Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future

Continuing on with my series on the Seven Notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine.  We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before reading this post.  We then proceeded with an examination of the First Note-Preservation of Type here,  the Second Note-Continuity of Principles here , the Third Note-Power of Assimilation here and the Fourth Note-Logical Sequence here.  This post will deal with the Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future.

Newman contends that in the development of an idea we may see anticipations of future developments at any early stage in the history of an idea.  Such anticipations may serve as evidence, after such an anticipation of a development comes to fruition, that we are seeing a true development and not a corruption of the idea.  Newman demonstrates what he is talking about by noting stories of the lives of great men when an early event anticipates the later course that a life is to take.    

Nothing is more common, for instance, than accounts or legends of the anticipations, which great men have given in boyhood of the bent of their minds, as afterwards displayed in their history; so much so that the popular expectation has sometimes led to the invention of them. The child Cyrus mimics a despot’s power, and St. Athanasius is elected Bishop by his playfellows.

In the world of English politics Newman sees in the reign of James I an early use of patronage to influence political parties. 

In the reign of James the First, we have an observable anticipation of the system of influence in the management of political parties, which was developed by Sir R. Walpole a century afterwards. This attempt is traced by a living writer to the ingenuity of Lord Bacon. “He submitted to the King that there were expedients for more judiciously managing a House of Commons; … that much might be done by forethought towards filling the House with well-affected persons, winning or blinding the lawyers … and drawing the chief constituent bodies of the assembly, the country gentlemen, the merchants, the courtiers, to act for the King’s advantage; that it would be expedient to tender voluntarily certain graces and modifications of the King’s prerogative,” &c. The writer adds, “This circumstance, like several others in the present reign, is curious, as it shows the rise of a systematic parliamentary influence, which was one day to become the mainspring of government.”

Newman saw the Lutheranism of his time as sunk in heresy or infidelity.  He sees anticipations of this in the positions of Martin Luther.

Lutheranism has by this time become in most places almost simple heresy or infidelity; it has terminated, if it has even yet reached its limit, in a denial both of the Canon and the Creed, nay, of many principles of morals. Accordingly the question arises, whether these conclusions are in fairness to be connected with its original teaching or are a corruption. And it is no little aid towards its resolution to find that Luther himself at one time rejected the Apocalypse, called the Epistle of St. James “straminea,” condemned the word “Trinity,” fell into a kind of Eutychianism in his view of the Holy Eucharist, and in a particular case sanctioned bigamy. Calvinism, again, in various distinct countries, has become Socinianism, and Calvin himself seems to have denied our Lord’s Eternal Sonship and ridiculed the Nicene Creed.

Newman concludes by stating that a definite anticipation of a future development in an idea is evidence of a true development rather than a corruption.

Newman on the Fifth Note:

Since, when an idea is living, that is, influential and effective, it is sure to develop according to its own nature, and the tendencies, which are carried out on the long run, may under favourable circumstances show themselves early as well as late, and logic is the same in all ages, instances of a development which is to come, though vague and isolated, may occur from the very first, though a lapse of time be necessary to bring them to perfection. And since developments are in great measure only aspects of the idea from which they proceed, and all of them are natural consequences of it, it is often a matter of accident in what order they are carried out in individual minds; and it is in no wise strange that here and there definite specimens of advanced teaching should very early occur, which in the historical course are not found till a late day. The fact, then, of such early or recurring intimations of tendencies which afterwards are fully realized, is a sort of evidence that those later and more systematic fulfilments are only in accordance with the original idea.

2.

Nothing is more common, for instance, than accounts or legends of the anticipations, which great men have given in boyhood of the bent of their minds, as afterwards displayed in their history; so much so that the popular expectation has sometimes led to the invention of them. The child Cyrus mimics a despot’s power, and St. Athanasius is elected Bishop by his playfellows.

It is noticeable that in the eleventh century, when the Russians were but pirates upon the Black Sea, Constantinople was their aim; and that a prophesy was in circulation in that city that they should one day gain possession of it.

In the reign of James the First, we have an observable anticipation of the system of influence in the management of political parties, which was developed by Sir R. Walpole a century afterwards. This attempt is traced by a living writer to the ingenuity of Lord Bacon. “He submitted to the King that there were expedients for more judiciously managing a House of Commons; … that much might be done by forethought towards filling the House with well-affected persons, winning or blinding the lawyers … and drawing the chief constituent bodies of the assembly, the country gentlemen, the merchants, the courtiers, to act for the King’s advantage; that it would be expedient to tender voluntarily certain graces and modifications of the King’s prerogative,” &c. The writer adds, “This circumstance, like several others in the present reign, is curious, as it shows the rise of a systematic parliamentary influence, which was one day to become the mainspring of government.”

3.

Arcesilas and Carneades, the founders of the later Academy, are known to have innovated on the Platonic doctrine by inculcating a universal scepticism; and they did this, as if on the authority of Socrates, who had adopted the method of ironia against the Sophists, on their professing to know everything. This, of course, was an insufficient plea. However, could it be shown that Socrates did on one or two occasions evidence deliberate doubts on the great principles of theism or morals, would any one deny that the innovation in question had grounds for being considered a true development, not a corruption?

It is certain that, in the idea of Monachism, prevalent in ancient times, manual labour had a more prominent place than study; so much so that De Rancé, the celebrated Abbot of La Trappe, in controversy with Mabillon, maintained his ground with great plausibility against the latter’s apology for the literary occupations for which the Benedictines of France are so famous. Nor can it be denied that the labours of such as Mabillon and Montfaucon are at least a development upon the simplicity of the primitive institution. And yet it is remarkable that St. Pachomius, the first author of a monastic rule, enjoined a library in each of his houses, and appointed conferences and disputations three times a week on religious subjects, interpretation of Scripture, or points of theology. St. Basil, the founder of Monachism in Pontus, one of the most learned of the Greek Fathers, wrote his theological treatises in the intervals of agricultural labour. St. Jerome, the author of the Latin versions of Scripture, lived as a poor monk in a cell at Bethlehem. These, indeed, were but exceptions in the character of early Monachism; but they suggest its capabilities and anticipate its history. Literature is certainly not inconsistent with its idea.

4.

In the controversies with the Gnostics, in the second century, striking anticipations occasionally occur, in the works of their Catholic opponents, of the formal dogmatic teaching developed in the Church in the course of the Nestorian and Monophysite controversies in the fifth. On the other hand, Paul of Samosata, one of the first disciples of the Syrian school of theology, taught a heresy sufficiently like Nestorianism, in which that school terminated, to be mistaken for it in later times; yet for a long while after him the characteristic of the school was Arianism, an opposite heresy.

Lutheranism has by this time become in most places almost simple heresy or infidelity; it has terminated, if it has even yet reached its limit, in a denial both of the Canon and the Creed, nay, of many principles of morals. Accordingly the question arises, whether these conclusions are in fairness to be connected with its original teaching or are a corruption. And it is no little aid towards its resolution to find that Luther himself at one time rejected the Apocalypse, called the Epistle of St. James “straminea,” condemned the word “Trinity,” fell into a kind of Eutychianism in his view of the Holy Eucharist, and in a particular case sanctioned bigamy. Calvinism, again, in various distinct countries, has become Socinianism, and Calvin himself seems to have denied our Lord’s Eternal Sonship and ridiculed the Nicene Creed.

Another evidence, then, of the faithfulness of an ultimate development is its definite anticipation at an early period in the history of the idea to which it belongs.

 

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