dogmas. Volume 1: God and the world. 2nd Edition. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1988, pp. 1-56.
  • Hubert Filser: Dogma, dogmas, dogmatics. An investigation into the foundation and the history of the development of a theological discipline from the Reformation to the Late Enlightenment. Lit-Verlag, Berlin / Hamburg / Münster 2001, ISBN 3-8258-5221-0 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Dogma  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Dogma  - Quotes

Single receipts

  1. ^ Pape: Concise dictionary of the Greek language
  2. Cf. Lk 2.1  EU ; Acts 17.7  EU ; Heb 11.23  EU . Ulrich Wickert:  Dogma I: Historically . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 9, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1982, ISBN 3-11-008573-9 , p. 26.
  3. Reinhard Slenczka : Church decision in theological responsibility. Göttingen 1991, pp. 66, 68f.
  4. Seneca: Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, No. 95.
  5. Cf. Edmund Schlink : Ecumenical Dogmatics. 2nd Edition. Göttingen 1985, p. 652.
  6. ^ Karlmann Beyschlag : Outline of the history of dogmas, Vol. 1 God and the world . 2nd Edition. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1988, p. 6ff .; Carl Heinz RatschowDogma: II. Systematic-theological . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 9, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1982, ISBN 3-11-008573-9 , p. 35.
  7. Cf. Edmund Schlink: Ecumenical Dogmatics. 2nd Edition. Göttingen 1985, p. 650f.
  8. ^ Edmund Schlink: Ecumenical Dogmatics. 2nd Edition. Göttingen 1985, pp. 33-47, 646-652; As a Protestant theology, Schlink used the term “confession” as a synonym for “dogma”.
  9. ^ Ulrich Wickert:  Dogma I: Historically . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 9, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1982, ISBN 3-11-008573-9 , pp. 30-31.
    Walter Kasper: Art. Dogma / dogma development . In: New Handbook of Basic Theological Concepts (new edition) 1 (1991), pp. 177–179.
  10. ^ Ulrich Wickert:  Dogma I: Historically . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 9, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1982, ISBN 3-11-008573-9 , pp. 26-41.
    Karlmann Beyschlag: Outline of the history of dogmas , Volume 1 God and the world . 2nd Edition. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1988, pp. 18-21.
  11. ^ Ulrich Wickert:  Dogma I: Historically . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 9, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1982, ISBN 3-11-008573-9 , pp. 26-41.
  12. ^ Edmund Schlink: Ecumenical Dogmatics. 2nd Edition. Göttingen 1985, p. 652.
  13. ^ Ulrich Wickert:  Dogma I: Historically . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 9, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1982, ISBN 3-11-008573-9 , pp. 33-34.
    Walter Kasper: Art. Dogma / dogma development . In: New Handbook of theological basic concepts (new edition) 1 (1991), pp. 180-183.
  14. On this distinction, cf. Regin Prenter : Creation and Redemption. Dogmatics. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1960, pp. 2ff.
  15. ^ Karl Barth: Kirchliche Dogmatik I, 1, p. 283.
  16. a b Reinhard Slenczka: Church decision in theological responsibility. Basics, criteria, limits. Göttingen 1991, pp. 64-73.
  17. See on the following Reinhard Slenczka: Church decision in theological responsibility. Basics, criteria, limits. Göttingen 1991, pp. 66-69.
  18. ^ Similar to Ratschow: Dogma II: systematic-theological. In: TRE 9, 1982, p. 35f .; Hubert Filser: Dogma, dogmas, dogmatics. An investigation into the foundation and the history of the development of a theological discipline from the Reformation to the Late Enlightenment . Lit-Verlag, Berlin / Hamburg / Münster 2001, pp. 13-20.
  19. Thomas S. Kuhn: The structure of scientific revolutions. 2nd Edition. Frankfurt 1976. The dogma appears under the term paradigm .
  20. "The Dogmatism of Metaphysics, d. i. the prejudice of getting along in it without a critique of pure reason is the true source of all unbelief that contradicts morality, which is at all times very dogmatic. ” I. Kant: Critique of pure reason , Vorr. z. 2nd edition, p. 26.
  21. Hans Albert: Theory and Practice. Max Weber and the problem of value freedom and rationality. In: Hans Albert, Ernst Topitsch (ed.): Value judgment dispute. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1971, ISBN 3-534-04161-5 , pp. 227, 233. There cited from: Philosophy and the Sciences. Simon Moser on his 65th birthday. Anton Hain, Meisenheim 1966, pp. 246-272.
  22. Helmut F. Spinner: Justification, Criticism and Rationality , Volume 1. Vieweg, Braunschweig 1977, ISBN 3-528-08376-X , p. 5.
  23. Thomas Metzinger: Spirituality and intellectual honesty . Self-published, Mainz 2013, ISBN 978-3-00-040875-5 , p. 28 ( [PDF; 1,2 MB ]).
  24. Wolfgang J. Koschnik: Standard dictionary for the social sciences. Part 1. London / New York / Paris 1992, ISBN 3-598-10527-4 .
  25. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church 89
  26. ^ Karlmann Beyschlag: Outline of the history of dogmas , Vol. 1: God and world . 2nd Edition. Darmstadt 1988, pp. 17-21.
  27. a b Quoted from Gerhard Ludwig Müller : Katholische Dogmatik: for study and practice of theology. 6th edition. Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 2005, ISBN 3-451-28652-1 , p. 80.
  28. ^ Gerhard Ludwig Müller : Catholic dogmatics: for study and practice of theology. 6th edition. Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 2005, ISBN 3-451-28652-1 , p. 80.
  29. ^ A b Jan Rohls: Philosophy and Theology in Past and Present. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2002, ISBN 978-3-16-147812-3 , p. 285 ff.
  30. ^ Dietrich Klein: Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768). The theological work. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-16-149912-8 , pp. 149 ff.
  31. ^ Dietrich Klein: Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768). The theological work. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-16-149912-8 , p. 52.
  32. Free religious community Mainz: What is free religious? Frequently asked questions for free religious . Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  33. ^ Constitution of the Free Religious Community of Rhineland, corporation under public law - founded in 1947: preamble . Version dated May 28, 1988; accessed on January 27, 2015.