Development of doctrine II

[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.

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Development of doctrine: it’s that time again

It has often been remarked, starting with C.S. Lewis I believe, that traditional Christians of differing ecclesial affiliations have much more in common with each other than with liberal Christians of the same ecclesial affiliations as they. That is not only true but offers the firmest basis for the sort of “ecumenism” enabling traditional Christians to work together toward common goals affecting the public weal. Intellectual leaders among traditional Christians are well-placed to recognize that and act accordingly. Some do. But I have found that, among those leaders, the biggest obstacle to greater ecumenism and cooperation is, surprise-surprise, an essentially theological disagreement. I don’t mean disagreement over this-or-that particular doctrine; those are well-known and needn’t inhibit the cooperation I’m talking about. Prescinding from any such particular doctrine or laundry-list thereof, what I have in mind is disagreement over the very nature of orthodoxy as opposed to heterodoxy. In practice as well as theory, that is a very serious problem indeed. I see my main contribution to ecumenism as that of addressing it constructively.

Among the people who read this blog because they care about my stuff, most know that I have spent a great deal of time, at my other blog, on the issue of development of doctrine (DD). I have done so because, over time, I have become convinced that DD is the issue separating traditional Christians from each other on the question of the nature of orthodoxy. And that seems to me a great shame. The whole topic is rife with assumptions that often aren’t clarified enough to be assessed properly, so that arguments based on them end up begging the question and the interlocutors end up talking past each other. In this post I want to start dealing with that.

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