Definition of Dogma

Dogmas are the pronouncements of the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils, when they confronted heretical teachings that were altering the revealed truth. First there was a heretical doctrine about Christ, or the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Triune God in general, or concerning the theology of the Persons of the Holy Trinity and the Divine Economy, which is the incarnation of the Son and Word (Logos) of God. Then the Holy Fathers would meet in Local and Ecumenical Councils and formulate definitions of the Orthodox faith.

The central Person discussed by the Holy Fathers was Christ, in Whom the Divine and human nature were united without change, confusion, separation or division. The Holy Father did not have abstract philosophical discussions about the Holy Trinity.

“They always discussed this particular Person Who appeared to the Prophets and revealed the Father within Himself in the Holy Spirit. So they did not discuss the dogma of the Holy Trinity in an abstract way, but discussed this specific Person in the Old Testament Who was revealed to the Prophets and afterwards in flesh to the Apostles.”

The demarcation of the revelation is called dogma. Essentially, however, dogma shows Christ revealed in glory. It is an expression of the divine manifestations (theophanies) in both the Old and New Testaments. Dogma is not a simple external confession of faith, but a formulation of revelatory truth. And the holy Fathers had a special reason for undertaking this, because heretics had doubts about the revelation. There is, therefore, a difference between dogma and interpretation.

It follows that dogmas are used as medicines for the spiritually sick, so that they may be cured.

“Dogma and theology are medicines. When we become well, we stop taking medicines. We take medicines when we are ill. Man is ill because he is not a in a position to see God. He is not ready, because he does not have love. The fact that he does not have love means that he is ill.”

In the same way as a patient takes medicines in order to be cured and become well, so someone who is spiritually sick uses medicines so as to be cured and attain to glorification. When he reaches glorification, of course, the dogma-medicines are inadequate. They are not abolished by the Church, because they will be needed by others who are sick, but they are insufficient and unnecessary for someone who arrives at glorification and sees the glory of God.

“Dogmas are not a permanent state. They are medicines, and the purpose of medicines is to be done away with, once the patient has been cured. When we are cured we no longer need medicines. So dogmas exist as long as we do not see Christ in glory. Once we see Christ in glory, dogma is abolished. What are the dogmas about? They concern Christology and the Holy Trinity. What need is there for words and concepts about the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity when we see Christ as Holy Trinity and Incarnation?”

Of course, the dogmas of the Ecumenical Councils are indispensable even for the glorified, because through these dogmas revealed truth is defined.” (Empirical dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church by Fr John Romanides /Metr. of Nafpaktos Hierotheos .)

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