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« on: September 11, 2003, 01:27:04 PM »

In another thread, Saint Polycarp said:

Development of doctrine was first used by the apostles at the first ecumenical council at Jerusalem as recorded in The Acts of the Apostles. If doctrine can't develop then many doctrines we hold in common would have to be considered as innovation and heresy. The Trinity would be the biggest example.

I don't know if we have had a thread on this before, but I think it would be productive.  What is development of doctrine?  What do we mean by it?  What does the Roman Catholic Church teach about it as opposed to the teaching of the Orthodox Catholic Church on doctrinal development?  Is there a distinction to be made in different possible types of doctrinal development?  What is acceptable and what is not?  Is there a justification for it?
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« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2003, 01:59:27 PM »

The doctrine of the Trinity is in the Scriptures and the Apostolic Fathers. It's explanation may have made use of a scientific language which developed over time but the doctrine did not.

Peter Theodore
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« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2003, 07:44:06 PM »

The doctrine of the Trinity is in the Scriptures and the Apostolic Fathers. It's explanation may have made use of a scientific language which developed over time but the doctrine did not.

Peter Theodore

Respectfully Peter,
The doctrine of the Trinity was developed by the Church in response to heretical claims regarding the nature of  Christ. The bishops developed it by their understanding of tradition and scripture. They use scripture to prove it yet those who deny the trinity use scripture to say it is a false doctrine.
The Church has the authority and the responsibility to develop the understanding of the faith and explain it so that there can be no mistake about what the Christian faith believes and teaches on various subjects. Some doctrines weren't developed for centuries untill the need arose. The canon of scripture wasn't dogmatised till the council of Trent and that was in response to the protestant heresies. And, if I'm not mistaken, the Orthodox never dogmatically codified their canon of scripture even to this day and for that reason there are some minor differences in the canon among the Eastern Churches.
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Polycarp
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« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2003, 04:36:04 AM »

Quote
The Church has the authority and the responsibility to develop the understanding of the faith and explain it so that there can be no mistake about what the Christian faith believes and teaches on various subjects. Some doctrines weren't developed for centuries untill the need arose. The canon of scripture wasn't dogmatised till the council of Trent and that was in response to the protestant heresies. And, if I'm not mistaken, the Orthodox never dogmatically codified their canon of scripture even to this day and for that reason there are some minor differences in the canon among the Eastern Churches.

Hiya Polycarp

Thanks for your reply. I wonder if we are talking past eash other a little and perhaps agree more than might be apparent.

I agree with the first part of your paragraph, but I disagree with the conclusion that the development of understanding and explanation is the same as the development of doctrine.

What is the doctrine of the Trinity? Is it not that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three persons who are equally and perfectly God. Such that God is both one and three. And these three are not different aspects or modes of God.

Now can we not find these concepts in the Scriptures and Apostolic Fathers? I think we can. Therefore I suggest that the doctrine was always present even while the explanation and understanding needed development to meet particular assaults. Does the RC teaching about the development of doctrine conclude that completely new teachings might arise, or is it actually just expressing the view that explanations and understandings must develop over time?

Just as an example, St Clement of Alexandria, writing early says:

"Thus also the Father of the universe cherishes affection towards those who have fled to Him; and having begotten them again by His Spirit to the adoption of children, knows them as gentle, and loves those alone, and aids and fights for them; and therefore He bestows on them the name of child."

and

"For how shall he not be loved for whose sake the only-begotten Son is sent from the Father's bosom."

And Justin Martyr says:

"Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught."

I've only grabbed these quickly but it seems to me that the doctrine of the Trinity, as describing Father, Son and Holy Spirit as One God, is there from the beginning. That St Clement and St Justin do not speak of hypostasis and ousia does not detract from the presence of the doctrine but merely shows that its explanation was developed to meet particular assaults.

I would value your understanding of the content of the Roman Catholic teaching about the development of doctrine.

Best wishes

Peter Theodore

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« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2003, 10:52:27 AM »

I know the example of the "Holy Trinity" is often brought up by RC apologists, but this is apples and oranges (comparing this example to the more controversial teachings of the RCC which are typically defended under the banner of "development.")

While it is true that the "symbol of faith" is a development, it is not a conceptual one.  What is developed, is the language used to clearly differentiate the true, Churchly understanding of God, from that which was an innovation.  You have to understand, it was not as if Nicea decided between two Christologies - for as the Orthodox Fathers at Nicea knew, that of the Arians was new, not simply "another theory" of significant pedigree that they (the "Trinitarians") had to contend with.

While this may sound offensive, I honestly believe the p.o.v. which views what happened at Nicea (or the other Ecumenical Councils for that matter) in terms of "deciding between two scientific propositions" to be a graceless one.  It's almost as if one doesn't believe the Church from it's infancy has known Who it's Lord is.  The truth, and it's an experiential (as well as dogmatic) one, is that God has always been known by His Saints via "theoria" (spiritual vision of God - what Christ promised to the "pure of heart"), and as such, has always been known to be "one in three, and three in one".  If anything has developed in this regard, it is not that experience of Pentecost itself (which has never ceased, unto the present day, in Christ's Church), but the language to express that illumined experience (in particular, to convey the experience of genuine Prophets of the New Testament, to those (like myself) who are less experienced, or do not have this quality of direct knowledge.

All genuinely Christian beliefs and practice, are born out of the same continued experience, born in the same faith.  The explanations have developed to be sure, but not the substance.  In fact, such a substantial development is the stuff of heresy.

Thus, while God as Trinity is part of the continued witness/experience of the Church from Her birth, can the same be said of "papal infallibility", "universal juristiction of the Pope", "indulgences" or any of the other peculiarities which make Catholicism distinct from Orthodoxy?  The answer to this, I submit, is obvious - they were not part of the ancient "Western" Christian experience, let alone that of the Church in all lands, the "world wide Catholic Church" which St.Polycarp speaks of.

Seraphim
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« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2003, 11:09:50 AM »

Quote
The Church has the authority and the responsibility to develop the understanding of the faith and explain it so that there can be no mistake about what the Christian faith believes and teaches on various subjects. Some doctrines weren't developed for centuries untill the need arose. The canon of scripture wasn't dogmatised till the council of Trent and that was in response to the protestant heresies. And, if I'm not mistaken, the Orthodox never dogmatically codified their canon of scripture even to this day and for that reason there are some minor differences in the canon among the Eastern Churches.

Hiya Polycarp

Thanks for your reply. I wonder if we are talking past eash other a little and perhaps agree more than might be apparent.

I agree with the first part of your paragraph, but I disagree with the conclusion that the development of understanding and explanation is the same as the development of doctrine.

What is the doctrine of the Trinity? Is it not that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three persons who are equally and perfectly God. Such that God is both one and three. And these three are not different aspects or modes of God.

Now can we not find these concepts in the Scriptures and Apostolic Fathers? I think we can. Therefore I suggest that the doctrine was always present even while the explanation and understanding needed development to meet particular assaults. Does the RC teaching about the development of doctrine conclude that completely new teachings might arise, or is it actually just expressing the view that explanations and understandings must develop over time?

Just as an example, St Clement of Alexandria, writing early says:

"Thus also the Father of the universe cherishes affection towards those who have fled to Him; and having begotten them again by His Spirit to the adoption of children, knows them as gentle, and loves those alone, and aids and fights for them; and therefore He bestows on them the name of child."

and

"For how shall he not be loved for whose sake the only-begotten Son is sent from the Father's bosom."

And Justin Martyr says:

"Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught."

I've only grabbed these quickly but it seems to me that the doctrine of the Trinity, as describing Father, Son and Holy Spirit as One God, is there from the beginning. That St Clement and St Justin do not speak of hypostasis and ousia does not detract from the presence of the doctrine but merely shows that its explanation was developed to meet particular assaults.

I would value your understanding of the content of the Roman Catholic teaching about the development of doctrine.

Best wishes

Peter Theodore



Hi peter,
I agree that the Trinity is apparent from scripture. Yet an explicit teaching packaging the doctrine was never taught in scripture. God seems to like to teach us principals and let us think about it.  Smiley In the earliest patristic writings the Holy Spirit when mentioned along with The Father and The Son, seems to always get a sort of by the way mention. I believe that the understanding of the Triune nature of God was not as clearly understood in the first century or so and "developed" to a more clearly understood and expressed belief in time. So I feel the Trinity is a developed dogma. The same scriptures we use to prove the Trinity the "Oness" people use to disprove it and say we are polytheists.
Peace,
Polycarp
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« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2003, 11:20:45 AM »

"Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught."

Hi Polycarp

I take your point, but do you not think that the quote from St Justin is sufficently developed to express what we later come to describe as the consubstantiality of the three persons of the Holy Spirit? Is it possible that St Justin would speak of 'worshipping and adoring' a spirit who was not God?

For myself, I always enjoy reading St Justin Martyr since so much of the Orthodox Catholic faith is found in his writings in a much more developed form than we ofetn give the early Church credence for.

Also, would you clarify for me, are you saying that the actual substance of the doctrine of the Trinity developed over time, such that St Athanasius had a substantially different faith to St Justin, or St Polycarp? Or are you saying, what all must agree with, that the understanding and explanation and implications of the doctrine of the Trinity developed as time and controversies passed?

Best wishes

Peter Theodore
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« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2003, 11:22:44 AM »

I know the example of the "Holy Trinity" is often brought up by RC apologists, but this is apples and oranges (comparing this example to the more controversial teachings of the RCC which are typically defended under the banner of "development.")

While it is true that the "symbol of faith" is a development, it is not a conceptual one.  What is developed, is the language used to clearly differentiate the true, Churchly understanding of God, from that which was an innovation.  You have to understand, it was not as if Nicea decided between two Christologies - for as the Orthodox Fathers at Nicea knew, that of the Arians was new, not simply "another theory" of significant pedigree that they (the "Trinitarians") had to contend with.

While this may sound offensive, I honestly believe the p.o.v. which views what happened at Nicea (or the other Ecumenical Councils for that matter) in terms of "deciding between two scientific propositions" to be a graceless one.  It's almost as if one doesn't believe the Church from it's infancy has known Who it's Lord is.  The truth, and it's an experiential (as well as dogmatic) one, is that God has always been known by His Saints via "theoria" (spiritual vision of God - what Christ promised to the "pure of heart"), and as such, has always been known to be "one in three, and three in one".  If anything has developed in this regard, it is not that experience of Pentecost itself (which has never ceased, unto the present day, in Christ's Church), but the language to express that illumined experience (in particular, to convey the experience of genuine Prophets of the New Testament, to those (like myself) who are less experienced, or do not have this quality of direct knowledge.

All genuinely Christian beliefs and practice, are born out of the same continued experience, born in the same faith.  The explanations have developed to be sure, but not the substance.  In fact, such a substantial development is the stuff of heresy.

Thus, while God as Trinity is part of the continued witness/experience of the Church from Her birth, can the same be said of "papal infallibility", "universal juristiction of the Pope", "indulgences" or any of the other peculiarities which make Catholicism distinct from Orthodoxy?  The answer to this, I submit, is obvious - they were not part of the ancient "Western" Christian experience, let alone that of the Church in all lands, the "world wide Catholic Church" which St.Polycarp speaks of.

Seraphim


Hello Seraphim,
Well I agree with you. But if I take your reasoning a little farther then we would be agreeing with many of the complaints of the protestants who's actual goal was to take the Church back to the 1st century Church we seen written about in the NT. That would put a whole different picture on both the Eastern and Western Church wouildn't it? Change in practice and development of doctrine is a natural thing for the Church. From the Latin point of view the bishop of Rome was always the one everyone looked to for Orthodoxy. So I can understand why the claims are made in the manner in which they are.
Do I wish that the dogma of Papal infallability was not declared? Yes because it is a major obsticle to reunification. And for me reunification is the key in making the "true Church" shine like the light on the hill that is supposed to be. Our seperation is a scandle which is a stumbling block to many who look at what we say as compared to what we do as representatives of Christ.
Peace,
Polycarp
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« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2003, 11:31:46 AM »

"Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught."

Hi Polycarp

I take your point, but do you not think that the quote from St Justin is sufficently developed to express what we later come to describe as the consubstantiality of the three persons of the Holy Spirit? Is it possible that St Justin would speak of 'worshipping and adoring' a spirit who was not God?

For myself, I always enjoy reading St Justin Martyr since so much of the Orthodox Catholic faith is found in his writings in a much more developed form than we ofetn give the early Church credence for.

Also, would you clarify for me, are you saying that the actual substance of the doctrine of the Trinity developed over time, such that St Athanasius had a substantially different faith to St Justin, or St Polycarp? Or are you saying, what all must agree with, that the understanding and explanation and implications of the doctrine of the Trinity developed as time and controversies passed?

Best wishes

Peter Theodore

Oh yes Peter absolutely I agree with you 100 % Justin Maryter is teaching the Trinity in his writings. And I believe our faith is the same as Polycarp's and Ignatius etc. Yet the explaination and understanding of many aspects of the faith developed with time. If Athanasius had a discussion with Saint Ignatius or Saint Iraneaus, I believe they would all end up in the same place and agree to our understanding of the Trinity. I believe all of the apostles understood it too. It is just that in time there were reasons to put the belief in clear carefully worded language and dogmatically define it.
Peace,
Polycarp
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« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2003, 11:49:52 AM »

Hi Polycarp

To the extent of this last post then we are speaking about the same thing when we speak of the development of doctrine.

With others though I think the problem then becomes that we do not find certain Roman doctrines in the early church, and/or cannot accept that the explanation and development of understanding still expresses the patristic/scriptural substance.

Certainly I have great problems with Universal Jurisdiction and Papal Infallibility. They seem to describe a different Church to that I am finding in the Fathers.

I appreciate your eirenic patience

Peter Theodore
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« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2003, 01:46:53 PM »

Dear Peter:

Have you come across Fr. Aidan Nichols' "The Idea of Doctrinal Development in Eastern Orthodox Theology"?

http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/anichols/fromnewman2.html

I think the Affiliated Lecturer, Cambridge University Divinity Faculty and Prior of the Dominican Priory of St. Michael, Cambridge, succinctly expresses the "differences"  between Catholic and Orthodox views on the development of doctrine, or their  "complementarity," depending on which side one considers it.

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« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2003, 02:04:10 PM »

Hi Polycarp

To the extent of this last post then we are speaking about the same thing when we speak of the development of doctrine.

With others though I think the problem then becomes that we do not find certain Roman doctrines in the early church, and/or cannot accept that the explanation and development of understanding still expresses the patristic/scriptural substance.

Certainly I have great problems with Universal Jurisdiction and Papal Infallibility. They seem to describe a different Church to that I am finding in the Fathers.

I appreciate your eirenic patience

Peter Theodore


Dear Peter,
I understand your concerns. Yet I can see how this Papal role developed by looking at the circumstances the Church found herself in during the various stages of history. Look at first century Rome. This is where the seed of Papal Universal juristiction started. Yet the idea of Pope etc. didn't exist at the time and there were times when Rome had no bishop during the first 150 years. Because the Romans would maryter them faster than they could be replaced.
First century Rome was similar to modern New York City. The capitol of the world an melting pot of people from all over the Empire. There were christians from all over living in Rome and mostly they stayed togeather along their ethnic and national identities. This "hodge podge" of varying Christian communities was one of the first causes for the Roman Church to reachout towards Christians of other origins and to do so with the idea of being one body. The Roman Church reached out in love to the other Christians in Rome and even sent out "communion" to the other communities as a symbol of unity. The bishops of ancient Rome saw their role as one of unifying the Church in Rome and eventually they began to see their role in the world wide Church as well.
That some of the other Churches didn't see this role the same way is not in question.  Wink
Peace,
Polycarp
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« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2003, 02:16:09 PM »

Thanks for the pointer to that essay. I've just enjoyed reading it.

I think he expresses the Orthodox position well, but if he is a Roman Catholic priest then I am still not convinced about the legitimacy of Papal Supremacy, the Assumption and Universal Jurisdiction.

I find it interesting, and personally exciting, that I can turn to St Justin Martyr, St Clement, St Irenaeus, St Ignatius, and all the Fathers and learn from them as living witnesses to the truth. And I tend to read them more than modern theologians. Indeed while I've been reading Being as Communion by +John Zizoulas I find that on the one hand it is very stimulating and on the other hand I am constantly asking myself - what do the Fathers say?

Peter Theodore
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« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2003, 04:30:35 PM »

Thanks for the pointer to that essay. I've just enjoyed reading it.

I think he expresses the Orthodox position well, but if he is a Roman Catholic priest then I am still not convinced about the legitimacy of Papal Supremacy, the Assumption and Universal Jurisdiction.

I find it interesting, and personally exciting, that I can turn to St Justin Martyr, St Clement, St Irenaeus, St Ignatius, and all the Fathers and learn from them as living witnesses to the truth. And I tend to read them more than modern theologians. Indeed while I've been reading Being as Communion by +John Zizoulas I find that on the one hand it is very stimulating and on the other hand I am constantly asking myself - what do the Fathers say?

Peter Theodore

I agree Peter it makes a lot of sense to read the second century writings as Ireneaus, Polycarp and Ignatius had the benefit of learning the faith from an apostle. ( I know, technically Ireneaus learned from Polycarp and Ignatius  Wink ) They didn't have to read other's writings and worry if they were interpreting them correctly. One of the reasons I choose to use the pseudonym of Saint Polycarp.
Peace,
Polycarp
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