Revelation and the Shape of the Church

As I read through the Catechism yesterday, I was struck by the comment that the revelation of the Trinity–the most fundamental doctrine of our faith, and the highest in the “hierarchy” of doctrine–was not complete until the mission of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  This led me to the following thought:

The giving of revelation constitutes its recipient, the Church, while the growth of the recipient makes possible the giving of revelation:  the two go together.  To spell out the consequences of this idea: as long as revelation is incomplete one should expect the Church to be growing and changing in fundamental shape; and as long as the Church is growing and changing in its fundamental shape, one should expect new revelation.  So it was not incidental the the fundamental doctrine of our faith was revealed completely when the Church was in a way completed.  Or to put it the other way around, anyone who claims to receive new public revelation is implicitly claiming that the Church is still developing toward its fundamental shape.

This led me to a further thought, which extends and qualifies the above:

The Church could not attain its entire fundamental shape before the apostles had exercised their ministry.  For example, there could not be a hierarchy in the Church before there were enough converts to have multiple congregations, and Peter had to get to Rome before the Pope could be the bishop of Rome, and somebody had to get sick before the Apostles could administer last rites, and so on and so forth.  So as long as the apostles were still active, the Church was still in some way in formation and new revelation was to be expected; with the completion of the apostles’ ministry, the Church had its entire fundamental shape and so no more revelation was to be expected.

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Author: Dr. Holmes

Dr. Jeremy Holmes teaches Theology at Wyoming Catholic College. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Jacinta, and their eight children.

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