John W Burgeson wrote:
> Howard wrote: "Once we recognize these "fundamental doctrines of the
> faith" as "human best efforts" offered by historical communities of
> faith at varying times and in varying cultural, political and
> sociological circumstances... ." That states it pretty well. Almost
> every such doctrine is a human attempt to understand the mystery of
> God, and, as such, ought not be seized upon as "the last word" in
> one's theology. We know God only through metaphors, some better than
> others, but always "through a glass, darkly." But someday ... .
It isn't sufficient to say that a doctrine is "a human attempt
to understand the mystery of God."
It's more precise than that. A doctrine in Christian theology is an
attempt to specify how to speak faithfully about an important aspect of
Christian belief about God and God's relationship with the world.
To pursue the present example of "original sin," it is a basic
belief of Christians and a teaching of the church that all human beings,
though God's creatures, are sinners and in need of salvation. If one
wants to try to explain this in greater detail, there are boundaries
that must be observed if that basic belief is to be maintained. OTOH,
one cannot say that human beings can simply stop sinning if they try
hard enough - i.e., save themselves (Pelagius). OTOH, one cannot say
that human nature is completely destroyed or replaced by sin, so that
they would no longer be God's creation (Flacius).
Within those boundaries, various doctrines of "original sin" or "sin of
origin" can be developed.
Thus there is not simply one "doctrine of original sin" or
"doctrine of the Trinity," but various forms of doctrine developed by
different theologians or communities. But there are some basic
_dogmas_ - that the universe is God's creation, that the man Jesus is
Lord in the full sense, &c. The formulation of doctrines is not a
matter of "anything goes". Doctrines must preserve the integrity of
those dogmas, though they may be expressed in very different languages,
philosophical frameworks, &c.
I anticipate, of course, somebody saying, "But those dogmas are
just human statements." Yes, they are statements of human beings about
their experience of God's revelation in Jesus. & if that is challenged
then I simply have to say, as Luther did at Marburg, "We are of a
George L. Murphy
"The Science-Theology Interface"
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