May 25, 2022 –
Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
“… when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth.”
St. John Henry Newman, the nineteenth century convert to the Church from Anglicanism, is renowned for many theological works. One of the more famous is about the process of the “development of doctrine”. Newman had from boyhood been a keen student of history, and later in life he said that “to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”.
To make an analogy: as fundamentalist Christians say that God created the universe, Earth, and mankind immediately (that is, within six days), so the same fundamentalists often say that God created the doctrines of the Church immediately. If a phrase is not found in the Bible—they insist—it cannot be admitted into mind of a Christian. Therefore, dogmas such as the “Immaculate Conception” and “papal infallibility” are clearly not Christian—they insist—because the apostles who composed the Bible never used these phrases, or spoke about these topics.
However, if beliefs cannot be accepted by Christians if they are not mentioned in the Bible, then these same people cannot profess a belief in the “Trinity”, since this word never appears in the Bible. “But,” these fundamentalists might argue, “the belief in the Trinity is in the Bible. It’s the word “Trinity” that came later, in order to dispel false interpretations of the Bible….” Yet such a defense supports Cardinal Newman’s teaching, which itself is simply an unpacking of Jesus’ words today: “when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth.”