Friday, September 30, 2011

Dogma Does Not Develop...

John Henry Newman has been undergoing a resurgence and it is not salutary for orthodox catholic faith and confession.  Newman's rather famous claim to fame is the development of the idea that doctrine develops -- that dogma is not so much witness to unchanging truth but the evolution of truth.  It fits in well with the idea that Scripture is neither exclusive source or norm of Christian faith and life.  Tradition, papal authority, even conciliar authority may define new dogma.  There are those (Bart Ehrmanites) who like this idea and who constantly suggest that the Christianity of the Church is very different from the Christ of history.  They love conspiracy theories and posit Christian history with all the intrigue of a Tom Clancy novel as doctrines develop and heroes and anti-heroes duke it ought for whose dogma will endure and reign supreme.  What I have written here is not really historical survey as much as it is my frustration with the way this idea of doctrinal development has taken hold and become normative for Rome and even for those outside Rome.  For example, the ELCA and its decision to change teaching about gays and lesbians has, in effect, decided that doctrine has evolved past Scripture and its particular words to this regard.

Anyway, I ran across a quote from George Florovsky in this regard.  I like it because it is especially appropriate and especially blunt:

'Dogma is by no means a new Revelation. Dogma is only a witness. The whole meaning of dogmatic definition consists of testifying to unchanging truth, truth which was revealed and has been preserved from the beginning. Thus it is a total misunderstanding to speak of 'the development of dogma.' Dogmas do not develop; they are unchanging and inviolable, even in their external aspect — their wording. Least of all is it possible to change dogmatic language or terminology. As strange as it may appear, one can indeed say: dogmas arise, dogmas are established, but they do not develop. And once established, a dogma is perennial and already an immutable 'rule of faith' ('regula fidei'; o kanon tis pisteos, ο κανων της πιστεως). Dogma is an intuitive truth, not a discursive axiom which is accessible to logical development. The whole meaning of dogma lies in the fact that it is expressed truth. Revelation discloses itself and is received in the silence of faith...'

HT to Pr Mark Henderson...


Anonymous said...

Check out the LCMS for changing their
beliefs: Walther was FOR SLAVERY
because he lived in a pro-slavery
state like Missouri. Our forefathers
were against life insurance since
this indicated a lack of trust in
God. Before 1969 women were not
allowed to vote in parish voters
meeting and the Biblical proof was
the same for being against the
ordination of women. So the LCMS
has evolved over the years.

Anonymous said...

First of all, those were not doctrinal positions. those were just opinions (not in our Confessions). Second, We are not bound by the opinions of individuals or even a church convention (since we do not vote on doctrine or faith).

Anonymous said...

Attention Anon #2

The LCMS Convention in 1969 voted
to have altar and pulpit fellowship
with the ALC. Was that a doctrinal
position? The LCMS in 1973 voted
to condemn the theology of Seminex.
Was that a doctrinal position?

It is naive to think that the LCMS
does not vote on doctrine or faith.

Terry Maher said...

Hilarious to see two (or is it three) guys who won't even put their names to what they say discuss taking a position on something.

Terry Maher said...

Back to the subject, the "development of doctrine" does NOT mean the definition of new doctrine. Not even for a neurotic lunatic like Newman. For the other lunatics in ELCA, their recent actions are not an example of what Newman meant. Unfortunately, Newman like other modern figures, such as Bonhoeffer and Teilhard, is invoked re things that are quite apart from anything they actually meant.

Just as Bonhoeffer has been heralded as a forerunner of liberation theology, though he was not, Newman is invoked to excuse changes that are not at all developments as he meant it.

Development of dogma does not mean change of dogma or finding new dogma. It means, to use two words he did not use but which entirely derive from his though, approfondimento, a deepening of understanding of a dogma, and aggiornamento, an expression of a dogma in a way more comprehensible to the current times.

Knowing that does not prevent the mischief. Every change in teaching is explained as not a change at all but rather a deeper and more profound understanding of the same dogma, or as a new expression in the language of our times of the same truth.

Recent RC history is full of such.

But, we will shoot ourselves in the foot and disqualify ourselves from any consideration by those we would address on these matters, to counter them with an understanding of "development of doctrine" that thinks it means new doctrines can be defined. Rather, they are to be engaged with demonstrations that no, what they say is not in fact a re-expression in new terms of the same truth, or no, what they say is not a more profound understanding of the same truth.

Pastor Peters said...

Quote "Back to the subject, the "development of doctrine" does NOT mean the definition of new doctrine. Not even for a neurotic lunatic like Newman."

No, Newman did not say new doctrines but he did suggest that things that were barely mentioned in the early church develop into dogma or become, in their fullness, public doctrine. For example, papal infallability or the assumption of the BVM. What began as pious opinions among some became the public dogma or Rome. In this development the line between merely fuller explanation and new teaching is very fine, indeed.