Doctrines, History of
Doctrines, History of (Germ. Dogmengeschichte), a special branch of Historical Theology.
1. The conception and the definition of History of Christian doctrines depend upon the conception and definition of what constitutes a Christian doctrine (dogma). For evangelical Christians, who believe that nothing should be received as Christian doctrine but what is clearly taught in the Word of God, the history of doctrine is a history of the efforts made by theologians and religious denominations to develop and shape the substance of the Christian faith into doctrinal statements; of deviations from the pure teachings of the Bible; and of the efforts to restore and defend the theology of the Bible. Roman Catholics, who believe in the sole infallibility of their Church, and deny that she has ever added anything to the teachings of Jesus, define history of doctrine as a scientific statement of the manner in which the several doctrines of the Church have been discussed, developed, and, at last, authoritatively defined. To the Rationalist, who does not believe in the immutability of the word of the Bible, the history of doctrines is nothing but a history of the doctrinal controversies in the Christian denominations. From the stand-point of evangelical theologians, the history of doctrines has an apologetic character with regard to Bible theology; the Roman Catholic theologians make it an apology of all the doctrines defined by the Church while in the treatment by a Rationalistic author it will lose the character of a branch of Christian theology, and appear as simply historical. But, though conception and definition, and, consequently, mode of treatment and division of matter vary, all works on the history of doctrines embrace a history of the controversies which have been carried on in the Christian Church on doctrinal questions.
2. As regards the relation of the History of Doctrines to other branches of theological science, it is evidently a subdivision of Church history, separately treated on account of its special importance for theologians, and on account of its wide ramifications. It presupposes Biblical theology as its basis (or as its first period). As it recounts the formation and contents of public confessions of faith, and the distinguishing principles set forth in them, it forms itself the basis of symbolics, or comparative dogmatic theology, which stands to it in the same relation as Church statistics of any particular period stand to the advancing history of the Church. As the opinions of the prominent, especially the earliest, fathers of the Church are of considerable importance in the history of any Christian doctrine, it has frequently occasion to refer to the results of Patristics (q.v.). Of the "history of Heresies," the beginning will always have to be noticed in a comprehensive history of doctrine; its further progress only in so far as the heresies remain of importance for the Christian world at large. To a "general history of religion" it may have occasionally to refer; and with the, history of philosophy and the history of Christian ethics it may sometimes have to travel over the same ground, though in the latter case it will treat the same subjects from a different point of view. Archaeology, and the sciences auxiliary to Church history, such as universal history, ecclesiastical philology, ecclesiastical chronology, diplomatics, etc., also aid in furnishing materials.
3. The value of the History of Doctrines, in a scientific point of view, is evident. Though the history of no doctrine can have a decisive influence in determining the faith of an evangelical theologian, who to this end searches the Bible exclusively, it is for him the most important portion of the history of the Christian Church, leads him into a more minute contemplation, and frequently into a deeper insight of Biblical doctrines, and furnishes him with powerful weapons, both apologetic and polemic, against the various forms of error.
4. The periods of the history of doctrines have been differently determined by the writers on the subject. Hagenbach assumes the following five periods:
1. The Age of Apologetics, from the close of the apostolic age to the death of Origen (A.D. 80-254).
2. The Age of Polemics, from the death of Origen to John Damascenus (254-730).
3. The Age of Systems, from John Damascenus to the Reformation (Scholasticism in its widest sense) (730-1517).
4. The Age of Polemico-ecclesiastical Symbolism (the conflict of confessions), from the Reformation to the rise of the Philosophy of Leibnitz and Wolf in Germany (1517-1720).
5. The Age of Criticism, of Speculation, and of the antagonism between Faith and Knowledge, Philosophy and Christianity, Reason and Revelation, including the attempts to reconcile them, from the year
1720 to the present day. Neander's division is:
1. To Gregory the Great.
2. To the Reformation.
3. From the Reformation to the present time.
Minscher, Engelhardt, and Meier adopt the division into Ancient, Mediaeval, and Modern times. Klee (Romans Cath.) coincides almost With Hagenbach.
Baumgarten-Crusius (Rationalist) adopts in his Compendium six periods:
1. To the Council of Nice; Formation of the System of Doctrines by reflection and opinion.
2. To the Council of Chalcedon; Formation by the Church.
3. To Gregory VII; Confirmation of the System by the Hierarchy.
4. To the end of the 15th century; Confirmation by the Philosophy of the Church.
5. To the beginning of the-18th century; Purification by Parties.
6. To the present time; Purification by Science. Kliefoth (High-Church Lutheran) divides as follows:
1. Age of Formation of Doctrines Greek Analytic Theology 2. Age of Symbolical Unity Rom. Cath. Synthetic Anthropology 3. Age of Completion Protestant. Systymatic Soteriology 4. Age of Dissolution ? ? Church
Rosenkranz (in his Encyklop. 2d edit. Page 259) makes, according to the philosophico-dialectic categories, the following division:
1. Period of Analytic Knowledge, of substantial feeling (Greek Church).
2. Period of Synthetic Knowledge, of pure objectivity (Roman Cath. Church).
3. Period of Systematic Knowledge, which combines the analysis and synthesis in their unity, and manifests itself in the stages of symbolical orthodoxy, of subjective belief and unbelief, and in the idea of speculative theology (Protestant Church).
5. The ideal of a history of doctrines is given as follows by Dr. H.B. Smith (Bibliotheca Sacra, 4:560 sq.): "It should be the object of a history of doctrines to give in the truest possible manner the order in which divine truth has been unfolded in the history of the Church. It must trace down the whole course of doctrinal discussion, give the leading characteristics of each epoch, as distinguished from all others, and at last show just where the world now stands in the discussion of the problems which Christianity has presented to it. It should be a faithful mirror to the whole doctrinal history of the Church. It must interpret each writer according to the sense of the age in which he lived, and not bring in subsequent views and modern notions to explain the meaning Which an ancient writer gave to a phrase or dogma. It must show what are the points of difference in the reiterated controversies about the same doctrine. It must carefully distinguish the theological and systematic spirit of the different ages of the Church, and not force a subsequent development upon an antecedent aera. It must bring out into clear relief the influential personages of each age, and, in exhibiting their systems, distinguish between the peculiar notions of the individual and the general spirit of his times. It must show how controversies about one series of doctrines have modified the views held respecting other doctrines; how each doctrine has acquired a new aspect, according to its position in the mind or system of an author, or in its relation to the leading controversies of the age. It must show when a dogma was held strictly and when loosely; when disconnected from a system and when embraced in a system. It must carefully guard against the error of supposing that when a doctrine was not carefully discussed by the inquisitive and discriminating intellect, it was not really cherished as a matter of faith. This is an error into which many have fallen. But we might as well suppose that men did not believe they had understanding until they discussed the operations of this faculty, or did not trust to their senses until they invented a theory of sensation. Such a history must show the influence which councils, confessions; and systems have had upon their respective aeras; how preceding times led to such expositions of the faith, and subsequent times were affected by them. It must exhibit clearly the ruling ideas, the shaping notions in each system, and how each predominant idea has modified the component parts of the whole system. It will not neglect to notice the influence which national habits and modes of thought, which great civil and political changes, which the different philosophical schools have had upon the formation of dogmas; nor, on the other hand, will it fail to notice how the Christian faith has itself acted upon and influenced these in its turn, if indeed the latter be not the point of view which should have the precedency. Such a history must finally present before our eyes a picture of a real historical process just as it has been going on, and the more faithful it is to all the leading facts of the case, the more philosophical and complete will it be as a history. By such an exhibition, the whole doctrinal progress of the Christian Church being set before our eyes, we shall, in comparing its results with our own systems, be able to see wherein we are defective, one-sided, and partial; wherein our systems need to be reformed, filled up, or chastened; how they may be animated by a new life, and gather better nurture; and by comparing the results with the Scripture, we shall be able to see what parts of its sacred truths have been least discussed, what problems yet remain to be solved, what is still to be done in order that our divine system of faith be wholly reproduced in the life of the Church, in order that all its truths and doctrines stand out as distinctly and majestically in the history of the race as they do in that revelation which was given to control and determine this history."
6. The history of doctrines has been treated as an independent branch of theological science only in modern times, yet some of the earlier writers of Church history, as well as the theologians, prepared the way for it. Thus the works of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen, and Tertullian against the heretics furnish much valuable material. Much, too, is found scattered in the apologetical and polemical literature of the earlier and mediaeval periods of the Church. A more definite preparation for a history of doctrines is found in the works of the Roman Catholic theologians Petavius (Opus de Theologicis Dogmatibus, 1644-50), Thomassin (Dogmata Theologica, 1684-89), and Dumesnil (Doctrina et Disciplina Ecclesiae, 1730), and of the Protestant theologian Forbesius a Corse (Instructiones Historico-theologicae de Doctrina Christiana, 1703), who undertook to prove, especially in opposition to cardinal Bellarmin, the agreement between the doctrines of the Reformers and the opinions of the earlier fathers. A direct transition to the treatment of the history of doctrines as a separate science may be found in the preface by Semler to the Evangelische Glaubenslehre of J.S. Baumgarten (Halle, 1759-60). The literature of special compendiums and manuals of the history of doctrines begins at the close of the last century, and has more recently become quite copious. The large majority of these works belong to German literature, only a few original works having arisen by writers of other countries. The most important works on the subject are the following: S.G. Lange, Ausfuhrliche Geschichte der Dogmen (Leipzig, 1796, incomplete); J. Ch. Wundemann, Geschichte der christlichen Glaubenslehren, etc. (from Athanasius to Gregory the Great, 2 volumes, Leipz. 1798-99); W. Miinscher, Handbuch der christl. Dogmengeschichte (4 volumes, Marburg, 1797-1809; only to the year 604; the first treatment in the pragmatic method), and Lehrbuch der christl. Dogmengeschichte (Marburg, 1812; 3d edit. revised and continued by D. von Colln, Hupfeld, and Neudecker, Cassel,1832-1838, 3 volumes, 8vo; Eng. transl. (Compendium) by Murdock, New Haven, 1830, 12mo); F. Munter (Danish bishop), Handb. of earlier Hist. of Christ. Doct. (1801 sq.; Germ. transl. by Evers, Gott. 1802, 2 volumes, incomplete); J. Ch.W. Augusti, Lehrb. der christl. Dogmengesch. (edited by J.G.V. Engelhardt, Erlang. 1822-23, 2 volumes); F.G. Ruperti, Gesch. der Dogmen (Berlin, 1831); L.F.O. Baumgarten-Crusius, Lehrbuch der christl. Dogmengesch. (Leipz. 1832, 2 volumes, 8vo) and Compendium der Dogmengesch. (ed. by Hase, Leipz.1840-46, 2 volumes); C.G.H. Lentz, Geschichte der christl. Dogmen (Helmst. 1834-35, 2 volumes); J.G.V. Engelhardt, Dogmengesch. (Neustadt, 1839, 2 volumes); F.C. Meyer, Lehrbuch der Dogmengesch. (Giessen, 1840, 2d edit. by Gust. Baur, 1854); K.R. Hagenbach, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (Leipz. 1840, 5th edit. 1867; Engl. transl. by C.W.Buch, Edinburgh, 1846, 3d edit. 1858; the English transl. revised, with large additions from the 4th German edit. and other sources, by H.B. Smith, 2 volumes, New York, 1861); F.C. Baur, Lehrb. der christl. Dogmengesch. (Stuttg. 1849, 3d ed. Tubing. 1867), and Vorlesungen uber die christl. Dogmengesch. (edit. by his son, F.F. Baur, 3 volumes, Leipz. 1866-1867); Karl Beck, Lehrb. der christl. Dogmengesch. (Weimar, 1848, 2d edit. 1864); Marheineke, Christl. Dogmengesch. (edited by Matthies and Vatke, being the 4th volume of the complete works of Marheineke, Berlin, 1849); L. Noack, Die christl. Dogmengesch. (Erlangen, 1852, 2d edit. 1856); J.C.L. Gieseler, Dogmengeschichte (ed. by Redepenning, Bonn, 1855, 8vo); Neander, Christl. Dogmengesch. (ed. by Dr. J.L. Jacobi. 2 volumes, 8vo, Berl. 1857-8; Eng. transl. by Ryland, in Bohn's library, 2 volumes, 12mo, Lond. 1858); H. Schmid, Lehr. der Dogmengesch. (Noirdlingen, 1860, 2d ed. 1868). The only recent works on the subject by Roman Catholic authors are those by Klee, Lehrbuck der Dogmengeschichte (Mainz, 1837-38, 2 volumes); and Schwane,
Dogmengesch. der patrist. Zeit (of the period from 325-787, Munster, 2 parts, 1866-67).
No copious or complete history of doctrines has been produced in England; but the great writers of the English Church, in treating special topics, have largely illustrated them from history. "Though comprising no continuous and entire history of Christian doctrine, and even when investigating a particular subject, often doing it incidentally, the labors of Hooker and Bull, of Pearson and Waterland, are every way worthy to be placed beside those of Baur and Dorner. The learning is as ample and accurate, the logical grasp is as powerful, and the judgment more than equal" (Shedd, Pref. 7). The writer just cited has the honor of having produced one of the first books of the class in English literature (A History of Christian Doctrines, by William G.T. Shedd, D.D., New York, C. Scribner, 3d ed. 1865, 2 volumes, 8vo). This work is candid, luminous; and able throughout, though it does not aim at a full treatment of all topics in Christian theology. "It gives the results of extensive reading, and the analogies of a patient and devout thinker. Holding firmly to the great Puritan theology, Dr. Shedd shows a mastery of modern German speculation; and while his pages are not burdened with copious notes, or enriched with the laboriously collated extracts with which Hagenbach or Gieseler favor us, the gist of all the controversies is well indicated" (British Quarterly, April, 1865, page 326). The only other work of the class in English literature is Historical Theology, a Review of the principal doctrinal Discussions in the Christian Church since the Apostolic Age, by William Cunningham, D.D., principal of New College, Edinburgh (2d ed. 1864, 2 volumes, 8vo). This is a posthumous work, edited from Dr. Cunningham's college lectures by his literary executors. Of course it has not the compactness or the finish which it might have had if prepared for the press by the author himself; but it is, nevertheless, a very valuable contribution to historical theology.
The history of creeds and confessions of faith, so far as relates to the doctrinal principles set forth in them, belongs to history of doctrine; but it is now generally treated as a separate branch of historical theology, under the name of Symbolics. SEE CONFESSIONS; SEE CREEDS; SEE SYMBOLICS.
Tables exhibiting the history of doctrines have been published by Hagenbach, Tabellarische Uebersicht der Dogmengeschichte bis aufdie.Reformation (Basel, 1828); Vorlander, Tabell.-übersichtliche Darstellung der Dogmengesch. (Hamburg, 1835-1855, 3 parts); Lange, Tab. der Kirch.-u. Dogmengesch. (Jena, 1831).
In addition to the general works on the history of doctrines, there are a number on special periods (as the theology of the apostolic fathers), and also monographs on special doctrines (as the doctrine of the Person of Christ, the Trinity, etc.), all of which are noticed in the articles devoted to these special subjects. Outlines of the history of the principal doctrines are also more or less given in the general "Church histories," and in the works on dogmatic theology and symbolics. We refer to the special articles in this Cyclopaedia on these branches of scientific theology for the literature.