The concepts of identity and continuity were a way of protecting the idea of the developement  of doctrine against the charge of innovation. Because “novelty-mongering” had, since the early centuries of the church, been seen as the mark of heresy, this recent discovery of development needed to confront the issue of whether a doctrinal development was to be defined as “the positive substantial growth” of a doctrine, be it “through an enlargment from within” or “through an accretion from without of new intellectual matter,” or whether it was nothing more than the process of making the implicit explicit, “an explanation of an already existing idea or belief, presumably giving to that belief greater precision and exactness in our own or other minds, but adding nothing whatever to its real area.” (The Christian Tradition, V.5, pg. 277 – Jaroslav Pelikan)

Pelikan makes these statements in the context of discussing both the birth and death of creeds, and in particular the question of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity in the modern era. I choose to comment about Pelikan’s thoughts here because I think it lays out nicely two reactions that are current in the Christian community as we think about the development of doctrine in our own time and cultures. There are the traditionalist who view the development of doctrine merely as making the implicit explicit and then there are the progressives who are the ‘novelty-mongers’, always chasing after the new in order to uncover the lies of the old.

I think the extremes of both of these approaches to the development of doctrine represent an unChristlike attempt at dealing with change, either moving inward and losing the outside world in a language game few Christians would even understand, or moving outward and forfeiting the symbology and discursive objectivity of the Christian story in order to sound like the current language games of our cultures. Both are fatal, both are unChristlike; BUT there is an element of value in each approach. How so?

History has a way of repeating itself and often times what we consider ‘new’ is really just a poor improvisation of an ‘old’ that has already had maturer expressions of the doctrinal discovery itself. On the flip side revelation only happens in space and time, as God gives his message and personage to his people in their present cultures. This is part of what drives the continual retranslating of the Ancient languages into more ‘contemporary’ language. Our times have their own questions and those questions deserve to be taken seriously, attatching adjectives like ‘trendy’ to them doesn’t do our calling by the Lord justice. By the way neither does the adjective ‘archaic’ honor the Lord’s calling. I’ve found that our fondness of both of these isn’t always good… Its a ‘trendy’ yet ‘archaic’ way to stop listening to oneanother, look at me I have my hands over my ears – la la la I’m not listening.

When you think about the ‘rules’ for healthy development of doctrine what are some main points you latch onto? What are some current examples of heretical development of doctrine, what are some current examples of healthy development of doctrine?