Formal and Material Principles of Theology

Formal principle and material principle are two categories in Christian theology to identify and distinguish the authoritative source of theology (formal principle) from the theology itself, especially the central doctrine of that theology (material principle), of a religion, religious movement, tradition, body, denomination, or organization. A formal principle tends to be texts or revered leaders of the religion, while a material principle, its central teaching. The identification and application of this pair of categories in theological thinking were believed by Paul Tillich to have originated in the 19th century. As early as 1845 the Protestant theologian and historian Philip Schaff discussed them in his The Principle of Protestantism. They were utilized by the Lutheran scholar, F.E. Mayer, in his The Religious Bodies of America in order to facilitate a comparative study of the faith and practice of Christian denominations in the United States. This is also treated in a theological pamphlet entitled, Gospel and Scripture by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Famous quotes containing the words formal, material, principles and/or theology:

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