“It is interesting to me that Protestants are jumping on the bash Newman’s DOD bandwagon when they too endorse a theory of doctrinal development to justify their theological distinctives. ISTM that they are cutting off the branch they are sitting on. Sola Fide is the product of doctrinal development just as much as the Papacy is. The claim is that it is in ‘seed form’ in Paul and then over the centuries through a dialectical process the ‘implied’ meaning is brought out. The difference between Protestants and Rome here is a difference of the content of the model of development rather than development as opposed to not. What is really interesting here is that this brings to light the commitment to Idealism for both parties.”
Perry’s objection is confused at several different levels. There are numerous reasons that Protestants like me object to Newman’s theory of development.
i) One objection involves an internal critique. Catholicism changed horses midway through the race. At Vatican II it suddenly redefined what it meant by tradition.
Even after Newman proposed his theory of development, that didn’t gain instant acceptance in Catholic circles. Indeed, as Benedict XVI documents in his autobiography, defining the Assumption of Mary as Catholic dogma was opposed by Catholic theologians at the time because it lacked traditional attestation.
So we opposed the Catholic theory of development because it represents a theological innovation in a denomination that frowns on theological innovation. It marks a dramatic break with the past.
And it does so in reference to its rule of faith. That could hardly be more fundamental to Catholic identity.
In that respect, our opposition to the theory of development doesn’t mean we oppose to the theory of development in principle. Rather, we can oppose the Catholic qua Catholic theory of development on its own grounds because that is incompatible with the traditional definition of tradition in Catholic theology.
It’s odd that Perry can’t figure that out.
ii) In fact, Protestants are not opposed to the development of doctrine, per se. And that’s entirely consistent with our opposition to the Catholic theory.
Indeed, it’s because Protestants can accept a legitimate process of doctrinal development that, for that very reason, we oppose illegitimate appeals to doctrinal development.
For so-called developments in Catholic dogma do not, in many cases, represent a logical development from Scripture or primitive tradition. Rather, they represent a departure from Scripture or primitive tradition.
“Development” is simply a face-saving label which Catholic apologists and theologians apply to deviations from the deposit of faith.
iii) Apropos (ii), Protestants have no objection to doctrinal developments which, in fact, draw logical conclusions from Biblical data. The implicit teaching of Scripture is just as authoritative as the explicit teaching of Scripture. Indeed, implicitness or explicitness ranges along a continuum.
The problem is that Catholics like Newman operate with a far looser principle of what constitutes “development” than logical inference.
iv) Apropos (iii), we don’t object to extrascriptural developments as long as two restrictions honored:
a) Extrascriptural developments must be consistent with Scripture.
b) Extrascriptural developments must be voluntary and optional rather than obligatory.
This goes to the distinction between what Scripture prescribes or proscribes, and what Scripture permits.
We can go beyond Scripture in the sense of doing things that Scripture permits. Issues on which Scripture is silent.
But there is nothing mandatory about such extrascriptural developments. Compliance is a matter of individual discretion. A point of liberty.
v) Protestant development is only “idealistic” or “dialectical” in the attenuated sense that new challenges prompt us to give renewed attention to neglected aspects of Biblical teaching. To think more deeply about our received faith.
That’s the operating principle.
vi) Perry’s accusation is highly ironic since Perry’s own frame of reference is the history of ideas. If you’ve had any sustained exposure to the way in which Perry approaches theological issues, it’s always about ideas bouncing off other ideas. For Perry, doctrine is a game of theological pool.
vii) As for Perry’s assertion that “Sola Fide is the product of doctrinal development just as much as the Papacy is. The claim is that it is in ‘seed form’ in Paul,” he needs to document that assertion.
In my experience, Perry deliberately ignores the exegetical literature. He suffers from self-reinforcing ignorance.
He’s decided in advance that Protestant exegetical literature isn’t worth reading since, according to him, you can’t rightly construe Scripture unless you filter it’s contents through his Orthodox Christological prism.
Therefore, Perry would be in no position to be conversant with the methods by which Protestant scholars and theologians derive sola fide from Scripture.
So Perry’s comparison doesn’t represent an accurate or honest analysis of the respective positions. Rather, it’s just an opportunistic effort to horn in on a preexisting debate so that he can to score points in his divide-and-conquer fashion while sacrificing truth in the process.