Dr. John R. W. Stott has perceptively reviewed the volume The Myth of God Incarnate (Nov. 4). Stott lays bare the heart of the issue when he treats language and outlines the use of myth by the contributors to the book.
I don’t want to duplicate Stott’s work. But I would like to call attention to the major implications of the alleged mythical origin of the historic doctrine of the incarnation.
The seven writers know how their theses will affect the Christian community, and through it the world as well. This is especially true of the writers of the five essays in Part II, “Testing the Development.” The contributors think that the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian Symbol are irrelevant to our age and thus dispensable.
The writers also agree that all formulations of religious faith are culturally conditioned, and therefore reflect local and transitory elements of a given civilization. Certainly no one would deny that in any formulation of motifs of metaphysical subjects, including those of religion, current idiom, prevalent modes of expression, and conventional points of emphasis will play a part. The essential question is, whether cultural conditioning will corrupt the truth of such formulations. To this question, editor John Hick would answer yes.
This involves the larger issue of whether either the early church or the church of the fourth and fifth centuries was concerned with the propositional truth of the doctrines that it professed. Would the essential demands of the early church with respect to, say, the experiences of its members of new life through faith in Jesus Christ have been met by a non-metaphysical Jesus? Would their need for a basis for faith have been met by a minimal Jesus who merely “embodies ...1
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