An Essay On The Development Of Christian Doctrine

An Essay On The Development Of Christian Doctrine-74
[7] In contemplating it, claims can be made about the idea which attempt to express some truth about it in human speech.Like all ideas, it is possible to view it under a great number of different aspects; like all great ideas, it is impossible for a human mind, which learns not instantaneously but discursively and step by step, to grasp it in its fullness at once—or even in a single lifetime.

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Although some passages suggest a parity between Scripture and Church within revealed religion, Newman clearly distinguishes between the “revelation” that is “given” and the Church’s given “authority to decide what it is that is given.” [5] The Church may have divine authority and infallibility, but that does not make it an organ of revelation.

He insists, instead, that it is possible for doctrine to develop and for there to arise statements expressed for the first time without these counting as new revelation.

Further, such doctrines fail the Vincentian canon, which holds that orthodoxy is what is believed always, everywhere, by everyone.

Some Catholics, in response, might be inclined to accept and defend the conclusion, perhaps averring that the Church does and can continue the revelation of Christ because the Church is the Body of Christ and the enduring presence of the Incarnation, having received from the Apostles their authority to convey new revelation in Christ.

Even just a single idea, if it is sufficiently rich, can result in an entire ethical, political, philosophical, and liturgical tradition as its aspects and implications are drawn out and recognized.

Just like a living plant or animal, the idea grows into its fullest form based on a potential inherent to it.Just as a seed later becomes a tree that grows future seeds, even though the original seed does not contain any further seeds of its own, so Christian ideas are able to take on entirely new aspects or acquire new implications or be articulated in new statements without the need for any new ideas to be given by God.A religious idea no more needs new revelation to grow or spread than a living organism needs new DNA.An idea, then, may be given at a single time or at multiple times, but once it is given it has the power to develop and expand all in itself, without the need for additional or subsequent ideas to be given.When God conveys an idea through an inspired author, it comes by means of that author’s words, which words capture certain aspects of that idea.This “germination and maturation of some truth or apparent truth on a large mental field” and the bringing together of these aspects into a consistent shape is what Newman calls development.[12] This process of development need not taint an idea’s purity, but in reality makes it broader, deeper, and stronger.[6] Here, Newman explains that doctrinal development is simply the natural consequence of the fact that Christianity is a living idea, an idea that takes root in human minds and society and thereby becomes alive.Newman understands an idea as a kind of mental object or image which resides in the mind as a “simple intuition” (as opposed to a “wordless feeling”).Critics of doctrinal development contend that the Roman Catholic Church’s modern dogmatic pronouncements (on questions such as the Immaculate Conception or papal infallibility) are genuine doctrinal novelties.[3] Moreover, the objection continues, because such doctrines are proposed as divine but are contained neither expressly nor substantially in the revelation of Scripture, they can only be defended on the basis of a claim to new revelation.

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