Here are two comments from a recent Beggars All comm box, that when juxtaposed, point out one of the double standards used by Roman Catholics. In other words, the arguments put forth, when applied to their own position, refute their own position.
"But then, Holy Writ is CLEAR…clear after 1500 years! (For it took Luther to “discover the Gospel” which was lost…uhhh…unknown…)"
"Altaner,the patrologist from Würzburg...had proven in a scientifically persuasive manner that the doctrine of Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven was unknown before the fifth century."
In argument #1, sola fide is untrue because Luther's understanding of justification cannot be traced in the particular formulation he used backward in church history. For sake of argument, grant this is true, and then apply the same standard to argument #2. Should it not follow that Mary's assumption is not true because it cannot be traced in the particular formulation first noted in the 5th century backward in church history?
Now think further along these lines using the same methodology Roman Catholics use. The dogma of the assumption is the product of development. Its earlier formulations are not as clear or complete. For instance, the Byzantine theologians in the 7th- 9th centuries more-a-less think Mary's soul was taken to Heaven. But by the end of the development in the 1950's, Mary's soul and body are in Heaven. Now, keep your Roman Catholic glasses on. Earlier formulations of justification say faith is required in justification. With the advent of the Reformation, the Reformed Biblical exegetes arrive at faith alone. Development has occurred. But yet, the development of sola fide is false, and the development of the assumption is true. What makes the final developed Assumption true and the final developed sola fide false? ...The infallible church.
Roman Catholics want to argue for development, while arguing against development. They should say, "...sure doctrine develops, but it is only true development if our infallible church says so." This is pure sola ecclesia. Really then, it doesn't matter what happens in development, because only the infallible church can tell you what is correct or incorrect development. Thus, the study of historical development becomes trivial and meaningless.
Arguing for truth as Roman Catholics do, does much more harm to their position than they realize when the same standards are applied to their arguments. The big question that needs to be asked is, "How is truth determined?" Is it determined by a statistical analysis of church history? Roman Catholics may try to argue along these lines, but let us not forget Athanasius, showing that one can stand seemingly alone with the truth against the universally accepted falsehood of the day.
Truth, as finally determined by the current batch of Catholic apologists, is ultimately determined by the infallible church. This is their beginning presupposition, and each engagement with those committed to Rome should never lose site of this.