Last November I reviewed The Myth of God Incarnate (see Nov. 4 issue, page 34). Four months later the initial excitement has died down. The book was not a work of profound scholarship. It will not stand the test of time. Yet it raised issues that remain. The one I take up this month is the question of heresy in the church. Those who deny the Incarnation were formerly regarded as “heretics”; now the very concept of heresy is thought by many to be outmoded, and those who would previously have had to bear that stigma are left alone (at least in some churches) to enjoy their positions of influence in peace and honor. Is this right? What can be done?
Let me begin positively. Our concern for God’s truth should not make us hesitant to affirm the importance of three matters. 1. Theological exploration. The fact that God has revealed himself in Christ and in Scripture does not rule out intellectual exploration. The theologian is no more inhibited from theological research because God has revealed himself in Scripture than the scientist is inhibited from scientific research because God has revealed himself in nature. Both are limited to the data (which, to oversimplify, are nature on the one hand, Scripture on the other), but within the limits that the data themselves impose, the Creator encourages us to use our minds freely and creatively.
If, therefore, by the myth of God Incarnate were meant the mystery of the Incarnation, we would have no quarrel with the concept. The church has always acknowledged that the Incarnation is a mystery beyond the full comprehension of human minds. A humble, reverent exploration of what God has revealed of himself in Christ is the essence of true Christological scholarship.
2. Contemporary questioning. ...1
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