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