This Just In…

In a shocking turn of events, it has been discovered that Jesus’ virgin birth was actually miraculous.  So miraculous, in fact, that many have a hard time accepting that it could also be true.

Yes folks, it’s Christmas and that means time for articles once again doubting the legitimacy of Scripture in regards to the birth of Jesus.  Which, by implication, casts doubt and aspersions on every other aspect of Jesus’ ministry as recorded in Scripture.  But, since it’s Christmas, we’ll be nice and just focus on the virgin birth.  Very thoughtful.

I first found this article detailing the firestorm that has erupted around a noted preacher’s comment that the virgin birth may not be required as an article of the Christian faith.  Someone might be a Christian without believing this, in other words.  It is unclear – and I don’t have the time or inclination to listen and find out – if the context is someone who knows what the Bible says and chooses to deny or ignore it, or someone who has come to faith in Christ without yet discovering what the Bible has to say on this issue.  That’s a big difference.

Then it was on to this essay, which questions the necessity of the Virgin birth as part of a cohesive Christian faith.  After all, the author knew somebody who was a very Christian person yet didn’t believe this, and therefore it must not be necessary, right?  Of course, as this other interview demonstrates, the author really questions pretty much all of the miraculous aspects of Jesus, not just the Virgin birth.  That demonstrates at the very least a logical consistency – it makes no sense to deny the Virgin birth but accept the Resurrection.  Or to deny the Virgin birth but accept that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Almost everything attributed to Jesus in the form of miracles is just that, miraculous, and so if you have a problem with one of them, you logically ought to have a problem with all of them.

As Keller notes in his interview with Kristof, just like any system of thought or belief, there are parameters which define – at least broadly – who does or does not hold that belief system or follow that system of thought.  Wanting to call yourself a Christian while denying core elements of the faith that have been professed for nearly 2000 years is problematic, certainly no less problematic than a PETA representative stating that they personally think that killing baby seals is just fine.  To assert that you can call yourself something without actually believing or following what you call yourself either demonstrates you to be intellectually dishonest or empties what you believe or follow of any and all value.

Finally, this essay does a good job of stating some of what I’ve summarized above.  If the Bible is lying about the Virgin birth, what else might it be lying about?  Removing the Virgin birth does not make belief in Jesus as a source of hope and joy and promise any easier, it actually makes it more difficult.

I regularly talk with people who struggle to come to grips with the miraculous elements of Scripture.  I don’t denigrate them because they’re honestly searching.  But what I explain is this – we have been trained and educated to think that miraculous and supernatural are both impossible terms.  We have been taught that we live in an impermeable snow globe, a closed system where everything and anything that happens can and ultimately will be explainable.  The means for this is science.  If you’re going to have faith, have faith in science.  Science may not have the answers today, but have faith that science *will* have the answers someday.

This philosophy requires faith – the faith that says there cannot be a God, cannot be a power greater than ourselves who is capable and interested in working within creation in ways that are exceptional and inexplicable by science and logic.  I admire such faith, because it means that the person should be just as able to have faith in God and the miraculous.  But they don’t (yet).  So I encourage them to consider that.  How is it that you can have faith that everything that ever has happened must have a naturalistic explanation, and anything that defies such explanations – Virgin births, Resurrections, miraculous healings – must be an example of bad data?  The only way you could make such a categorical statement would be to possess an absolutely perfect and all-inclusive knowledge of everything that has ever happened.  Only then can you rule out the divine, the miraculous.  Of course, we can’t do this.  Science can’t do this.  Science deals in samples, and is unable to collect a perfectly comprehensive set of data and observations of every moment in all of existence.

I understand that much of what the Bible says is difficult to believe, and impossible to reconcile with the secular, scientific insistence on the absolute impossibility of miracles.  I would point out all the other areas in which Biblical statements have been validated – about people and places and events.  I find it interesting that a book that proves to be so accurate in so many non-theological areas should be dismissed entirely whenever it says anything about a Divine.

So yes, the Virgin birth is miraculous and hard to believe.  If it were easy to believe, if it happened all the time, it wouldn’t be a big deal.  And if it didn’t happen at all, what assurance do I have that the Resurrection happened?  And if the Resurrection didn’t happen, I don’t actually have the Christian faith, regardless of how I’d like to think that I do.  What I have is something else.  Something stripped of all the power and beauty and purpose and promise of Christianity.

Hardly something worth celebrating.


5 Responses to “This Just In…”

  1. Steven Hoyt Says:


    • mrpaulnelson Says:

      Hey stranger – how have you been? Merry Christmas!

      • Steven Hoyt Says:

        merry christmas.

        as to any of that mattering, i don’t see how. but if we use jewish symbols, mary (sophia, wisdom, young woman) collaborates with god who works in and through her, and jesus (logos, purpose, meaning, the point of humanity in total) is the result. christ in us is grace through faith (our draw to the active presence of god in the world) when we participate with god, just as mary did.

        now, is there anything important about yet one more demigod born or a virgin? no. not that i can see. believe whatever you’d like though.

        may christ find room in your manger this season as well.

        cheers, mate.

      • mrpaulnelson Says:

        The funny thing about the Biblical God is how often He *doesn’t* use symbols, but rather actual people and things. Mary isn’t a symbol, but a person. God is the God of creation – mud and koala bears, stars and young girls and you and I.

        And that’s the problem. There’s never enough room in my manger for Christ. I have to be killed and made alive again in order for there to be room. Every day. Through the grace of baptism in the one who came as a baby, rather than a concept. Cheers to you as well!

      • Steven Hoyt Says:

        paul, that’s non sequitur. men wrote the scriptures, jews. and no jew read matthew and luke literally; mark didn’t even have any inkling about a virgin birth or care about a resurrection because he wrote of neither. from the inception of the hebrew bible until around 1,000 years after the death of christ, midrash is how jews and christians read scripture. lectio divina followed. none of the NT was scripture anyway when the birth narratives were written. matthew and luke tell two very different stories and ALL jewish writings up through that point were midrash, historical narrative, homiletical, and so on …

        but i digress. no one can make you reason or study. i’m not interested in changing your mind.

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