|By: John G. Weldon, PhD; ©2011|
|Some of the most brilliant people who have ever lived have believed in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and, in one sense, over half the world accepts it today.|
Some of the most brilliant people who have ever lived have believed in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and, in one sense, over half the world accepts it today. Its historicity is equal to that of any declaration in the Gospels.
The importance of the virgin birth can hardly be overestimated; it has been a universally held belief of the Christian Church for 2,000 years, and for excellent reasons.
Nevertheless, many unbelievers, critics, liberal theologians, and skeptics of all stripes have assailed it as a theological invention or religious fable. For example, because of the personal will to disbelieve or an unjustified anti-supernatural bias, a belief in the virgin birth is often held to exist in the same genre as pagan myths; such a belief probably began with the second century Platonic philosopher Celsus. One of the most popular approaches attempts to show alleged parallels between the biblical virgin birth and claimed divine birth stories in the ancient pagan world (or of dying and rising "savior" gods). However, as several scholars have demonstrated conclusively, the relationship is at best superficial – the biblical account is too distinct to have a common origin with paganism. For example, in the ancient pagan stories, the impregnation is always physical, and this includes even modern religions like Mormonism.
Controversial liberal bishop and author John Shelby Spong's Born of a Woman: a Bishop Rethinks the Virgin Birth and the Treatment of Women by a Male-Dominated Church is one example in this skeptical genre. Ironically it's as good an example of myth-making as one can find. Other notable examples include Jane Schaberg's, The Illegitimacy of Jesus (which Spong relies upon) and the book by Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Peter Heinegg, Putting Away Childish Things: The Virgin Birth, the Empty Tomb, and Other Fairy Tales You Don't Need to Believe to Have a Living Faith.
It is likely that the virgin birth has been subject to such attack and ridicule because of its unparalleled importance to the Christian faith, being of no less significance than the physical resurrection of Christ himself from the dead. In contrast to the claim of the last book title above, without the virgin birth, Christians do not have a living faith; they do not have any faith at all. Why?
If Jesus Christ was not virgin born, then by definition he was produced by normal human procreation. If so, this makes him a normal human being just like every other person. The implications of this for all of Christology and biblical theology are devastating. If Christ was not virgin born, then he was not sinless, but a sinner like all other humans. If he were a sinner, he would require salvation from sin. If he was a sinner, he could not be God incarnate. If he was not God incarnate, he could not be the atoning Savior for sin. If he was not the atoning Savior for sin, we are still in our sins and the whole edifice of Christian theology crumbles. If we are still our sins, we are without hope.
The apostle Paul makes the same argument for the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead: "and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17).
Without the virgin birth, there can be no doctrine of justification – no being declared righteous by God on the basis of grace through faith alone in Christ alone. If the sinless Lamb of God has not died for sin, there can be no forgiveness of sin, let alone a declaration of Christ's righteousness to the believer. Without the virgin birth, logically, there can be no doctrine of the incarnation, propitiation, atonement, regeneration, calling, conversion, adoption, union with Christ, reconciliation, etc.
Messianic prophecy itself suffers a fatal blow because the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 cannot be fulfilled and therefore Jesus Christ was not the Messiah. Indeed, all prophecy relating to the incarnation, atonement, and related subjects would then be false (Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, etc.) In addition, Jesus’ role as the ultimate Priest, Prophet, and King is destroyed. The doctrine of biblical inspiration and inerrancy also falls. In denying the virgin birth, so much of the Bible becomes mistaken that it cannot possibly be the divinely inspired, inerrant word of God.
In other words, if we deny the virgin birth, Christianity must be false. However, among all the known religions that have ever existed, only Christianity can logically and evidentially be considered a genuine revelation from God. Christianity is the only religion in the world with solid evidence to back up its claims. Almost every other religion is accepted based on subjective claims or upon blind faith contrary to fact. Even the relatively few religions that appeal to history such as Islam and Mormonism are often disproved by history.
To illustrate, I have a PhD in comparative religion; my master’s thesis was on Nichiren Buddhism/Buddhism and my PhD dissertation on Hinduism. In addition, I have written an encyclopedia on over 60 new religions, three texts on Islam, and have Masters degrees in both apologetics and biblical studies. I have spent the last 40 years studying religion of one kind or another. I can state categorically that only biblical Christianity is absolutely true. Further, in terms of uniqueness and magnificence, there is no one even remotely approaching Jesus Christ and never will be. Anyone who wishes can prove this simply and personally by an attentive reading of the Gospels. I know factually that Christianity alone is fully true and that if Christianity is not true, there is no absolute religious truth anywhere. Period.
If Christianity is false, philosophical agnosticism and practical atheism become true by definition. In sum, if we deny the virgin birth, agnosticism and atheism are all that's logically left to us. The great reformer Martin Luther was correct when he said that in the end there are only two religions in the world: the religion of works and the religion of grace. Likewise, when all is said and done here, it's either the incarnation or agnosticism and atheism.