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Author Topic: Devlopment of Doctrine vs. Deposit of Faith  (Read 1679 times) Average Rating: 0
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CDHealy
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« on: July 18, 2003, 03:08:39 PM »

My parish priest during last Sunday's sermon mentioned the development of doctrine and how this was antithetical to Orthodox belief.  I have contrasted the development of doctrine with the deposit of Faith.

As I understand the deposit of Faith, even though the Apostles did not use the word homoousias, nonetheless, based on Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, that is what they clearly meant with regard to the Son sharing the same nature of the Father.

The Faith, then, is unchanging.

Now, I have, being a Protestant all my life, previously understood this phenomenon in terms of development of doctrine--and most of that development I perceived as negative (bishops, prayers to Mary, etc.).  On entering the road to Orthodoxy, however, I have attempted to explain and understand the Faith in terms of the developmental idea, albeit subsumed to Tradition.

However, it is becoming clear to me that a developmental understanding has inescapable and troublesome consequences: papal infallibility, the ordination of women, same sex unions, etc.

These are probably less than coherent thoughts, as I'm trying to come to grips with a metanoia[/], a change of mind and heart.  Your feedback and input is appreciated.

Thanks.
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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2003, 11:44:42 PM »

Keep in mind that there is development of doctrine in Orthodoxy, just not of the same kind as in Catholicism.  In Orthodoxy the doctrines did develop, the teachings became more comlete, better articulated, more precisely formulated.  The difference is that no new beliefs came up, just the formulation of the old beliefs was better and better expressed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This is very different than new teachings like Papal Infalibility suddenly being discovered, or a something new about a belief being known, it's just the way it's expressed changing to be more clear, not something new we didn't know before.
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Linus7
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« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2003, 11:45:45 PM »

I could be wrong, but I don't think RCs think of doctrinal development as an actual alteration of the Deposit of Faith, but rather as a clarification or elucidation of what the Church has always believed, along the same lines as the use of homoousias you mentioned.

They believe the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, for example, was always there, implicit in Christian belief. Pius IX and Vatican I merely made it explicit.

Naturally, we Orthodox disagree; but I don't think the real root of the problem is doctrinal development. We just don't believe the Pope is infallible and we don't believe that doctrine was ever part of the Deposit of Faith. We see it is an alteration, an innovation, not a development.
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« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2003, 12:33:06 AM »

Brother Linus,

I see your point, I just read the article Vatican Dogma on the other OC Net site and found it very meaningful to me. Now I will have a little night cap and think a bit.

james
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« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2003, 12:45:41 AM »

Brother Linus,

I see your point, I just read the article Vatican Dogma on the other OC Net site and found it very meaningful to me. Now I will have a little night cap and think a bit.

james

Brother James,

If you want both sides of the papacy issue, read Michael Whelton's Two Paths: Papal Monarchy - Collegial Tradition (Regina Orthodox Press) and James Likoudis' The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy (St. Martin de Porres Lay Dominican Community).

I am in the process of wading through the second one.

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NDHoosier
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« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2003, 01:06:29 AM »

I wrote a series of reflections about Orthodoxy versus Catholicism during my own deliberations which led to my asking for admission to the Orthodox catechumenate.

Attached is one of those reflections.  You'll be the judge of its relevance.

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Q.  The Mathematical Model of Doctrinal Development

The Roman Catholic Church believes in doctrinal development.  They also call it doctrinal clarification.  The Eastern Orthodox also believe in doctrinal clarification, but in a different way.  At first I could not perceive the difference, until I thought of (1) the Scholastic method of theology and (2) the nature of mathematical proofs.

Mathematicians, in writing their proofs, will only prove to a previously solved problem.  For example:  One mathematician proves A = B.  Another mathematician proves that B = C.  A third mathematician seeks to prove that D = A, but finds it much easier to prove that D = C.  This is known in mathematics as reduction to a previously solved form.  The fact that D = C and C = B and B = A logically implies that D = A.

This is what Catholicism does.  It continually builds on previous results to exposit and expand its theology.  

The idea of logical inference is valid in mathematics because mathematics is a natural (versus supernatural) science dealing with natural - viz., created - entities.  However, the relentlessly mathematical approach does not and cannot possibly work for theology.

Theology is, among other things, the attempt to describe supernatural realities in natural terms.  It must do so, since the communication (but not the experience) of theological realities can be done only with the intellect (dianoia), not the spirit (nous).  Therefore, imperfections and gaps in our intellectual understanding are possible, since we are attempting to describe realities far larger and deeper than our intellects are capable of comprehending.  There is no such thing as complete understanding of the mysteries of God.

Every inference we make in theology is another opportunity for prelest to insert itself.  It is for this reason that the Orthodox approach to theology is far more preferable.  Orthodoxy always looks to the sources of Christian belief for her understanding of the Faith, and she will always go back to the earliest possible sources.  It is not so because antiquity in itself is a guarantee (witness Tertullian), but because the fewer degrees of separation there are from the Gospel, the fewer chances there are that prelest has entered into the reasoning.

Therefore, in Orthodoxy, you are not allowed to say, “Well, A = B, and B = C, GǪ and X = Y, and Y = Z, therefore Z = A.”  There are too many steps between Z and A, and we cannot exposit theology with the precision of symbolic mathematics - the subject matter simply will not fit into the desired framework.  If you want to say Z = A, you had better be able to prove Z = A (Scripture and Tradition), or Z = B and B = A (Ecumenical Councils), or at worst Z = C, C = B, and B = A (Patristics).  While there may be clarifications of the Orthodox faith, there is in no sense a development akin to that of the Roman Catholic Church.

Scholastic theology and symbolic mathematics have a very strong connection; both use a logical inference, especially the syllogism.  In fact, the syllogism, and other logical arguments, can be represented using mathematical symbolism.  Therefore, Scholastic theology is utterly unsuited to the task it presents itself: the complete exposition of the faith in logical - that is, mathematical - terms.  The complete description of God using the intellectual constructs of man is unequivocally not only impossible, but the mere attempt is also prideful and loaded with “prelest traps”.

This relentless inferentialism of Roman Catholic theology results in a distortion of Christian truths by encrustation.  One layer of inference is piled upon another until the original truth is either unrecognizable or severely distorted.

What are some of these “inferential errors” of the Roman Catholic Church?

-+Peter’s presidency in agape, combined with a burgeoning temporal authority and an appellate jurisdiction, plus the influence of the feudal Franks, becomes a universal immediate jurisdiction.
-+Universal Papal jurisdiction over the Latin Church, combined with the promise of Church infallibility, becomes Papal Infallibility.
-+The supreme human holiness of the Theotokos, combined with a faulty notion of original sin as guilt rather than fault, becomes the Immaculate Conception.
-+The universal call to mission and charity for all combined with modernist naturalism and materialism becomes a worldly ecumenism devoid of the true faith (this happens in Orthodoxy as well, but not to the extent it does in Catholicism, and especially Protestantism)
-+The role of the Church as moral teacher, combined with its burgeoning temporal power, results in a legalistic, and therefore minimalistic, notion of morality.
-+The Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, combined with legalistic notions of morality, results in the notion of “Service to the Church” as having in itself a salvific quality.

The upshot is that the relentlessly inferential approach to doctrinal clarification is the nature of the Roman Catholic idea of doctrinal development.  It leads to doctrinal confusion, prelest, and heresy because it becomes possible to stray too far from the sources of the Orthodox Christian faith.
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« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2003, 03:28:46 AM »

NDHoosier,

I like it!
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CDHealy
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« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2003, 09:05:11 AM »

Hoosier, et. al.:

Thanks for your reply(-ies).  While I think the Scholastic/mathematical description of RC doctrine is helpful, I'm not sure that one may not reply and say, "Well, despite your protestations, Orthodoxy does the same thing," though with you I do not believe it does.

I mentioned the "clarification" point to my priest.  It was along the lines of clarification that I thought it still appropriate to refer to Orthodox dogma in terms of development.

His reply: "So tell me how you more clearly understand the relationship of the Son to the Father now that you know the term homoousias."  In other words, Orthodox theology does not so much aid in a better understanding of the particular dogma so much as it sets a fence around it and says, "No further."  (By the way the comments were in the context of the four alpha-privatives of the Chalcedonian definition: without separation, change, division or confusion.)  In a word, Orthodox theology is apophatic.

Given this reply, is it still the case that Orthodox theology "developed"?  Or (if I'm understanding him correctly) does my priest have the better of it by saying it is a deposit well-guarded?

Thanks in advance.
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« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2003, 12:54:05 PM »

Quote
From NDHoosier: Every inference we make in theology is another opportunity for prelest to insert itself.  It is for this reason that the Orthodox approach to theology is far more preferable.  Orthodoxy always looks to the sources of Christian belief for her understanding of the Faith, and she will always go back to the earliest possible sources.  It is not so because antiquity in itself is a guarantee (witness Tertullian), but because the fewer degrees of separation there are from the Gospel, the fewer chances there are that prelest has entered into the reasoning.

I like your analysis, ND, but I don't think things are quite that simple.

It seems to me that the difference is not that the RCs rely on mathematical-style proofs and we do not, or that we base what we believe on the earliest sources and they do not.

I think some of our assumptions are different, so we reach different conclusions.

They assume the Pope is infallible, so - voila! - they find what they regard as evidence of that in the Fathers and Church history. We look at the same stuff and don't see what they see. The real problem is that the earliest stuff is sparse and somewhat ambiguous on this issue. The RCs use it to bolster papal authority. We use it to counter it. It's "user friendly," but not definitive.

The other things we differ about are based on similar assumptions and similar uses of the same sources by both sides.
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« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2003, 12:58:52 PM »

Quote
From CDHealy: In a word, Orthodox theology is apophatic.

Funny you should mention the apophatic approach. I found this, a quote from Aquinas, in the CCC:

43     " . . . concerning God, we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not, and how other beings stand in relation to him."

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Chuck S.
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« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2003, 08:28:19 PM »


Dear CDHealy,

I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with a couple of the posts here. At least in their wording saying essentially that we believe in doctrinal development but "not like the RC's do" (at least thats the implication I got from a couple posts. Again it could be my remaining sinus infection..lol!)

Either doctrine developed or didn't. In my view there can be no middle ground here. Either we've always believed the same thing, for 2000 years or we haven't.
Perhaps its because my first encounter with Orthodoxy was with the Coptic Church which is way more strict in this area than some of the more "philosphical" Orthodox Churches.  :=)

Don't get me wrong, I was Chrismated into the Greek Orthodox Church. I know it is where God wants me to be. God truly picked out the perfect parish for me. (its perfect for me, not "perfect" in the general sense) And I've come to appreciate some of more philisophical ideas. And some of the Greek traditions at Pascha, I simply cannot imagine being without. In fact, I LOVE being "Greek" Orthodox!
 But I'll never forget when I first visited the www.goarch.org site, I about had a nervous breakdown...lol!

Some of the stuff really bothered me. As if we (then they) seemed to rely too heavily on Greek philosophy, speculation etc etc... I was quite shocked by alot of what I read not just there, but alot of other EO websites. Stuff the Copts and the Russians would flat out deny, such as this idea that "well we sorta always believed this, but then not really, oh but yes we did."

It was only when I dug deeper, past all the fancy terms, language, speculation, politcally correct ideas etc that I was VERY relieved to see we do NOT believe in doctrinal development. Nor have we ever believed in it. The problem is some Orthodox use the same language as the west to describe two completely different things. Rome uses it to say "we figured out new stuff"  or as they would say "we cleared up this confusion" while some Orthodox use the exact same language to say "we defined what was always believed." It's kinda odd that East and West use the same words to decribe two completely different things, but it does happen. And it can be terribly misleading at first glance. (again I know from experience)

Anyways...the point is, Orthodoxy has never believed we can figure out all these new teachings, nor do we believe like Rome, that we can even really clarify what the Apostles taught. I means,  weren't the Apostles clear enough with the Deposit of Faith? Is God the author of confusion to the extent that later men would have to "clear up" what He taught us? Of course not. The Apostles were perfectly clear when they deposited the Faith!

Had there been such a thing as an infallible Bishop of Rome, such a foundational doctrine as this would have never had to be "clarified" as the Apostles would have made this so abundantly clear there would have been no question it its validity. In fact it probably would have even ended up as apart of the Creed...(absolutely no offense to our Roman brethren btw) Heck the Bishop of Egypt was called "Pope" (even by the Roman Bishops) centuries before anyone in Rome applied the term to themselves. (again, no offense to our dear catholic friends)


What the Councils did was to declare, in a certain place and age, to fight heresy, what has always been believed! They didn't "clarify" doctrines, they "declared" them. To me, there is a subtle, yet important difference in this wording.

Yes, Orthodoxy CAN and SHOULD use new ways to describe the same things...after all we wouldn't explain the Incarnation to a 5 year old the same way St. Athanasius did. But even St. Athanasius wasn't "clarifying" or figuring out the Inarnation, he was simply explaining, like no one else had ever done before, the awesome miracle. He truly had an awesome gift from God to describe the Incarnation like no other human being would ever do to this day, but he didn't "clear it up" by the guiding of the Holy Spirit, he declared it, and put it into words in such a way that no one could ever question it again. as someone else said, he put a wall around it. But he certainly didn't "clarify" it.

Do you see the difference in what I'm saying? Maybe not, as I'm probably just babbling..LOL!

But this is really an important issue. Its subtle..and perhaps I'm really just splitting hairs, but I just like to stay as far away from even the implication of doctrinal development as possible. I think there are specific reasons this small t tradition of implying clarification has arose but I think its really harmful to those researching the true Faith. As it almost scared me away forever and back to protestantism. Yikes!


CDHealy, I think, once you get passed all the language, which is really the issue, HOW we're describing what we mean, then it becomes perfectly clear, Orthodoxy strongly rejects any idea of doctrinal development. (I even found this on the goarch site once I dug into it) Its not something that has ever been believed, though I can see why some use certain linguistic terms that may indirectly imply it, to describe the delcaration of Faith.

Anyways, I apologize if I seem overly passionate about this. I just remember how I felt when I first visited the goarch site and how scared I was. I now visit it regularly, and think its an EXCELLENT site that has a wealth of valuable information...I just happened to read all the wrong articles on my first visit..LOL!



In Christ, Thomas

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In Christ, Thomas
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« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2003, 10:43:13 PM »

I don't mean to bump this thread up again unnecessarily or to start an argument, but I think it is plain that doctrine does develop.

Just read the history of the great councils, especially of the period just prior to Ephesus (431) and through Chalcedon (451). It is plain that the Christology of the Apostles had to be clarified and explained.

I think we have some major disagreements with the RCC, but they cannot be explained by saying that they think it is okay to invent new stuff while we stick with the original Deposit of Faith.

Don't get me wrong; I believe we do stick to the original Deposit of Faith, but we have developed much of our doctrine from it; it has not remained static.

The RCs claim they do the same thing. It's just that they went down the wrong road with Papal-caesarism and lost the infallible teaching charism of the Church. They've opened themselves to errors and the errors have come.
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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2003, 10:53:59 PM »

Elder Linus,

Very good post, the RC Church is now experiencing their problems due to their frequent updates, depending on which way the wind is blowing.

james
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