This quote from James Jordan says it all.
“The sectarian compares the weakness of other churches to his own supposed strength, and pronounces them apostate on that basis. The catholic notes the weakness of other churches, and because of that tries to work with them, and prays for them. The sectarian thinks history has ended; the catholic realizes that it has not. (If anything, by the way, ‘postmillennialists’ should be even more flexibly catholic than others, because they believe that history has a long way to go, and that theology and ecclesiology will be developing for centuries to come.)”
- James Jordan, The Sociology of the Church, pg. 59
I took this quote from The Liturgical Institute.
The sentence in the parenthesis is what needs pointing out the most. Theology and ecclesiology will be developing for centuries to come! That is a bold statement. Let me boil it down. It basically means that
1) James Jordan knows that Christ will not return for centuries to come, 2) that everything we know about Christ, the Trinity, salvation, the church, and the Bible are all wrong, 3) we need to be willing to jump on whatever new fad comes along.
Call me sectarian if you like, but that is clearly what he is saying. Some might come along and try to paint theological development as like ‘organic’ growth or ‘aging’ growth. They like to use the comparison of math. They argue as follows: ‘When you are young all you know is 2+2=4. But soon you learn division and then geometry and maybe even a little calculus. That never invalidates 2+2=4, but builds upon it.’ That is a nice try at a defense, but it is wrong. The whole idea of theological development is not based on a math model, but on Hegel’s dialectic model. Where the thesis and the antithesis make a new synthesis. The original thesis and antithesis are now both wrong. They are not built upon, they are left behind. So it is with theological development. The more honest thinkers will admit that (see Philip Schaff), but that is hard to come by today. The other reason the analogy with math breaks down is because of the nature of theology. Justification by Faith Alone is invalidated if add works to it. It is no longer justification by faith alone. One can change the definition of the word ‘faith’ or the word ‘alone’, but it still invalidates the original claim, and it does not build upon it.
I am tired of people telling me that the church is ignorant and needs a few centuries to grow up. The truth is the truth yesterday, today, and forever.