Question: Is being dogmatic a good thing?

Conclusion: Dogmatism is one of the factors that have a negative effect on wellbeing. Religious dogmatism is the most dangerous factor against wellbeing. Dogmatic individuals have an inflexible cognitive system that emerges as a stable personality trait and decreases their adjustment with environment.

What does it mean when someone calls you dogmatic?

Full Definition of dogmatic 1 : characterized by or given to the expression of opinions very strongly or positively as if they were facts a dogmatic critic.

Is dogmatic a negative word?

What does dogmatic mean? ... However, dogmatic can also have a negative connotation, as it also means “asserting opinions in a doctrinaire or arrogant manner; opinionated.” Therefore, this dogmatic person might look down on others who dont live according to those same morals.

Catholics in the last fifty years or so have almost completely ceased to do dogmatic theology. The deep things of God, the mysteries of his own life opened up to us in Christ, we now think we need not, or fear we cannot, search out.

Unless this development is reversed, the consequences of this unwelcome development for the Church and for Catholic life are likely to be grave. Whether dogmatic theology fares better in the Protestant world I will leave for others to say. For Catholics, Matthias Joseph Scheeben, more than any modern theologian, can show us how to get started again. In the summer of 1888, Scheeben died in Cologne, having spent most of his fifty-three years teaching dogmatics and moral theology in the archdiocesan seminary there.

He was also the author of three major dogmatic works: Nature and Grace 1861The Mysteries of Christianity 1865and the massive Handbook of Catholic Dogmatics, left unfinished at his death. The generations that followed Scheeben regarded him as one of the greatest minds of modern Catholic theology.

Is being dogmatic a good thing?

His books were repeatedly republished in Germany Is being dogmatic a good thing? into the 1960s and translated into other European languages, including English the Dogmatics, alas, only in highly truncated form.

Since the Second Vatican Council, though, he has mostly been neglected by theological teachers and students who have wrongly imagined the nineteenth-century Catholic tradition to be a period of antimodern darkness.

The Catholic world of a hundred or more years ago was quite right, I think, to see the Cologne seminary professor as perhaps the finest modern Catholic dogmatic theologian. His writings not only yield rare insight into the mysteries of Christian faith, they draw the attentive reader ever more deeply into the mysteries themselves.

Scheeben is more important now than he has ever been. He can teach a theological generation that has sold its inestimable birthright how to restore and renew dogmatic theology. Theology so understood calls for specific intellectual virtues. His theology is rationally rigorous. He makes precise and often elaborate conceptual distinctions, identifies relevant objections to his ideas, and offers detailed replies.

His interpretation of the Christian mysteries relies on vigorous and careful argument rather than mere currency, first-person authority, or pragmatic usefulness.

His theology is, moreover, charged with speculative boldness, even audacity. Second, he is an immensely learned theologian with an intimate and sympathetic knowledge of the theological traditions of the Church. Finally, Scheeben undertakes theology in humility, with reverence, joy, and submission before the divine mysteries he seeks faithfully to serve.

Scheeben thought it essential, though, for theology to avoid open-ended musings. Dogmatic theology must discipline itself to be about God in a specific way, one that draws us into the mysteries revealed only in Christ. First and foremost is the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

From all eternity, the Father imparts the one divine nature to the Son by generation, and Father and Son communicate their one nature to the Holy Spirit Is being dogmatic a good thing?

spiration, or active procession. God does not only share his life within himself. Temporally and freely, the triune God makes his own uncreated nature that of a creature in the incarnation of the Son. This is the most complete and intimate way in which the divine nature can be shared with created reality, the divine and the unconfused, yet undivided. So comes to be the mystery at which every knee will bend: God is the human being Jesus, and the human being Jesus is God. Further, God offers to share his life with each of us.

Is being dogmatic a good thing?

In the Word made flesh, God bestows upon the human creature by grace a participation in his own nature, which reaches its goal in the glory of immediate vision of him as the Holy Trinity. By uniting us with the incarnate Son, grace brings about a participation in the divine nature so intimately deifying that we become members of the eternal Son. If we are to know of them, God himself, whose interior mysteries they are, must tell us of them, as a friend discloses his inmost heart to a friend.

That God opens up his innermost life to us is sheer generosity on his part, a gift to which no creature has any inherent claim. We know them, and can reach them, solely because God makes himself so liberally available to us. Once the interior mysteries of God are revealed, however, we are able, indeed bidden, to contemplate them, so that we may enter more deeply into them. This is what makes dogmatic theology unique and unlike any other use of reason.

God both teaches us the truths about his own nature that are the distinctive subject matter of dogmatics and, by the gift of faith, enlightens reason to understand these supernatural truths. Dogmatic theology has its own domain, made up of mysteries unavailable to natural reason and therefore beyond the competence of any other science. This accounts for the great dignity and sublime vocation of the dogmatic theologian, who is called not only to know the truth but to speak rightly, even wisely, about the very source of all truth.

Recognizing and sustaining this dignity requires a lucid distinction between the natural and the supernatural. Scheeben insisted upon this distinction and did a great deal to illuminate it for modern Catholic theology. Lacking a clear distinction between nature and grace, we will be unsure what our enterprise as theologians is supposed to be about. As a predictable result, theologians now talk about anything and everything, on the assumption, or in the hope, that they are thereby already talking about Is being dogmatic a good thing?.

Liberation and feminist theologies are obvious examples, at least as often practiced, but so are theologies for which the Church must be a countercultural community of character, purity, and virtue. At times, it seems as though such discourse is meant to count as theology simply because psychological description or social theory is overlaid with a patina of piety or moral seriousness.

Even when theology is clearly in earnest about speaking of God, however, ambiguity about the proper subject matter of theology dims its chances of success. The interior mysteries of the triune God are simply not accessible to us from our apprehension of created natures and their activities, including our own. These mysteries are intrinsically supernatural and, as a result, suprarational. Consequently, no analysis of psychological and social reality, indeed of any created reality, can provide us with a knowledge of God as he is in his triune self and as he has generously willed to be for us.

Within the counsel of his own inner life, God has determined to be the giver Is being dogmatic a good thing? a supremely intimate share in that life, by the incarnation of the Son and the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Defeating Dogmatism

When theology tries to speak of God by drawing the supernatural mysteries of the divine life down into the more familiar sphere of created realities, it wanders away from its sublime vocation. Theology that has lost a clear sense of the supernatural mysteries uniquely its own will merely see in a poor and confused way created things that other disciplines, designed to know just those things, see clearly and well. No wonder that such theology, whatever its good intentions, eventually begins to be unsure why it exists at all.

Of course anything and everything, including every aspect of experience and society, nature and history, can be an appropriate subject matter for speculative theological reflection. But as he saw clearly, nothing becomes a topic for genuinely theological reflection save by being drawn up into the sphere of Is being dogmatic a good thing? supernatural mysteries that are the proper subject matter of theology. Another favorite topic of theological talk today is other theologians, especially those of the recent past.

Scheeben was a staggeringly erudite theologian. This is immediately obvious in the Dogmatics and Nature and Grace, but he could not keep it entirely hidden in the Mysteries of Christianity, even though that book was intended for a less specialized audience.

He draws more or less constantly on most of the great theologians of the Middle Ages, from Anselm to Bernard of Clairvaux and the Victorines, and from Alexander of Hales to Bonaventure, Albert, Thomas Aquinas, and Scotus.

Only the intellectual tradition stemming from Ockham generally fails to elicit any sympathy from him. It is Is being dogmatic a good thing? just his learning, however, that impresses.

Scheeben does not lord over the past and judge it, as if the modern mind were in a superior position to know divine truths. Nor does he equate genuinely dogmatic theology with rigorous adherence to a past master, no matter how much we may learn from him. His use of the thirteenth-century scholastics, for example, is remarkably catholic. He does not play them off against one another, or adhere to a particular school, but makes constructive use of all of them, usually in mutually reinforcing ways.

Is being dogmatic a good thing? is quite clear, for example, in his nuanced treatment of the motive of the Incarnation and its relation to sin, where he follows St. Thomas Aquinas in holding that the Incarnation is contingent on the fact of sin, but with Bl. Scheeben did not habitually draw historical dividing lines or dismiss whole periods or schools of theology, as we so often do today.

He had a vast knowledge of early modern scholasticism, from Cajetan to Cano and Soto, Gregory of Valencia, Suárez, Ruiz de Montoya, and Ripalda, and on to eighteenth century-scholastics like Gotti, Viva, and the Wirceburgenses. To this may be added his assimilation of the so-called positive theology of the seventeenth century and after, particularly of Petau and Thomassin. All this learning was not the work of an unusually superannuated lifetime. Much of it was already in place by the time Scheeben published the Mysteries in 1865, at the age of thirty.

Yet this only stands to reason. If we want to do speculative theology, we must learn how from those who have done it especially well, not only at one time or another but in every age of the Church.

Is being dogmatic a good thing?

These are the deep wells from which we must drink. If it differed in degree, his learning did not differ in kind from that expected of any academic theologian in the European world of his time. His erudition was the accomplishment not only of him but of the rich theological culture he inhabited when it met with an unusually capable and receptive mind.

The theological culture that produced him and many others has largely disappeared. With it has gone much of the possibility of dogmatic theology such as he was able to write. The theological culture of breadth and sympathy apparent on his pages has Is being dogmatic a good thing? disappeared. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Catholic theology is almost entirely forgotten, unknown to all but a tiny handful of historical scholars.

The theology of earlier centuries, having been written before the Enlightenment, may sometimes be of real interest, but the interest is almost always historical. Any such theology, we presume, comes from a world too different Is being dogmatic a good thing? our own to help us address our present needs and problems, at least in any direct way. Only the theology of the recent past has intrinsic value; all other theology matters only in relation to where we are now.

Scheeben teaches us to view the relationship between theology past and present quite differently. He practiced what has lately come to be called, with reference to the Church before and after the Council, a hermeneutic of continuity. On his reading, a very broad swath of theological material is relevant to present speculative work, from the ante-Nicene Fathers to his own contemporaries. Conversely, unlike some of his own near predecessors and contemporaries like Georg Hermes and J.

The speculative theologian may find either old tools or new ones useful Is being dogmatic a good thing? his task of understanding what the faith teaches. He has Is being dogmatic a good thing? reason to assume in advance that only one sort of tool will do the job.

Modern theology has grown used to thinking of the theologian as an intellectual virtuoso. He surveys the whole of the Christian tradition with an earnest desire to improve upon the past. He seeks an insight previously unpossessed, or possessed only by a few, in the hope that by it he can set right unresolved problems in the tradition, or problems heretofore unrecognized. In modern Protestant theology, virtuosity has been pretty much a vocational obligation for the dogmatic theologian.

But Catholic theology too has been wooed by virtuosos. Like all real humility, it stems not from timidity or abjectness but from love for and gratitude to the God who, solely for the good of his creatures, has exalted us beyond all that we could otherwise ask or imagine, by opening up to us the innermost treasures of his own life.

Immensely learned though Scheeben is, he is wholly indifferent to virtuosity. He seeks in love to understand with all the resources of mind and reason what he knows can be understood only by the poor in spirit. In this way reason is raised above its natural lowliness to the highest nobility. True speculative achievement comes not from trying to be creative but from Is being dogmatic a good thing?

seeking to understand the divine mysteries as God wills in love to make them known. Creativity is a mere by-product of this effort.

Of this there has been much, and historical study of the Fathers and the medievals flourishes among Catholic theologians. The Council certainly did not recommend, either by what it said or by what it did, the abandonment of dogmatic theology or of the scholastic traditions, which have so deeply informed Catholic theological speculation since the Middle Ages.

These books had been the standard literary form for comprehensive dogmatic theology in the Catholic world since at least the early nineteenth century. No doubt those who dismissed neoscholasticism thought that new and more-fruitful forms of speculative theology would rise up to take the place of what were assumed to be the scripturally barren and rationalistic, crabbed and hairsplitting manuals.

The rejection of established dogmatic traditions and approaches has led not to new and more-vital forms of Catholic systematic reflection but to the effective disappearance of dogmatic theology altogether. Of course many Catholic theologians today will vehemently contest this judgment and point in proof to Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, or Bernard Lonergan perhaps all three as undeniable examples of renewed, postscholastic forms of dogmatics.

Whatever the merits of their highly influential and often contested substantive proposals, the Is being dogmatic a good thing? to which either Rahner or Balthasar actually ought to count as a dogmatic theologian is, I Is being dogmatic a good thing?, far from clear.

The distinctive, not to say eccentric, style and structure of their theologies raise questions on this score, as do the temptations to virtuosity they especially Balthasar sometimes exhibit. Lonergan is another story, but he like Rahner produced only pieces of a dogmatic theology, and the genuinely dogmatic parts of his corpus are also those that have had the least influence.

If so, this only underscores the disappearance of dogmatic theology as a fact of contemporary Catholic intellectual life. Rahner, Balthasar, and Lonergan have certainly produced followers, but their followers have not done dogmatic theology. Whatever their own intentions, the great figures in the decades following the Second Vatican Council have been influential not primarily in prompting others to talk about God but in prompting others to talk about them.

The disappearance of dogmatic or speculative theology represents a Is being dogmatic a good thing? loss to contemporary Catholic Christianity. Dogmatics is the application of human reason, at once rigorous and submissive, to the highest matters of Christian faith.

With at least equal vigor though with considerably less support from the wider worldBenedict has argued that reason, when it rejects the light that faith alone can provide, cannot help falling into relativism, moral and otherwise.

Without the transcendent purpose provided by the dogmatic virtues, reason eventually inflicts upon itself a mortal wound, submitting not to the gentle light of faith but to the nihilism that reduces reason to a sinister technical instrument in the hands of the will to power. That faith and reason need each other, though in different ways, is of course a deep principle of dogmatic theology.

In the influential formulation of St. Thomas Aquinas, robustly embraced by Scheeben, the grace of faith does not eliminate natural reason but presupposes it, since divine teaching presupposes that we, as reasoning beings, can be taught.

At the same time reason finds its perfection in the knowledge faith gives. Different religions may have different ways of looking at the role of reason in relation to what they believe.

In Catholic Christianity, though, the deep things of God are meant to be searched out by the rational creature, as the rational creature is meant by God to find its perfection in the knowledge of divine mysteries.

God reveals the secrets of his innermost life and the sublime destiny he holds out to us in himself, so that the mind can receive them, ponder them, and begin here and now its journey toward God.

To give up on the most diligent application of human reason to the highest mysteries of Christian faith, to give up on dogmatic theology, as contemporary Catholicism has unwittingly done, is not to honor these mysteries but to hold them at a safe distance. Seen only from afar, the divine mysteries remain vague to us, and as such they make few intellectual and moral demands on us.

Our distance gives us the impression that we can make of these mysteries what we will, turning them into mirrors for our spiritual needs, real or imagined, rather than allowing ourselves to be reformed by them.

Lots of very loose talk about the Trinity as little more than a high-sounding model for proper social or communal life provides an all-too-obvious example. It means we do Is being dogmatic a good thing?

approach them at all. In the deepest sense the value of dogmatic Is being dogmatic a good thing?, and the need for it, lie with the interior life of faith. But the enrichment of the interior life in and through dogmatic reason also shapes communal and institutional reality. Vital speculative theology enables the Church to articulate the meaning and content of her faith as a whole, down to the most beautiful detail, and in a precise and persuasive way.

We cannot by mere scholarship create, or reinvent, the almost vanished theological culture that Matthias Scheeben so richly embodies, as if doctoral programs and academic disciplines can make up for our deficit in dogmatic virtues.

But we can read what he left us, and in a docile spirit quite out of step with our present-day cult of virtuosity we can let him lead us to others who have also used their intellectual gifts to enter into the divine mysteries.

Most important of all, we can pray for the humility Scheeben brought to the task. The way back to a renewed and vital theological culture is long, but this is surely a good place to start. Marshall is professor of Christian doctrine at Perkins School of Theology.

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