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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why I reject the Western interpretations of Doctrinal Development

As seen from Theologica:


Thanks for the link. I'm pretty familiar with how Rome understands the issue of doctrinal development. I've known about the concept for sometime. I was aware of it way back in my protestant Baptist years, and I came to know of it even more in my Anglo-Catholic years. If you don't know, a man by the name of John Henry Newman had alot to do with not only the influence of the Oxford Movement, which put Anglo-Catholicism on the map, but he was also the one who came up with the Development of Doctrine idea. Also thanks to my inter-actions with David and my readings of the posts of his buddy Dr. Michael Liccione.......I can say that I'm pretty familiar with the Roman Catholic view/interpretation of the Development of Doctrine idea. Now one may run into Roman Catholics that may reject the idea.....I am not talking about them. I am only talking about the Roman Catholics that embrace the idea.

I also run into a number of conservative protestants who reject the idea and so I am not talking about those conservative protestants who reject it. I am only talking about the conservative ones who at least embrace the my PCA buddy Ricky.

And so with that said I will say that I reject both the Roman Catholic and protestant interpretations of the development of doctrine ideas. I listened to the first 4 videos from the link you gave. I was surprised that he was more open to things that other conservative protestants aren't open to. I appreciate that.

However, I must voice my dissent in regards to how the west seems to view "doctrinal development". In doing so I hope I am not being rude nor mean. These are the problems I see:

How can one embrace the Bible or what they may call Biblical Theology (in contrast to what they call Systematic Theology) while at the same time admit that what they believe about certain issues wasn't articulated until many many many centuries later?

To me that would mean either one of two things:

1.) Jesus, the Apostles, and the Church after them didn't articulate it, but someone many centuries later did?

If this is the case then one would have to assume that what you believe really isn't Biblical at all for it wasn't articulated until centuries later. What Did Jesus articulate? What did the Apostles articulate? And what did they pass on to the next generation? What did that generation and the generation after that articulate? Don't forget what the Apostle Paul said:

2 Thessalonians 2:15
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle."

And what the Apostle Jude said:

Jude 1:3
"...................I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."

And so to me, when it comes to Christianity, something was articulated by Jesus and the Apostles and they wanted that to be past on and held to. To say that your view wasn't articulated until many centuries later will tell me that what you believe isn't really Biblical. For how can you point to the Scriptures in support of that view if you know it came later in time? That's one problem I have with it. The other is:

2.) Both Jesus and the Apostles articulated it, but no one after them did until many centuries later.

This view seems to be the default view of most protestants I run into. Especially when one is cornered into a wall. One will have to play the Restorationist card in order to hold on to their belief. They would have to assume that Jesus and the Apostles taught what they did only for it to be lost for many centuries till the founder of their group or school of thought was born. Or else it would be extremely difficult to believe.....with a straight face.....that what you teach is what the Bible teaches.

Now, with that said I will say that I see the western views of doctrinal development as being one of "Macro-Evolution". The Eastern Christian view is what I would call "micro-Evolution".

What do I mean by this? Simple!

If Jesus, the Apostles, and the Church after them all taught and articulated the doctrine of Free Will. Then no matter what.......the doctrine centuries later must still be recognizable as being Free Will. The West turns what started out as Free Will and they turn it into either soft or hard determinism. This is what the west means by doctrinal development. And this is what I reject.

To the Christian East, if something starts out as a cat then no matter the evolution it must still look like some cat centuries later.....It doesn't matter if it's a wild cat, a mountain lion or a domesticated cat. It's still the same doctrinal and theological DNA.

The west turns what started out as a cat into a Lizard. This is what the west calls doctrinal development and this is what I reject.

I hope this helps! If I was rude or mean I am sorry. I didn't mean to be. Please let me know if I was rude.

Part 2:

As seen from Theologica.

Thanks once again for responding. In order for you to see how I feel, I think I must go into more detail as well as use more examples.

Free Will: Now I don't know if Free Will is an Essential or a non-Essential on your list:

1.) If Jesus, the Apostles, and the Early Church Fathers all articulated Free Will, then to me no matter the Evolution centuries later, the doctrine should still be recognizable as being the same animal. Now lets call the Free Will that Jesus, the Apostles, and the Early Church Fathers articulated as A Sabertooth Tiger.

What happened in the west through Saint Augustine is that Free Will was eventually tossed out the window in favor of a Plotinistic soft determinism. I would call this a Lizard. A totally different animal. Believe it or not, but many Pre-Nicene Christians articulated the Free Will view against the fatalistic and deterministic views of various gnostics, and pagans. And so we know what the animal of free will looks like. We also know what it looks like for Saint Augustine use to defend the doctrine in his early christian writings. And so we know what the animal looks like, but even more importantly, we know what Free Will doesn't look like.

The problem is that people use his debates with Pelagius as a means to overturn the old view(throwing the baby out with the bathwater). As a means to overturn or over rule the ancient view. They over turn it in favor of a more Deterministic view. They will say that with his debates with Pelagius we learned more and so now we are going to teach determinism. I am sorry but Determinism is a totally different animal than Free Will. Not only that, but no one notified the Christian East. The Christian East was still articulating the doctrine of Free Will.....just as we still do today! Now the Christian West did modify Saint Augustine's view through various local western councils......I know Rome will protest by calling them ecumenical. But to the Christian East they were western local councils. Arles in 473 A.D. and Second Orange in 529 A.D. and so officially the Christian West articulated various forms of semi or moderate Augustinianism. Hard Augustinianism was usually condemned. There are semi-Augustinian schools of thought within Rome that teach a recognizable form of Free Will. For our purposes we will call these cats a mountain Lion and a cheetah. There are other schools of thought within Rome that are more High Augustinian and so I would say that they still teach something that is more recognizable as a lizard. Now when Protestantism came about both Luther and Calvin articulated a form of high Augustinianism, and so they both were advocating different types of Lizards! The same with Jansen and Jansenism! I could be wrong, but I think the Anabaptists were advocates of Free Will, if so then lets call their view a wild Lion.

When Arminius came on the scene lets call his view a domesticated cat. The same with some Caroline Divines, some Nonjurors, and John Wesley within Anglicanism. All different forms of domesticated cats.

Let's call the Pelegius view as well as some of the later Arminians through Charles Finney a type of wild human eating Lion.

And let's call the Orthodox Christian view a Tiger. This is how I see the whole scenario.

I feel the same way in the area of other views as well.

The Christian west turned the Ransom and Christus Victor views of the Atonement into either Satisfaction(Saint Anselm) or Penal Substitution(mostly within various Reformed traditions, and the traditions of those that split from them). The later views are different animals to me. It's Macro-Evolution!

We still teach Christus Victor! But it's seen as Heresy now to the later views! Our Atonement understanding and some of the western ones are different animals.

I feel the same is true even in the area of Ecclesiology and other issues. I'm sorry for the rant, and for my generalizations of the west. I know that not everyone in the west believes the same nor go about the same issue the same way, but this is how I see it in more detail. The ideas seem like two different animals to me.


Ikonophile said...

His response has me tingling. I almost want to reply myself but I'll leave the discussion in your hands. I am interested in hearing what you have to say in return.


Jnorm said...

I think he's tired of responding to me.

Drake Shelton said...

From the Eastern orthos I have had contact with the interp. of Romans 9 is the classic Arminian/Nationalistic interpretation of that passage. Seeing that this is the pinnacle passage for determinist theology can you show me a Chuirch father in the first couple centuries that interpreted Romans 9 in the nationalistic way.

Drake Shelton said...


Dakota said...

Hey, I just came across your blog by doing a bit of blog-surfing, and I'm glad I did! I've added myself as your newest follower, and I hope you'll check out my Christian devotional site as well:

Have a blessed day!

In Christ,

Jnorm said...

Drake Shelton,

What did they believe about the issues of:
1.) Free Will
2.) Predestination and Foreknowledge
3.) The Providence of God
4.) The Church
5.) The possibility of falling away from salvation

If you know what they believed about those 5 topics then you will know how they interpreted Romans chapter 9

Jnorm said...

Thanks Dakota!

Drake Shelton said...


You are not answering the question. Even if you provide the ancient warrant indirectly when they are discussing other issues as Free Will, Predestination and Foreknowledge, The Providence of God, The Church, The possibility of falling away from salvation etc. you are simply avoiding the question. Where then in the writings of the ancient fathers in the first couple centuries in their discussions of Free Will, Predestination etc. do they say that Romans 9 is a national unconditional election unto service not unto salvation? And I am not asking for them to say that it is not unconditional election unto salvation b/c that would assume that that position was already being held and debated. I want them to say that Romans 9 is positively a national election unto service to fill a certain roll in the historic accomplishment of salvation. If you cannot your position falls flat on its face. If you say this implication was later developed you are ipso facto admitting to Newman's position.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...


John 4:22.



The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Hi, Jnorm!

Here's another site replete with resources related to the spiritual struggle. God bless!

Drake Shelton said...

Lvka, what does John 4:22 have to do with what I requested?

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...


Drake Shelton said...

First, John 4:22 mentions salvation. The national election interp. Of Romans 9 denies this emphatically. The national interp. Of Romans 9 says that this is unconditional election unto divine service NOT salvation. Second where does a first or second century father comment on this verse as being in reference to a national election unto divine service?

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

The whole Bible is about Israel being God's "chosen people", so if you 'missed' that, I'm afraid I can't help you. (What's next? Asking me "what the Bible verses tell us that God exists"?)

Drake Shelton said...


That Israel is God's chosen people is irrelevanty to the question at hand. The question is what warrant is there to prove an unconditional national election to service or unconditional individual election unto salvation in Romans 9. You have failed to provide the historical warrant and you have failed to provide the exegetical warrant for your innovative interpretation of Romans 9. Enjoy your seared consciences. Once again the Eastern regime has left me unquestionably disapointed and unconvinced and believe me I have tried to become convinced of the Eastern Religion and it just continues to posit incoherence.

By the by the word "existence", technically has no meaning. What doesn't exist? If a predicate attahces to every subject it has no meaning.

Jnorm said...


Why do you feel it's unconditional? I would love to talk to you some more about this, but it's gonna have to wait a few days. I'll try and respond on Friday. I have a funeral to go to on Thursday.

Jnorm said...

If the fathers believed a certain way in the 5 things I listed above then how could it be "unconditional"? Wouldn't it be "conditional"?

I listed those 5 things for a reason. I'll get back to you on Friday.

Jnorm said...



Lucian said...

What doesn't exist?

Unicorns and fairies, Santa and the Easter Bunny, etc.

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