Doctrinal Development...

Some non-Catholics make it a practice to accuse the Catholic Church of continuously "inventing non-Biblical new doctrine". This is yet another false charge made by those,
"...who deride what they do not understand...", 2Peter 2:12.

Doctrinal development is the on going teaching by the Holy Spirit to the only Church which Jesus Christ founded, the Catholic Church. Holy Scripture makes this abundantly clear:

"I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come."
John 16:12-13
These are powerful verses. We must examine them closely. Did you notice the futuristic tone in them? The word "will" indicates an emerging and ongoing process and with not a hint of an ending, and how many times was it repeated in just those two verses?
The first sentence implies that knowledge cannot come all at once, but slowly over time, simply because the wonders of GOD cannot be digested all at once by our puny human minds.
The last part is self explanatory when it says, "things that are to come", obviously more future tense.

Here is more on the all important second sentence which clearly says that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into all the truth. That statement excludes tens of thousands of churches simply because truth is one. Only one Church could possibly have all the truth. All of the rest are teaching only their "opinion" of what is the truth. Personal opinion are not guidance by the Holy Spirit. If all of the thousands of Christian churches were in possession of all of the truth, then isn't it just plain common sense that there would be only one Church? Just look around and compare these various sects. One says we must worship on Saturday, another says, no, it is Sunday. One baptizes infants, another says you can't do that. One ordains women, another says that is not Biblical. I could fill many pages of different teachings of the thousands of sects, but I think you must see my point.

Thus, Holy Scripture, the Word of Jesus Christ Himself, has clearly laid the foundation for greater understanding of revealed truth over time.

"To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light (for all) what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens. This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness of speech and confidence of access through faith in him."
Ephesians 3:8-12
Scripture is clear that it is the Church which Jesus Christ founded which dispenses the truth of GOD.

There are many levels of learning and proper interpretation of Scripture. One of the most important tools are the "senses" of Scripture. In order to properly interpret Scripture, we first must determine which sense of interpretation we will be using.
There is first, the literal interpretation, and then the spiritual interpretation, and more yet. Each sense is further broken down into sub categories. Non-Catholics generally interpret the whole Bible literally, except for John Chapter 6 (which many of them claim to be figurative or symbolic), and pay little attention to the other senses for the most part. So, many verses have several meanings depending upon the sense being used for interpretation. This is where the Pope and the Magisterium enter under the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit to interpret the deeper meanings of these verses.
For example, non-Catholic Protestants, Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, etc., reject the doctrine of Purgatory
simply because they cannot literally find the word in scripture, yet there are many verses in Scripture which point to Purgatory explicitly in literal and other senses, even though the word itself is not written. The same is true for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The same people reject it because they cannot see it literally, but yet it is there implicitly in Scripture.
Much doctrinal development comes from Apostolic tradition which has been passed down and preserved by the Catholic Church for almost 2000 years. Reformists rejected Apostolic tradition, by failing to separate it from man-made tradition. It is literally and explicitly stated in Scripture that we are to hold to the Apostolic traditions in many verses such as in 2Thessalonians 2:15,
"So then, brethren, stand firm, and hold the teachings that you have learned, whether by word or by letter of ours."
The "word of ours" can mean nothing other than Apostolic Tradition. Church Apostolic tradition is Catholic, and when the Protestants broke from the Church in the Reformation, they could not take Catholic Church traditions with them so they have tried to condemn them. However, they did take the Catholic Bible with them, and promptly mutilated it by removing seven books which had been part of the canon for over 1100 years. By removing the Books of Maccabees, they cut themselves off from a very good verse in support of Purgatory in 2Maccabees 12:46. These books were removed by one man who had absolutely no authority whatsoever to do so. Martin Luther was that man and it was his opinion that Purgatory did not exist. I must point out that a personal opinion may have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on doctrinal truth.

Here is a sample of "Doctrinal Development", and it is straight from Holy Scripture:
In Acts 15:1-28, read of a decision which was made by the first Pope (Peter) and the other Apostles (together with Peter were the early Magisterium), in conjunction with the guidance of the Holy Spirit (verse 28). This was the very first Church Council, the Council of Jerusalem and was held in about 50 A.D..
There was literally nothing written in Scripture, and thus no Scriptural guidance regarding the question of mandatory circumcision for gentiles. By the process of "doctrinal development" a decision was made by those who had the authority.
Here is another example:
Find the word "Trinity" in Scripture. It is not there literally just like purgatory, but it is there nevertheless. The Trinity was defined by the same process of "doctrinal development" as used in the Council of Jerusalem, in the Catholic Council of Nicea in 325. This was well over two centuries after the last book of the New Testament was written. So if those who make this false charge believe in the Holy Trinity, how then can they reject "doctrinal development", the process which gave that title to them? In doing so, they would have to admit that they would be forced to reject the title "Trinity" as well.

Here are a few more examples:
For those who deny the process of "Doctrinal Development", ask yourselves these questions:

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is GOD?
This doctrine was defined at the Catholic Council of Nicea in 325.

Do you believe Jesus Christ is one person with two natures?
This was defined at the Catholic Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Do you believe that the Holy Spirit to be consubstantial with the Father and the Son?
This was defined at the Catholic Council of Constantinople in 381.

All of the above are results of "Doctrinal Development" as performed by the Catholic Church.

So there is nothing "new" in doctrinal development as enacted by the Catholic Church. It is simply a deeper understanding of what has previously been revealed by divine revelation. An acorn containing divine public revelation, called the 'deposit of faith', and left by GOD and His Holy Word to the primitive Church which Jesus Christ founded, has been undergoing an "unpacking" process by that same Church for the past 2000 years. That acorn has now grown into a large and beautiful oak tree, the Catholic Church. The unpacking process will continue indefinitely. See John 16:12-15.
The last prophet of public divine revelation was Jesus Christ and there will be no new public revelation revealed after Him.
See Hebrews 1:1-2.

"In giving us His Son, His only Word (for He possesses no other), He spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word, and He has no more to say... because what He spoke before to the prophets in parts, He has now spoken all at once by giving us the 'All Who is His Son'. Any person questioning GOD or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending Him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty." St. John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, 2,22,3-5.

So doctrinal development is an on going learning process, and no doubt will continue until Christ comes again. Some theologians have postulated that it will go on forever, for the mysteries of an infinite GOD are also infinite. We must realize that the deeper we go into Scriptural understanding, the deeper we can go. It is likened to a bottomless ocean.
Non-Catholics reject doctrinal development simply because they know little or nothing of the various senses of Scripture, and they do not have the proper "rock foundation" upon which to build, which is the Pope and the Magisterium, and most importantly the teaching of the Holy Spirit to provide divine guidance.
"A Christian man is Catholic while he lives in the body; cut off, he is made a heretic; the Spirit does not follow an amputated member."
Saint Augustine, Sermons, 267:4, 400 A.D., Jurgens 1523...

One of my favorite verses for those who reject the doctrines of Catholic teaching is 2Peter 2:12,
"But these men, like irrational animals created by nature for capture DERIDE WHAT THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND, AND WILL PERISH IN THEIR OWN CORRUPTION."

Written by Bob Stanley
February 8, 2002
Updated August 30, 2006

Back to Home Page...