The term is derived from the (Greek) verb “dokein” (= seeming, believing) and originally, its literal meaning was “that which seems good or proper to someone”; it also pertains to belief, ideology, principle, opinion, faith, and other related meanings. (Plato’s Soph.256C: «by making use of the many dogmas and words…»).
From its original meaning of a personal opinion, the term was transposed to the field of philosophical positions; in other words, it became a knowledge belonging to a (philosophical) School. (e.g. Plutarch, Ethica 14B: “the dogmas pertaining to souls” or the Stoic philosophers’ dogmas, etc.) The transposing over to this meaning is justified, by the fact that ancient thought demanded eclecticism in philosophy.
a. Forms and character of Dogmatics
Dogmatics – as a particular ‘branch’ and ‘lesson’ of Theology – appeared in the West for the first time and was introduced in the Orthodox Theological Schools during later times. A major characteristic of this branch, as compared to other lessons of Theology, is its systematic character. While other branches of Theology are preoccupied with the dogmatic belief of the Church, Dogmatics approaches this faith by theme, and systematically expounds it.
The Church’s systematic preoccupation with the faith appears during the patristic period for the first time, especially with Origen (his work “On Principles”), and in a strictly organized way with Saint John the Damascene (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith). Ever since that time, this subject has continued to develop in the West during Medieval times (Thomas Aquinatus, SUMMA) and during the post-Reform period, with the blossoming of Confessional Theology, in which Orthodoxy (wrongly) participated (Mogila Confession, Cyril Lucareus, Dositheos etc). In later times (after Eugene Vulgaris), this phenomenon blossomed in the 19th century (Athanasios Parios “Epitome” 1806. Moschopoulos “Epitome of dogmatic and ethical theology”, 1851. Especially among the Russians, we note the Metropolitan Anthony, Makarios of Moscow – both widely acknowledged).
Modernity confronts us with many dilemmas. Man must answer challenges, and not only those for which his teachers in his educational-upbringing process prepared him, but also totally new and different problems that life places before us. And it has always been so. Still, sociologists, pedagogues and culturologists generally agree that today’s world is changing at a significantly faster pace than before. The technological progress and social innovations of the 20th century have transformed the world much faster than, for instance, the entire process of technological development during medieval times. This tempo of development has continued to this day.
‘Guard your heart with all care, for it is the spring of your life.’ [LXX. Prov. 4.23.]
1. Biblical Archetypes.
The concept of a doctrine of prayer tells much about the theology of the person articulating it. It is the purest Christian expression of theology and, historically speaking, one of the rare examples of a non-controversial theology. Almost all of the patristic dogmatic formulations from antiquity were, after all, beaten out in the heat of strong confrontations and show the signs of innumerable scorch marks.
The Notion of The Beautiful in Ancient Greek Thought and its Christian Patristic Transfiguration - J.A. McGuckin
In a significant essay on Platonic philosophy, R. J. O'Connell highlights one of the most interesting and problematic aspects of the identification of the good and the beautiful in the Greek philosophical tradition :
‘It is a truism to say that, for the Greek mind, the good and the beautiful
(Kalokagathon) are at one , just as the evil and the ugly are. Use these terms
in their moral sense, however, and the gigantic act of ‘belief' implied in that
equivalence becomes more evident.'
The Legacy of the 13th Apostle: Origins of the East Christian Conceptions of Church and State Relation - J.A. McGuckin
It is remarkable to consider how much has been written on the notion of the early Christian and Byzantine attitudes to political theory relying on the singularly useless concept of caesaro-papism. It illuminates nothing, apart from the standing-point of the user. It was, in origin, a term of disparagement, comparable in its intent to the scornful use of Byzantinism to signify all that was corrupt and devious. This bigoted Gibbonesque apologetic, so beloved of Protestant and Catholic theorists alike in their mutually conflicting critiques of Eastern Christian political theology, should by now have fallen into desuetude though a surprising amount of authors have still continued to use it well into the modern era; apparently unaware of the theological ‘animus' that gave birth to the word, and even more so of the fact that it is hopelessly anachronistic.