Monday, June 28, 2010

Development Overview

Getting back to development of doctrine, we have seen that it is possible to argue the believability of Israel as God's chosen nation by looking at the religious and moral history of Israel and comparing it to that of other nations at that time. We have seen that the difference between protestant Christianity and historical Christianity is apparent on so many issues that protestants can't really think about history too often or too deeply.

But Newman took it a step further. He tried to show Catholicism did not suffer from the same problem. That is hard to do. First of all, he is trying to prove a negative. He is arguing something does not exist. Secondly, he is trying to evaluate the logical flow of doctrine for consistency independently of whether they are true or not. That is almost impossible for most people to do. They get so powerfully influenced by whether they believe or disbelieve the doctrine itself they cannot honestly evaluate whether their was development or corruption. Newman tries to help by introducing some structure into the process. But if people want to arrive at a certain answer they generally can. The question is whether they can put aside their personal agendas long enough to hear God speak.

Perhaps an example is useful. One instance of development in the world of science was the move from the theory of the planets orbiting the earth in circular orbits to the planets orbiting the sun in elliptical orbits. Now if you wanted to argue this was a corruption you could. An ellipse is not a circle. So the old theory was false. The orbits are almost circular but they are not. So you could see an approximation being replaced by a better approximation. But if you didn't want to see that you could see a false theory being replaced by a true one.

So if you understand how much history there is. How many doctrinal categories and how many changes that occurred. Then you think about how each one of these is going to be a struggle to be objective because every person is going to come to the matter with a ton of baggage on all of them. Can a protestant assess the development of the papacy or the Marian dogmas without being overwhelmed by what his tradition has taught him about these matters? For me it took time. Ideas that seem absolutely obvious to me now took me years to arrive at.

It is hard work but it is worth it. I think once you get Newman's concept this is the closest thing to absolute proof of the truth of Christianity. Newman understood that his analysis would be a strong argument for Catholicism or atheism. The good new is the consistency of Catholicism is a powerful evidence in favor of a supernatural power being behind the Catholic church. It is something so far beyond what humans are capable of. Logically it could be an evil supernatural power but that seems like a stretch. Even if you are tempted to believe that you can apply Pascal's wager and discern there is no good reason to believe that.

Development of Doctrine and Theology of the Body are two ideas so amazing that anyone who understands them will become Catholic. The trouble is they are hard to understand. We have many biases around sex and religion. They are like those old 3D pictures you had stare at for a while before you could see anything. Then you saw it and it was like Wow! They are like that but you need to contemplate them a lot longer.

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