Sunday, December 30, 2007

The marginality of the Virgin Birth (2): Doctrine

This was going to be in two parts - Scripture and Doctrine - but I realise that the latter has many more elements in it that I would like to unpick, and I think a sequence of short posts spread over time will be more helpful. So there will be another five or six after this one.

What are the most important doctrines in the Christian faith? I would say the following are the most central and distinctive:
1. The resurrection - the unique event, incomparable, sui generis - upon which all else rests. Without it our faith is in vain, with it the world turns around and we are free. Sin is conquered, liberty is proclaimed to the captives. Et cetera.
2. The incarnation - a consequence of the resurrection, whereby Jesus of Nazareth is proclaimed Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The purpose of all creation, that through which the entire cosmos is formed and led - this has come amongst us, full of grace and truth. The primary revelation of the nature of God. That which cannot be reasoned or deduced - our eyes are opened from the outside - God comes to us and shows us the light. Thus, incarnation includes salvation - or (following Finlan) theosis is more foundational than atonement - and, I would argue, language of the Fall belongs as a subset of this doctrine, rather than independently.
3. The Trinitarian nature of God - that God is found in relationship - that we are invited into that relationship which exists apart from our own desires and understandings, and that in that relationship we find our most authentic and telic existence.
4. The doctrine of creation - that the world and all that is in it is created by this triune God - that we are creatures dependent upon the eternal sustenance of the Creator - we are held in being, held up by love.

Seems to me that these are the central and most distinctive Christian doctrines. In what way does the notion of the Virgin Birth affirm them, or deny them? Historically the link has been with the doctrine of the Incarnation, which is what I'm going to focus in on in more detail with future posts. But I would say that at most the Virgin Birth helps to affirm Incarnation, but has nothing to do with the others - and even that helpful role is now open to question.

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