Volume 85, Issue 1, Winter 2011
John R. White
St. Bonaventure and the Problem of Doctrinal Development
The problem of doctrinal development, first formulated by John Henry Newman, is usually assumed to be a distinctly modern theological issue, since it
originates in modern scholarly history and its application to problems of doctrine. My thesis, in contrast, is that St. Bonaventure’s theology of history as presented
in his Hexaemeron is also a theory of doctrinal development—though it appears some six hundred years prior to Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. I begin by discussing the relationship between theology of history and doctrinal development, from which I conclude Bonaventure’s theology of history is a theory of doctrinal development. Secondly, I discuss Bonaventure’s theory and how he uses it to justify the mendicant and Franciscan ways of life. Finally, I develop elements of Cardinal Newman’s theory as points for comparison and evaluation of Bonaventure’s theory.