“THE TROUBLE with you,” a certain minister told me, “is that you think dogmatically.” Perhaps I should have replied: “And you—your trouble is that you can’t or won’t think dogmatically!”

Many people regard the dogmatic mind with misgiving. This apprehension may stem from the fact that across the years the term “dogmatic” has become weighted with connotations totally unrelated to theology. The dogmatic person, in the popular mind, is not merely opinionated and obstinate, always thinking himself in the right, but is likely to be overbearing and arrogant as well, with more than a dash of egotism and a remarkable deficiency of kindness. Even where the concept is not encumbered with all sorts of adventitious meanings as in theology, a certain malodorousness seems to have attached itself to dogmatical thinking and speaking.

Actually the dogmatician or systematician is just now in a state of partial eclipse. Apart from the ecumenical issues, theological interest has centered for some time on the historical origins of Bible and Church, on textual and literary criticism, on recently discovered or devised problems of hermeneutics. As a result, even dogmaticians who theoretically uphold the divine inspiration and the inviolability of the sacred Scriptures often hesitate to make direct, positive doctrinal affirmations lest they hear the shattering remark that these affirmations are invalidated by the theological advance in other areas of study. This explains also the dubious attitude of many toward the ancient creeds. That theologians may feel at home with the Scriptures but decidedly not so with the creeds, even where these are drawn from the Scriptures sentence by sentence, may seem strange. The explanation for this is simple. Men often ...

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