his. G. P. Fisher?s History oif Christian Doctrine is unusually lucid and impartial. See Neander?s Introduction and Shedd?s Philosophy of History.
3. Systematic Theology takes the material furnished by Biblical and by Historical Theology, and with this material seeks to build up into an organic and consistent whole all our knowledge of God and of the relations as between God and the universe, whether this knowledge be originally derived from nature or from the Scriptures.
Systematic Theology is therefore theology proper, of which Biblical and Historical Theology are the incomplete and preparatory stages. Systematic Theology is to be clearly distinguished from Dogmatic Theology/ Dogmatic theology is, in strict usage, the systematizing of the doctrines expressed in the symbols of the church, together with the grounding of these in the Scriptures, and the exhibition, so far as may be, of their rational necessity. Systematic Theology begins, on the other hand, not with the symbols, but with the Scriptures. It asks first, not what the church has believed, but what is the truth of God?s revealed word. It examines that word with all the aids which nature and the Spirit have given it, using Biblical and Historical Theology as its servants and helpers, but not as its masters. Notice here the technical use of the word ?symbol,? from sumba>llw = a brief throwing together, or condensed statement of the essentials of Christian doctrine. Synonyms are: Confession, creed, consensus, declaration, formulary, canons, articles of faith.
Dogmatism argues to foregone conclusions. The word is not, however, derived from ?dog,? as Douglas Jerrold facetiously suggested, when he said that ?dogmatism is puppyism full grown,? but from doke>w , to think, to opine. Dogmatic Theology has two principles: (1) The absolute authority of creeds, as decisions of the church: (2) The application to these creeds of formal logic, for the purpose of demonstrating their truth to the understanding. In the Roman Catholic Church, not the Scripture but the church, and the dogma given by it, is the decisive authority. The Protestant principle, on the contrary, is that Scripture decides, and that dogma is to be judged by it. Following Schleiermacher, Al. Schweizer thinks that the term ?Dogmatik? should be discarded as essentially unprotestant, and that ?Glaubenslehre? should take its place; and Harnack, Hist. Dogma 6, remarks that ?Dogma has ever in the progress of history, devoured its own progenitors.? While it is true that every new and advanced thinker in theology has been counted a heretic, there has always been a common faith ?the faith which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides? = there is
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