If you were a Catholic living in the year 120 AD, would you know as much as you do today about the faith? Absolutely not! So then does the Church change her doctine? Absolutely not!
Then why does Catholicism in 120 AD look different than 2016 AD. It is because doctrine develops but it does not change.
When we look at the Scriptures we can see this clearly. Obviously Moses knows more about God and theology than Adam. The Prophet Malachi obviously knows more about God and theology than Moses. St. Paul knows more than any character in the Old Testament. This is not because he’s smarter but because he has the advantage of standing on the shoulders of giants who came before him. He learned much of this history growing up and therefore had accumulated as much knowledge as he had to date.
This principle applies to Church history as well. A Catholic in 700 AD knows more than a Catholic in 120 AD. Again, this is not because the later Catholic is smarter but that he’s dealing with more information. The Catholic in 700 AD has access to six ecumenical councils and the writings of the Church Fathers in addition to the scriptures.
A good example of this is discussing the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Maximus the Confessor. St. Ignatius of Antioch is certainly a Trinitarian though he doesn’t use the word. Regardless, he does not know of the two natures of Christ, the relationship between the two natures and the two wills of Christ. St. Maximus the Confessor lived and died in the 7th Century. He knew about all of the Christological doctrinal development that had happened in regards to the hypostatic union and he debated the monothelites of his day on the number of wills that Christ had.
However, as a Catholic I believe that St. Ignatius of Antioch was perfectly orthodox in his theology. Nothing he says in his letters contradicts the later Christological developments that St. Maximus would have known about.
Most opponents of the Catholic faith acknowledge this development in Christology but they refuse to acknowledge it in other areas such as Mariology and Ecclesiology. St. Maximus the Confessor had a much more developed Mariology and was a firm believer in Papal authority.
Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, who is a firm opponent of the Catholic faith has in the past referred to developments in Mariology and Eccelsiology in the time of St. Maximus as degradations. At the same time, he accepts the Christological developments that have taken place from the second to seventh century, even though most of those developments are not from scripture but from Church tradition and authority. There is no verse in the Bible that gives us the two natures of Christ, the relationship between the two natures(hypostatic union) and the two wills of Christ but Dr. White is willing to believe them either way.
In a debate with Robert Sungenis in 2000 about papal infallibility, Dr. White pointed out that Christ having one will is heresy and having two wills is orthodox. He can believe that if he wants but that is not found in scripture. You can believe in either of them within the framework of sola scriptura because the Bible doesn’t specify but once you consider one view is orthodox and the other view is heresy, you have abandoned sola scriptura. The reason that Dr. James White believes Christ has two wills and not one is not because of sola scriptura but because of the Papacy and the Catholic Church. Ironic isn’t it. One of the strongest opponents of the Catholic Church and the Papacy today has to use its dogmatic proclamations to refine his Christology then he’ll try to veil it under the guise of scripture alone.
The enemies of the faith do believe in doctrinal development but it’s just a matter of choosing which ones they want to accept in the doctrinal cafeteria. A Cafeteria that Dr. White often visits.