Episode 38 Tradition, the Deposit of Faith, and the Development of Doctrine

Today on the podcast (you can find it right here) I give a brief introduction to a much larger question: whether doctrine has in any way been changed over the centuries?

This question has been linked, and probably forever, with John Henry cardinal Newman and his essay on the Development of Doctrine.

Newman was responding to the growing historical consciousness of his day, which he most certainly felt with regard to the Catholic doctrines of papal infallibility and the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

For Orthodox, we deny that doctrine develops, unless by this we mean that how we explain the Faith can be refined, and that we can adopt and use new language and concepts to explain that which is fixed and given, a depositum left to the Church to keep, as St. Paul admonished St. Timothy to do (I Timothy 6:20).

Newman himself is quite amazing character, voluminous in his writings and sermons, and someone I believe who had an indirect influence on J. R. R. Tolkien, in that Tolkien was reared by a member of Newman’s Birmingham oratory, Fr. Francis Morgan.

All that aside, what Tradition is to the Orthodox is far more than simply the dogmatic content of our faith. I hope you enjoy the podcast. Below is the section I read from St. Clement of Rome, written, as I believe (and have all good evidence to do so), around the year AD 68.

St. Clement of Rome’s Epistle to the Church in Corinth, sec. 42

The apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus, the Christ, was sent from God. Thus Christ is from God and the apostles from Christ. In both instances the orderly procedure depends on God’s will. And so the apostles, after receiving their orders and being fully convinced by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and assured by God’s word, went out in the confidence of the Holy Spirit to preach the good news that God’s Kingdom was about to come. They preached in country and city, and appointed their first converts, after testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this any novelty, for Scripture had mentioned bishops and deacons long before. For this is what Scripture says somewhere: “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith (Isaiah 60: 17).”

I should point out, that St. Clement’s reference to the passage from the Prophet Isaiah does indeed use the words for bishops and deacons, διάκονος, and ἐπίσκοπος.


About Gary Cyril Jenkins

Professor of History
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