Development of Doctrine

In 08 Book Corner on 2011/07/23 at 10:46 PM

This is Revelation: God’s mysteries opening up gradually . . . whereby little by little God makes Himself known.

St. Augustine wrote  that God in His mercy reveals his mysteries to man gradually in order that the whole world should experience “this saving proclamation, on hearing it should believe, on believing it hope, on hoping in it love.”

In his essay on THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE,  John Henry Newman demonstrated that the theology of the Church is no random combination of various opinions, but a diligent and patient working out of one doctrine from many materials.  He explained the slow, painful, anxious taking up of a new perspective into an existing body of belief.

“The integrity of the Catholic development is still more evident when they are viewed in contrast with the history of other doctrinal systems.  Philosophies and religions of the world have each its day, and are part of a succession.  They supplant and are in turn supplanted.  But the Catholic religion alone has had no limits; it alone has ever been greater than the emergence, and can do what others cannot do.

Truth is ever consolidating itself, and, as time goes on, shining into broader day.  For while the devises of adversaries were extinguished at once, undone by their very  impetuosity-on heresy after another presenting its own novelty, the former specimens ever dissolving and wasting variously in manifold and  multiform shapes-the  brightness of the Catholic and only true Church went forward increasing and enlarging, yet ever in the same things, and in the same way, beaming on the whole race of Greeks and barbarians with the awfulness, and simplicity, and nobleness, and sobriety, and purity of its divine polity and philosophy.

Exclusivity, bigotry and intolerance are some of the ordinary charges hurled at the Church by those who hold: that truth and falsehood in religion are but a matter of opinion; that one doctrine is as good as another; that the God does not intend we should gain the truth; that there is no truth; that we are not more acceptable to God by believing this than by believing that; that no one is answerable for his opinions; that they are a matter of necessity or accident; that it is enough if we sincerely hold what we profess; that our merit lies in seeking not possessing; that it is a duty to follow what seems to us true, without a fear lest it should not be true; that it maybe a gain to succeed, and can be no harm or fail; that we may take up and lay down opinions at pleasure; that belief belongs to the mere intellect,not to the heart also; that we may safely trust to ourselves in matters of Faith, and need no other guide.”

Newman, John Henry ESSAY ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE.  http://www.amazon.com/Essay-Development-Christian-Doctrine/dp/1616402520/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1310080803&sr=1-2

John Henry Newman, the most illustrious of Anglican converts was constantly quoted in the writing of the theological documents of Vatican II (a continuation of Vatican I , which Newman had attended as a Cardinal).  Perhaps, in our lifetime we will see him named a Doctor of the Church.

In an attempt to lead the Anglican divines to deeper commitment to God, he sought a “Via Media” in Anglicanism (a middle point between Catholicism and extreme Protestantism) for he believed Anglicanism lay at equidistant from Catholic Rome and Calvinist Geneva.  He sought to restore the primitive Church to England.

Believing that Anglicanism stood for the Fathers, whose teachings the Book of Common Prayer handed down, Newman went to the primary sources, the Early Church Fathers.

In his APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA, he wrote: “I looked into the mirror, and saw myself an Arian.”  Suddenly the Via Media disappeared.  Shocked, Oxford’s leading divine, began his journey home to the Catholic Church. Consequently, a great religious revival know as the Oxford movement began; he was its guide, philosopher, and martyr.

As a young man, Newman was the only one in his family that really believed the doctrine of the Trinity.  He could support each verse of the Athanasian Creed with texts from Scripture, despite his mother’s being a Calvinist, the indifference of his father and the Deism and Atheism of his brothers.

In 1824 he was ordained and became the Vicar of St. Mary’s, the Oxford University’s church.  From its pulpit he delivered his famous “Parochial Sermons.” They were not controversial, and there is little in them to which Catholic theologians would object.

He and some friends lived together at Littlemore in monastic seclusion. He was the one Englishman of that era who upheld the ancient creed with a knowledge that only theologians possess, a Shakespearean force of style and a saintly fervor.

With immense dedication he composed the “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine,” in which he explained the apparent variations of Catholic Church dogma to which he formerly objected.

When Newman was received into the Church, his life, which would span almost ninety years, was divided in half: the more dramatic first half as an Anglican divine; and the second half he would spend under suspicion from one side or another, having his plans thwarted and his motives misconstrued.

In 1846, Newman was ordained.  Pope Leo XIII approved his establishing in England the Oratory of St. Philip Neri.  Eventually, he was made a Cardinal, and this unique elevation was hailed by the entire English nation and Catholics worldwide.

Three landmark items are worth noting:
1. His famous sermon, “The Second Spring” has a rare an delicate beauty. His “Dream of Gerontius” is Dante-like.
2. His becoming the Catholic apologist in a time of Agnosticism.
3. His immense correspondence, much of which is yet to be published.

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