Monday, July 09, 2007

Another Development Question


I will be away from the blog for a few days.
Below is a comment from Kepha that I’d like to highlight. He posted it in the comment section of a previous blog entry, but it was insightful, and deserved not to be hidden away in the comments section.


My question is: Upon what basis do modern Roman Catholics proudly embrace the Doctrine of the Development of Doctrine, if the only inspired, and therefore infallible, inscripturated Apostolic Tradition, i.e., the New Testament, does not teach that the teaching of the Apostles develops? Is the (recent and famed)Development of Doctrine itself a development of doctrine? I can just imagine the ancient scene: a successor of a successor of a successor of a successor of an Apostle one day realizes that doctrine develops. He announces this "new discovery" (not a "new revelation," mind you) to his congregation.
Father: I've just realized, by my special guidance of the Holy Spirit, that doctrine develops. And, only I can tell you what that development is.
A faithful member from the congregation humbly asks, "Father, can you please show us where in the writings of the New Testament, or where in the Apostolic Tradition this teaching of the development of doctrine is?"
Father: How dare you question my apostolic authority! We don't believe in that everything has to be found in the writings of the New Testament!
Faithful: Of course, of course, Father. I did not mean that. Please forgive me for my ignorance. We most certainly believe that the Faith is partly in the Scriptures and partly in the Tradition. I simply want to know where in the Tradition, if not in the Scriptures, is this apostolic teaching that doctrine develops.
Father: You presume to teach me? "Gird up your loins like a man and I will instruct you"! The apostolic teaching that doctrine develops is not in Scripture and not in the Tradition, in the way that you think. "One day is like a thousand years to the Lord"! "Your ways are not His ways"'!
Faithful: In what way then, Venerable Father, is this teaching partly in Scripture and partly in Tradition?
Father: Implicitly!
Faithful: What??
Father: "Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing"! The right hand represents the New Testament writers, while the left hand represents the work of the Holy Spirit in the development of doctrine. Listen again: "New wine cannot be placed in old wine skins"! The old wine skins burst because they are insufficient; these, my son, are the only inspired writings we have, namely the Word of God. The wine is the development of doctrine.
Faithful: Praise God that we have you as our infallible interpreter, Father! And what of the Fathers and your predecessors, Father? You said they believes this apostolic teaching "implicitly"?
Father: Yes, and ignorantly.
Faithful: "Ignorantly"??
Father: Yes, they had no idea they believed this teaching.
Faithful: But how do you know that they believed this?
Father: Curse your rebelliousness and doubt of my apostolic authority! The "foolishness of God is wisdom for men"! Did not the Lord say, "there are sheep not yet in my fold"? The "fold" is the truth in all its development; the sheep not yet in the fold are the members of the Church who have yet to know the fullness of the truth.
Faithful: I understand! The evidence is always ambiguous to the people. We are like the soldiers who accompanied the Apostle Paul, we hear but do not understand the voice from Heaven.
Father: Now you are acquiring holiness and wisdom my son.
Faithful: And we need you, our infallible ruler, to tell us what the evidence is and what it means!
Father: Give thanks to God, my son, "for many longed to see what you now see." Like Doubting Thomas, who demanded evidence for the Resurrection, you demanded evidence for the development of doctrine. When you saw that there was no evidence in Scripture or the Tradition, you then, like Abraham who dared to speak yet once more to God, dared to demand evidence for why their wasn't evidence for the development of doctrine in Scripture and Tradition. Now you see and believe, but "blessed are those who do not see and believe."
On another note, James, your question reminds me of a recent conversation with a very good friend of mine (a Catholic who is converting to Orthodoxy), wherein I said that it seems as though the infallible certainty hailed by Catholic apologists as the chief characteristic of Catholicism is really only a temporal infallible certainty. In other words, I can have "infallible certainty" right now that the Magisterium doesn't infallibly teach that Mary is Co-Redemptirx and Mediatrix of All Graces. However, I cannot have "infallible certainty" that these unofficial and popular marian teachings are not infallible truths, for at some point in the future they may be declared to be such!

21 comments:

Carrie said...

Hi James,

I enjoyed your piece on Pros Apologian about the scriptural roots of Catholic teaching.

I always find it interesting that Catholics bring up John 20:30-31, except they usually stop with verse 30. Ironically, verse 31 contradicts what they try to argue, that scripture is insufficient.

In fact, I love that verse so much it is the title/theme of my new blog ("But these are written")- I'm hoping to move my current blog over soon to the new site. I hope you will stop by sometime for a visit :)

Carrie said...

On topic now...

Kepha's "conversation" actually helps to make sense as to why lay Catholic think that scripture is to difficult to understand.

When the magisterium's interpretation makes no sense with the plain reading of the text, you must believe that you are incapable of proper interpretation. Sadly the faithful don't see through the charade but instead blindly follow the wrong shepherd.

Anonymous said...

Doctrine does not develop. Great. Now I have to obey first-century Jewish diatary laws and refrain from eating food sacrificed to idols. There goes my hotdog intake.

Mathetes said...

a) the ceremonial law was never meant to be universal or permanent. Are you saying that belief in the Trinity or the Assumption of Mary are meant to be temporary and local?

b) furthermore, the abolition of ceremonial practices such as circumcision or the kosher diet is only embraced because the revelation given in the New Testament allow it. Was Cardinal Newman divinely inspired?

c) Protestants don't deny that our understanding of a doctrine can develop, but there's a difference between legitimate doctrinal development and dcotrinal invention or contradiction

d) and while a Protestant is free to update his or her understanding of a doctrine, the Roman church is not, because it considers itself irreformable. This is the same church that has 'infallibly' declared that its doctrines have always been understood as such by all ages of the church, in harmony with the unanimous consent of the fathers.

pilgrim said...

I enjoyed the comment on the thread, and I enjoyed it here.

I think anonymous is missing the point.

Theo said...

Dear Mathetes:

I think "Anonymous" refers to the ruling of the Church at the First Council of Jerusalem as recorded in The Acts of the Apostles. The Apostles taught that Christians should abstain from eating meat taken from strangled animals as per Jewish law and should avoid eating meat from animals that had been used in pagan rituals (Such meat might have been common in marketplaces of pagan communities, and for some Christians, obtaining any meat not so "defiled" might have been difficult).

By the mid first century (circa AD 50), the Church removed all reference to Jewish scruples as found in the non-scriptural document, "The Teachings of the Apostles": a.k.a. The Didache.).

The Church's doctrine developed as it better understood Jesus' teaching that it is not what goes into a man's mouth, but what comes out, that defiles him. First, to refrain from such meats only to avoid causing another to stumble (as per St. Paul's instructions to the Church in Corinth), then ultimately to understanding that the teaching actually applies not just to "meat" but to Christian deportment in general. Thus, were I a member of a Christian community that eschews going to movies, I would abstain from doing so, not because it is inherently sinful, but because it tempts my brothers and sisters to stumble.

Some cite this as an early reference to Church Cannon law, illustrative of both Church authority and doctrinal development.

If this was indeed, Anaon's point, I humbly suggest that it was a mistake for the author to assume readers of this forum would share his historical and doctrinal background enough to appreciate the comment; nevertheless, to Catholics such as I, his point makes sense.

Oddly enough, the lowly church picnic hotdog testifies to the practical history of doctrinal development.

Respectfully submitted, I remain your servant and brother in our only Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ,
--Theo

Theo said...

Dear Mathetes:

In my previous comment I addressed what I expect was the general thought behind the comment of “Anonymous;” however, I did not address your salient points. These are indeed worthy of answers beyond my meager skill to fashion. I ask your forbearance as I attempt to plod through.

You comment:
a) the ceremonial law was never meant to be universal or permanent.
I respond:
The dietary law for Christians as stated in the Book of Acts does not indicate that it shall be local or temporary. We know it to be temporary only because the Church later revised it.

You asked:
Are you saying that belief in the Trinity or the Assumption of Mary are meant to be temporary and local?
I respond:
No. Those doctrines are considered universal. They are also considered to be dogmatically correct: that is, they cannot be revoked. Nevertheless, even dogmatic doctrines can and do develop—more on this later.

You also commented:
b) furthermore, the abolition of ceremonial practices such as circumcision or the kosher diet is only embraced because the revelation given in the New Testament allow it.
I respond:
You are mistaken. As noted, the development of docrine surrounding "meat" is well documented partially within and partially outside of the Cannon of Scripture. The Apostolic teaching of the Didache is an interim step between the edict of Acts and the admonition of Paul. It further developed in the post-scriptural era to become the general teaching it is today.

You also asked:
Was Cardinal Newman divinely inspired?
I respond:
Beats me. Who knows but God? Some things he wrote or said might have been inspired by God. For that matter, some things *you* write and say might be inspired; but the Church is not subject to private revelation, so it is irrelevant.

You commented:
c) Protestants don't deny that our understanding of a doctrine can develop, but there's a difference between legitimate doctrinal development and dcotrinal invention or contradiction
I respond:
I agree that doctrinal contradiction is *not* doctrinal development; however, I disagree that there can be no new teachings. The infinite God promised to lead us in truth. He instructed us to hear the prophets and judge their words. He gave this authority to the Church. Obviously Protestants disagree both among themselves and with their Catholic brethren about what constitutes contradiction vs. development; however, this does not mandate that either view is unreasonable.

You comment:
d) and while a Protestant is free to update his or her understanding of a doctrine, the Roman church is not, because it considers itself irreformable.
I respond:
I believe your assertion is misguided and in error. A church that cannot repent is not The Church. Historically we recognize many reformations including the Gregorian, Benedictine and Franciscan. Had the unfortunate politics and stubborn zeitgeist of the 16th century not so adversely influenced so many of the parties involved, the Lutheran Reformation might have gone as Luther initially desired: as an internal reformation rather than a schism and sundering.

You also comment:
This is the same church that has 'infallibly' declared that its doctrines have always been understood as such by all ages of the church in harmony with the unanimous consent of the fathers.
I respond:
I believe the Church recognizes that the few dogmatic doctrines of the Church as irrevocable, but even these are subject to development in the event that God clearly guides us in truth; as Aquinas taught, if ever the teaching of the Church denies the understanding of reality in truth, the teaching, or our understanding of the teaching must change.
The doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Christ were denied by the church father, Origin; Clement, Justin, and Polycarp and other first-century church fathers were not in 100 percent agreement on what we view today as universal truths of the Church. Great doctors of the Church such as Augustine and Aquinas differed on the ontological argument (which continues today); Jerome disagreed with the Church regarding the cannon of scripture. Church history is ripe with disagreement about most doctrines that we hold sacrosanct today.

Of course many reasonable people disagree with my observation, yet I observe that the unifying factor is not unanimity of opinions about Church teachings, but unanimity about the sovereign will of the Church founder, God in Christ Jesus.
As always, should I generate haze rather than clarity, please forgive my limitations.
I remain your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

Mathetes said...

"The dietary law for Christians as stated in the Book of Acts does not indicate that it shall be local or temporary. We know it to be temporary only because the Church later revised it"

a) and who or what authorizes the Church?

b) this is simplistic. There's far more to the ceremonial laws than the kosher diet. Where in the Council of Jerusalem did they put an end to animal sacrifices? The Sabbath? Passover?

c) actually, Jesus Himself put an end to the kosher diet, as we read in Mark 7. Also, the Council of Jerusalem was addressing the issue of circumcision, not the kosher diet.

d) this just goes to show how unfamiliar Roman Catholics are with the Old Testament. We can see that unclean foods could lawfully be given to Gentiles (Deut. 14:21), we can see that the Passover was not required of everyone from every nation - in fact, most of the heathen were actively prevented from practicing it, and we see also that God never punished any surrounding nations for not following the Sabbath, for not keeping a kosher diet, although He did punish them for not following the moral law. Furthermore, we can see from the "new covenant" passages in Ezekiel and Jeremiah would be in contrast with the old covenant.

So the fact that the ceremonial law was neither universal nor permanent can be deduced from nothing more than exegesis of the relevant OT Scriptures.

"No. Those doctrines are considered universal. They are also considered to be dogmatically correct: that is, they cannot be revoked. Nevertheless, even dogmatic doctrines can and do develop—more on this later."

Then there goes your comparison to the ceremonial law, since these are clearly not parallel.

"You are mistaken. As noted, the development of docrine surrounding "meat" is well documented partially within and partially outside of the Cannon of Scripture. The Apostolic teaching of the Didache is an interim step between the edict of Acts and the admonition of Paul. It further developed in the post-scriptural era to become the general teaching it is today."

Except that everything a Christian needs to know is fully documented in Mark 7, and reinforced in Acts 10.

"Beats me. Who knows but God? Some things he wrote or said might have been inspired by God. For that matter, some things *you* write and say might be inspired; but the Church is not subject to private revelation, so it is irrelevant."

The short answer is no. Both Protestant and Catholics believe that the canon is closed. As such, I see no reason to believe Cardinal Newman's innovation of doctrinal development (not that I agree with the Tridentine definition of tradition either, mind you). In regards to the ceremonial law, Jesus had divine authority, and the apostles had divinely-bestowed authority. Cardinal Newman, however, did not, and the development of doctrine is most realistically viewed as the act of a man who realized that the unique practices of the Roman Catholic Church have no basis in history. Ratzinger even points this out,

"In this connection I would like to relate a small episode that I think can cast much light on the situation. Before Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven was defined, all theological faculties in the world were consulted for their opinion. Our teachers’ answer was emphatically negative…”Tradition” was identified with what could be proved on the basis of texts. Altaner, the patrologist from Wurzburg…had proven in a scientifically persuasive manner that the doctrine of Mary’s bodily Assumption into haven was unknown before the 5C; this doctrine, therefore, he argued, could not belong to the “apostolic tradition. And this was his conclusion, which my teachers at Munich shared. This argument is compelling if you understand “tradition” strictly as the handing down of fixed formulas and texts…But if you conceive of “tradition” as the living process whereby the Holy Spirit introduces us to the fullness of truth and teaches us how to understand what previously we could still not grasp (cf. Jn 16:12-13), then subsequent “remembering” (cf. Jn 16:4, for instance) can come to recognize what it has not caught sight of previously and was already handed down in the original Word,” J. Ratzinger, Milestones (Ignatius, n.d.), 58-59"

"I agree that doctrinal contradiction is *not* doctrinal development; however, I disagree that there can be no new teachings. The infinite God promised to lead us in truth."

Which does nothing to justify the contents of said truth. If the Roman Catholic Church feels free to invent doctrines such as the Assumption of Mary, then it's no longer about the connection to apostolic teaching. And if it feels free to revise earlier teachings differently - such as the inspiration of Scripture - then how do you know that the kosher diet won't be reinstated? How do you know that the Mass won't be done away with? For all you know, the Church you wake up to could be radically different than it is today, giving it much less to do with apostolic teaching than it claims. With this kind of framework, the Roman Church has absolutely no need to justify itself on the basis of historical facts.

"He instructed us to hear the prophets and judge their words."

Were there any prophets present at Vatican II?

"He gave this authority to the Church."

An assertion without an argument. Prove it.

"Obviously Protestants disagree both among themselves and with their Catholic brethren about what constitutes contradiction vs. development; however, this does not mandate that either view is unreasonable."

This does not mandate that either view is unreasonable? The Protestants claim that the Roman Church is guilty of a flat-out contradiction, and Catholics claim that the Roman Church is *not* guilty of a flat out contradiction. Obviously, one of the views has to be unreasonable.

"I believe the Church recognizes that the few dogmatic doctrines of the Church as irrevocable, but even these are subject to development..."

Try to spot the contradiction in this sentence. Go on.

"The doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Christ were denied by the church father, Origin; Clement, Justin, and Polycarp and other first-century church fathers were not in 100 percent agreement on what we view today as universal truths of the Church."

Yes, and what does this say, then, about the unanimous consent of the fathers? Is it simply an incorrect artifact of the past? The unananimous consent of the fathers is something that the Roman Church infallibly declared, yet you seem fully prepared to toss it out the window.

Keep in mind that this Church infallibly declared that, "If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the Church which is different from that which the Church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.”

but also said that, "This tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit.[5] For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down…For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.”

The first one affirms what the second one expressedly denies. This is a point blank contradiction, though we know that one infallible teaching cannot contradict another. One can only be consistent with either the Vatican of the past or the Vatican of the present, but not both.


"Great doctors of the Church such as Augustine and Aquinas differed on the ontological argument (which continues today); Jerome disagreed with the Church regarding the cannon of scripture. Church history is ripe with disagreement about most doctrines that we hold sacrosanct today."

And again, how does that square with the unanimous consent of the fathers? And, keep in mind that the Catholic Church doesn't believe that the Church's understanding of doctrine develops, but that doctrine itself develops - there is no bright, clearly-defined line separating the two.

Theo said...

Dear Brother Mathetes:

You seem to be operating under the false assumption that all statements made by the Church are dogmatic, and the belief that you fully understand all Church statements, whereas practicing Catholics do not.

My humble aim is dialog. I am no apologist. I do not present a defense of Catholicism, but merely explain my own beliefs so that at a minimum if we are to disagree, the disagreement should be based upon actual disparity. So long as you insist upon trying to tell me what I understand rather than letting me tell you what I understand, we sadly have no basis for constructive communication.

I'm at a loss to address your comments: not because they accurately target my understanding of Catholic teachings, but because they so widely miss them that I fail to grasp your reasoning.

Sincerely, I yet remain your brother in Christ Jesus, who alone is our savior and who alone shall be our judge,
--Theo

GeneMBridges said...

You seem to be operating under the false assumption that all statements made by the Church are dogmatic, and the belief that you fully understand all Church statements, whereas practicing Catholics do not.

He's holding your own statements up to the light. He's addressing at your own level.

His understanding of the Catholic faith, as I recall, is shaped by his own former Catholicism. It's also shaped by the original intent of men like Bellarmine and councils like Trent, which are at odds now with Vatican II.

Your comments about the dietary laws were utterly without exegetical foundation too. He pointed that out.

The Jerusalem Council dealt with matter of whether or not one must be circumcized - e.g. become a Jew first - in order to be a Christian. The answer was "No," and the reason behind that answer is explained in Galatians as "justification by faith alone."

Not eating strangled meat is not an instance of keeping kosher alone, for the distinction between clean and unclean was removed by Jesus Himself, then reinforced in Acts 10 by the Spirit of God.

The clean/unclean distinction is predicated on the understanding of the OT law under the Covenant with Moses, in which these were santitary laws intended to keep disease out of the nation of Israel, as opposed to no such revelation for the Gentiles. These laws are unique to the Jew, to keep him ritually clean, to serve as a revelator of sin, for to be "unclean" is to be symbolically "sinful." The Mosaic Law is all about types and shadows.

The item on food in the Jerusalem Council is temporary, because (a) the Mosaic Law was fulfilled in Christ, (b) Christ and the Spirit both removed the clean / unclean distinction, (c) and Paul further moves away from the food laws in Romans and 1 Corinthians regarding food sacrificed to idols. Not eating strangled meat was enacted not as a universal dogmatic that could be modified by the Didache, et.al., but as a means to keep the peace between Jewish believers and Gentile believers by instructing the Gentile believers not to give offense.

We do not know the ceremonial law and dietary restrictions to be temporary because the church revised them (which church? Jerusalem? Antioch, Alexandria? Corinth? - notice the tacit appeal to 'the Church' in an age in which there was no Roman Catholic Church!), but because Scripture warrants the changes. As the link between the synagogue and the church itself diminished and the Jews after 70 ad became increasingly alienated from Christianity itself, there was no need to keep from eating certain foods, so the reason the changes were enacted had nothing to do with the mind of "the Church" but for practical reasons - the same reasons behind the decision of the Jerusalem Council on that matter. The injunctions regarding blood and meat in the apostolic era are concrete examples of a universal principle of fellowship: don't give unneeded offense to cause your brothers to stumble - the same principle given by Paul in Romans and 1 Corinthians.

You said, "I agree that doctrinal contradiction is *not* doctrinal development; however, I disagree that there can be no new teachings. The infinite God promised to lead us in truth."

How do you know this? On what basis? Where has the Catholic Church ever infallibly interpreted Scripture for you on this matter, if you base this on Scripture? You'd have to make a "private interpretation" to arrive at this conclusion.

So, what we're left with is just your blind fideism for Rome. This assertion is viciously circular for you.

Theo said...

Genembridges wrote:
"...the same reasons behind the decision of the Jerusalem Council on that matter. The injunctions regarding blood and meat in the apostolic era are concrete examples of a universal principle of fellowship: don't give unneeded offense to cause your brothers to stumble - the same principle given by Paul in Romans and 1 Corinthians."

Dear Brother Gene:

I'm having difficulty following your reasoning. You seem to deny that doctrine develops while at the same time illustrating that it does.

Even if we imagine that somehow Christians of the middle first century *had* a new Testament and formed their obedience solely upon it, they would have lived under different doctrines regarding eating meat between the time of the book of Acts and Paul's letter to the Corinthians.

It seems to me that under Acts all Christians must observe Jewish dietary laws and avoid meat taken from animals butchered in pagan rites. No exceptions. By the time St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, Christians may eat anything. The *teaching* has obviously developed. The truths behind the teachings did not change.

-----

You also wrote:
"...we're left with is just your blind fideism for Rome. This assertion is viciously circular for you."

I fully understand how your perspective brings you to this conclusion; however, I testify that my fideism to Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture is neither blind nor circular. I humbly suggest that one is unwise to assert that he knows what the other understands.

To illustrate: from my own perspective, it appears that your fideism to Sola Scriptura is both blind and circular. Of course I don't truly know that to be the case: I merely don't understand your reasoning. Were that doctrine the domain of only lunatics I might be justified to suppose otherwise; but you and countless other rational people believe the doctrine is soundly reasoned.

My own reason tells me the doctrine is circular and nonsensical. I would have to lie to myself and deny reason and (I deem) the God who endowed us reason in order to accept it. Yet I recognize you to be reasonable. I must conclude that I do not understand how *you* and others who believe the doctrine understand it.

Submitted with respect, I remain your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo


Humbly, I remain your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

Theo said...

For me, this conversation illustrates how difficult it sometimes can be to discuss a topic whose basic understanding differs among the people in the discussion.

I pose some hypothetical questions: The way we go about trying to answer them should give us insight into our own preconceptions about what "doctrinal development" means. If human slavery were again made legal in the United States, how does your Christian doctrine answer these questions?

-- Would a Christian living under US law be right or wrong to report escaped slaves?

-- Would he be obligated to help return them?

-- Would a Christian owning slaves for his personal benefit (as opposed to buying their liberation or owning them for their protection and safety) be sinning to do so?

-- Would a Christian owning another Christian be sinning to do so?

-- Would it be wrong for non-Christians to own Christian slaves for their benefit?

-- Would it be right or wrong for Christians to tolerate slavery?

-- Would it be right or wrong for them to openly oppose it?

What do you folks think?

Humbly submitted by your brother in Christ,
--Theo

Mathetes said...

"You seem to be operating under the false assumption that all statements made by the Church are dogmatic"

It's one thing to say that I think all statements by the church are dogmatic, it's another to show it. I'm fully aware that not all statements by the Roman Church are dogmatic, but look at the examples I used in my last post - the teaching of tradition as defined by the unanimous consent of the fathers is dogmatic. The Assumption of Mary is dogmatic. Sure, you could argue that things like the tradition-development doctrine are not dogmatic, since Vatican II wasn't an ecumenical council, but I would dispute that, since it's a teaching on faith and morals that they expect the entire community of believers to hold to.

The Ratzinger quote was to demonstrate the thinking process behind the development of doctrine from someone who was actually there. Nowhere did I say it was a dogmatic statement.

And is the Didache dogmatic? Hardly. You seem content to marshall non-dogmatic sources when it suits you, so why would it not be fair for me to do the same?

"and the belief that you fully understand all Church statements, whereas practicing Catholics do not."

I was a Roman Catholic for 30 years, so it's quite egregrious to suggest that I might be the one who misunderstands Roman Catholic theology.

Furthermore Catholics are denied the right of private judgment, so how YOU, or any other Catholic interprets Roman teaching is perfectly irrelevant. What's relevant is how *the Vatican* interprets its teachings. My obligation goes no further than quoting and understanding official Vatican documents. If you want the right of private judgment, become a Protestant.

And yes, I've dialogued with dozens of Catholics who either a) clearly do not understand it themselves or b) use piles of sophistry to try weaseling out of implications in their doctrine that they don't want to accept

"My humble aim is dialog. I am no apologist. I do not present a defense of Catholicism, but merely explain my own beliefs so that at a minimum if we are to disagree, the disagreement should be based upon actual disparity."

I appreciate that your manner is gentler than many Catholic apologists, but you're going to have to start asking some hard questions about what you believe in.

"So long as you insist upon trying to tell me what I understand rather than letting me tell you what I understand, we sadly have no basis for constructive communication."

Again, what *you* understand is perfectly irrelevant. Lacking the right of private judgment, the only question at hand for the Roman Catholic is what the Vatican understands. If two Catholics have different interpretations of what the Vatican teaches, then obviously they appear to be in the same boat of "doctrinal chaos" as the Protestant.

"I'm at a loss to address your comments: not because they accurately target my understanding of Catholic teachings, but because they so widely miss them that I fail to grasp your reasoning."

It's one thing to say I miss, another thing to show. You've provided no evidence at all that I miss the point.

"I pose some hypothetical questions: The way we go about trying to answer them should give us insight into our own preconceptions about what "doctrinal development" means.

Alright, let's clear this up then. To the degree that Protestants believe in "doctrinal development" at all, it's in the notion that through exegesis and study of the times of the Bible, we can further expand on questions about our understanding of the Bible, so long as the result is consistent with biblical principles.

For example, take what it means to say that Jesus is "begotten" of the Father, what does that mean? Through studying the manuscripts and exegeting them, we see that the word for "begotten" means "one of a kind, unique". So we are using biblical principles to better understand some of the harder questions about the Bible. As James White put it, "true doctrinal development is not an imposition of external concepts or authorities on the teaching of the Bible".

Now the Roman Catholic might say that this is the same thing, as their interpretation of doctrinal development, but I quite disagree. Let's recall what the actual teaching on development says:

"This tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down…For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her."

Now in the second sentence they say that their understanding of tradition develops, but in the first and last sentence they tacitly admit that tradition itself develops and evolves throughout the ages. This means that you can wind up with a church radically different than you started off with. They say slavery is bad today, but perhaps this will develop into the doctrine that slavery is good. The quote from Ratzinger cements this. They were completely unable to find any documents that put the tradition of Mary in apostolic times. So what do they do? Redefine tradition! This doctrine has been used to justify ideas that completely have no basis in Scripture or the early church, such as the assumption of Mary, the treasury of merit, purgatory, and papal infallibility. Not to mention outright contradiction with the early church on such things as the immaculate conception. Doctrinal development is therefore nothing more than a license to invent doctrine, regardless of how scripturally or historically bankrupt it may be.

"If human slavery were again made legal in the United States, how does your Christian doctrine answer these questions?"

How is this at all relevant to doctrinal development? The country changing laws doesn't effect our understanding of Scripture.

If Scripture says that slavery is forbidden (and assuming it's not of the "indentured servitude" variety, it does) then that's the case whether the US makes slavery legal or not. The Roman Empire made Christian worship illegal. Does that mean the doctrine should "develop" so as to lockstep with Roman law? Of course not. The Bible says we're to worship God, this is part of the eternal, universal moral law, so that doesn't change. The Bible has spoken, the case is closed.

The examples you've been using for doctrinal development have all been off the mark. With the kosher diet, Gene and I demonstrated that this followed a pattern of promise and fulfillment, much like the prophetic passages in Scripture. In this case, you're talking about an extraneous social factor that doesn't effect doctrine at all.

And are you saying that Catholic doctrine would "develop" so as to accommodate slavery? If so, then so much the worse for Vatican II.

And you still have yet to address how development of doctrine squares with the "universal consent of the fathers" doctrine of tradition I quoted earlier.

Theo said...

I asked:
"If human slavery were again made legal in the United States, how does your Christian doctrine answer these questions?"

Mathetes answered in part:
"If Scripture says that slavery is forbidden (and assuming it's not of the "indentured servitude" variety, it does)..."

I reply:
Do you assert Christian doctrine *has always been* that slavery aside from indentured servitude is forbidden? Was Philemon an indentured servant, or was St. Paul simply ignorant of doctrine? Are you asserting that slavery as indentured servitude is OK with Christianity? Does the indenture end with the life of the original debtor, or do his legal heirs and assigns submit to servitude as they would submit to all other civil debt?

I speak with all candor and not a little bit of embarrassment when I humbly ask you to direct me to the historical sources that support this notion. If this is so, I should like to be disabused of my astoundingly incorrect perception of both Church and secular history.

You also wrote:
"I was a Roman Catholic for 30 years, so it's quite egregrious to suggest that I might be the one who misunderstands Roman Catholic theology."

It is with the same gentle respect that I'd correct my own brother as I point out the error of your reasoning. You assert that I misunderstand Catholic doctrine in spite my having nearly 20 more years' unbroken Catholic experience than you have--none of which was nominal. Yet, I *could* indeed be tragically mistaken (I believe not, but I've been wrong many times before.). I find nothing egregious in your dialog.

Of *course* you can and dare I say, *must* misunderstand Catholic doctrine. I do too. Priests, Bishops, Cardinals and Popes who have spent many decades in deep study of these doctrines acknowledge they misunderstood doctrines--which is one reason one can spend a lifetime studying them.

The very doctrine of doctrinal development itself acknowledges that while the axioms of God's truth are eternal and unchanging, our understanding is *always* less than perfect so long as we await the second coming of Christ; but nevertheless, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the correctness of our understanding finds greater clarity and development as we travel through the ages. We see through a glass dimly. When the perfect comes we shall see face to face.

Please understand that when I observe that you do not correctly understand Catholic doctrine in some regard, this ought not be an "egregious" affront to you, and it is neither intended as a slight or indictment of any kind. Please forgive me if I present any arrogance out of my sin-prone, self-assured self who also strives toward a "personal papacy" of my own; may the Lord have mercy on us all.

You also wrote:
"To the degree that Protestants believe in "doctrinal development" at all, it's in the notion that through exegesis and study of the times of the Bible, we can further expand on questions about our understanding of the Bible, so long as the result is consistent with biblical principles."

We believe likewise, but also account for the historical progression of that "further expansion about our understanding" throughout the ages: i.e. Sacred Tradition. We do not reinvent the wheel each generation or manufacture new doctrines from thin air, though I fully understand how anyone who embraces the doctrine of sola scriptura would think so.

Neither do Protestants create doctrine out of thin air. Practical Christian understanding of the scriptural teachings about human slavery have in fact come to the point where the *teaching* of today actually *contradicts* the teaching of an earlier era. This is *not* because the principals of God changed, but because our understanding has grown. This is not because men changed civil laws and therefore our Christian compliance had to follow due authority, but because our Christian understanding grew and we altered civil authority accordingly.

Whether you acknowledge it or not, your own best understanding of Christian doctrine today simply does not agree with *all* the Christian doctrine of the sixteenth century, and that doctrine by no means agrees with that of the first. It has developed by building upon both exegesis and traditional understanding. Your practice of practical doctrine appears much closer to Catholic understanding than you imagine.

You also wrote:
"And are you saying that Catholic doctrine would "develop" so as to accommodate slavery?"

Dear brother, that you ask this perplexes me to the point of wonder that one who writes with the great lucidity you employ should so easily misinterpret the plain English of the questions presented. There is something to be said for not subjecting revelation to private interpretation when subjecting mundane conversation to it results thus.

You also commented:
"And you still have yet to address how development of doctrine squares with the "universal consent of the fathers" doctrine of tradition I quoted earlier."

I'm sorry that I've not addressed all of your points to your satisfaction. I try to address those that seem to me most salient, and had thought I'd addressed it in my pointing out through example that you misunderstand "universal consent of the fathers" to mean "all the fathers held the same opinions about everything at all times and these are the same as are held by all today." Do you actually imagine the author of the quote you cite was unaware that Origin was also the champion of what every theologian for sixteen centuries has called the "Original" heresy?

The universal consent of the fathers refers to the fact that the fathers universally submitted to the authority of the Church as well as sacred texts. Origin, who interpreted Scripture to teach Jesus was a mere man, submitted, consenting to the authority of the Church and Tradition. A thousand years later, Jerome, who asserted the deutero-cannon is not Scripture, submitted. I expect you'll disagree with this as well, but it is *not* the assertion you took it to be.

Humbly submitted, I remain your servant and brother in Christ,
--theo

Theo said...

I just noticed an illustration of the pitfall of applying out-of-context interpretation.

In a previous post I wrote these words regarding doctrinal development:
"... doctrinal contradiction is *not* doctrinal development..."
In another I wrote these words regarding doctrinal development:
"...the *teaching* of today actually *contradicts* the teaching of an earlier era..."

Without following the complete conversation one would not readily recognize that in the first instance I referred to doctrinal contradiction of Christian axioms, but in the second, doctrinal contradiction of earlier teaching. Removed from their context, the above quotes could seem contradictory. As we look at the writings of Church leaders and others it will be wise to avoid hauling out the "proof texts" without real understanding of their context, as we have seen in various threads discussing the Pope's commentary on the Church.

Humbly submitted,
--Theo

Theo said...

Mathetes wrote in part:
"Furthermore Catholics are denied the right of private judgment, so how YOU, or any other Catholic interprets Roman teaching is perfectly irrelevant. What's relevant is how *the Vatican* interprets its teachings. My obligation goes no further than quoting and understanding official Vatican documents. If you want the right of private judgment, become a Protestant.

"And yes, I've dialogued with dozens of Catholics who either a) clearly do not understand it themselves or b) use piles of sophistry to try weaseling out of implications in their doctrine that they don't want to accept."


I humbly reply:
You are mistaken in your belief that Catholics are "denied the right of private judgment." The doctrine to which you refer is
-- Those who *legitimately teach* the Sacred Scriptures are warned by the example of the Edessine not to distort the Sacred Scriptures to the good pleasure of their own inclinations, nor, in investigating them, to depart a finger's breadth from the constant interpretation of the Church. "No prophecy of Scripture originates from private interpretation. For never by will of man was prophecy brought forth. But holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." And that Spirit who has spoken to men by the prophets is the same one who for the Apostles "opened their minds that they might understand the Scriptures" and the same who constituted his Church to announce, interpret, and preserve revelation, so that it might be "the pillar and mainstay of truth." (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xv/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xv_enc_05101920_principi-apostolorum-petro_en.html)

In other words, we may indeed investigate and interpret God's. Word: One *must* interpret it to investigate it; and in fact one must interpret it to perceive it! We are commanded to study it; however, if one is commissioned to *teach* Catholic doctrine regarding Scripture, it must indeed *be* Catholic doctrine that one teaches. This should surprise nobody.

Dear brother, when you say, "I've dialogued with dozens of Catholics who ...use piles of sophistry to try weaseling out of implications in their doctrine..." it might be wise for you to realize that from their perspective, your own assertions appear to be "sophistry" to try to convince them that the Church teaches things they know it does not. As I said before, if you insist on telling me what you imagine I believe rather than try to understand what I actually believe, we will have little to talk about. This is not because I'm offended or even irked, but simply because we aren't talking about the same thing.

With humble recognition that God shall hold me accountable for my words, I remain your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

Mathetes said...

"Do you assert Christian doctrine *has always been* that slavery aside from indentured servitude is forbidden? Was Philemon an indentured servant, or was St. Paul simply ignorant of doctrine?"

Once again, I've already explained that this has nothing to do at all with doctrinal development. Yet, instead of addressing *that*, you somehow thought it would be a good idea to derail the discussion even further on an irrelevant topic.

And yes, I think it has *always been* the case that slavery aside from indentured servitude has been condemned by Scripture. We don't know whether Philemon was an indentured servant or not, since Paul doesn't give us the details. Even if he did, tolerating slavery in one instance would not invalidate the rule altogether, just as David eating the shewbread would not mean that doctrine "developed" so that eating the shewbread was now kosher in any and every instance.

"Are you asserting that slavery as indentured servitude is OK with Christianity? Does the indenture end with the life of the original debtor, or do his legal heirs and assigns submit to servitude as they would submit to all other civil debt?"

I didn't assert anything on that matter, since it's all so horrendously off-topic. Indentured servitude, like polygamy, was allowed because God's law is accomodated to His people. There's no specific blanket ban on either practice, but there's nothing to make me think it's a good idea in North America 2007. As far as condemnation of slavery in the Bible, as Steve Hays put it:

"Does Scripture condemn slavery?

The first rule in answering a question is in knowing where to look for an answer. If you were looking for a Biblical condemnation of slavery, where would be the logical place to find it?

Well, if it’s a condemnation you’re searching for, don’t you just suppose that an oracle of judgment might be the first place to look?

After all, that’s what oracles of judgment are for. Meting out condemnation.

In Ezk 27, we have an oracle of judgment against Tyre. And the slave-trade is placed in the emphatic position at the outset of the catalogue of vices for which Tyre is culpable (v13).

Tyre, as a seafaring power, was central to the ANE slave-trade.

This oracle is then picked up by John in his eschatological oracle of judgment against Roman, under the pseudonym of Babylon.

Once again, the slave-trade is placed in the emphatic position, but this time at the conclusion of the catalogue of vices for which imperial Rome is culpable (18:13).

Cf. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy (T&T Clark), 350-71.

Thus, Ezk 27 and Rev 18 form two matching and opposing panels of judgment, with slavery accentuated at either end.

Now, if you were a slave-master who found your occupation prominently displayed in oracles of the great assize, then that might send just a wee bit of a hint that a career change was highly advisable."

"The very doctrine of doctrinal development itself acknowledges that while the axioms of God's truth are eternal and unchanging, our understanding is *always* less than perfect so long as we await the second coming of Christ; but nevertheless"

This is only partially true. As I've said before, Vatican II affirms, yes, that the Church's understanding of doctrines develops over time. But it also asserts that tradition itself develops over time, such that you will not find a glowing line of pylons with which to easily separate one concept from the other.

"This tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her."

Now I had said,

"To the degree that Protestants believe in "doctrinal development" at all, it's in the notion that through exegesis and study of the times of the Bible, we can further expand on questions about our understanding of the Bible, so long as the result is consistent with biblical principles."

To which you had said: "We believe likewise..."

Which is completely false. Do you not remember the quote from Ratzinger that I posted? When faced with the problem that there was no historical evidence for the Assumption of Mary in the early Christian church, his ideal solution was to redefine tradition! How is this possibly consistent with what I said?

"We do not reinvent the wheel each generation or manufacture new doctrines from thin air"

So you can find early evidence for doctrines such as the Assumption of Mary, indulgences, the treasury of merit, and universalism?

"Dear brother, that you ask this perplexes me to the point of wonder that one who writes with the great lucidity you employ should so easily misinterpret the plain English of the questions presented. There is something to be said for not subjecting revelation to private interpretation when subjecting mundane conversation to it results thus."

The point is, that if doctrine truly develops in the manner that the Roman Catholic Church proclaims, then how do you know what kind of practices will be bound or loosed in the days to come? If the Vatican sees fit to "develop" doctrines and practices like the Assumption of Mary, indulgences, and universalism - not to mention the forbidding of circumcision, then how do you know what practices will be allowed or forbidden in the future? I don't think you can.

"I try to address those that seem to me most salient, and had thought I'd addressed it in my pointing out through example that you misunderstand "universal consent of the fathers" to mean "all the fathers held the same opinions about everything at all times and these are the same as are held by all today." Do you actually imagine the author of the quote you cite was unaware that Origin was also the champion of what every theologian for sixteen centuries has called the "Original" heresy?"

Well, why shouldn't I take the Vatican at their word? Funny how I'm the one taking the Roman Catholic pronouncements at their word, and the Catholics are the ones who feel the need to come up with numerous interpretations on simple pronouncements.

And yes, I'd rather believe that they were unaware of these things, because the alternative is that they were being dishonest, especially when they make bold statements like, "as it has been ever understood by the Catholic Church", and "none can doubt, and it is known to all ages", and "wherefore it has at all times been necessary that every particular Church...should agree with the Roman Church", then yes, I think it's reasonable to conclude that they were either ignorant, or willing to brush aside the historical facts in favor of chest-thumping bravado. And none of these kinds of statements play nice with the idea of doctrinal development - unless, of course, the Vatican were willing to drop the 'infallibility' gimmick.

===========

"You are mistaken in your belief that Catholics are "denied the right of private judgment." The doctrine to which you refer is..."

Well, that's an interesting citation, but that's not the doctrine I was referring to at all. Rather, what I had in mind was:

Vatican I Council

“Likewise I [the Bishop of Rome] accept sacred scripture according to that sense which holy mother church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the fathers.” (session II, 3)

“Everybody knows that those heresies, condemned by the fathers of Trent, which rejected the divine magisterium of the church and allowed religious question to be a matter for the judgment of each individual, have gradually collapsed into a multiplicity of sects, either at variance or in agreement with one another; and by this means a good many people have had all faith in Christ destroyed” (Session III, 5)

The Council of Trent

“Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall – in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, - wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, - whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, - has held and does hold, or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established” (Session IV, “Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books”)

Vatican II Council

“But the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church...It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.” (“Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation” [Dei Verbum] II, 10)

“For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the Word of God” (Ibid., III, 12 [“Sacred Scripture, Its Inspiration and Divine Interpretation”])

“The bride of the Incarnate Word, the Church taught by the Holy Spirit, is concerned to move ahead toward a deeper understanding of the sacred Scriptures so that she may increasingly feed her sons with the divine words. Therefore, she also encourages the study of the holy Fathers of both East and West and of the sacred liturgies. Catholic exegetes then and other students of sacred theology, working diligently together and using appropriate means, should devote their energies, under the watchful care of the sacred teaching office of the Church, to an exploration and exposition of the divine writings.” (Ibid., VI, 23 [“Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church”])

So we've got two infallible councils, and one that might as well be, all saying that whether you're a teacher, a layman, or even the Pope, the Roman Catholic is expressly forbidden from exercising private judgment - and not just with Scripture, but tradition too.

So, once again, we see that I'm not mistaken at all. Keep this in mind next time theo accuses someone of "misunderstanding".

"One *must* interpret it to investigate it; and in fact one must interpret it to perceive it!"

Yes, and your church forbids you from doing so. So much the worse for Catholicism.

Which leaves you in a bit of a quandry, since this gives you no real basis for believing that the Roman Catholic Church is the one, true church. Because how would you prove such a thing? Well, you could try to make your case from Scripture and/or church history. But since that would constitute the use of private judgment, then you would invalidate the very thing you're trying to prove. You could only prove the Vatican true by building on a false foundation.

If, on the other hand, you decide not to use your private judgment and just take the Church's word for it, then you don't really know if they are the true church or not. Maybe Eastern Orthodoxy is the true church. Or maybe Mormonism. Or Scientology. Who knows at that point?

"it might be wise for you to realize that from their perspective, your own assertions appear to be "sophistry" to try to convince them that the Church teaches things they know it does not"

This is from the same person who tried to tell us "I believe the Church recognizes that the few dogmatic doctrines of the Church as irrevocable, but even these are subject to development..." You might as well say that it's not sophistry to defend the existence of a square circle.

The Roman Catholics were in a bad enough position, apologetically, before Vatican II: they had built up for themselves doctrines contrary to Scripture and even earlier tradition, and had to use blatant eisegesis to try and justify themselves. They derided Scripture as not being perspicuous and downgraded its authority, only to also point to passages like Matthew 16 and Luke 22 to bolster its claims of authority. Furtermore, it was in the circular and indefensible position of declaring that it alone had the authority to interpret Scripture, but yet also claim that this authority derives from events in passages like Matthew 16.

After Vatican II, it was much worse. Why anyone stays in that club is beyond me. Now the Catholics had on their hands a council that says that tradition is a once-source model that develops, instead of the infallibly-declared two-source model that agrees with the supposed unanimous consent of the fathers which was supposedly understood through all ages of the church; that salvation is now available to all, even unbelievers,
as opposed to the infallibly declared inclusivism of Unam Sanctum and other pronouncements; that Scripture is only inerrant with regard to passages relevant to salvation, as opposed to the infallibly-declared whole cloth inerrancy of the Bible.

You keep accusing me of misunderstanding, but you've done nothing to substantiate that claim. So it's not sophistry at all to point out the circular arguments and the evidential dead-ends that Roman Catholic apologetics leads to.

"As I said before, if you insist on telling me what you imagine I believe rather than try to understand what I actually believe, we will have little to talk about."

And as I keep saying, again and again, your take on Roman Catholic theology is completely irrelevant if it sidetracks at all from what the Roman Church actually teaches. I have done nothing but reference official materials from the Vatican and high-ranking theologians. Remember, you don't get the right of private judgment. Have I misrepresented official Roman Catholic teaching at any point? If so, you have done nothing to demonstrate this. If not, then your objection doesn't make a bit of difference.

Mathetes said...

"as opposed to the infallibly declared inclusivism of Unam Sanctum" should actually say "exclusivism of..." My bad.

Theo said...

Dear Mathetes:

Thank you for the time and effort that you put into your writing. May the Holy Spirit lead us all into greater truth and understanding of God's holy word. Most importantly, may we accept His grace to work out our salvation, obedient to His call to carry out Jesus' great commandment, that we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds and souls; and love our neighbors as ourselves.

With constant prayer for your blessing in Christ with every good gift, I remain your brother,
--Theo

Mathetes said...

Thanks, theo. Hopefully these words will give you food for thought, and be sure to check everything against the holy Scriptures.

Rickson said...

Mathetes, You need to read what Reginald says on Development Of Doctrine.

you can view it at:

http://the-supplement.blogspot.com/2008/02/theology-of-st-thomas-development-of.html