Skip to comments.Must We Believe in the Virgin Birth?
Posted on 12/19/2011 4:02:26 PM PST by rhema
In one of his columns for The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof once pointed to belief in the Virgin Birth as evidence that conservative Christians are less intellectual. Are we saddled with an untenable doctrine? Is belief in the Virgin Birth really necessary?
Kristof is absolutely aghast that so many Americans believe in the Virgin Birth. The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time, he explains, and the percentage of Americans who believe in the Virgin Birth actually rose five points in the latest poll. Yikes! Is this evidence of secular backsliding?
The Virgin Mary is an interesting prism through which to examine Americas emphasis on faith, Kristof argues, because most Biblical scholars regard the evidence for the Virgin Birth as so shaky that it pretty much has to be a leap of faith. Heres a little hint: Anytime you hear a claim about what most Biblical scholars believe, check on just who these illustrious scholars really are. In Kristofs case, he is only concerned about liberal scholars like Hans Kung, whose credentials as a Catholic theologian were revoked by the Vatican.
The list of what Hans Kung does not believe would fill a book [just look at his books!], and citing him as an authority in this area betrays Kristofs determination to stack the evidence, or his utter ignorance that many theologians and biblical scholars vehemently disagree with Kung. Kung is the anti-Catholics favorite Catholic, and that is the real reason he is so loved by the liberal media.
Kristof also cites the great Yale historian and theologian Jaroslav Pelikan as an authority against the Virgin Birth, but this is both unfair and untenable. In Mary Through the Centuries, Pelikan does not reject the Virgin Birth, but does trace the development of the doctrine.
What are we to do with the Virgin Birth? The doctrine was among the first to be questioned and then rejected after the rise of historical criticism and the undermining of biblical authority that inevitably followed. Critics claimed that since the doctrine is taught in only two of the four Gospels, it must be elective. The Apostle Paul, they argued, did not mention it in his sermons in Acts, so he must not have believed it. Besides, the liberal critics argued, the doctrine is just so supernatural. Modern heretics like retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong argue that the doctrine was just evidence of the early churchs over-claiming of Christs deity. It is, Spong tells us, the entrance myth to go with the resurrection, the exit myth. If only Spong were a myth.
Now, even some revisionist evangelicals claim that belief in the Virgin Birth is unnecessary. The meaning of the miracle is enduring, they argue, but the historical truth of the doctrine is not really important.
Must one believe in the Virgin Birth to be a Christian? This is not a hard question to answer. It is conceivable that someone might come to Christ and trust Christ as Savior without yet learning that the Bible teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. A new believer is not yet aware of the full structure of Christian truth. The real question is this: Can a Christian, once aware of the Bibles teaching, reject the Virgin Birth? The answer must be no.
Nicholas Kristof pointed to his grandfather as a devout Presbyterian elder who believed that the Virgin Birth is a pious legend. Follow his example, Kristof encourages, and join the modern age. But we must face the hard fact that Kristofs grandfather denied the faith. This is a very strange and perverse definition of devout.
Matthew tells us that before Mary and Joseph came together, Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. [Matthew 1:18] This, Matthew explains, fulfilled what Isaiah promised: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means God with Us. [Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14]
Luke provides even greater detail, revealing that Mary was visited by an angel who explained that she, though a virgin, would bear the divine child: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child shall be called the Son of God. [Luke 1:35]
Even if the Virgin Birth was taught by only one biblical passage, that would be sufficient to obligate all Christians to the belief. We have no right to weigh the relative truthfulness of biblical teachings by their repetition in Scripture. We cannot claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God and then turn around and cast suspicion on its teaching.
Millard Erickson states this well: If we do not hold to the virgin birth despite the fact that the Bible asserts it, then we have compromised the authority of the Bible and there is in principle no reason why we should hold to its other teachings. Thus, rejecting the virgin birth has implications reaching far beyond the doctrine itself.
Implications, indeed. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, who was His father? There is no answer that will leave the Gospel intact. The Virgin Birth explains how Christ could be both God and man, how He was without sin, and that the entire work of salvation is Gods gracious act. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, He had a human father. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, the Bible teaches a lie.
Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of evangelical theologians, argued that the Virgin Birth is the essential, historical indication of the Incarnation, bearing not only an analogy to the divine and human natures of the Incarnate, but also bringing out the nature, purpose, and bearing of this work of God to salvation. Well said, and well believed.
Nicholas Kristof and his secularist friends may find belief in the Virgin Birth to be evidence of intellectual backwardness among American Christians. But this is the faith of the Church, established in Gods perfect Word, and cherished by the true Church throughout the ages. Kristofs grandfather, we are told, believed that the Virgin Birth is a pious legend. The fact that he could hold such beliefs and serve as an elder in his church is evidence of that churchs doctrinal and spiritual laxity or worse. Those who deny the Virgin Birth affirm other doctrines only by force of whim, for they have already surrendered the authority of Scripture. They have undermined Christs nature and nullified the incarnation.
This much we know: All those who find salvation will be saved by the atoning work of Jesus the Christ the virgin-born Savior. Anything less than this is just not Christianity, whatever it may call itself. A true Christian will not deny the Virgin Birth.
JA, the Book of Matthew is not solely a Protestant book. It's a part of the four Gospels. Catholics use it, just as Eastern Orthodox and everyone else. It's Holy Scripture and has been accepted since the beginning.
Your rejection of it is telling.
Father..son. These are not esoteric terms and their meaning would be clear to anyone hearing Jesus words. A father begets his son and Jesus is so described, only begotten, thus created and called the firstborn of all creation.
i appreciate you sharing your belief, even if I do disagree with it
See the post above.
For that matter, Uri's disagreement with the Trinity is also his point of opinion.
AH, the KJV is DEFINITELY a protestant book. ‘Sorry for your ignorance. Catholics use it? For what? Not mass.
wow -- talking about jumping to conclusions.
Now that I am clear on what common grounds are shared with Uri and with cyc respectively we can have a civil debate.
i disagree with cyc on the creature/uncreated nature of Christ, but he is arguing it from his point of view.
i disagree with Uri that he disbelieves the Trinity, but he is arguing from his point of view too
I cannot debate with both at the same time about the Trinity because they both have utterly different ways of seeing it -- with uri one can debate "we both believe in Christ's divinity, but not exactly how that fits in with the Father and the Holy Spirit" -- we can share and learn
with cyc it is a more basic difference, but it would not make sense to make the same debate with cyc as with uri because a person who believes that Christ is created could say "whooa, why are you wasting my time arguing if God is modal or not when I disagree with the original premise"
I will point out that the Gospel of Matthew begins with "Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob.... Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ -- note it does not say the Jesus was begotten by Joseph. What we do know is as we read in John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and [a]dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of [b]the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. -- since "through Him all things were made" -- it stands to reason that He did not make Himself -- All things were made through Him, clearly indicating that He, Jesus Christ was not a created being.
You asked my opinion. When it comes to matters of a spiritual nature I try...try ...to let the Scriptures form my opinions or conform my opinions.
And if you say that’s just my opinion..well, that’s true and I’ll keep working on my opinions.
Yes JA, the KJV is an English version of the Bible based upon the Latin Vulgate. So yes, if you're using the Vulgate for Mass and I'm using the KJV, we're seeing the same text but in a different language.
If it makes you feel any better, how about I show you the same text from the Vulgate?
Mat 6:14-15 VUL -  si enim dimiseritis hominibus peccata eorum dimittet et vobis Pater vester caelestis delicta vestra  si autem non dimiseritis hominibus nec Pater vester dimittet peccata vestra
Happy now? The meaning of the verse is still the same.
Civil, if spirited debates are possible even among those with wide disagreements. I have enjoyed it but I have to leave for a bit.
If you wish to continue later, I will gladly.
If you want me to call it opinions or beliefs or xxx, whatever we are actually discussing a fundamental difference and this is giving me opportunity to learn more about my own faith while debating with you.
well, I believe it is possible if we know where the other is coming from — it lays the foundation maybe not for agreement but for understand where the other’s beliefs lie. I apologize for bringing up the bit about blood transfusion etc. — your faith choices are your own.
>>>>>Yes JA, the KJV is an English version of the Bible based upon the Latin Vulgate. So yes, if you’re using the Vulgate for Mass and I’m using the KJV, we’re seeing the same text but in a different language.
Anyway, I’m sick of prot4etants using THEIR truncated Bibles to prove what wonderful Christians they are. Run along, sonny. I have better things to do than read your phony pious sermons. You can quit preaching and start practicing. I’ll be watching.
The KJV used the Robertus Stephanus Latin Vulgate, along with Theodore Beza's translation of the Greek and the Textus Receptus, among others.
Here, then put this in your pipe and smoke it.....
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences, But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.
Go for it.
It’s not the Protestant Bible quoted.
Did you not recognize that?
Paul often left out parenthetical statements that were understood by the listener as when he uses the word “panta” or “all” when he describes Christ as the creative agent saying, (see footnote on this verse in the NAB)
“..all things were created through him and for him”.
In 1 Cor. 15:26,27 Paul chooses to explain that his use of “all” has some exceptions so he as an aside notes them.
In Col. he doesn't explain what would obvious, that creation was “dia”, through Christ as an agent.
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