The Virgin Birth


The Virgin Birth

The reason I have emphasized this is that I need to stop for a bit and just talk a bit about the virgin birth and why its caused so much trouble in the history of church, and whether it is worth the battle. At the beginning of the last century there were a lot of debates going on about the virgin birth, and it was often held up as one of the prime examples of not being able to believe your Bible, since virgins don’t have children. It was laughed at a lot.

This comes down to the issue of presuppositions. Presuppositions are those unprovable assumptions that we all make, and we use these unprovable assumptions as a basis for other decisions that we make. Everybody has them, we all use them. One of the basic presuppositions that all people have to come to terms with is whether there is such a thing as a supernatural. In all the debate about the virgin birth the real issue was the debate about whether there can be something that is supernatural. That was the real debate.

Differing Positions on the Supernatural

There are two positions that people take on the supernatural. First, some people believe in the closed system. There are different names for it; one is materialists. That doesn’t mean they like to amass a lot of material goods, it means they only believe in the material world. There are different names for it, but there are many people who believe in what’s called a closed system. What that means is that any effect that you see, anything that is caused, will be caused by something which itself is within this closed system. Anything that happens, that you can see (that’s the effect), is caused by something else that you can see. It’s a closed system in that all causes and all effects exist within an observable system. So if someone appears to have died and comes back to life, that’s the effect. The cause for that has to be something like a doctor, or the body’s amazing regenerative powers. The effect and the cause have to be together.

The best example I know of this is panspermia; have you been following this at all? That’s a real word; I didn’t make it up. One of the two men that discovered the double helix that unlocked the DNA code and got a Nobel prize for it, is a devout atheist. He came to the conclusion that evolution is impossible because there simply are not the chemicals present in this globe to create DNA. He said it is mathematically and scientifically impossible. Creation is the effect, so where does he go for a cause? Because he is an atheist, he can’t go outside of the real world that he believe is a closed system, so he believes that aliens populated the earth. Of course, he is being consistent, but his presuppositions are that there is closed system; there are no causes outside of this world that we could experience. Since it’s impossible for DNA to be produced in the evolutionary myth, obviously aliens started the human race. That is the closed system. It is important to understand this as you talk to people and relate to people. If there is an effect, if something happens, what caused it is still within the observable reality.

The opposite is obviously an open system. And the open system is a presuppositionalist that believes in the existence of the supernatural—that there can be a cause who is outside of creation, we call him God, and he can come into creation and come into history and do whatever he so chooses. One of the most famous examples was given by C. S. Lewis. I don’t remember the details, but it was a fish bowl with a couple of fish in it, and they thought that the fish bowl was their whole world. They believed in a closed system. They understood the water and the rocks so they had a handle on everything. One day a little boy walked by and threw something into the fish bowl and they couldn’t handle it. Because here was a rock or something, an effect, and they couldn’t explain where it came from, so they probably just ignored it.

Those are the closed and open systems, and as you deal with people on the supernatural, please realize that they have made a basic presupposition decision. They either believe the universe reality is open or it’s closed. Let me give you just a couple of conclusions on this whole thing. (1) Both require faith. I think that’s the most helpful way to talk to someone who believes in a closed system. “I don’t believe in God. For every effect there is a natural cause.” You say, “Prove it,” and they can’t because all presuppositions are faith based. So they are going to have to believe that there is nothing outside of the observable reality. They can’t prove it. I mean it’s absolutely impossible, and that probably is a helpful way to talk with them. The way I like to do it is not always helpful, but I just say “I don’t have enough faith to believe in a closed system.” When I see what’s going on in the world, I don’t have enough faith to believe that there is not a God. I think that atheism is a phenomenally faith based system and I don’t have that much faith. If you ever get in discussions, all people’s basic philosophical, religious assumptions require faith, none of them are provable.

Second, all the questions between closed and open is about which best explains reality. Like I said, you can’t prove God, you can’t prove Jesus died for your sins, but on the other hand in order to become a Christian, you don’t have to put your brain on the shelf. Christianity makes sense. I don’t believe it because it makes sense, but I’m thankful that it does make sense. Which system, closed or open explains the presence of good and evil? How do you explain the presence of good and evil in reality? How to you explain that people who do these amazingly sacrificial acts to help one another, but on the other hand there are always about thirty wars going on somewhere in the world? Vicious genocide in at least someplace is always going on. How do you explain the existence of meaning in life? How do you explain the that fact that there is something in the open system, in God, where our longing for our sense of purpose and fulfillment is found not within reality, but outside of reality in God? How do explain people’s sense of reality? I’m doing a bit on arguments for the existence of God. How do you explain the mere fact of existence? How do you explain the apparent design there is in all creation? Evolution by definition is destructive, not constructive, and yet everywhere you look in creation there is design. So there is a whole list of those kinds of questions that you can go through, but the question is, of a closed system and an open system, which one best explains reality? I obviously think that an open system does.

The Importance of Believing the Virgin Birth

Let’s get back to the virgin birth, and ask the question, is believing in the virgin birth really important? Is this one of those things you should believe, or is it a secondary thing? At the beginning of the last century, it was attacked by liberals; the evangelical churches’ reaction was to make a list of fundamentals—basic fundamental doctrines that all Christians must believe—and the virgin birth was one of them. Tet the liberals and the secularists would look at that and say, “that thing doesn’t happen, miracles are not believable.” You can even see this in the RSV translation and this was probably the one translation that caused the RSV the more grief than anything else when they translated Isaiah 7:14 “and a young woman shall conceive and bear a child.” And there are probably several things that went into that translation, but one was a question of the possibility of the miraculous.

I think this is important this is not a secondary doctrine. Matthew and Luke make a big deal about it; there has got be a reason for that. As you go through the history of the church, the creeds made a big deal of the virgin birth—the apostle’s creed for example. Our own creed, our own statement of faith that we use, likewise makes a big deal out of it. I think it is important, so the question is, why? What is the significance of the virgin birth?

Let me give you at least three reasons why it is important to believe in the virgin birth. First is that the Bible says miracles happen. The virgin birth is an example of a miracle, it is an example of a supernatural event, of a cause being outside of the circle of the effect. Why pick on this miracle? There are many in Scripture. As my mom likes to say, can God not do what a man can do? Now the Bible says that miracles happen and this is a miracle that is important. The Bible says they can happen.

Second, and this is related, but it’s a little different, it’s related to truthfulness. The Bible says that the birth of Jesus was a miracle, so if you don’t believe in the virgin birth then the Bible is no longer truthful. If somebody has trouble believing in the virgin birth, what they are having trouble with is the believability and the truthfulness of the Bible, and so you want to be very careful about that.

Third, and I think most importantly, the significance of the virgin birth lies in what we call Christology. Christology is our understanding of who Jesus is, the study of Christ. The birth narratives base a lot of their teaching of Christology, and who Jesus is on the fact that he did not have an earthly father. So you have some very important teachings. For example, is Jesus the Son of God? I mean if he is the son of Joseph than he can’t be the Son of God (that would be how the argument would go). How can Jesus sit on David’s throne forever, if he is merely a human being? How can a human being save us from our sins? If Jesus had an earthly mother and father, then how can Jesus be God with us? And so you can go through the things you learn about Jesus that the angels tell Joseph and Mary, and you realize that it is very important theologically that we believe in the virgin birth, because then he is the son of God and he is not just a human being.

I think that while all those reasons are important, but I think the third reason is most important. If you don’t believe in the virgin birth you’ve lost a lot of Christology, a lot of who Jesus is. These are great passages to go to if you are talking to someone and you are trying to explain who Jesus is. Say “Let’s go see what the angels said.” It’s neat that a lot of people still know the Christmas carols and they know the stories, and this would be an interesting place to take someone to say, “This is who the Bible says Jesus is,” and you are in passage that’s familiar.

Student Question: Without the virgin birth we are dead in our sins and we will never be forgiven.

Response: Yes, that’s why it is so important. Jesus is the Son of God; he is God with us. Because he is the Son of God, he can save us from our sins, that the meaning of the word “Jesus.” If he is not the Son of God, then all of that goes away because humans can’t save humans.








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