QUESTION: Because we can see Catholic doctrines & dogmas seemingly make their appearances at various Councils, did the Church make them up?
This seems to be the school of thought among many non-believers; however, it simply is not true.
Virtually all Catholic doctrine is found in the earliest writings of the Church Fathers. All that Jesus did & said (as Holy Scripture indicates) couldn’t possibly be held within the accounts in the Bible. And we are told in Scripture to follow not only what was written, but also what was passed on verbally…similar to the age-old Jewish oral tradition. In part that made tremendous sense, since the Bible was not canonized until much later.
The oral teachings of Christ were passed down to the apostles, who in turn taught the next line of bishops & priests, who in turn taught the next, until a Church father wrote the teachings down and, subsequently, made official via a Church Council. One example is the writings of St. Justine Martyr, who around 150 AD wrote and explained how the believers worshiped. His account is a beautiful description of what remains completely intact today as the Holy Catholic Mass.
What becomes confusing is that since all doctrine that was followed in practice was later formally declared in Church councils (primarily due to new heretical thought that crept in, such as Arianism), it gives the appearance of materializing out of nowhere as a new teaching. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not that the councils were bringing in New doctrine in answer to the heresies. Instead, they were stating existing doctrine that had been handed down, understood, and practiced since the time of Christ. In other words, a formal declaration of what already existed. A huge example of this is the Nicene Creed.
So if you are ever confronted by someone claiming that the Catholic Church created doctrine as they went along, ask that person to consider reading the writings from the earliest Church fathers in the 1st Century and onward.