I found this quote to be an interesting follow up to my recent post on Archaeology and Biblical Truths.
Jaroslav Pelikan seems to suggest that not only do men discover different truths throughout history, but that there is a sort of divine providence in the timing and content of the discoveries. In other words, the Spirit has been invisibly guiding the gradual and systematic recovery of truth throughout church history.
Could this be what Peter is getting at when he says, “Therefore I will be ready always to remind you concerning these things, even though you know them and have been established in the present truth (2 Pet. 1:12).”
Proceeding on the basis of the premise that from the nature of the human mind, time is necessary for the full comprehension and perfection of great ideas Newman argued that the highest and most wonderful truths though communicated to the world once for all by inspired teachers could not be comprehended all at once by the recipients but had required only the longer time and deeper thought for their full elucidation. To that observation he gave the label the theory of development of doctrine. He professed to be able to discern this rule of development at work throughout the history of human thought. There was a widespread sense that every period of the church and of theology has its particular problem to solve and every doctrine has its classic age in which it first comes to be fully understood and appropriated by the consciousness of the Christian world.
In the first three centuries, the Trinity
In the age of Augustine, sin and grace
In the Middle Ages, the sacraments
In the Reformation, the full exposition of the Christian soteriology
In the period of Protestant orthodoxy, the inspiration of scripture
And now the turn had come for ecclesiology which had long been the principle point of division within all the denominations. Many heirs of the nineteenth century would come to believe that it had bequeathed this special assignment to the twentieth century, which some of them therefore came to call the age of the church.