I spent some time commenting in another Parchment & Pen entry, “An Emerging Understanding of Orthodoxy“. Michael Patton showed some interesting diagrams to illustrate both progressive revelation, and progressive understanding. The latter has to do with development of doctrine–as time has progressed, the way that Christians articulate doctrine has also changed. How do we take that? Does it mean that truth is changing? Does it mean that the earlier Christians got it wrong and we have to correct them? Eastern Orthodox deny that doctrine can develop; does it mean that we’re wrong, because we disagree with Tradition? How do we balance the need for reform and discovery with respect for those who have gone before? How do we ensure that we provide a place for Christians to ask questions in a healthy, cautious manner?
The post is good, and there’s some good discussion in the combox. Patton discusses the issue in terms of doctrine going through a process of “maturing”. In the early church we may find immature doctrine, still going through the process of significant refinement in the way it was articulated. And as time progresses, and our doctrine has “matured”, it has also stabilized–it’s not going to change significantly, even as we continue to learn and refine and mature.
I’ll try to summarize some of my contributions in a numbered list. First, a little more introduction: (more…)