…while the reality of God and God’s acts for human salvation in Christ remain constant, human apprehension of their truth and significance changes and develops. Our access to the truths is through historically, culturally and socially conditioned interpretations.
Credal statements do not escape this and are therefore not immutable. That we live in different, and equally limited and partial, historical, cultural and social conditions entails…that, even when we repeat the same words as the writers of Scripture or the formulators of the creeds, their meaning for us is not guaranteed to be the same as it was for them.
The consequence is not that all doctrinal truth becomes relative but that the Church in succeeding generations through it theologians and teachers, through its worship and practice, is inevitably involved in the hard work of interpretation of the truths that shape its life. It should not be surprising that advances in knowledge throw up problems that require rethinking the tradition. After all, one of the tasks of theologians is to explore and restate central doctrines in the light of developments in human knowledge.
The doctrine of creation is now rethought in the light of what is taken to be the case in respect to cosmology or evolution or genetics but nevertheless it is still a doctrine of creation when it affirms that the universe and its life as we know them depend for their existence on a divine Creator.
Here again, Lincoln thoughtfully and clearly articulates the responsibility of theologians and teachers to reflect on ancient creeds in terms of present states of knowledge. Frankly, I’m not sure a good argument can be made for not doing so.
To think otherwise invariable leads to the bizarre thought that the Creator needs to be protected from the wonders of his own creation.
In light of our current understanding of the cosmos, the creedal claim “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth” is not diminished but magnified beyond comprehension.