I published the following information several months ago, but I wanted to bring this to the top for some of the folks who have been asking some questions about Newman and his theory of the development of doctrine.
Dr. William Witt, an Anglican, wrote a bit about Newman and development, and here he defines here identifies two different kinds of development. He cites Mozley, who accuses Newman of using the same word (“development”) to mean two different things. These he distinguishes as “development 1” and “development 2”:
The language of Nicea is the language of critical realism. Nicea speaks of who the Son of God must be in himself if he is going to be God for us.
Mozley speaks of this kind of development in terms of what I will call “Development 1.” Development 1 adds nothing to the original content of faith, but rather brings out its necessary implications. Mozley says that Aquinas is doing precisely this kind of development in his discussion of the incarnation in the Summa Theologiae.
There is another kind of development, however, which I will call “Development 2.” Development 2 is genuinely new development that is not simply the necessary articulation of what is said explicitly in the Scriptures.
Classic examples of Development 2 would include the differences between the doctrine of the theotokos and the dogmas of the immaculate conception or the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the former, Marian dogma is not actually saying something about Mary, but rather something about Christ. If Jesus Christ is truly God, and Mary is his mother, then Mary is truly the Mother of God (theotokos). She gives birth, however, to Jesus’ humanity, not his eternal person, which has always existed and is generated eternally by the Father. The doctrine of the theotokos is a necessary implication of the incarnation of God in Christ, which is clearly taught in the New Testament. However, the dogmas of the immaculate conception and the assumption are not taught in Scripture, either implicitly or explicitly. They are entirely new developments.
The same would be true, of course, for the doctrine of the papacy…
I think it would be important to note here, that whereas for a thousand years the Roman church taught that the papacy was “immediately given”, that bishops of Rome had infallibility, universal primacy and universal jurisdiction, and it has only recently conceded “a continuity of development” with regard to the papacy. (I’ve written plenty about this here).
For example, in 1920, Adrian Fortescue’s short work entitled “The Early Papacy.” Fortescue was a priest and scholar who wrote for, among other things, the Catholic Encyclopedia. This is to say, he was not uninformed.
Fortescue has something to say about “development.” He says that development “is only a more explicit assertion of the old faith, necessary in view of false interpretations. A conspicuous case of this is the declaration of papal infallibility by the First Vatican Council. The early Church recognized that the Pope has the final word in matters of faith, no less than in those of discipline, that she herself is protected by God against heresy. Put that together, and you have, implicitly, what the Council defined.”
Fortescue provides all the usual “proofs” for an early papacy — Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, etc. But the historians and theologians I’ve cited (and more) all have dealt in a very thorough way with these, and have concluded, with virtual unanimity, that the writings of these early church fathers in no way support an early papacy, and in fact, point in the other direction.
Also, William Cunningham wrote a scathing indictment of Newman in his work “Discussions on Church Principles” (available as a Google Book).
He notes that Newman:
…takes care to give no precise and definite statement of what the difficulties are, because this would expose the weakness of Romanism. He rather assumes them as known, and admits, by implication, that they exist. We think it would be right to be a little more specific upon this point, and would therefore remind our readers that the grand difficulty in the investigation of Christianity lies in the palpable contrast between the Christianity of the New Testament and the Christianity of the modern Church of Rome.
In other words, Newman’s “theory” is more a way of saying, “Heads we win, tails you lose,” without offering really anything of substance to support the assertions that he is making.
Of course, Dr. Witt also outlines Chadwick’s “From Bossuet to Newman,” in which the primary argument against Protestantism changed from “We are the religion that never changes” to “We can change all we want cause we’re in authority.” (Of course, I’ve summarized a bit, but that’s the gist of it.)
There is a reason why this is important. We are talking about the binding of people’s consciences and the giving of infallible dogma. The Roman Church does not do these things on the strength of a divine commission; only on the assumption of a divine commission. And now this assumption flies in the face of a huge amount of historical understanding — which is, I remind you again, historical understanding for which there is a great deal of unanimity not only on this question — which is negative for Rome, but again, is virtually unanimous on other positive statements that we know from Scripture.