Thursday, May 20, 2010

Perspicuity and doctrinal development

Perry Robinson said,
May 10, 2010 at 10:59 pm


The notion of doctrinal development is the idea that there is nascent or hidden content that is drawn out through a dialectical process, either rational or vital over time. Certain doctrines are “implicit” in texts and drawn out over time. In this way there is supposed to be conceptual extension or development. This the Orthodox reject. We admit terminological development in terms of carving out appropriate terms, but not conceptual development. So for example, the key term at Nicea, homousious is not a conceptual development since the term is apophatic and has no conceptual content in terms of telling us about God ad intra. Theology then for us is not a science and there is no beatific vision.

Perry Robinson said,
May 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm

As to perspecuity, is the Confessional doctrine of the Filioque necessary to salvation? (is it heresy to deny it or just an error of sorts?

Is it perspicuously taught in Scripture?

Perry Robinson said,
May 13, 2010 at 7:54 pm


Where does the WCF distinguish or list which specific doctrines are necessary for salvation and which are not? I am not being argumentative here, but wishing you to lay out your position more clearly. Why think that it doesn’t with respect to the Filioque, especially when the Reformed have historically taken its denial by the Orthodox as “heresy?”

Notice the odd incongruity in Perry’s position. On the one hand he rejects sola Scriptura and the perspicuity of Scripture on the grounds that Scripture lacks the clarity to distinguish saving articles of faith from adiaphora.

On the other hand, he also rejects the development of doctrine. He denies that some Biblical teachings are merely implicit.

But if, by his own admission, articles of the faith are explicitly taught in Scripture, then how can he deny the perspicuity of Scripture? How can Scripture be both explicit and obscure in what it teaches?

If, moreover, articles of the faith are explicitly taught in Scripture, then why do we need church councils to distinguish heresy from orthodoxy? In that event, then why is Scripture alone insufficient to be our rule of faith?


  1. Actually I think that some representatives of EOdoxy have indeed started to rely on the Doctrine of Development - even if other EOs like Perry Robinson might deny its appropriateness.

    Like Robinson now, many conservative RCs originally opposed the adoption of the Newmanian scheme, but eventually this opposition crumbled; we may yet see the same process happening within the Eastern Orthodoxy.

    It is no wonder that traditionalist RCs/EOs would feel antipathy towards this theory, for like George Salmon explained, "the D of D" amounted to a huge de facto concession of defeat on the part of the RCC:

    "I can remember my own astonishment at this line of defence, and my wonder how it would be accepted by Roman Catholic authorities. There appeared to be signs that it would be received with disfavour; for Brownson's Quarterly Review, then the leading organ of American Romanism, published a series of articles severely criticising the book, as abandoning the ground on which Roman doctrine had previously been defended, giving up, as it did, the principles that the Church taught nothing but what had been revealed, and that the revelations committed to the Church had been perfect from the first.

    But when I was simple enough to expect that Roman Catholic divines generally would thus repudiate a work inconsistent with what their teachers had constantly maintained, I failed to notice what a temptation Newman offered by freeing the defenders of Romanism at once from a multitude of controversies in which they felt they were getting the worst. He evacuated all the difficult posts which they had been struggling to maintain, and promised that the captors should gain nothing by taking them, for that he had built inside them an impregnable wall of defence. Just imagine what a comfort it must have been to a poor Roman Catholic divine who had been making a despairing struggle to refute, let us say, the Protestant assertion that the Church of the first three centuries knew nothing of the Invocation of the Blessed Virgin, to be told that he need have no scruple in granting all that his opponents had asserted."

  2. "a despairing struggle to refute, let us say, the Protestant assertion that the Church of the first three centuries knew nothing of the Invocation of the Blessed Virgin"

    ""Hail to you forever, you virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy, for unto you do I again return. . . . Hail, you fount of the Son’s love for man. . . . Wherefore, we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boast in the confidence of your maternal honors, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate your memory, which will ever live, and never fade away" - Methodius of Patara, 305AD

    That's within three centuries of the beginning of the Church. Another Protestant myth laid to rest.

  3. John, you should have given us a precise source and citation. I believe you are citing a forged source.

    I get my information from a Victorian-era high-church Anglican writer Littledale:

    p. 54

    "1. In the Ante-Nicene period, the following extant writers never so much as name St. Mary at all: St. Barnabas, St. Hermas, St. Clement of Rome, St. Polycarp, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, St Hippolytus, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, St. Cyprian, St. Firmilian, St. Dionysius, Arnobius, and St. Methodius 2.

    2. A homily on the Feast of the Purification is ascribed to this Father, but rejected as a forgery by Roman Catholic critics, on the very sufficient ground that the festival was not instituted till A. D. 542, two centuries after his death. It is highly Marian in tone."

    pp. 108-109

    "b. Cardinal Wiseman, in his "Lectures on the Catholic Church," systematically quotes doubtful, spurious, and forged writings of Fathers as genuine; besides being guilty of other falsifications.

    Wiseman also quotes as genuine a sermon by St. Methodius, intended for use on a festival not instituted till that Saint had been dead more than two hundred years."

    In his book, Littledale provides many other examples of how RC apologists of his day shamelessly appealed to forged materials.

    The fact is, both RC and EO churches have largely been built of pious myths, even outright pious lies (even though Rome how generally been a more shameless forger).

    And the Bible teaches us that the servants of false gods (those who serve, perform "doulia" to false deities) become like false gods themselves. Namely, those who DEFEND pious frauds eventually commit pious deception themselves.

    "Another Protestant myth laid to rest."

    More like another case of naive EO credulity exposed.