How do Protestants justify their belief in sola fide (salvation by faith alone) if it didn’t exist prior to the sixteenth-century? How do Catholics explain their belief in the Assumption of Mary when it wasn’t dogmatized until the twentieth-century? How does Eastern Orthodox justify their under-developed beliefs and tendency to punt to “mystery”? What’s going on with all this changing doctrine?
How do Protestants justify their belief in sola fide if it didn’t exist prior to the sixteenth-century?
How we answer these questions is our doctrine about the development of doctrine itself. Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and Catholics have to account for the way truth has been progressively understood over time. Here are the problems each tradition faces:
Why do we hold so strongly to doctrines such as sola scriptura and sola fide when, prior to the Reformation, many (if not most) in the church didn’t? The typical answer is “because the Bible is clear about these teachings”. While true, it causes us to wonder, if the Bible was so clear, why did these doctrines take so long to develop?
If the Bible was so clear, why did these doctrines take so long to develop?
In 1950, the doctrine of The Assumption of Mary was dogmatized in Catholicism, and enforced under pain of excommunication. However, it finds no biblical warrant and little support in church history. In fact, the first mention of the Assumption of Mary we find in church history isn’t until the fifth-century. Why wasn’t it heard of before this? Why did it take so long for it to become dogma? This is only one of the many doctrinal “developments” Catholicism must explain. Here is a partial list:
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