"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Friday, December 29, 2006

Ampliative development of doctrine III

Prof. Scott Carson has been busy this Christmas season developing his thoughts on the development of doctrine. He's now at least two posts ahead of me in our friendly debate, which the Pontificator recommended last week. Anybody who cares to follow us needs to follow the links in Fr. Kimel's post.

Scott posted his latest on the topic, Back to the (for me) Source, on Christmas Day itself when, frustrated preacher that I am, I was more into edifying than theologizing. Alas, this past week I've been hard at work for money, as distinct from hard at what I prefer to think of as my real work, i.e. theology, and thus have been too tired to write with the care required. But the time has not been wasted. First, I've had a chance to read a few things: thanks to the kind offices of The Ochlophobist, Fr. Andrew Louth's acclaimed essay "Is Development of Doctrine a Valid Category for Orthodox Theology?", from the recent Pelikan festschrift; and parts of Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine which I had forgotten, having first read the EOD in college three decades ago. And since I'm a courier, who thus spends most of his work time driving, I've also had a bit of time to think before I write.

I shall accordingly begin with Scott's previous post on our topic: Just What Is the Principle of the Development of Doctrine, Anyway?; in a way, that is the most basic question from which all the others flow. Since, among thinkers belonging to the churches with valid apostolic succession, it cannot be seriously argued that there is no such thing as development of doctrine—and such writers as Pelikan, Louth, and even Fr. Reardon accept that there is—one needn't begin with the topic of DD by raising the question whether there is such a thing as DD. One may take for granted that there is. The ur-question is what the principle(s) of legitimate DD may be.

Scott affirms the principle, which I accept and Newman of course accepted, that "whatever is patent was latent." But that is just another way of saying that legitimate DD does not add to the deposit of faith, delivered once-for-all to the saints, but only brings forth what was somehow implicit in it. That is not in dispute. The disputes begin when we consider what 'implicit' means. On the deductive model Scott defends, 'implicit' has quite a literal sense. DD consists essentially in bringing out the logical implications of statements in the normative sources, where by 'implication' one means that which follows by deductive necessity from those sources. I'm willing to concede that some legitimate DD is like that. But I do not believe that all is, especially in the controversial cases. That's where the disagreement continues.

More tomorrow...have to be at work at 6 a.m.
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