The development of dogma idea doesn’t make sense when it comes to the central motifs of Trinity and Christology. The linguistic precision certainly grew, but such language flowered from the seed of revelation about who God was and who Christ is in the NT writings.
You cannot read 1 Cor 8:6-7 in which Christ the Lord is inserted into the Shema and think, “Gee, this is just some human that Paul and his churches worship.” Being baptized into the singular name of the three (Matt 28) meant that early Christians already worshipped God via their baptism and confession.
As further questions arose, the Spirit continued to mature the church through its engagement with the world and the continuing need to define its worship.
The so-called infusing of Greek thought into a pure form of biblical Christianity is a false narrative. Yes, Greek speakers used Greek words and notions as we use English ones. I speak of gravity and the grocery store. I even think of redemption in an English way.
But that process of translation already occurs the first century as the Gospel writers translate Jesus from Aramaic into Greek—Paul writes in Greek. The linguistic choices that they made reflected their culture yet solid truth remained stable since truth is a metaphysical concept and something un-created by culture. Hence, any language or expression can, if communicated well, speak the truth.
This is why we translate the Bible or any book. It’s the truth that we aim to communicate, which admittedly sometimes is clearer through grammatical understanding of the original language of a book!
So they spoke of God as uncreated because he created the cosmos. Yes, the word uncreated does not appear in Scripture but the idea is as plain as day! The Son revealed himself to be begotten of the Father. So they followed Scripture to say that the Son is begotten and the Father is unbegotten. That is how they differ.
Yet they reasoned because the Son is included in the life of God, he must have been begotten outside of created time. And thus if this begetting happens outside of creation, it must be eternal and analogical—an analogy.
This line of reasoning was not put into the abstract. God calls us to grow to maturity by the Spirit in our rational worship of him (Rom 12; Eph 4). Hence, when challenges arose that impeded worship of God, Christians reaffirmed their worship through the conceptual language that eventually formed the creeds.
The Chalcedonian Creed, for example, does not define Christ as many accuse it of doing. Rather, it simply affirms that humanity and divinity genuinely subsist in the Person of Jesus. He is not half human and half god or some other mixture. He is both without confusion.
He had to be. As fully man, he healed all of humanity and atoned for us in a genuine way. As God, he could overcome death, never sin, and send his divine Spirit to recreate us.
None of this falls outside the essential message of the Gospel. It builds on it with conceptual language to clarify the conceptual integrity of what Scripture says. Isn’t all preaching doing this even today? Does not all God talk put into our words and categories what is eternally true and metaphysically stable?
So I don’t buy the idea of a developing dogma in the way I have described it. Of course exceptions exist, such as certain eschatological programs from the recent centuries. But those aberrations along with others have passed their day, being found wanting.
What remains still is the trinitarian and Christological achievement of the early creeds which put to work the NT teachings of Christ and God.
Mark Matthias says
“Being baptized into the singular name of the three (Matt 28) meant that early Christians already worshipped God via their baptism and confession.” I can only discern worship as an affair of the heart…definitely not via any temporal prop — I discern the vest of worshipful fellowship as spiritual in and of itself such that it stands alone without a counterpart. (Matthew 3:14-15, cf. Titus 3:5…true ‘righteousness’; notwithstanding, 1 Cor. 1:17). I share John’s feelings which he showed in Matthew 3:14, notwithstanding, recognizable only to the Jews. The actual imperative in Matthew 28:19 is to pass the word all over the world and the translation appears to have included the dunking as part the imperative for salvation. Thus it’s unessential and therefore a choice…the Holy Spirit decides who will become suitable disciples — it will be entirely up to Him
What remains still is the trinitarian and Christological achievement of the early creeds which put to work the NT teachings of Christ and God. It’s therefore reasonable to say, What remains still is the trinitarian and Christological achievement of the Holy Spirit, John 13:15; John 16.