Thoughts at the beginning of a New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR! It is hard to believe that yet another year has passed by.
General ramblings and thoughts as I get out of bed on January 1, 2007:
Well, the death of former President Ford has given the Episcopal Church some press that doesn’t revolve around gays in the Church and foreign Primates invading this province at the invitation of certain parishes and diocese. Despite what side of the troubles one might be on, there is recognition that with these kinds of things we do well.
I had New Years Eve dinner with Ashton and Peaches last night in Manhattan. After a lot of discussion of movies and Broadway (more Ashton and Peaches), we ended up talking about society and religious experiences (more Peaches and me, Peaches grew up in a Manhattan Episcopal Church). She made a comment that I thought was quite good concerning belief in such things as the birth of Jesus by a virgin – Mary. Considering the admittance that there are vast amounts of things we are yet to learn or understand in the universe and given that within that vast space there might be something like “God” or “miraculous happenings,” she said that those who cannot believe in such a thing as a virgin birth should consider the fact that we humans can now accomplish such a thing. A virgin can in fact become pregnant and give birth, and if that is possible by the efforts of very limited humans how is it then such a stretch to think that God could have accomplished the same thing? I had never through about artificial insemination as a possibility for a “virgin birth.”
Considering adherence to such things as the birth of Jesus by a virgin, I am reading a new book entitled: Searching for an Adequate God: A Dialogue between Process and Free Will Theists. Since I grew up within a denomination that is predominately Arminian, Free-Will Theism – otherwise known as Open(ness) Theism – makes sense to me. I do not and probably will never agree with a good number of positions held within Process Theology.
Anyway, in the first essay by Process theologian David Ray Griffin, he presents the idea of dogma divided into three groups: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary doctrines. Primary doctrines of the Christian Faith, according to Griffin, are: 1. God, the creator of the universe, is loving; 2. the world is therefore essentially good, although it is now filled with evil; 3. it is God’s purpose to overcome this evil; 4. this overcoming will include a salvation for us in a life beyond bodily death; and 5. God has revealed these truths and acted decisively to realize the divine purposes in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. (p.8)
Over time there developed Secondary doctrines to support the validity of the Primary doctrines, and Tertiary doctrines where devised as a third layer to support the Secondary doctrines. For example, the virgin birth of Jesus and the immaculate conception of Mary are considered secondary doctrines by Griffin that speak to the sinlessness of Jesus in relation to the development of doctrines of “original sin.” Griffin goes on to give additional examples of Secondary and Tertiary doctrines, such as the Trinity hammered out at Nicea and Constantinople, transubstantiation, divine impassibility, omnipotence, and predestination – all of which were developed over time in order to support the Primary doctrines.
I like the idea of the primary doctrines, which Griffin claims most all Christians of whatever stripe can agree to. Griffin says that problems occur when different groups elevate the importance and necessity of Secondary and Tertiary doctrines for defining who is and who is not really a Christian. He says that the differences between the Primary and the Secondary/Tertiary are vital as we attempt to explain the Good News to new and different societies or periods of time (he wrote “redefine”). Think about the looming battles between “Modernist Christians” and “Post-Modernist Christians”! What must we absolutely declare as necessary and essential as a starting point or foundation for Christian belief?
I suppose we can all agree on the “essentials” – those Primary doctrines presented above. But, what happens after those? I agree that too many of us want to demand that our pet doctrines are essential for defining the faith. We fight wars over such things – physical, verbal, and mental. Imagine that.
Is it essential to believe in double predestination to be a Christian? Some have told me that it is, and anything else is heresy and excludes their adherents from the faith. Okay. I’ve been unchurched over other issues, too. Anyway, Griffin’s comments are a good instigator of thought to ponder whether one claims Process theology or not. What is truly essential and necessary and how might we bring ancillary or extemporaneous things/issues into the equation erroneously?