Saturday, January 16, 2010

Critical issues concerning infallibility and the development of doctrine – the historical roots


I think I have finally caught up with the considerable number of comments and threads that are related to my January 6th announcement (though I may have missed some threads that have not appeared via Google links). Before detailing MY current difficulties, I thought it best to give a brief history of the events that have led up to my 2010 decision.

As I noted in the previous thread (A solemn announcement), one of the most important forces behind my decision to enter the RCC back in 2002 was John Henry Newman’s theory of development—as outlined and formed in his An Essay On The Development of Christian Doctrine and Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

I can still vividly remember my thoughts during the second reading of Apologia Pro Vita Sua, as I reflected on the following:

I have described in a former work, how the history affected me. My stronghold was Antiquity; now here, in the middle of the fifth century, I found, as it seemed to me, Christendom of the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries reflected. I saw my face in that mirror, and I was a Monophysite. The Church of the Via Media was in the position of the Oriental communion, Rome was where she now is; and the Protestants were the Eutychians. (Sheed and Ward, Maisie Ward 1945 edition, 1978 reprint, page 77.)

And two paragraphs later:

It was difficult to make out how the Eutychians or Monophysites were heretics, unless Protestants and Anglicans were heretics also; difficult to find arguments against the Tridentine Fathers, which did not tell against the Fathers of Chalcedon; difficult to condemn the Popes of the sixteenth century, without condemning the Popes of the fifth. The drama of religion, and the combat of truth and error, were ever one and the same. The principles and proceedings of the Church now, were those of the Church then; the principles and proceedings of heretics then, were those of Protestants now. (Ibid.)

One important distinction between the historical period of controversy that gave rise to Newman’s questioning of the Anglican position, and the historical period of controversy which loomed in my own struggles with the ‘classic’ Protestant position should be noted: Newman’s was the Christological controversies of the 5th century, whilst mine concerned the Trinitarian controversies of the 4th century. Interestingly enough though, Newman would just a few years later apply the principles which flowed from his assessment of the Christological controversies of the 5th century, to the Trinitarian controversies of the 4th century, and this in turn lead to a reassessment of the Ante-Nicene Fathers “Trinitarianism”, with Newman rejecting the overwhelming consensus theory that the ANFs conformed to St. Vincent of LerinsRule” (i.e. quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus). This gave rise to what has been termed Newman’s “organic” theory of development—i.e. the analogy of a seed/acorn developing into a full grown tree (to which Newman ‘added’ an important supplement: “No doctrine is defined till it is violated”).

Now, back to what I penned in the previous thread:

“…I have reached the point wherein I can no longer reconcile certain historic data with a couple of non-negotiable elements in the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The first and foremost component which has led to my decision is that I can no longer affirm Papal infallibility, nor the inherit infallibility of the Ecumenical councils. Back in 2002 when I entered the RCC, I was able to acknowledge both via the assistance of Newman’s theory of doctrinal development…”

As long as Newman’s theory of DD remained intact, the difficulties, complexities and controversies concerning infallibility (as well as other doctrines that have little support in the early centuries of the Church) were tenable.

Once again, back to the earlier thread:

“…however, in the spring of 2008, certain cracks in Newman’s theory began to appear on my ‘radar’ while engaged in some historical research. This research brought to my attention numerous works that I had not been aware of, which I then began to acquire and read.”

Here is the list of the first group of books that led up to THIS POST:

John Henry Newman: The Challenge to Evangelical Religion;

Analysis of Dr. Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua;

Infallibility by John Nelson Darby (this was Darby’s “Fourth Conversation on Romanism”, and is found in The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, Volume 22, pp. 79-167 – Believers Bookshelf 1972 reprint; an online edition can be accessed HERE and HERE;

Voting About God

A mere 4 days after the June 5, 2008 thread linked to above, I posted the following:

Searching for a consistent theory of the Church, development and apostasy, which discussed Darby’s essay, “Christianity Not Christendom”.

Then came my provocative thread, Looking for substantive alternatives to Newman’s ‘Theory of Development; this thread elicited 158 combox posts, and sent me ‘back to the books’.

A bibliography of the books and essays I “imposed upon myself”, can be found in THIS NEXT THREAD ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE.

This brings us to THE POST that linked to Jason Engwer’s Triblogue thread, which has been robustly critiqued by Dave Armstrong in 4 installments over the last three days (FINAL INSTALLMENT HERE, also links to the first 3).

Whew…so much for a ‘brief’ history lesson (subsequent threads on DD are linked to under Development of Doctrine in the “LABELS” section on the right sidebar of AF).

Tomorrow afternoon, the Lord willing, I will outline my overall thoughts on the difficulties that I am unable to reconcile with official Catholic dogma.


Grace and peace,

David

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A solemn announcement (but, with no thanks to Hays, Kepha, TurretinFan, White, et al.)

As of 2010, after months of in depth research, and sincere prayer, I will no longer be attending worship services in any church with official ties to the Bishop of Rome. Needless to say, this is anything but an ‘easy’ decision for me to make; however I have reached the point wherein I can no longer reconcile certain historic data with a couple of non-negotiable elements in the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The first and foremost component which has led to my decision is that I can no longer affirm Papal infallibility, nor the inherit infallibility of the Ecumenical councils. Back in 2002 when I entered the RCC, I was able to acknowledge both via the assistance of Newman’s theory of doctrinal development; however, in the spring of 2008, certain cracks in Newman’s theory began to appear on my ‘radar’ while engaged in some historical research. This research brought to my attention numerous works that I had not been aware of, which I then began to acquire and read. I proceeded to put out some ‘feelers’ with the hope of enlisting the aid of others in my examination of this new information, beginning with THIS THREAD, but alas, no viable alternatives over the next several months were forthcoming; in fact, the efforts put forward by so many anti-Catholic epologists severely hindered the advancements I had been making in my research; and looking back, I know that some of the dismal apologetic methods employed by these epologists actually delayed my decision; but, in spite of such obstacles, I reached a point in my studies that I could no longer use as an excuse the lack of any solid alternatives to Newman’s DD, and had to admit, and affirm, to myself that I could no longer support certain tenants of official Roman Catholicism. Unfortunately, as I briefly mentioned earlier, the support of these official teachings is not negotiable for a faithful Catholic, hence my decision.

Could this decision be in error? In theory, yes, it could be a wrong choice, for I cannot (and never have) make any claim to infallibility; but with that said, I would be lying not only to myself, but to the whole world, if I continued to attend worship services within the RC communion—that is something I cannot in good conscience do at this juncture of my walk with God.

So, as I now search for where God would have me attend worship services, I will continue this little blog of mine—much of the blog’s emphasis will be the same, combating poor apologetics (from whatever source), raising important questions, and reaching out for informative, charitable dialogue.

Your prayers will be greatly appreciated…


Grace and peace,

David