Archive for the ‘Development of Doctrine’ Category

Vincent of Lerins on "Development of Doctrine"

September 22, 2010

Sean Patrick, under the nick Blogahon, wrote:

Unfortunately for Mr. Mathison, the blessed John Henry Newman was not the first to posit doctrine of the development of doctrine.

St. Vincent Lerins wrote on it extensively in the fifth century. …

Lastly, it is puzzling to always see Protestants kicking the development of doctrine, as if their particular doctrines are explicitly and fully present from the very earliest Christian testimony.


Now, I don’t agree with Vincent (as I explained in much greater detail when rebutting a similar argument for development that tried to utilize Vincent), but what Vincent was arguing for was virtually the exact opposite of development:

Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly ‘Catholic,’ as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality, antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.

You can’t really have innovation if you only hold things that were universally held by the ancients. Vincent’s rule would rule out:

  • Papal Infallibility
  • Conciliar Infallibility
  • Purgatory
  • Indulgences
  • The Bodily Assumption of Mary
  • The Immaculate Conception of Mary
  • … and so forth.

Vincent’s rule would stifle development (in the sense of Newman), because one must find a universal acceptance of the doctrine among the ancients in order to accept a doctrine.

“Protestants” are opposed to the “development of doctrine,” in the sense of doctrines emerging without a Biblical basis. We require that all doctrines of the church be supported by Scripture, not merely by widespread acceptance among the ancients.

– TurretinFan

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