Christianity Knowledge Base

Dogma (the plural is either dogmata or dogmas, Greek δόγμα, plural δόγματα) is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization to be authoritative and not to be disputed or doubted. While in the context of religion the term is largely descriptive, outside of religion its current usage tends to carry a pejorative connotation — referring to concepts as being "established" only according to a particular point of view, and thus one of doubtful foundation.

Dogma in religion[]

Religious dogmata, properly conceived, reach back to proofs other than themselves, and ultimately to faith. Perhaps the pinnacle of organized exposition of theological dogma is the Summa Theologiae by Thomas Aquinas, who proposed this relationship between faith and objection: "If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections — if he has any — against faith" (I 1 8)..

Dogmata are found in many religions such as Christianity and Islam, where they are considered core principles that must be upheld by all followers of that religion. As a fundamental element of religion, the term "dogma" is assigned to those theological tenets which are considered to be well demonstrated, such that their proposed disputation or revision effectively means that a person no longer accepts the given religion as his or her own, or has entered into a period of personal doubt. Dogma is distinguished from theological opinion regarding those things considered less well-known. Dogmata may be clarified and elaborated but not contradicted in novel teachings (e.g., Galatians 1:8-9). Rejection of dogma is considered heresy in certain religions, and may lead to expulsion from the religious group, although in the Christian Gospels this is not done rashly (e.g. Mt 18:15-17).

For most of Eastern Christianity, the dogmata are contained in the Nicene Creed and the canons of two, three, or seven ecumenical councils (depending on whether one is Nestorian, Oriental Orthodox, or Eastern Orthodox). Roman Catholics also hold as dogma the decisions of 14 later councils and two decrees promulgated by popes exercising papal infallibility (see, e.g., immaculate conception). Protestants to differing degrees affirm portions of these dogmata, and often rely on sect-specific 'Statements of Faith' which summarize their chosen dogmata (see, e.g., Eucharist).

In Islam, the dogmatic principles are contained in the aqidah.

Dogma is referred to as Doctrine inside many Christian religions.

Dogma outside of religion[]

Many non-religious beliefs are often described as dogmata, for example in the fields of politics or philosophy, as well as within society itself. The term dogmatism carries the implication that people are upholding their beliefs in an unthinking and conformist fashion. Dogmas are thought to be anathema to science and scientific analysis, though some small groups may argue that the scientific method itself is somewhat dogmatic. In a similar way in philosophies such as rationalism and skepticism, although metaphysical considerations are normally not explicit in those fields, traditional religious dogmas tend to be rejected while unexamined presuppositions are sometimes upheld.

Since the Enlightenment, the word 'dogma' has typically been used in a negative and derogatory manner, for example, when employees talk about unpopular company policies. Other examples often come from political or national statements, an example would be article 1 section 3 of the United Nations Declaration of Principles on Tolerance:

1.3 Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments. [Bold added for emphasis]

See also[]

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