Daily Archives: June 15, 2007

Newman’s Development of Doctrine — According to Neuhaus

Having laid down the gauntlet (see my challenge to a duel/dialogue below) in which one of the rules are that, after nomination of a specific “new” official teaching of the Catholic Church which contradicts her earlier stated official teaching, I then rise to the challenge of demonstrating how the contradiction is only apparent and in fact it is a legitimate development according to Newman’s principles on the development of doctrine, I became aware that I had not actually stated what those princples were.

Here, thanks to Fr Richard John Neuhaus, is a good summary:

The Church’s teaching lives forward; it is not reconstructed backward-whether from the fifth century or the sixteenth or the nineteenth or the twenty-first. But through all the changes of living forward, how do we know what is corruption and what is authentic development? Recall Cardinal Newman’s reflection on the development of doctrine, a reflection that has been incorporated by magisterial teaching. He suggested seven marks of authentic development:

  • authentic development preserves the Church’s apostolic form;
  • it reflects continuity of principles in testing the unknown by the known;
  • it demonstrates the power to assimilate what is true, even in what is posited against it;
  • it follows a logical sequence;
  • it anticipates future developments;
  • it conserves past developments;
  • and, throughout, it claims and demonstrates the vigor of teaching authority.

And thus it is, said St. Vincent of Lerins in the fifth century, that in authentic development of doctrine nothing presents itself in the Church’s old age that was not latent in her youth. Such was the truth discovered by Augustine, a truth “ever ancient, ever new.”

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Past Elder, I challenge you to a DUEL!**

Since there are 26 comments on the Cyprian post already… I’m going to continue this here. And the time has come to throw down the guantlet.

Faith is very important to me as a Catholic. I have faith in the promises of Christ. Christ made a whole bunch of promises including:

“The Spirit will lead you into all truth”
“You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it”.
“Behold I am with you always until the end of the Age”.

I have faith in Christ and his promises, and therefore in the Church. I believe that the Church which is governed by the Successor of St Peter and the bishops in communion with him is the one Catholic Church of Christ.

And I believe that today’s Catholic Church is continuous with the very Church established by Christ on the foundation of his apostles for both reasons Pastor Pearce points out:

1) It is continuous in doctrine (ie. it is evangelical)
2) It is continuous in outward fellowship (ie. it is not gnostic)

The second is historically demonstrable. You would have a tough time disproving it. Even the 2nd Vatican Council was run by guys who were the direct successors of the Fathers of the 1st Vatican Council and the Fathers of Trent etc. etc. and the Fathers of Constantinople and the Fathers of Nicea and the Fathers of the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem.

The first–continuity in doctrine–is only partly demonstrable by means of historical evidence (eg. quotes from the past–although there is a general ignorance about what was realy taught eg. by the Early Church Fathers and eg. by the pre-Vatican II popes). Continuity in doctrine is, in the final analysis, only clearly demonstrable by means of FAITH–which includes faith in Christ’s promises given above.

As I said in my post on the Lutheran at the CTSA meeting, if you find the teachings of the Catholic Church to be contradictory, you are not reading them correctly. Professor Koons, who recently converted to the Catholic faith, has stressed the importance of Newman’s theory of the development of doctrine for understanding the teaching of the Church.

Part of that theory (which is widely accepted) is the presupposition of continuity within the Tradition. I have yet to find an instance of any teaching that was held and taught by the Church at some earlier time which is not faithfully reflected and included in the faith of the Church at this present time–or, for that matter, a teaching that is held and proclaimed today that is without precedent within the past Tradition of the Church.

In fact, Past Elder (and Pastor Weedon and anyone else who wants to wade in) I challenge you to a duel. Give me an official documented teaching of the Church today–for our purposes, let’s say a quotation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church–which you believe contradicts the official documented teaching of the Church in the past. And I will show you how what you see as a contradiction is in fact in full continuity according to the principles of Newman’s development of doctrine.

That’s my challenge. Let the fun begin.

**And Pastor Weedon is right, it’s not a “duel”–its a prayerful dialogue. That’s what I meant.

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