A response to: Eight things we gain when we lose the virgin birth
This article has sadly been shared multiple times recently, and I would like to repost some of the reasons I find it a great shame.
1. "We can accept the humanity of the Bible"
I confess I don’t truly know what is meant by the ‘humanity of the Bible’ but I fail to see how Jesus not being born of a virgin helps us in this regard unless by ‘humanity of the Bible’, he means that it is wrong about stuff. If that’s the case, I don’t see that as a gain...
The writer says “By moving beyond the traditional theology of the virgin birth, we can still affirm the Bible’s uniqueness and power as the Spirit-inspired word of God. But we can also relate to the Bible in a more human—and more meaningful—way.”
The ‘traditional theology’ comes from the express statement of fact in the Bible. Doctrines of Scripture and Virgin conception are unrelated except that to deny the latter bins the former.
2. We Can Embrace Science as a Source for Theology
It already is - what the writer means is that the laws of nature should be consistently applied to the supernatural, which is a simple category error. Were he an atheist who denied belief in the supernatural, this argument would hold more sway - but he BELIEVES in God, but thinks that God abides entirely within mortal boundaries. Odd.
The writer says “If we take science seriously, it’s difficult to accept a virginal conception as the mechanism for the incarnation.”
See, if only he’d stopped the sentence midway through - if we take science seriously, it’s difficult to accept a virginal conception’ - true story bro. But ‘as the mechanism for the incarnation’? What is the going scientific mechanism for God to become Man?
3. We Can Affirm the Goodness of Creation and Sexuality
Preach! But why can we not do this already?
I must be fair - this is an error in reaction to an error. Christians have consistently referred to the ‘Virgin Mary’ as if a) virginity is a virtue and b) as if she remained a virgin. She married and had other children - we can’t be ascetic or gnostic about physical sexuality - but if anything attacks asceticism or Gnosticism, surely it’s the incarnation - we’ve already fought and won this battle pal!
The virgin birth is evidence not of Mary’s purity but of Jesus’s - he is not a ‘Son of Adam’ - we’ll get to that.
The writer says “...a human conception of Jesus affirms the goodness of humanity as part of God’s creation. The Son of God entered our world completely and unashamedly. He entered our humanity as one of us—not bypassing the evolution of our species, but joining the evolutionary line; sharing our body, our blood, our DNA.”
Two things here - Firstly, humanity was made good and fell. Jesus came to redeem humanity which was made ‘very good’ and in God’s likeness. Jesus came to resit for the portrait, as it were. Surely being born of human woman and into human flesh but by divine means adequately fits into this reality?
Secondly, and more crucially, ‘joining the evolutionary line’. Oh dear, no no no. We don’t want Jesus to be joining our line - Paul is clear on this in Romans: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all sinned” and more positively in 1 Corinthians “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
4. God Empathizes with Our Condition and Transforms It
I can’t even... but... I thought...
Sorry. Let me start again.
This is literally the point - how can he empathise without being made human? And how can he transform without being God? It’s almost like it is vital for him to be both God and man.
The writer says “A human conception testifies that God did not stand apart from our world or aloof from our human experience, but entered it fully in Jesus of Nazareth”
This is neither here nor there, but he didn’t ‘enter’ the world as Jesus of Nazareth - he was ‘of Nazareth’ a wee bit later (i.e. when he was coming from Nazareth... not Bethlehem - e.g. Mark 1:9)
Far more importantly when the author previously believed in the virgin conception of Jesus did he think that the Creator of heaven and earth, eternal Son of the Father, came down to earth, born in utter poverty, hunted, sent on the run as an infant refugee etc. etc.... was being ALOOF because Mary hadn’t had sex!?! I'm afraid that I find it very hard to believe you thought that.
5. A Better Way to Be Human
I don’t know what this means.
The writer says “A human conception means that the Jesus who showed us a better way, and who calls us to that better way, was also like us in every way.”
Oh I see what you meant. He wasn’t like us in every way. He didn’t come to show us that we can be as good as him. We will believe nonsense like that on our own (consider yourself, dear writer, a case in point). He came because we couldn’t be as good as him. Because we cover ourselves in guilt... so he came in his perfection and took that guilt away from us... that’s the actual gospel.
6. A more human Mary
Another error in response to error. Mary has been treated as semi-divine by Christians across the centuries. At one point the very popular logic was that someone sinful couldn’t have borne someone sinless. I guess Mary’s mother Anne was also sinless then. As was Anne’s mum. As was Eve.
Nonetheless, the virgin conception doesn’t make Mary less human... she’s completely human
The writer says “a human conception of Jesus inspires us to value Mary for more than her sexuality (or virginity) and her procreative capacity.”
Again, he gives a clearer insight to his own thoughts than I think he intends. Before he ditched the virgin conception did he value Mary purely for her sexuality and procreative capacity!? My goodness!
Also, how does the regular conception of Jesus change this - the insistence that she wasn’t a virgin seems more to do with her sexuality and her ‘procreative capacity’ (pompous phrase) is identical in each scenario...
7. A better Christianity
I didn’t know Christianity was lacking, but I’ll be surprised if the thing it was lacking was that Mary and Joseph bore Jesus by natural means...
The writer says “When Christians are given permission to question inherited beliefs like the virgin birth, this can open them up to a more ambiguous and complex, but also more mature faith.”
...Because the virginal conception of Jesus is LACKING in complexity!? And to say that Jesus had a natural birth ADDS complexity!? I can see that this writer has motive to laud ambiguity, for no one exhibits that virtue more than he... but I’m not sold that this is the way forward.
Fishing for truth in the stormy puddles of your own human mind rather than the calm oceans of Scripture is anything but mature and sensible - it is sheer arrogance & folly.
8. A more human Gospel
The word human has been used to mean several odd things in this article so we’ll go straight to a quote without presuming to understand
“A virginal conception undermines a deep and consistent theology of the incarnation—the very basis of the gospel. If Jesus was fully human like you and me, his life began like yours and mine, via human conception. At the heart of it all, the point isn’t to modernize the gospel, but to bring it back—to a more human origin.”
This is upsetting in a number of ways - it is patronising to suggest that 2000 years of theology have been inconsistent in their understanding of the incarnation, but we must allow for questions. However, to make such a bold claim and then say that the most consistent way for God to become man (the incarnation) was for it just to be man being born is insanity. It is the opposite of consistency - it defines itself against being an Incarnation - just another person born.
“Did God really say” always leads to “You will not surely die”. That is, when teachers question the authority of the Bible, they will, if they don’t turn away from that, then say that there are no consequences to sin.
Velvet Elvis denied the necessity of the virgin birth in the opening pages, but we didn’t pay attention until Love Wins.
When you throw away the Virgin Birth, you throw away more than you know. God has spoken, and I am profoundly grateful for it.
And, just as a wee aside - don’t quibble over virgin births or other miracles if you assent to the resurrection - the most unbelievable and significant of all miracles. Lewis calls this “straining at gnats and swallowing camels”.
These things have been written for a purpose, but that purpose was to show that Jesus was who he said he was... one of those things was the Truth. If the Bible lies about the incarnation then throw the whole thing in the bin - it is useless. If however, it tells the Truth... then unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, a Counsellor, so Wonderful, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.