The distinction between dogma and doxa (Gk. “opinion”) is widespread in philosophical and theological works, but Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, provides a nice, terse definition of it. Bavinck writes, “Etymologically and historically there has always been a sharp distinction between δογμα and δοξα, between a doctrine based on a given authority and authoritative for a specific circle and in a specific area on the one hand, and the private opinion of a person, however renowned, on the other.”
This is a useful distinction to keep in mind precisely because of the theological climate in which we live. We live at a time in the Church’s history when, practically speaking, religious demagogues, spiritual gurus, and TV preachers have more authority than do church confessions of faith. Very easily, the opinions of well-respected, godly men gain near canonical authority over the beliefs of Christians, while church confessional documents fall by the wayside. It is worth remembering that though this is the case, it is a tragic example of how private opinion has gain a disturbing amount of authority in the Church.