[As I had hoped, my post “Development of doctrine: it’s that time again” elicited some very interesting discussion. The purpose of this sequel is to reply to the last comment that John of Fides Quarens Intellectum addressed to me. That’s the comment that got my mental juices flowing well. As I wrote my reply to John and prepared to post it as a comment, I realized that it had become much too long for a combox. So here goes.]
[Update: On September 24, I made a few editorial revisions in light of reactions from readers. There will be no further revisions.]
OK, I’ve read the material at the links you’ve provided. Thank you.
I would formulate the key assumption made by Owen Chadwick (in criticism of Newman) and by Henri de Lubac’s opponents thus: If some form of rational necessitation isn’t identifiable as operative in the context of discovery for a given doctrinal development D, then D’s context of justification cannot supply reason enough to accept D as de fide. My response is that the antecedent clause of that claim does not necessitate the consequent. In other words: from the fact, if it is a fact, that the context of discovery fails to show that D was somehow rationally necessitated by premises drawn from commonly accepted data, it does not follow that the context of justification must now fail to afford reason enough to accept D as de fide. Therefore, the assumption in question is false.
If only as a pole of contrast, your analogy of the U.S. Supreme Court and Roe v Wade is actually quite useful here. You claim that a reasonable person, knowing all the data that would be relevant within a common-law framework, can attain rational certainty that Roe was not rationally justified by the conjunction of the literal text of the Constitution and settled precedent. You conclude that such a person is justified in rejecting Roe and wanting to see it overturned. Of course the defenders of Roe would reply roughly like this: given how the doctrine of judicial review has developed and become established over time, we ought to conclude that what the Constitution means, when its meaning is plausibly disputable, just is what the Supreme Court says it means. Therefore, Roe is justified by appeal to legitimately established authority even granted that the decision in no way follows from the conjunction of the literal text of the Constitution and settled precedent. On this analogy, the Supreme Court is the Magisterium, Roe is a proposed instance of DD, and the defender of Roe is the Catholic who relies on a maximalist view of magisterial authority to defend the proposed development. Now for the conservative Protestants and Orthodox who read this blog, and who presumably oppose Roe, yours is quite a seductive analogy. But it breaks down at precisely the crucial point.
Nobody, not even the most ardent “living-Constitution” liberal, claims that the Supreme Court is infallible. Modestly, SCOTUS itself does not claim to be infallible. Yet according to Catholic doctrine, the Magisterium is infallible, at least when invoking its full authority. Of course that doctrine is a development, just as the doctrine of judicial review assumed by Roe is a development. For greater clarity, one should even call them ‘meta-developments’. So one might think that the question becomes whether, in the absence of appeal to the meta-development about Magisterial authority, distinctively Catholic dogmas can be seen to rationally necessitated by premises drawn from the commonly accepted data of revelation. The answer to that question, I should think, is pretty obviously no. But that’s only the beginning, not the end, of the story.
It would be the end of the story only if the absence of rational necessitation, apart from some appeal to authority, meant that there wasn’t reason enough, in the commonly accepted data, to accept the distinctive developments proposed by that authority. But I’ve already indicated that the general premise licensing such a conclusion is false. Moreover, if Catholicism is true, then something called “the Church” is infallible when invoking her full authority, such that there is a visible authority within the Church which can and does thus speak for the Church. So if there is reason enough to believe that particular doctrine of the Church’s, then there is reason enough to believe whatever is proposed by the Church’s full authority, such as distinctively Catholic developments—even when one cannot, as an individual, recognize any other good reason to believe what is thus endorsed.
For the purpose of inquiring whether there is reason enough to accept the doctrine of the Magisterium, a lot of people adopt, as a general heuristic principle, the premise that we must consult only those sources and precedents which all parties to the discussion accept as a rule or “canon” of faith—chiefly Scripture, but not necessarily limited to Scripture. They assume further that such a consultation must be guided by a rational, objectively applicable method that would enable us to draw from the sources all and only those inferences which would be relevant. I grant that many Catholic apologists make those assumptions as well as certain of their opponents. It seems to me that you also make those assumptions. But I see no reason at all, never mind good reason, to accept them. Consulting such sources is certainly necessary, and employing such a method can sometimes be useful. But if they were jointly sufficient, then all disagreement about the question which doctrinal developments are warranted by the agreed-upon sources could be settled simply by applying a neutral, perspicuous “rational” method to the agreed-upon sources. The Magisterium could, in principle at least, be replaced by a computer. But such a result would, precisely, beg the question.
For one thing, and as I’ve said before, it is idle to argue that the orthodox christology and triadology which developed in the first millennium, and which crystallized in the decrees of the seven ecumenical councils of that millennium, are deductively necessitated by the explicit words of Scripture. The “context of discovery” for Christian orthodoxy (i.e. for what C.S. Lewis misleadingly called “mere Christianity”) consisted in a collective, centuries-long ecclesial meditation on and battle about what all the relevant sources—those of Tradition as well as Scripture—actually meant. Once the issues were definitively settled, precipitating major schisms some of which persist to this day, orthodox theologians were then able to interpret the “explicit words” of Scripture so as to make orthodox conclusions follow deductively from them. But such a procedure, taking place within a “context of justification,” does not demonstrate that the doctrines in question are true given the truth of those explicit words of Scripture which function as statements with truth-values. All it demonstrates is that one can reasonably interpret the words of Scripture by means of a hermeneutic regulated by the doctrines in question. I believe such a result gives us good reason to accept orthodox christology and triadology. But if it gave us actual proof, then remaining a heretic after being learning such a “proof” could only be explained by stupidity or malice. And that, I should think, is manifestly contrary to fact.
What goes for orthodox christology and triadology goes a fortiori for the Catholic Magisterium’s claim to be infallible under certain conditlions. Whatever reasons might, collectively, constitute reason enough to accept that claim, they cannot themselves constitute proof for such authority, if by ‘proof’ one means a certifiably valid deductive argument based on premises that all parties to the discussion would accept. If the agreed-upon sources were, in general, semantically perspicuous enough to yield proofs of dogmas that in no way rely on a hermeneutic shaped by those dogmas, such proofs would retorsively obviate the need for that very authority which, in this case, they would be meant to support. So if there is some sort of rational justification for the Catholic Magisterium’s claim to authority, it cannot, in the very nature of the case, yield a result that is intellectually compelling. It can only yield a result which can be seen, retroactively, to cohere with and illuminate the agreed-upon data, and thus to supply reason enough to make an act of faith in the Catholic Magisterium—an act that would thus be one of informed faith, rather than blind faith.
Accordingly, the question whether there is reason enough to accept distinctively Catholic dogmas as de fide ultimately hinges on that of whether there is reason enough to accept the Magisterium’s claim to authority. Unless and until that question is settled, everything must remain purely a matter of opinion—a lame result when the question is what to affirm as de fide. But the claim in question cannot be fairly or usefully assessed in the sort of terms you seem to think apply, indifferently and in general, to proposed instances of DD. The relevant considerations must range far beyond that. In my view, it was because Newman saw as much that he insisted: “No revelation is given, unless there be some authority to decide what is given,” and gave essentially epistemological arguments for that insistence. Newman saw that one cannot speak of making an assent of faith, as distinct from natural knowledge on the one hand or mere opinion on the other, to any article of faith without some visible, abiding, divinely appointed authority to settle disputes about how to interpret the sources. If so, then one cannot usefully discuss the general question of DD without discussing the Catholic Church’s particular claim to authority precisely as an instance of such DD. And for the reasons I’ve outlined, one cannot, without totally begging the question, discuss that claim to authority within the strictures you’ve so far taken for granted.