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Author Topic: Is Doctrine Done Developing Yet?  (Read 1840 times) Average Rating: 0
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Justin Kissel
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« on: May 01, 2006, 12:06:24 AM »

Gregory the Theologian seemed to endorse a development of doctrine idea in his Thirty-Second Oration...

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To this I may compare the case of Theology, except that it proceeds the reverse way. For in the case by which I have illustrated it the change is made by successive subtractions; whereas here perfection is reached by additions. For the matter stands thus. The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of Himself.

For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further (if I may use so bold an expression) with the Holy Ghost; lest perhaps people might, like men loaded with food beyond their strength, and presenting eyes as yet too weak to bear it to the sun's light, risk the loss even of that which was within the reach of their powers; but that by gradual additions, and, as David says, Goings up, and advances and progress from glory to glory, the Light of the Trinity might shine upon the more illuminated.

For this reason it was, I think, that He gradually came to dwell in the Disciples, measuring Himself out to them according to their capacity to receive Him, at the beginning of the Gospel, after the Passion, after the Ascension, making perfect their powers, being breathed upon them, and appearing in fiery tongues. And indeed it is by little and little that He is declared by Jesus, as you will learn for yourself if you will read more carefully. I will ask the Father, He says, and He will send you another Comforter, even the spirit of Truth. This He said that He might not seem to be a rival God, or to make His discourses to them by another authority. Again, He shall send Him, but it is in My Name. He leaves out the I will ask, but He keeps the Shall send, then again, I will send,-His own dignity. Then shall come, the authority of the Spirit.

You see lights breaking upon us, gradually; and the order of Theology, which it is better for us to keep, neither proclaiming things too suddenly, nor yet keeping them hidden to the end. For the former course would be unscientific, the latter atheistical; and the former would be calculated to startle outsiders, the latter to alienate our own people. I will add another point to what I have said; one which may readily have come into the mind of some others, but which I think a fruit of my own thought.

Our Saviour had some things which, He said, could not be borne at that time by His  disciples (though they were filled with many teachings), perhaps for the reasons I have mentioned; and therefore they were hidden. And again He said that all things should be taught us by the Spirit when He should come to dwell amongst us. Of these things one, I take it, was the Deity of the Spirit Himself, made clear later on when such knowledge should be seasonable and capable of being received after our Saviour's restoration, when it would no longer be received with incredulity because of its marvellous character. For what greater thing than this did either He promise, or the Spirit teach. If indeed anything is to be considered great and worthy of the Majesty of God, which was either promised or taught. - Oration 32, 26-27

If this doctrine is indeed true, it raises a few different questions.

First, in what way is this belief different than the modern, Roman Catholic "development of doctrine" concept?

Second, I expect (even if the concept is accepted), that people will say that this is not an evolution of doctrine, but just a situation in which doctrine remains the same while becoming more clear as time goes by. However, IMO this is largely an theoretical or abstract argument. From the position of our earth-bound, ignorant, fallible point of view, such a doctrine as given by Gregory would effect us in the same way that an actual development of doctrine concept would. Just imagine that you're a new convert to Christianity in 60 AD, and the Bishop comes to Church and says "I'm here to tell you that the Holy Spirit is God". What would your response be? "Um, why didn't Moses or David or anyone else say anything about it?"  "Er, well you weren't quite that specific when I joined the Church!"  "So, what other things might be revealed later that I haven't been told about?"

Which leads me to the third question, how do we know that things are as clear as they can be? Maybe tomorrow God will reveal an ecclesiological principle which will solve the unbelievable amount of division among Christians? Or maybe he'll reveal that the true Church is really the Roman Catholic or Anglican one? So why commit yourself to one faction, when tomorrow God might show you that it's actually another one?
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2006, 05:09:59 AM »

First, in what way is this belief different than the modern, Roman Catholic "development of doctrine" concept?
The timespan is different. Please feel free to correct me if I've got it wrong, but after reading through the quote thrice, it seems to me that St. Gregory is talking about the "development of doctrine" (or, I would say more precisely, the "development of revelation" in this case) up to the time of the Apostles when the Holy Spirit was sent to the Apostles "to teach them all things". I'm not sure whether we can extrapolate from this that the successors of the Apostles (the Bishops) were to receive new revelations. As far as I understand, revelation ended with the death of St. John the Theologian.

Second, I expect (even if the concept is accepted), that people will say that this is not an evolution of doctrine, but just a situation in which doctrine remains the same while becoming more clear as time goes by. However, IMO this is largely an theoretical or abstract argument. From the position of our earth-bound, ignorant, fallible point of view, such a doctrine as given by Gregory would effect us in the same way that an actual development of doctrine concept would. Just imagine that you're a new convert to Christianity in 60 AD, and the Bishop comes to Church and says "I'm here to tell you that the Holy Spirit is God". What would your response be? "Um, why didn't Moses or David or anyone else say anything about it?"  "Er, well you weren't quite that specific when I joined the Church!"  "So, what other things might be revealed later that I haven't been told about?"
I don't understand the example. The Holy Spirit is God. Again, I could be wrong, but I think you are trying to use St. Gregory's teaching in a way he didn't intend. St. Gregory's timeline is up to the Apostles, who didn't know that the Holy Spirit is God until Pentecost. So the premise is incorrect.
Let's look at another example which actually happened. A bishop stood up in Constantinople and told his congregation that Christ was actually two persons and the Virgin Mary was only the Mother of the human one of them. Half the congregation got up and walked out because they didn't recognise the Voice of the True Shepherd in the bishop. Christ's sheep know His voice, not by defined, inscribed dogmas, but by the Holy Spirit. The dogma of the One Hypostasis had not been defined yet, but the traditional hymns of the Church already praised the Virgin as "Theotokos" and her "in whom the Word was wholly circumscribed." This bishop, they understood, was introducing a "new" revelation which the Apostles had not received.
And it is not erroneous to say that nothing can be newly revealed to the Church simply because of the fact that it may be newly revealed to individuals within the Church. The fact that all the dogmas are not known to an individual at their baptism doesn't lessen the fact that the Church catholic knows them.
And we also need to look at what we mean by "knowing". We cannot speak of "knowing" in the Church only in terms of cognition. St Paul was "caught up to the Third Heaven" (whatever that means) and "heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (2Cor. 12:2-4). There is a "knowing" in the Church of things which cannot be expressed in words.
And finally, when it comes to defining her Dogmas in Oecumenical Synods, the decree that "This is what the Church holds to be true" is simply making it clear, not adding something new. It is the drawing of a line in the sand where the boundary has always been anyway, but which may have not been clear to all.

Which leads me to the third question, how do we know that things are as clear as they can be?
We don't. The doctrines can be made clearer and clearer. "For now we see through a glass, darkly" (1Cor. 13:12) until Christ comes again. Things can always be made clearer until then. Two men see a bush in the dark and one imagines it to be a distant city, while the other (whose night vision is sharper) thinks it is just a bush. The imagination of the first man doesn't make the bush a city. If they light a lamp and look, they'll find it was always a bush, and the second man's opinion was correct. In the same way as the lamp, the Holy Spirit enlightens the People of God in the Church to see what was already there more clearly. And the second man with the sharper night vision who saw the bush for what it was from the beginning, could be said to have developed an "indwelling lamp" which aids his vision- as is the case with the Fathers of the Church, who, through prayer, ascesis, good works and diligent study have "aquired the Holy Spirit" Who enlightens us.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2006, 06:52:00 AM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2006, 08:18:26 AM »

Let's look at another example which actually happened. A bishop stood up in Constantinople and told his congregation that Christ was actually two persons and the Virgin Mary was only the Mother of the human one of them. Half the congregation got up and walked out because they didn't recognise the Voice of the True Shepherd in the bishop. Christ's sheep know His voice, not by defined, inscribed dogmas, but by the Holy Spirit. The dogma of the One Hypostasis had not been defined yet, but the traditional hymns of the Church already praised the Virgin as "Theotokos" and her "in whom the Word was wholly circumscribed." This bishop, they understood, was introducing a "new" revelation which the Apostles had not received.
And it is not erroneous to say that nothing can be newly revealed to the Church simply because of the fact that it may be newly revealed to individuals within the Church. The fact that all the dogmas are not known to an individual at their baptism doesn't lessen the fact that the Church catholic knows them.
And we also need to look at what we mean by "knowing". We cannot speak of "knowing" in the Church only in terms of cognition. St Paul was "caught up to the Third Heaven" (whatever that means) and "heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (2Cor. 12:2-4). There is a "knowing" in the Church of things which cannot be expressed in words.

 Two men see a bush in the dark and one imagines it to be a distant city, while the other (whose night vision is sharper) thinks it is just a bush. The imagination of the first man doesn't make the bush a city. If they light a lamp and look, they'll find it was always a bush, and the second man's opinion was correct. In the same way as the lamp, the Holy Spirit enlightens the People of God in the Church to see what was already there more clearly. And the second man with the sharper night vision who saw the bush for what it was from the beginning, could be said to have developed an "indwelling lamp" which aids his vision- as is the case with the Fathers of the Church, who, through prayer, ascesis, good works and diligent study have "aquired the Holy Spirit" Who enlightens us.

I absolutely agree with you, but does not the above example only bolster those ( like me) who believe that the idea of the ordination of women is an innovation . Now I have read GIC's long defenses on the above .
Still to me the duties of ordianed deaconesses were very different from those which are being expounded today. The roles women played then are different from those being demanded today .
Bp. Tikhon of the OCA(Diocese of the West) wrote this:
=======================================================
What the Reader describes here was done at some time and in some places,
but it was never part of the Holy Tradition or What is passed on to us. At
best we could say that it is a dead tradition, as opposed to Living Tradition.
There have always been those who wish to do something or teach something
outside the Living Tradition, and they dig and delve into ancient
manuscripts, travel diaries, historical anecdotes, back shelves of
libraries etc., and Lo! and Behold! Voila! Eureka1 They find it and when
someone firmly adhering to the Living Tradition questions it, they say,
"Well, this is a Tradition of.....century" or "This is a tradition of the
Church of Carthage (or the like). Only that Tradition Which lives and is
passed on to us, is Tradition. For how can there be such a thing as "that
which was passed on which was not passed on?"

Recently Elaine Pagels (sp?) has mined the rich lode of Gnostic literature
and found there all kinds of "forgotten" or "lost" traditions, or even
"suppressed" traditions on which to base the destruction of the Living, the
True Tradition, so that it even effected Roman Catholic nuns, once the
epitome of service, now much attenuated, and competing with quasi-monastic
women who have built up a Woman Church out of such excavated dead
traditions! This is impossible. Tradition is alive, not dead, not suppressed.
=======================================================


What do you think of it ?
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« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2006, 08:58:55 AM »


What do you think of it ?

Since your post relates directly to the Ordination of Women, I have answered in that thread where you posted the same post.
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« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2006, 09:53:49 AM »

Second, I expect (even if the concept is accepted), that people will say that this is not an evolution of doctrine, but just a situation in which doctrine remains the same while becoming more clear as time goes by. However, IMO this is largely an theoretical or abstract argument. From the position of our earth-bound, ignorant, fallible point of view, such a doctrine as given by Gregory would effect us in the same way that an actual development of doctrine concept would. Just imagine that you're a new convert to Christianity in 60 AD, and the Bishop comes to Church and says "I'm here to tell you that the Holy Spirit is God". What would your response be? "Um, why didn't Moses or David or anyone else say anything about it?"  "Er, well you weren't quite that specific when I joined the Church!"  "So, what other things might be revealed later that I haven't been told about?"

This seems to me to be nothing more than Common Sense; as the history of the Oecumenical Synods demonstrates, there never was unanimity over certain posistions in the Church and when the Church (usually through political manoeuvring to gain the favour of the Emperor) ruled one way or the other, the loosing side would often leave the Church. The History of Doctrine is far more human than divine, it is a history of politics and wars, while I dont deny that the Holy Spirit was present, I will dismiss any nice and simplistic explination. And, unfortunately, the idea that the Church's understanding of doctrine has always been the same is absurd. Had you asked second century bishops details about Theology and Christology as would be determined in later centuries, how many would have been able to give you the theology of the Synods, very few if any I suspect...or how about asking if Christ had one Energy/Will or two Energies/Will; I suspect that about 50% would guess right and that's just what it would be a guess.

Christianity is a real event in human history and it developed in the same manner as any other human institution or school of thought, history just doesn't lend itself to the mythical belief that all knowledge just magically appeared and has been with us ever since; the only way such a belief would be viable is if one could produce first century documents making arguments about fifth century Christology; however, I am quite certain that no such documents exist.
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« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2006, 10:15:43 AM »

The History of Doctrine is far more human than divine, it is a history of politics and wars, while I dont deny that the Holy Spirit was present, I will dismiss any nice and simplistic explination.
I too, would dismiss a simplistic explanation. Because of that, I need to ask: when you say "the History of Doctrine"- how do you define "Doctrine"? Is "Doctrine" the understanding of what God has revealed to us, God's revelations themselves, something the Church decided herself which wasn't actually revealed by God, or something else?
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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2006, 12:22:41 PM »

I too, would dismiss a simplistic explanation. Because of that, I need to ask: when you say "the History of Doctrine"- how do you define "Doctrine"? Is "Doctrine" the understanding of what God has revealed to us, God's revelations themselves, something the Church decided herself which wasn't actually revealed by God, or something else?

In a sense I see where you're comming from...I mean I am a neo-platonist so I believe that everything has always existed in the Mind of God...so ultimately ALL Knowledge and ALL things are pre-existing realities in the Divine Mind, uncovered by humans. But from a human perspective, one cannot view the development of doctrine (or uncovering/revealing) as any different than the development of, say, mathematics (which was always true even before we discovered it, but that hardly means that pythagoras understood complexity theory)
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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2006, 12:27:57 PM »

This seems to me to be nothing more than Common Sense; as the history of the Oecumenical Synods demonstrates, there never was unanimity over certain posistions in the Church and when the Church (usually through political manoeuvring to gain the favour of the Emperor) ruled one way or the other, the loosing side would often leave the Church. The History of Doctrine is far more human than divine, it is a history of politics and wars, while I dont deny that the Holy Spirit was present, I will dismiss any nice and simplistic explination. And, unfortunately, the idea that the Church's understanding of doctrine has always been the same is absurd. Had you asked second century bishops details about Theology and Christology as would be determined in later centuries, how many would have been able to give you the theology of the Synods, very few if any I suspect...or how about asking if Christ had one Energy/Will or two Energies/Will; I suspect that about 50% would guess right and that's just what it would be a guess.

Christianity is a real event in human history and it developed in the same manner as any other human institution or school of thought, history just doesn't lend itself to the mythical belief that all knowledge just magically appeared and has been with us ever since; the only way such a belief would be viable is if one could produce first century documents making arguments about fifth century Christology; however, I am quite certain that no such documents exist.

Can you further qualify? My impression of what you just said leaves the door open to all the RC heresies that (EOxy) does not espouse.
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« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2006, 12:33:39 PM »

Can you further qualify? My impression of what you just said leaves the door open to all the RC heresies that (EOxy) does not espouse.

The problem with the Latin doctrinal deviations is not that there is change or development, but rather that the development is by Rome alone, who is outside of the community of the entire Church. Doctrine may develop, but it is developed by the Church alone.
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« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2006, 03:15:01 PM »

Isn't there some passage from the NT that the Orthodox use for the foundation of their belief that Christ is the ultimate revelation to this world and that there will therefore be no new revelations made to the world this side of the Second Coming?  I think this is the basic premise of the Orthodox argument that the only development of doctrine that is possible is the further elucidation of that Faith which the Apostles passed on to the Church.  If this is so, then the Church CANNOT develop any new doctrines that are not based on the Apostolic deposit of Faith and are based on principles that were at one time NOT part of our Faith.

This appears to me to be a big part of the Vincentian Canon about which we've spoken the past couple of days on another thread.  Maybe someone with more expertise than I have access to right now can speak on how the Vincentian Canon relates to this thread.
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« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2006, 05:34:39 PM »

Isn't there some passage from the NT that the Orthodox use for the foundation of their belief that Christ is the ultimate revelation to this world and that there will therefore be no new revelations made to the world this side of the Second Coming?  I think this is the basic premise of the Orthodox argument that the only development of doctrine that is possible is the further elucidation of that Faith which the Apostles passed on to the Church.  If this is so, then the Church CANNOT develop any new doctrines that are not based on the Apostolic deposit of Faith and are based on principles that were at one time NOT part of our Faith.

This appears to me to be a big part of the Vincentian Canon about which we've spoken the past couple of days on another thread.  Maybe someone with more expertise than I have access to right now can speak on how the Vincentian Canon relates to this thread.

I'm sorry, but to me it simply appears that you're defying all reason in your statement. If you want to demonstrate there isn't a development of doctrine you need to demonstrate 5th and 6th Century Christology and 4th Century Theology existed in the 1st Century. Otherwise, reason compels us to view the history of doctrine in the Hegelian terms of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, which seems to be the history of our doctrine...someone came up with an idea, someone else opposed it (this is human nature), and eventually a compromise was made (usually with the help of the Emperor, the poor guys simply wanted peace and stability)...and thus Orthodox Theology developed. And no, dont give me credit for comming up with this; Hegel came up with it and it has been applied to Orthodox Theology for a while, it was even taught as the history of doctrine in our Dogmatic classes at Holy Cross.

Furthermore, to be frank, I'd give Euclid a better chance at proving Rice's Theorem on Undecidability than Peter or Paul properly refuting monothelitism.
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« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2006, 06:11:52 PM »

If you want to demonstrate there isn't a development of doctrine you need to demonstrate 5th and 6th Century Christology and 4th Century Theology existed in the 1st Century.

I disagree. To say that it is required that the "doctrine" should have existed in the first century is an artificial requirement. What needs to be demonstrated is that the doctrine is based on what was revealed to the Apostles and taught to us. For example, there was no doctrine about the veneration of relics in the first century, yet put together the Apostolic teachings of the General Resurrection, the Indwelling of the Spirit in the bodies of the Saints, the handkerchiefs which were handled by the Apostles and used to heal the sick...etc, and we can see the embyonic form of the doctrine- that is, the fact that it is harmonious with what God has revealed about Himself to the Apostles.
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« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2006, 06:34:12 PM »

I disagree. To say that it is required that the "doctrine" should have existed in the first century is an artificial requirement. What needs to be demonstrated is that the doctrine is based on what was revealed to the Apostles and taught to us. For example, there was no doctrine about the veneration of relics in the first century, yet put together the Apostolic teachings of the General Resurrection, the Indwelling of the Spirit in the bodies of the Saints, the handkerchiefs which were handled by the Apostles and used to heal the sick...etc, and we can see the embyonic form of the doctrine- that is, the fact that it is harmonious with what God has revealed about Himself to the Apostles.

Unfortunately the writings of the Apostles are neither sufficiently detailed nor prolific to make an effective case one way or the other on this manner. If you expand to the second century fathers it helps a little, but you still lack enough data to make an effective argument on most issues. Do keep in mind that in the Arian, Nestorian, and Monophysite controversies all sides were convinced that they were upholding the 'Faith of the Apostles.' This alone should be enough to demonstrate the ambiguity in the Apostolic writings.
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« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2006, 07:14:28 PM »

Do keep in mind that in the Arian, Nestorian, and Monophysite controversies all sides were convinced that they were upholding the 'Faith of the Apostles.' This alone should be enough to demonstrate the ambiguity in the Apostolic writings.
To some extent, I agree. However, firstly, my question remains: "Is the definition of a Dogma by an Oecumenical Council a new Divine Revelation, or the exposition of a Divine Revelation received by the Apostles?" In other words, does an Oecumenical Council more clearly reveal something which was already revealed by God, or does the Council receive a new revelation by God of something He hadn't revealed before?
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« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2006, 08:27:47 PM »

Concerning Iconoclastic controversies, I don't know about other churches, but in the Coptic Church alone, there existed icons in churches from pre-Nicean times preserved today in Egyptian pilgrimage sites.

Thus, I would have to say that Iconoclasts seem to be "convinced" but they are only deceiving themselves.

I would say the same with any ecumenical council.  I believe any council must affirm the truth or make clearer the truth that was already there, not make a novel belief or revelation as if it was inspired by the Spirit.  Arians held many councils, some of which the wording was being deceptively vague, but all of which amounted to no avail.

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« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2006, 09:36:24 PM »

Quote
Please feel free to correct me if I've got it wrong, but after reading through the quote thrice, it seems to me that St. Gregory is talking about the "development of doctrine" (or, I would say more precisely, the "development of revelation" in this case) up to the time of the Apostles when the Holy Spirit was sent to the Apostles "to teach them all things".

I got the impression that Gregory was claiming that the Holy Spirit was not "fully revealed" until after the apostolic period, probably not until his own time. I base this one a few different things:

1) It was only in the late 4th century that the Deity of the Holy Spirit became a topic of intense debate (following the debate over the Deity of the Son during the previous couple generations); and

2) Gregory himself is very tolerant of those who were still unsure of the Deity of the Holy Spirit (Oration 32, 24; Oration 41, 7-8), implying that this was not a settled matter (heresy vs. orthodoxy), but one which still needed to be clarified to some extent.

As far as the actual quote from Gregory, the continuance of a developing doctrine into the Church period I mainly get from words such as these:

"The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of Himself."
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Desiree: 'Not if she's the one to push for the relationship, babe.'
Joe: 'But...'
Desiree: 'You'll shut up if you're smart.'
Joe: 'Ok.'
PeterTheAleut
The Right Blowhard Peter the Furtive of Yetts O'Muckhart
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Lord, have mercy on the Christians in Mosul!


« Reply #16 on: May 01, 2006, 11:53:12 PM »

I'm sorry, but to me it simply appears that you're defying all reason in your statement. If you want to demonstrate there isn't a development of doctrine you need to demonstrate 5th and 6th Century Christology and 4th Century Theology existed in the 1st Century.

I never actually denied the development of doctrine, I just defined what I understand to be the Orthodox conception of the development of doctrine.  Of course our doctrine has developed over time.  We see this development in the articulation of what Christians have always believed, such as when the first two Ecumenical Councils articulated our belief in the Holy Trinity or when the Third through Seventh Ecumenical Councils articulated our belief in the full Deity and full humanity of Christ.

Until the First Council of Nicea, the Church had no clearly formulated dogma of the Trinity, but this wasn't because the dogma wasn't present in the Apostolic teachings and early faith of the Church.  The doctrine of the Trinity is clearly implied in the Gospels and Epistles and was clearly the faith of the ante-Nicene Church.  I would be stupid to say that the 4th Century articulation of the Trinity dogma was not an actual development of doctrine.

I see the same thing happening with our development of the dogmas of the Incarnation.  True Christians always believed that Jesus Christ was truly human and truly Divine; the Church just didn't face the need to articulate the right belief on this matter until several hundred years later.  This is what I mean when I speak of the development of doctrine.
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