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CHAPTER I

EXPLANATION OF DOGMATICS (§§ 2-19)

Dogmatics is a theological discipline. Its sole use is to serve the interest of the Christian church. This consideration determines for us its peculiar task. Since it presupposes the Christian church, a right apprehension of the church in general and of the character of the Christian church in particular becomes its basis and the touchstone of all that claims a place in it. This being the case, we are not obliged, for example, to derive a doctrine of God, of man, and of last things from universal principles of reason, because these principles have no more relation to the Christian church than to any other form of association among men; but there are three auxiliary sciences whose aid we do need as an introduction to dogmatics: first, ethics, because the idea of the church pertains to this realm, since it denotes a fellowship or association which originates and continues only through free human activities. Second, philosophy of religion, because in defining the term church it is necessary to distinguish the essential and permanent elements, subsisting in religious communions through all the stages of their development, from the individual historical forms in which their common principle may temporarily be embodied, so as to exhibit those elements as constituting the entire manifestation of religion in human nature. 119(Compare the philosophy of law as an analogous critical discipline.) Third, apologetics, attaching itself to the philosophy of religion in order to describe the peculiar essence of Christianity and its relations to other religious communions. Availing itself of propositions borrowed from these sciences, dogmatics then proceeds to its own peculiar task, though it is to be remembered that the value of the dogmatic does not depend on the correctness of the processes or conclusions adopted in all or any of these three auxiliary sciences (§ 2).

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