Leithart and the Development of Doctrine

Peter Leithart posted an interesting piece advocating a form of the development of doctrine. This is a hard concept to deal with. Much of deals with an implicit ambiguity in the phrase “development of doctrine.” One surface level it seems obvious that doctrine has “developed.” The Trinitarian expression of Matthew 28:18 is far different than the Nicene Creed. More on that below. Leithart argues,

Does the church have a finished, changeless confession? No. Will it ever? No.

By “confession” does he mean the content of doctrine or the expression of the content of doctrine? If the former, then I have to disagree very strongly. St Jude says to contend earnestly for “the faith once delivered to all the saints.” The content by very definition cannot change, or Jude is wrong.

Does Leithart mean the latter, then? If so, then I agree 100%. But he doesn’t say and speculating, while fun, is dangerous. I know his comrade Jim Jordan believes more along the lines of the former. (cf #3).

Here’s another problem with believing something like the former: there’s really no way to effectively challenge Roman Catholicism in its Newman-esque expression. And for what it’s worth, “development of doctrine” per content is gnostic (or at least the early teachers had to deny it in order to combat gnosticism).