Some traditionalist Christians seem to think that in New Testament times, God made humanity a final gift of theological knowledge -- like a father giving his children a set of school books and telling them it was the last they were ever going to get. Other traditionalists take a more nuanced view, but can still be quick to accuse modernists of "chronological snobbery," to use C.S. Lewis's term for "the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to your own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited." Bishop Paul Marshall of the Diocese of Bethlehem was recently branded as a chronological snob for having said:
We must be clear that we cannot understand the Bible the way our ancestors did, and that there is as much for the world to learn from western biblical study as there is from any other western technology. This is not to claim the corner on all biblical truth, but it is to say that we have learned what we have learned, and that we have much to share."
(Emphasis added.) The key word in Lewis's above-quoted definition of chronological snobbery is “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to your own age.” Bishop Marshall appears to be fully mindful of the distinction -- and of the dangers of categorically rejecting the possibility of new learning and even new revelation.
It seems logical that God might be deliberately pacing his revelations to us to suit his own pedagogical purposes. That would certainly fit the way other areas of human knowledge have evolved over time. To categorically deny this possibility would seem to amount to blasphemy, no?
We also can't rule out that what the Fathers experienced in their day, and understood in their way, succeeding generations might have come to understand better. A number of crucial doctrines of orthodoxy appear to have evolved in something like that fashion. For example, (some) early Christians came to believe in doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus; the triune nature of God; and Paul’s notions of the atonement. Their views eventually became the dominant orthodoxy. But it's not at all clear from the available evidence that the Apostles who actually knew Jesus during his lifetime shared those beliefs (read Peter's speeches in Acts for a concise summary of what they believed).
As I understand it, traditionalists take the view that what the Apostles experienced firsthand, they understood incompletely, and that the patristic church came to better understand these things as time passed. Who's to say the same can't be true of every generation? To assume that we can never have a better understanding of Scripture than the Fathers did, would seem to constitute (idolatrous?) ancestor worship.
Related post: Revelation: A Gradual Process.