Development of Doctrine in Orthodoxy and Catholicism: Different in Essence?

A reply to C.J. Bailey's article, "The Awful Achilles Heel in the Idea of Development Expounded by Latin Apologists," found at:

"Awful?" LOL I love that dramatic touch.

There are three views of development--one of which is legitimate: --developments of teachings within an original categorical framework which are consistent with past teachings AND categories. [Orthodox] --developments of categories as well as teachings. [Latin apologists] --no development (Gnostic timelessness, antitraditionalist) [Denominationists].

Of course, my beef here is with your conception and definition of "original categorical framework." I have maintained that the apostolic deposit is not necessarily confined to one philosophical framework and one only, and that different philosophical approaches can be applied to it (as facilitators of increased understanding) without this involving any "corruption."

We would say that the "original categorical framework" is the apostolic deposit itself, as understood in light of the OT, Jewish cultural background, hermeneutical and exegetical factors, patristic and conciliar interpretation, etc., as opposed to some sort of a single philosophy or axiomatic foundation which I believe you are arbitrarily superimposing onto the NT and the apostolic deposit. I don't believe you can establish that this axiomatic framework is the only one, apart from appealing to exclusively Orthodox Tradition (i.e., post-Schism), which is, of course, a circular argument:

Hardly compelling . . .

One would need - at the very least - to show how the Fathers interpreted Scripture and Tradition on all disputed points between East and West (the earlier the better). And of course, this "test" fails when applied to, e.g., the papacy and the filioque dispute. You have attempted to avoid that difficulty by simply saying that Tradition pre-1054 (or pre-filioque) is irrelevant to Tradition post-1054 (or post-filioque). But that, too, is circular, because you have merely assumed that Orthodoxy is correct, no matter what the Fathers teach. That gets us nowhere in the debate. It may seem "compelling" to those within your system already, but it is no argument over against a "Latin apologist" like myself.

--developments of categories as well as teachings. [Latin apologists].

But of course, Orthodox do this as well, so that your categories of various methods of development are too simplistic. Take, e.g., hesychasm. One can trace it back in kernel form to St. Gregory Nyssa, St. Basil the Great, or Origen, yet it was not fully developed until St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359). So this seems to me to also be a "development of a category" (a type of prayer and devotion, and - especially - the corresponding theology), since it has to do with the nature and essence of God, and a distinction between essence and energy. As such, how is this much different (philosophically speaking) from similar refinements of category such as the homoousios, Theotokos, transubstantiation, or procession within the Godhead?

It was not formally adopted (relating it to the Divine Energies and Uncreated Light), until the Councils of Constantinople in 1341, 1347, and 1351, when it then became, according to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, "an accepted part of Orthodox tradition." I don't see how this is any different (chronologically or essentially) from, e.g., our developments of transubstantiation or the Immaculate Conception (both fully developed one or two hundred years before hesychasm was). So will you say that hesychasm and related concepts existed in their developed form all the way back to the early centuries of the Church? I think not.

Kallistos Ware posed the dilemma of the hesychasts as follows:

{The Orthodox Church, NY: Penguin Books, 1980 revision, pp. 73, 75-76, 79}

Jaroslav Pelikan, writing while a Lutheran, but now Orthodox, summarizes St. Gregory Palamas' noteworthy accomplishment:

{The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700), Univ. of Chicago Press, 1974, p. 34} {Ibid., pp. 260-261} {Ibid., p. 261; emphasis added} {Ibid., p. 262; emphasis added} {Ibid., p. 264; emphasis added} {Ibid., p. 265}

Note how the previous tendency in eastern Tradition is described as "Neoplatonic," whereas Palamas attempts to disconnect hesychasm from that philosophical framework. This, too, flies in the face of your thesis of the non-presence of "change of categories" in Eastern development / Orthodoxy, and a supposed singular Eastern framework or presupposition.

Likewise, the Encycopædia Britannica (1985 ed., under St.Gregory Palamas," v. 9, p. 73) states:

This fusion is not unlike the one accomplished by St. Thomas Aquinas (which is highly ironic, given the usual scorn of Orthodox directed towards Aquinas and "rationalistic Scholasticism"). Again, it seems to me that this greatly undermines your thesis (as far as I understand it) that there is either one "philosophy" underlying Orthodox theology and Tradition, or none (it being typified by the absence of any "human" philosophy). I don't think it is nearly that simple. It appears that both East and West utilized different philosophical schools in the development of their respective theologies. Both would claim that this does no violence to consistent development per se. The philosophy is not the bottom line for either; rather, it is the theology, the revelation, and the apostolic deposit, passed down faithfully and preserved by the Church.

I imagine you would retort that this doctrine (hesychasm) is nothing new, but can be traced in large part to St. Basil and other Fathers. But I can say the same about transubstantiation (St. John Chysostom, St. Augustine), the Immaculate Conception (St. Ephraem and St. Augustine and implicit biblical indications), papal infallibility (St. Ephraem, St. John Chrysostom, St. Maximus the Confessor, and St. Theodore of Studios and explicit biblical indications), and the filioque. In each case, the kernel or implicit teaching was found fairly early on, yet the doctrine was not defined and made binding dogma until hundreds of years later. Thus, there is no essential difference in this regard between hesychasm and the above-mentioned doctrines, and so your attempted differentiation of East and West with regard to "proper" development collapses, in my opinion.

--no development (Gnostic timelessness, antitraditionalist) [Denominationists].

This is also untrue as a blanket description, since most Protestants fully accept the development of, e.g., the Trinity in the early centuries, and also posit a development in the "Reformation" of the 16th century (which I would classify as a "corruption") But it is not accurate to say that Protestants accept "no development." In large part this is true, but not totally, and especially not amongst the scholars and Protestant church historians (e.g., the citation of the Lutheran Pelikan above).

Latin apologetes contend that it is legitimate to replace the categories of the Greek-speaking framework of early Christianity with the novel categories of fourteenth-century Western thinking.

The "novelty" of these categories must be demonstrated, not just asserted. As for time-frame, I have just shown how hesychasm was also not formally defined until the 14th century. What's good for the goose . . .

This is totally unjustified.

Then so are the developments spearheaded by St. Gregory Palamas. Your case proves too much.

They don't disagree with us over consistent workings out of truths within a framework; but they make the illicit jump of being free to depart from the ancient categories (energy, etc.) in favor of the static categories of late-Mediæval Western thinking.

Here again you confuse late-Mediæval nominalist corruptions with legitimate, papally- and conciliar-sanctioned Catholic dogma. This is not the first time you have done this. But it is a straw man. Note how you jump immediately to the "late-Mediæval" period, passing over St. Thomas Aquinas, whom I know you highly respect (and of course he is the preeminent Catholic theologian).

They of course provide no overt justification for this illicit manoeuvre.

Which "illicit manoevre" is that?

Orthodox people should not be taken in by this--under the guise of disagreeing over "development" per se--or even the charge (which has been leveled against me) of "not believing in development."

I have heard many Orthodox deny that Orthodoxy accepts development of doctrine (including professed "apologists"). Are they just ignorant, or are they redefining the word, to mean exactly what you have said about it? Judging from my many debates with them, they are certainly ignorant of the Catholic conception, even down to basic definitional questions. I could give examples too numerous to count from old e-mails of mine. In the opinion of many Orthodox, development is equated with "theologically-liberal excess" or "unchecked, unbridled departure from Tradition" or "evolution" (none of which it is, of course). But presently I am arguing that the actual principle is pretty much the same in both camps. Orthodoxy doesn't have as much development, but then we come across a striking example such as St. Gregory Palamas and hesychasm.

We cannot accept development away from and inconsistent with the original categories of Greek-using Biblical authors and of Christians everywhere in the early centuries--and still in the East to this day.

Again, you are assuming what you are trying to prove. I have yet to see you prove that the biblical categories were strictly Platonic, or Alexandrian, or "Greek," or whatever label or school you would have them to be. It would be an interesting and fascinating survey and argument (I love history of ideas), if you would only make it.

Intellectual honesty demands a better approach for the obvious reason that anything (including Protestantism) can be justified if one is allowed to call adopting novel categories "development"!

I agree. The Catholic approach is well laid-out in Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, which was crucial and central in my own conversion. I would love to see you elaborate your present argument with some historical and biblical argument (or take on Newman himself). As it is, you basically attempt to run down the Catholic system as corrupt, over against the Orthodox one (the unfortunately typical negative, defensive posture of Orthodox polemics and apologetics). But given the above inconsistencies and lack of evidence, I must vigorously reject your thesis. Thanks for at least making an attempt, though. It is a rare Orthodox who deals with development at all.

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