Pelagians denied the reality of original sin and, as a consequence, denied that our salvation required any grace beyond what is already given us in human nature.As a result, the Church recognized the movement as a heretical corruption rather than a development of the Christian faith, and so condemned its teachings.
If so, we know that the change is a genuine development, not a corruption.
Newman warns that the presence of any alteration in the external expression of an idea shouldn’t lead us to conclude that it’s a corruption, instead of a development, of the essential idea.
Then he goes on to identify nine principles of the Christian religion: dogma, faith, theology, sacraments, Scripture and its mystical interpretation, grace, asceticism, the harm of sin, and the potential of matter to be sanctified.
In reference to these principles, Newman says: “While the development of doctrine in the Church has been in accordance with, or in consequence of, these immemorial principles, the various heresies, which have from time to time arisen, have in one respect or other, as might be expected, violated those principles with which she rose into existence, and which she still retains” (p. The fifth-century theological movement known as Pelagianism provides an example of teaching that contradicted one of these principles.
The fourth note of genuine development is logical sequence.
By this Newman means that a doctrine that’s defined and professed by the Church at a point historically distant from its original founding can be considered a development, and not a corruption, if it can be shown to be the logical outcome of the original teaching.
Our Protestant brothers and sisters often wonder at the complexity of Catholic doctrine.
In particular, they may find it difficult to reconcile what they view as the “simplicity” of Jesus’ teachings with those of the Church today.
In the ancient Church, for example, Christian theology came to make use of philosophical terms and categories from contemporary Greek culture.
These forms of thought were employed to refine the precision of doctrinal formulations, helping the Church to define more clearly what she believed.