In the Aftermath of a Synod: The Sacramental Vision of the Universe and a Case for the Development of Doctrine

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Alan Bernard McGill


In the aftermath of the Synod on the Family, the question of the development of doctrine has gained renewed prominence. This article considers the question in light of the principle of sacramentality. If all of creation is infused with potential to mediate the divine, then this applies to reason, experience, and derived processes of communication, interpretation, and development. Understood within this sacramental framework, the development of doctrine is not a matter of compromising eternal truths so as to meet the demands of secular modernity so much as a grace-filled sharing of wisdom between the Word of God and the People of God, the Mystical Body of Christ in a given epoch. The article contrasts Alfred Loisy’s intrinsicist model of development wherein reason is infused with grace with the dualistic assumptions of Neo-Scholasticism. It explores Pope St. John XXIII’s distinction between the changeable manner in which doctrine is articulated and understood and its unchanging substance, that is, the eternal truths. Finally, in the dialogical disposition of Vatican II in relation to the modern world, the article detects an intrinsicist perspective on the development of doctrine, offering hope for the possibility of more complete expressions of timeless truths.

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Author Biography

Alan Bernard McGill, The University of Birmingham (UK)

Alan McGill is a doctoral researcher in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham (UK). He serves as Director of Faith Formation and Liturgy at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Atlanta.