A Response to Scott Clark and Robert Godfrey on “The Lure of Rome”Jan 30th, 2012 | By Andrew Preslar | Category: Blog Posts
Not that long ago, Scott Clark and Robert Godfrey, professors at Westminster Seminary California, posted a podcast in which they discuss the question of why some Evangelical Christians, including some Calvinists, convert to the Catholic Church. It is hard to pass up the chance to hear someone else’s reaction to one’s own story, so I tuned in for what turned out to be an interesting account of why folks such as the contributors at Called to Communion bite upon “the lure of Rome.”
The professors acknowledged that many Protestants simply take the wrongness of Rome for granted, unconsciously adopting a kind of “Protestant triumphalism.” As a result, they are left “complacent about the challenge that Rome can pose to us,” mistaking easily refuted caricatures of Catholic teaching for actual Catholic teaching. Regrettably, despite these observations, there are several serious misconceptions along with arguments by innuendo in this brief conversation. These include the baffling suggestion that the Pope does not do much preaching (cf. the Vatican’s collection of Pope Benedict’s homilies and other pastoral addresses), an unfortunate slur concerning what lurks “below the surface” of Catholicism, and a passing reference, drawing from a somewhat sensationalistic contemporary writer, to John Henry Newman’s supposed doubt and discontent after his conversion. The latter is a canard that was current during Newman’s lifetime, and easily disproved by his own testimony. As for secondary sources, the professors would have done far better to refer their listeners to the new edition of Ian Ker’s meticulously researched biography, which is imbued with Newman’s own private writings, giving us an intimate portrait of this faithful Catholic priest and Cardinal.
Although I will address a few more particular problems in the professors’ attempt to unmask Catholicism (such that by the end of the podcast they are claiming that the Catholic Church is a “false Church”), my focus will be primarily on the one topic that runs like a thread through the entire discussion, which is the development or germination or evolution or whatever you think best describes the changes exhibited in the Catholic Church over time.
I. Emerging Catholicism
A prevailing theme of the talk was the non-primitive nature of some core Catholic institutions and beliefs. For example: The medieval and modern papacy is not exactly like the early and original papacy of the ancient Roman church. Or if that characterization is considered too compliant, then you can say with the professors that the papacy in all of its historical forms is not at all like (what the professors suppose to have been) the congregational leadership structure of the really ancient church in Rome. On their view, furthermore, neither is the ancient nor medieval nor modern episcopacy very much like (the professor’s conception of) the earliest churches that the Apostles founded throughout the Roman Empire. 
The professors went on to mention the fact that the seven sacraments were not specifically delineated until the Middle Ages, and not dogmatically defined (at least by an extraordinary act of the Magisterium) as to source, number, and efficacy until after the Reformation. And the very controversial definition of papal infallibility did not occur until 1870, when the Fathers of Vatican I defined the doctrine of papal infallibility. The Catholic Church’s rites, ceremonies, and devotions were also alluded to in the talk, in connection with development. Certainly these are saturated with changes. I don’t suppose that anyone thinks that the liturgy celebrated in a Jewish house church in 50 A.D. was that of John Chrysostom, nor that of the Tridentine Missal. 
Development has ever been evident and abundant in the Catholic Church from East to West. Since the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), the Church has held 21 Ecumenical Councils (by Catholic reckoning), many of these defining some fundamental matters of doctrine. As regards religious ceremony and devotion, the Byzantine liturgical (including imperial) processions through Constantinople (echoed today in the various “entrances” of that Rite), the iconostasis, hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer (which blows away the Rosary for sheer repetition), the Latin Church’s Corpus Christi processions (still proceeding through the public streets of our marvelous modern cities), the elevation of the Host, the confessional box, the Gothic Cathedral, etc., are all obvious developments. We don’t find much of this in the New Testament or the first few centuries or even the first several centuries of Church history. This list could easily be greatly multiplied. There is simply no denying the fact that the Catholic Church has changed over the course of time. The question is, how do we explain this fact?
The Catholic Church has given various accounts of the Catholic developments. As to essential things, she maintains that they have been there from the beginning, and are either clearly presented in the sources, or implicit in them, or else were known and preserved among the faithful in a secret discipline, hidden from profane eyes and the as yet not fully initiated catechumens. As to those things that are related to the essential things, but not themselves essential, e.g., the prayer beads, the processions, the elevation, the College of Cardinals, these need no more explanation (as developments) than do the hymns of Charles Wesley, two meetings on Sunday, or the General Assembly.
Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks. Consequently, the body aligns. The heart of Catholic worship is of course the Holy Eucharist. A large part of Catholicism’s rich liturgical heritage (Eastern and Western) is but the progressive aligning of the body in visible forms of worship expressive of belief in the Real Presence. The relative poverty of Protestantism with regard to the visible dimension of worship is largely a consequence of denying the Real Presence and the Sacrifice of the Mass, or else redefining the doctrines such that the consecrated elements are supposed to remain bread and wine, and the sacrifice is supposed to be something other than the self-oblation of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby our sins are forgiven. In order to properly evaluate ceremonial developments in the Catholic Church, one has first to answer some fundamental doctrinal questions about the Holy Eucharist. If as a result of investigating the testimony of Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers one concludes that the Eucharist is indeed, and not merely in figure, the Body and Blood of Christ, the organic development of the liturgy including the rise of devotions to the Blessed Sacrament itself will seem to be natural if not inevitable. 
II. Imagining the Catholic Church
The professors at one point surmised that people might very well turn Romanist because of the romantic appeal of Rome, at least as compared to the slavish contemporaneity and/or plodding iconoclasm of Evangelical and Reformed worship services. There is surely something to the supposition that people turn to Rome through a longing for romance. But the desire of the convert is for something significantly more than vestments, chants, thuribles, and stained-glass windows. After all, as was noted in the podcast (in connection with Evangelicals’ penchant for guitar-strumming praise songs), Catholicism has of late been tainted by some of the same ills that plague Evangelicalism, including liturgical banality, architectural functionalism, and artistic modernism.
These phenomena, unhappy in themselves, nevertheless serve to highlight an essential element of Roman romanticism, one that cannot be completely overwhelmed by underwhelming or even egregious aesthetics. Basically, many would be converts begin by imagining the Catholic Church to be a secure haven from a rudderless and consequently fissiparous Protestantism. As they progress, they realize that the image of a haven or harbor, while certainly applicable, is not completely adequate, and must be joined by a Barque. And once one gets the picture of a ship, sometimes tossed about by perilous seas, but ever remaining intact and afloat, one is nearer to understanding that Catholicism is like a marriage, in which romance does not reduce to sentimentalism, nor prescind from difficulty and pain, but rather flows from the realities of a life shared together, come what may. 
Thus the essential element in the love story that is Catholicism does not ultimately depend upon the aesthetic appeal of the concrete expressions of the Church’s piety. These do pertain to the essence, and so enter into the image that prompts and entices the convert, but the more fundamental thing, that which gives form and focus, provides sense and stability, to the “smells and bells” and proliferating forms of art and devotion in the Church, is the unity and enduring identity-in-continuity-through-history of the Catholic Church herself. Nothing is more romantic than enduring unity, which is why we are so moved by a Golden Anniversary.
The convert to the Catholic Church is likewise moved. He thinks that here he has found the “pearl of great price,” the precious Bride of Christ, the Mystical Body. Of course, in the end (which is really the beginning), conversion involves an act of faith that cannot be ultimately vindicated by imagination. But as it turns out, the romance of Rome has more than a little to do with the reasons for Rome, and lies largely in the fact that Christ established one Church (Matthew 16:16-18), which is his Mystical Body and beloved Bride, which has endured through time (according to his promise and by the power of the Holy Spirit), having visible roots in and historical continuity with Cephas and the twelve, to which the relics of Sts. Peter and Paul, the succession of Popes, and the very name “Catholic” bear witness.
III. The Image and the Essence
Such is the essential structure of the lure of Rome, that which most appeals to many would be converts. The Catholic Church’s formal unity and antiquity in (at least) material continuity with the Apostles, and through them with Our Lord Jesus himself, are all evidences of its identity as that one Church which Christ founded (cf. the quotation from John Henry Newman in this section). The professors immediately pick up on this point, and commence by asserting the necessity of the Reformation, which they maintain was the product of very talented and well-educated men, who severally came to the conclusion that the whole Church was not properly ordered according to the New Testament. Their claim is that the Catholic Church’s essence, regardless of her image, is other than the essence of the Church that Christ established. The evidence adduced on behalf of this claim is that the Catholic Church, at least as constituted sometime prior-to (and since) the Reformation, and sometime after the [fill-in-the-blank] century, is discernibly different from the original Church, which can be identified by talented and well-educated persons through critical interpretation of Scripture and history.
It is one thing to enjoy material continuity with the past, and another thing to be the same thing as that which existed in the past. The former kind of continuity is exemplified by the way that, per evolutionary theory, a modern mammal, let’s say an elephant, is related by an unbroken succession of life forms to an ancient animal that for all we know was (to paraphrase Chesterton) some kind of fish but certainly no kind of elephant. That sort of change does not constitute a continuity of essence, as does, for example, the biological process which we observe all around us and commonly call “reproduction”–elephants giving birth to elephants. The reproductive process involves identity of essence as well as the material continuity of life forms, whereas evolution only involves the latter. The professors’ contention is that changes in the Catholic tradition, including the definitions of some essential Catholic doctrines, exhibit an evolutionary kind of development, by which one thing turns into something else.
As concerns the Catholic conception of development, it is necessary to note that the Church is not best likened to either the evolution or the reproduction of a species. According to the New Testament, and St. Paul in particular, the Church exists after the manner of a living body, an individual substance having an essence, including an inherent principle of movement, which constitutes its identity-in-continuity-through-change-over-time. Staying with this “form of sound words,” i.e., the image of a living body as indicating the nature of the Church, we would expect the Church, like a body, to change according to its own inherent principle of motion, i.e., to grow and develop. This too, at least by analogy (begging no question as to the relation of the Church to the kingdom of heaven), is in accordance with Scripture, which describes the kingdom of heaven as a tiny mustard seed, which grows into a tree, becoming a home for all the birds of the air (Matthew 13:31-32).
Catholics maintain that changes in the Church, such as the accumulating definitions of doctrine, ritual embellishments in the celebration of the Sacraments, proliferating forms of religious art and devotion, and varying arrangements in the organization of the Magisterium, are like the growth and development of a living being, a quite natural and indeed indispensable facet of its life. Thus Newman remarked on the life of material beings: “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” Furthermore, as we know, a fully grown tree looks less like a mustard seed than an elephant looks like a fish. So even from remarkable changes it does not follow that there has been an essential change. In fact, if we are thinking along the lines of an individual thing, rather than a chain of related things, then material continuity itself will strongly suggest identity, as Newman notes at the beginning of his essay on development:
Till positive reasons grounded on facts are adduced to the contrary, the most natural hypotheses, the most agreeable to our mode of proceeding in parallel cases, and that which takes precedence of all others, is to consider that the society of Christians, which the Apostles left on earth, were of that religion to which the Apostles had converted them; that the external continuity of name, profession, and communion, argues a real continuity of doctrine; that, as Christianity began by manifesting itself as of a certain shape and bearing to all mankind, therefore it went on so to manifest itself; and that the more, considering that prophecy had already determined that it was to be a power visible in the world and sovereign over it, characters which are accurately fulfilled in that historical Christianity to which we commonly give the name. It is not a violent assumption, then, but rather mere abstinence from the wanton admission of a principle which would necessarily lead to the most vexatious and preposterous scepticism, to take it for granted, before proof to the contrary, that the Christianity of the second, fourth, seventh, twelfth, sixteenth, and intermediate centuries is in its substance the very religion which Christ and His Apostles taught in the first, whatever may be the modifications for good or for evil which lapse of years, or the vicissitudes of human affairs, have impressed upon it.
Of course I do not deny the abstract possibility of extreme changes. The substitution is certainly, in idea, supposable of a counterfeit Christianity,—superseding the original, by means of the adroit innovations of seasons, places, and persons, till, according to the familiar illustration, the “blade” and the “handle” are alternately renewed, and identity is lost without the loss of continuity. It is possible; but it must not be assumed. The onus probandi is with those who assert what it is unnatural to expect; to be just able to doubt is no warrant for disbelieving. (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, p. 5-6.)
The Catholic Church’s persistence in material continuity from the time of Christ and the Apostles is a strong indicator that she is also formally, and therefore bodily (a body being comprised of form and matter), the proper subject of the entirety of Church history. In which case, the Catholic Church is the Church of Justin Martyr and John Chrysostom, Constantine and Charlemagne, John of Damascus and John of the Cross, the Thomas Christians and Thomas Aquinas, Saint Patrick and Saint Nicholas, and of course the Venerable Bede. The professors certainly object to this claim of formal identity, but they do not, it seems to me, sufficiently take into account the force of the Catholic Church’s material continuity with the Apostles (particularly Peter), which cannot be dismissed merely by pointing out, as they do, that the Orthodox Church is also contiguous with the churches founded by the Apostles.  I hope that the following analogy will serve to underscore the point that Newman was making in his Essay: The Catholic Church looks upon the persons just mentioned, and their times and places, much as an experienced, well-traveled, and variously adept man looks on his own life. That man would be bemused but unpersuaded if you told him that the enormous variety of his past is evidence against the essential identity of his person.
IV. The Tradition of the Fathers
Before proceeding further in our consideration of development, I want to take a moment to clarify, or at least acknowledge, something about Tradition. The fact that Catholics refer to many of the aforementioned men as “fathers” is an indication that development is not the end all and be all of the life of the Church. Our seasoned man in the preceding paragraph might, after all, have himself converted to various incompatible doctrines concerning “essential matters” over the course of his long and illustrious life. Such a change in the Catholic Church would falsify her claim of identity in continuity through history with the Church that Christ established. There are also crucial differences between the origin of an individual man and the origin of the Church, with a corresponding difference in how the concept of growth or development applies to each.
The Catholic appeal to antiquity as authority has to be understood, at least in part, from the doctrinal standpoint which one finds, to take an authoritative and ecumenical example, in the Nicene Creed as concerning Jesus. When we come with this point of reference to consider history, we are profoundly affected by the facts that the Apostles knew our Lord personally, and their immediate successors knew the Apostles personally. Before the second generation from Christ passed away, the Church was already referred to as “the catholic Church,” having an institutional identity that was clearly distinct from the already proliferating sects. (I don’t think that many people will disagree with this claim, though there will of course be disagreement over a host of related matters.) But this institutional identity, which (as Catholics believe) is perpetual and essentially involves a teaching authority that has been guaranteed enduring doctrinal integrity, is not opposed to a special deference and veneration for the early Fathers, who personally and/or by virtue of historical and social proximity had the teaching of the Apostles “ringing in their ears,” who, in their turn, had heard, seen, and touched the Word of Life.
John Henry Cardinal Newman, now Blessed, who is known for developing the theory of doctrinal development, is likewise known for his devotion to the early Church Fathers. Newman once wrote of antiquity, in connection with development:
For myself, hopeless as you consider it, I am not ashamed still to take my stand upon the Fathers, and do not mean to budge. The history of their times is not yet an old almanac to me. Of course I maintain the value and authority of the “Schola,” as one of the loci theologici; nevertheless I sympathize with Petavius in preferring to the “contentious and subtle theology” of the middle age, that “more elegant and fruitful teaching which is moulded after the image of erudite Antiquity.” The Fathers made me a Catholic, and I am not going to kick down the ladder by which I ascended into the Church. It is a ladder quite as serviceable for that purpose now, as it was twenty years ago [i.e., when Newman converted]. Though I hold, as you know, a process of development in Apostolic truth as time goes on, such development does not supersede the Fathers, but explains and completes them. (Letter to Dr. Pusey, p. 24.)
Contrary to the claim of at least one Reformed (or ersatz Reformed) Protestant, the Church Fathers were not “Church babies.” There is a sense in which the deposit of faith is better understood by latter generations who can see more of the tree, as it were, due to centuries of growth and development. However, there is a kind of concentration of the arboreal life in its earlier stages, which renders the writings of the Fathers extremely potent, such that they are rightly called fathers, to whom later generations, as faithful children, turn for knowledge and wisdom. The same goes, a fortiori, for the writings of the Apostles and their associates, even apart from consideration of the unique status of those writings as divinitus inspirata. The Church both begins from and moves towards perfection. Born from the wounded side of the Son of God (CCC 766), and from the beginning having the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), the Church “according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).
V. On Appealing to the Past
I can understand Protestant frustrations with what might be perceived as the Catholic’s proprietary use of the theory of the development of doctrine. Protestants introduce a new idea, e.g., justification as extra nos imputation received by faith alone, and it is called a break from the Fathers. Catholics introduce a new idea, e.g., the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist as involving a transubstantiation of the elements, and it is called a development of the Fathers, i.e., explaining and completing them. As for the indisputably old ideas, Catholics take credit for holding those intact, and then accuse the Protestants, where they hold the same ideas, of being inconsistent and unprincipled. It seems like Catholics get to have their cake and eat it, and also to turn the cake into pumpkin pie and eat that too, calling it a development of the dessert implicit in the original cake. As for Protestant developments, such as Reformed ideas that are hard to find in the early Fathers, well, those aren’t dessert at all.
Catholics, in turn, experience their own frustrations with what is sometimes perceived as the Protestant’s selective application of the theory of doctrinal development. On the one hand, the theory is dismissed as an unprincipled way to account for the lack of explicit testimony in either Sacred Scripture or early Church history for some essential Catholic doctrines. But on the other hand, some of these same objectors begin to sound like development theorists when attempting to account for the continuity, or at least congruence, of Protestantism with the historical Church. Something like this seems, at first glance, to be going on in “The Lure of Rome” podcast. After dismissing the Catholic appeal to development as a desperate and transparent gloss of “radical” changes in the Church, the professors went on to account for the classical Protestant doctrine of justification relative to the testimony of the ancient Church (which lacks “repeated, clear articulations of 16th century Protestant doctrine of justification”) by claiming that the early Church’s doctrine of grace “resonated in many of its parts” with the later teaching of St. Augustine, which in turn is supposed to be amenable to Protestant soteriology. Thus, something like Protestantism is supposed to be implicit in parts of the testimony of the Fathers, such that the Reformers had as least as much of a claim to the mantle of antiquity as did Tridentine Catholicism. 
However, after some consideration of the professors’ manner of appealing to the Fathers, I have come to the conclusion that they are not actually employing a theory of doctrinal development. Rather, they are attempting to find a point or points of contact in the early Church Fathers sufficient to guarantee that the essence of the Protestant churches, or of some subset of these churches, can be found not only in the New Testament, but also in the early Church, and perhaps even in the medieval Church. Such similarities are supposed to be sufficient to establish the identity of the Protestant churches with, if not the historical Church, at least the true Church throughout history. Thus, proceeding upon Luther’s maxim that the doctrine of justification is the article by which the Church stands or falls, if one can find here and there, prior to the Reformation, certain claims and practices which are maintained by Protestants, or are at least consistent with the Protestant doctrine of justification, then one can reasonably conclude that the true Church might have existed at those times, although she exists more perfectly at later times, i.e., in the Protestant churches after the Reformation. The possibility that the true Church has existed throughout history is supposed to hold even if the doctrine, organization, and forms of worship and devotion of the historical Church, taken as a whole, are very different from the doctrine, polity, and piety of the Protestant churches.
Thus, Clark and Godfrey are attempting to maintain a middle position between Spirit-guided-development-in-continuity (ala St. Vincent of Lerins and John Henry Newman) on the one hand, and outright [explicit] ecclesial deism of the Restorationist sort on the other hand. So they take a view in which the gist of the Gospel (as understood by Reformed Protestants), and with it the Church, can be glimpsed here and there in history as a more or less developed property which identifies the species, ecclesia Christi. But this method of locating the true Church requires the professors to be highly selective in their appropriation of the past, which renders their appeals to history circular, and distorts by decontextualization the select teachings to which they appeal as precedents. If one considers only that testimony of the historical Church that is consistent with Reformed theology, then it will seem possible for the Reformed churches (or some select sub-set of such churches) to have existed, in kind, as the true Church of history. But that is an obvious instance of special pleading. The entire data set needs to be considered, in context, before one can claim identity with the something that actually existed as the Church in pre-Reformation history. Additionally, it seems reasonable to ask why the historical Church should be measured by the standard(s) of Reformed theology, rather than vice versa. 
Contrary to the ecclesial ontology implicit in the professors’ method of locating the Church in history, we have seen that, from a Scriptural point of view, the universal Church is not like a species, but like a substance, in particular a living body. But this implies that the Church is visible. In consequence, we can, with Newman, locate her in space and time by tracing her “external continuity of name, profession, and communion.” Locating the Church’s identity-in-continuity-through-history, proceeding from Christ, through Peter and the Twelve, is how one identifies the true Gospel, because the true Gospel comes to us from Christ, through the Apostles, in the Church, which is visible, like unto a body. Yes, there are developments in the Church’s understanding of revelation, but whenever some such development comes to be articulated by the Church in a doctrinal definition, we know that the definition is leading us into a fuller apprehension of the truth, precisely because it is an expression of the mind of the same Church that Christ established and preserves as the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The alternative, which no one seems to like but which Protestants cannot seem to avoid, is Solo Scriptura.
VI. The Nature of the Body
Catholics concede that the Scriptural description of the Church as a living body is something of an analogy, a form of sound words that truly but imperfectly conveys a mysterious truth. More specifically, or more literally, Catholics believe that the Church is one visible society (CCC 771), having an essential purpose (CCC 759) and structure (CCC 765), that is not reducible to the sum of its parts (CCC 835). In his encyclical on the mystical Body of Christ, Pope Pius XII distinguished this Body from both a physical and a moral or political body:
From what We have thus far written and explained, Venerable Brethren, it is clear, We think, how grievously they err who arbitrarily claim that the Church is something hidden and invisible, as they also do who look upon her as a mere human institution possessing a certain disciplinary code and external ritual, but lacking power to communicate supernatural life. On the contrary, as Christ, Head and Exemplar of the Church “is not complete, if only His visible human nature is considered…, or if only His divine, invisible nature…, but He is one through the union of both and one in both … so is it with His Mystical Body” since the Word of God took unto Himself a human nature liable to sufferings, so that He might consecrate in His blood the visible Society founded by Him and “lead man back to things invisible under a visible rule.”
For this reason We deplore and condemn the pernicious error of those who dream of an imaginary Church, a kind of society that finds its origin and growth in charity, to which, somewhat contemptuously, they oppose another, which they call juridical. But this distinction which they introduce is false: for they fail to understand that the reason which led our Divine Redeemer to give to the community of man He founded the constitution of a Society, perfect of its kind and containing all the juridical and social elements—namely, that He might perpetuate on earth the saving work of Redemption—was also the reason why He willed it to be enriched with the heavenly gifts of the Paraclete. The Eternal Father indeed willed it to be the “kingdom of the Son of his predilection;” but it was to be a real kingdom, in which all believers should make Him the entire offering of their intellect and will, and humbly and obediently model themselves on Him, Who for our sake “was made obedient unto death.” There can, then, be no real opposition or conflict between the invisible mission of the Holy Spirit and the juridical commission of Ruler and Teacher received from Christ, since they mutually complement and perfect each other—as do the body and soul in man—and proceed from our one Redeemer who not only said as He breathed on the Apostles “Receive ye the Holy Spirit,” but also clearly commanded: “As the Father hath sent me, I also send you”; and again: “He that heareth you heareth me.” (Mystici Corporis Christi, 64, 65; cf. Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 10.)
It does not automatically follow from the Catholic’s conception of the Church as a society that every change in that society is a change for the good, i.e., an authentic development rather than a corruption. But on the Catholic understanding of the nature of the Church, not only is development acceptable, it is to be expected, and those particular developments that are definitive teachings of the Church are to be received with the full assent of faith, as being the correct interpretation of divine revelation, authoritative and irreformable. Newman wrote that the theory of the development of doctrine is “an hypothesis to account for a difficulty.” (If this description alone renders the theory suspect for some, they should remember that the same thing can be said of gravity.) The difficulty to which Newman refers is precisely that to which the professors point: the lack of explicit testimony in antiquity for some doctrines that the Catholic Church considers to be essential (as in part of the deposit of Faith) and for those peculiar liturgical, disciplinary, and devotional practices that pertain to the essence of the Faith, as this is understood by the Catholic Church. Conversely, the difficulty for Protestants is how to accept any doctrine defined by the Church as anything other than a mere interpretive opinion which can legitimately be discarded by talented and well-educated Bible scholars whose exegetical conclusions are not consistent with the doctrines of the Church. The professors seem not to consider, in all their talk of the changes in the Catholic Church, that that Church accepts as irreformable the doctrinal decrees of all the Ecumencial Councils, going back to and including Nicea. These doctrines do represent developments, but they are not up for debate.
Much of what the Protestant perceives to be the magical production of pumpkin pie, a veritable transubstantiation of doctrine and discipline, the Catholic receives as authentic developments in the Church’s understanding of the original deposit of Faith, even where these are not simply logical deductions from the deposit, just as the developments that constitute the growth of a body are authentic expressions of its essence, though they are not logical deductions from a finite set of facts enumerated in an empirical account of its existence at some previous point in time.
On the Catholic view, the universal Church does not exist after the manner of an abstract entity, such that one should look for a more or less perfect instantiation of ecclesia Christi here and there throughout time and space, and set about reforming or reproducing the Church according to the image of the most favored instance. This is not to say that the Church cannot be reformed according to timeless truth, only that the Church herself is not merely a timeless truth, and her historical existence cannot therefore be understood as the iteration of an idea (e.g., locating the true Church by locating the true Gospel). Particular instances of development that cause the most trouble for non-Catholics ought to be accounted for on a case by case basis, and the Church should certainly be defended from charges of contradiction. But the phenomenon of development is in general explicable when we consider that Christ founded a visible Church, a society that is explicitly likened to a body, having an inherent principle of motion, including the power to bind and loose, whereby the whole body grows and develops in unity, according to its God-given purpose (Ephesians 4:11-16).
We have not even begun to explore the theory of doctrinal development, so to assess whether and in what form and to what degree it is successful. At some point, we hope to do this at Called to Communion.  For now, I will conclude with two simple suggestions: (1) Catholics cannot in good conscience wield the theory like a magic wand, which with an elegant wave and a few muttered words renders any doctrine “historical” and “implicit in the original deposit of faith.” We must actually show how the theory makes more sense of the relevant data than does any alternative explanation. (2) Critics of the theory of doctrinal development need to get right down to it and examine actual explanations and applications of the theory, preferably those versions that are widely accepted. To this end, there is no better place to begin than the locus classicus, Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. As for the podcast that prompted this post, I will only say further that I share the professors’ interest in the phenomenon of conversions to the Catholic Church, though of course my understanding of its source and significance is fundamentally different from their own.
 The claim that episcopal government is not native to the Church that Christ founded has been addressed in several places on this website, including Bryan Cross’s overview of Apostolic Succession and Tim Troutman’s article on Holy Orders.
 Tim Troutman discusses the earliest Christian liturgies in his post and accompanying podcast, Christian Worship in the First Century.
 See The Church Fathers on Transubstantiation for evidence that the early Church believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. See Section IV of “Holy Orders and the Sacrificial Priesthood” for evidence that the early Church understood the Eucharist to be a true sacrifice.
 Even though many modern Catholic church buildings and appointments rival their Evangelical counterparts for bland and boring iconoclasm, there remain in Catholicism those traditions, still represented in her rites and uses, variously inscribed in her abiding material heritage, and ever alive in the Church’s collective memory, which offer encouragement and consolation to those not determined to be dismayed. The living memory of Catholic tradition, though it may balk at more modern arrangements, is not a mere wistfulness. This memory resides in human persons, alive, active, and able to impose the Church’s aesthetic heritage upon the stuff of earth, thus giving new, concrete expression to “the beauty of holiness” after the manner of the Church’s long tradition. Just in my own vicinity, several examples of this sort of thing come immediately to mind; for a few depictions, along with some excellent explanations, see here, here, and here.
 Mutually exclusive claims to be the one Church founded by Christ do not in themselves constitute proof that Christ did not establish one visible Church that has endured, undivided, through time. One need not adopt an alternative ecclesial ontology, according to which the Church is not a visibly unified body enduring through history, in order account for Orthodoxy as a Church or collection of churches not in full communion with the Catholic Church. It is true that the exclusive claims of both Catholicism and Orthodoxy are the occasion, for some, of an epistemological quandry: “Which of these ancient churches is the Church founded by Christ?” Since one cannot be in full communion with both the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, one must choose between them or else abandon either history (i.e., remain Protestant) or the historical orthodoxy of the first millennium (i.e., become Nestorian or Monophysite). Suffice to say, for our purposes here, that the historical continuity with Christian antiquity enjoyed by Orthodoxy does not include full communion with the Successor of St. Peter in Rome. The unique significance of communion with the Roman See is the subject of Bryan’s article, The Chair of St. Peter.
 As a matter of fact, the early Church Fathers did not stint in their teaching on salvation. In his article, Tradition I and Sola Fide, David Anders notes: “Although the Fathers rarely employed the term ‘justification,’ they wrote extensively on sin, forgiveness, redemption, and the conditions of eternal life.” David argues that the early Fathers’ clearly and repeatedly attested doctrine of salvation is not consistent with the Protestant doctrine of justification, particularly as this is held by Reformed Protestants. The teaching of St. Augustine is no exception to this rule, being explicitly inconsistent with essential features of both the Protestant doctrine of grace (mere favor) and the Protestant doctrine of justification (mere imputation).
 The answer to this question will involve close consideration of the authority of the Reformed confessions; cf., Westminster in the Dock: Reflections on the Peter Leithart Trial.
 The Orthodox Church is well-known for its conservatism, which is supposed by some to be inimical to the theory of doctrinal development. However, as Daniel Lattier argues in “The Orthodox Rejection of Doctrinal Development” (Pro Ecclesia 20:4 [Fall 2011]: 389-410), there simply is no Orthodox consensus on the theory of development. Lattier also argues that “Newman’s understanding of doctrinal development is in fundamental harmony with the Orthodox understanding of Tradition” (Ibid. 390). This article warrants careful consideration and comment, which we hope to provide in an upcoming post.