Re: Human origins and doctrine (was Definition of "Species")

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Tue Feb 26 2002 - 08:26:05 EST

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    >From: george murphy <>

    > 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.

    And are those _dogmas_ any less humanly crafted propositions?

    > The formulation of doctrines is not a
    > matter of "anything goes".

    I agree, of course (and I don't recall arguing for an "anything goes"
    approach). I would prefer to say that doctrines are, in their highest form,
    "best human efforts" to formalize the authentic human experience of God's
    presence (the Sacred, if you prefer) within a particular cultural tradition.
    That's a very long way from "anything goes."

    > Doctrines must preserve the integrity of
    > those dogmas, though they may be expressed in very different languages,
    > philosophical frameworks, &c.

    But if the dogmas are also "best human efforts" in the sense noted above,
    then the goal to preserve them must, I believe, take second place to the
    goal of crafting ever more adequate formulations of both grand "dogmas" and
    the particular doctrines within each dogmatic category. In science we make a
    similar distinction between meta-scientific principles and particular
    scientific theories. Both must remain open to reconsideration.

    > 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
    > different spirit."

    The "just" in the above reference seems to serve mostly as a substitute for
    "mere," which is only a stone's throw from "worthless." Not so for dogmas
    (in the sense George uses the term). Recognizing something as a humanly
    crafted proposition does not at all put it in the category of "mere" or
    "worthless." It does, however, remind us of the need for humility and
    openness to modification or correction in place of dogmatic insistence on
    uncontested preservation. Recall what my original statement was:

    >> 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, they can then
    >> be appreciated, valued, examined, adopted, modified, rejected, or replaced,
    >> but never idolized as the final word or used as a club to beat other good
    >> persons away from the community of those who declare themselves followers
    >> of Christ (Christians).

    Howard Van Till

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