Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Newman's Essay, Part VII: Application of the Second Note of a True Development: Continuity of Its Principles
The second note indicates that true developments are governed by fixed, interior principles innate to the organism itself. We shall see, then, that Christian doctrine has not developed randomly or haphazardly, but according to certain fixed principles. The Incarnation, the central truth of the Gospel, is the source from which all principles spring. Of these numerous principles, we will here examine four of them in particular - faith, theology, Scripture, and dogma.
First, faith, or belief, is a primary and necessary act in Christianity, and is superior to any pure act of reason; a Christian may thus begin with belief, given only a partial or a probably proof, and nonetheless embrace a conclusion with certainty of mind. It is equally true that faith is more certain than reason since it is founded upon God, who cannot lie. The Church has always stood by this principle, no matter how much it is derided for it.
Secondly, another principle of doctrinal development is the scientific and logical analysis of revealed truth, which is used to examine, explain, catalogue, and defend this truth, this process being known as theology. This, too, has always been utilized by Christians, and has never been discarded.
Thirdly, another principle of the Church's consistent teaching over the centuries is its firm foundation in Scripture, and especially in its mystical sense, which the Church has alwas preferred to its its literal. Scripture is the medium by which the mind of the Church has developed, and has always been appealed to in order to defend doctrine. Scripture has been consistently the rule of faith in all human matters, and has been found relevant in every age. And the Church has always, however, resorted to the mystical sense of Scripture in preference to the literal. History proves that orthodoxy in matters of the Christian faith has always been linked to the mystical interpretation of Scripture, and heresy, more often than not, to its literal interpretation.
Lastly, yet another principle of doctrinal development, dogma, holds that opinions in religion are not matters of indifference, but of utmost importance to the Gospel. This was the opinion of Christians in every land and age, to be opposed to any teaching not found in the apostolic tradition handed down by their predecessors through apostolic succession. And this has always led to continual charges of bigotry and intolerance against the Church, from its first days to its most recent.
The continuation of these principles is a guarantee of genuine development rather than corruption. Yet if these principles are the found to be operative in both ages, then they must be said to be the same Church, however different they may appear to be externally or in outward manifestation.
# posted by Jamie : 12:01 PM