Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The marginality of the Virgin Birth (3): Creed

I wasn't going to do one specifically on the creed, but Tim's comment is worth taking up. He said in response to my last post that my list of core doctrines was "a personal list, not the church's list. The church's list is found in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed - and the Virgin Birth is found firmly among the essentials listed there."

Well in one sense that is straightforwardly true; however I'm not that concerned with making a personal list as it would completely undermine the broader point I'm trying to make. So I need to do two things: 1) argue that the list I gave (modified if need be) actually IS the church's list, and 2) argue that the virginity of Mary is not crucial to the purpose of the creed - which is really the burden of the series as a whole. Yet a little more could be said.

My list has four doctrines in it: resurrection, incarnation, the Trinity and creation. If there is another major doctrine to be included (eg it could be argued that the doctrines of salvation, Fall and atonement and so on, should be covered separately) then the list can be expanded or modified (are there others? I'm very open to expanding the list). However to say that the virgin birth is a doctrine of equal importance to these others, simply because it is mentioned in the creed is, to my mind, insufficient.

The creed itself is structured in a particular way, and was formed to counteract certain heretical views. So there is a Trinitarian structure, there is the element of God as creator, God as incarnate in Christ and God as Spirit, with a few addenda for completeness. So the broad themes are (obviously) harmonious. However, the major part of the second section of the creed is concerned with establishing the metaphysical status of Christ over against the Arians and other heretics - in other words it is very conditioned by the particular circumstances of that time. Consequently understanding the role of the virgin birth has to be pursued within that framework. Which is what I'm going to move on to in later posts.

One more thing can be said. The creed is not sufficient for Christian faith. In particular, it is virtually silent on Jesus' life and teachings - and I'm quite sure that an Anabaptist Anglican wouldn't want to downplay those two things relative to the metaphysical gymnastics in the creed!! (grin) The creed serves as a bulwark against particular forms of error, but as a guide for practical Christian discipleship it is manifestly inadequate on its own.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.