Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Newman's Essay, Part II: On the Antecedent Argument on Behalf of Developments of Doctrine 

Therefore, if Christianity enters our minds as an idea, it cannot be received alone, but only with the vast company of ideas which are interconnected with it, and yet with it subsist as a unified whole.

And the necessity that Christianity develop is historically undeniable. For even the most essential matters of our religion -- such as the canon of Scripture and matters of religious authority -- are left unresolved by Scripture; this would make God irresponsible, unless He had intended them to be resolved by developing in the mind of the Church. And we see this process of development occurring in Scripture itself, as all that is spoken by the Prophets is implicit in the Pentateuch, and the Epistles represent a doctrinal commentary on the Gospels. In truth, the very nature of Scriptural revelation is that it is inexhaustible, such that we can never claim to have fully comprehended or grasped its contents, for the deep truths of its mystery will never be probed in a thousand generations, and we can be certain that the process of time will unveil more of its divine contents.

We must conclude, therefore, that Christian doctrine admits of formal, legitimate, and true developments. But, once we have learned that the Christian religion must develop, we must also learn to expect an infallible authority to govern and oversee these developments, to discern true developments from mere human speculations or distortions. Especially because of the gravity involved in accepting a later development along with the original idea of Christianity; we would require not a mere testimony of its truth, but an absolute guarantee of it. And it should be obvious that no solitary indidivual is in a state to discern true developments from corruptions. Only an infallible Church could separate the true from the false. Otherwise, mere subjectivism and disagreement would result.

The Protestant notion of Scripture as the supreme rule consistently fails because it does not recognize Scripture's need for an infallible interpreter. When we look for such an interpreter, we ironically notice that only one institution in the world is audacious enough to claim for itself this prerogative, as if all others were afraid to because they knew their incapacity for it. "There can be no combination on the basis of truth without an organ of truth." This 'hypothesis' of the development of doctrine is strengthened by the fact that it has been held by the largest portion of Christendom since its inception.

Now that we have learned to expect developments of Christian doctrine, and to expect these developments to be overseen by an authoritative Church, we must simply look around and ask whether we find such a body of developments existing today, along with a governing body which claims infallible authority over them. We need not look far. For there is no there is no other such body of doctrines, nor such a Church claiming infallible authority over them, besides those commonly called Catholic.

# posted by Jamie : 2:40 PM


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