Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Vital Truth of the Virgin Birth

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For many years there was no bigger name in journalism than Larry King. His talk show was a mainstay of CNN for over twenty-five years. But before the end of his illustrious career he was put in the hot seat for once and was interviewed about his time as media mogul.

The reporter interviewing Larry King asked him, “If you could interview anyone in history, who would it be and what would you ask them?” And with no hesitation, Larry King, this man who had interviewed nearly every noteworthy person of the late twentieth century, looked into the camera and said, “I would interview Jesus Christ and I would ask him if he was indeed born of a virgin because the answer to that question would define all of history.”[1]

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I think Mr. King has made an astute observation, because the virgin birth of Christ is essential not only to the Christian faith as presented in the Bible, but it is the line of demarcation by which we record history—B.C and A.D. If the Virgin Birth is true then our timeline is accurately divided by the entrance of the Son of God into humanity from eternity. And if Jesus is virgin born then that makes Him unique among all self-proclaimed prophets and religious leaders.  

The doctrines of Christianity are interconnected, like a line of dominoes, if one falls then so do the others. The Virgin Birth is one of those non-negotiable doctrines of the faith, for if we try to remove it, then the rest of doctrinal dominoes will begin tumbling down as well. Without the virgin birth then much of what we celebrate during the Christmas season would be lost.

Yet, this great doctrine has been attacked and maligned in recent times. First, skeptics deny it. Perhaps one of the first American’s to deny the virgin birth was our third president, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in 1823 to John Adams, “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus in the womb of the virgin, will be classed with the fables of Greek mythology."[2]

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In December 2004, both Newsweek and Time magazines featured the birth of Jesus on their covers. Newsweek’s cover story was entitled: “The Birth of Jesus – Faith and History: How the Story of Christmas Came to Be.” While Time’s cover proclaimed to unveil the “Secrets of the Nativity.” Both articles argued that much, if not all of the story, of the birth of Jesus was an invention of the early Church rather than an accurate chronicle of what really happened.

One of the reasons why skeptics deny the Virgin Birth is because they have anti-supernatural bias. In other words, their worldview of naturalism is allergic to the idea of miracles. However, if God exists then miracles are not only possible, but actual. If an all-powerful God does exist, Who spoke all creation into existence, then a virgin birth would be mere doodling.

In his book, Miracles, C.S. Lewis diffused the objection that is commonly raised by skeptics who say that the virgin birth might have been believable back then, but not today:
            “Thus you will hear people say, ‘The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility.’ Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the course of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it. A moment’s thought shows this to be foolish, with the story of the virgin birth as a particularly striking example. When Joseph discovered that his fiancĂ©e was going to have a baby, he first decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men.
No doubt the modern knows several things about birth and begetting which Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point—that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And Joseph obviously knew that . . . Belief in miracles, far from depending on ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible insofar as they are known.”[3]  

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Lewis is stating that it’s wrong to say that miracles like the virgin birth made sense to ancient people because they didn’t have all the medical and scientific knowledge we have today. A miracle in the 1st century was just as awe-inspiring and perplexing as it is in the 21st century. 

Can you disbelieve in the virgin birth and be a Christian? Well, you cannot fully understand the virgin birth and still be a Christian, but you cannot deny the virgin birth and still be Christian. 

Second, liberals discredit it. One of the most popular objections today concerning to the virgin birth is that Christianity actually borrowed the idea from pagan religions and Greek mythology.

This was a major theme in Dan Brown’s wildly successful The Da Vinci Code which claimed that, “Nothing in Christianity is original, everything of importance in Christianity from communion, to Jesus’ birthday, to the deity of Christ and the virgin birth, to Sunday worship was taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions.”[4]

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In other words, Matthew and Luke plagiarized the idea of the virgin birth from the ancient stories of Zeus and Hercules, massaged the details here and there and passed it off as a Christian counterfeit. For example, there was a myth told about Alexander the Great that he was supernaturally conceived when Zeus took on the form of a serpent and then seduced his mother, Olympia, resulting in a world-conquering son of the gods.

Lee Strobel thoroughly demolished this poppycock in his book The Case for the Real Jesus:
            “Some of the supposed parallels break down upon close examination. Greek mythologies are full of anthropomorphic gods who lust after human women, which is decidedly different from Jesus’ story. The mythological offspring are half gods and half men and their lives begin at conception, as opposed to Jesus, who is fully God and fully man and who is eternal but came into this world through the incarnation. Also the Gospels put Jesus in a historical context unlike many of the mythological gods. The argument of pagan derivation assumes too much in the way of parallelism and overlooks the radical differences.”[5]

Thirdly, cultists distort it. The truth is that Mormonism will never be Christianity, because, among other things, it denies the virgin birth of Christ. Mormons believe Mary and God the Father were united sexually and that Mary was married both to God, the Heavenly Father, and Joseph.

Ezra Benson, a former president of the Mormon Church wrote, “The body in which Jesus performed his mission in the flesh was sired by the union of Mary and the same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father.” Moreover, Brigham Young stated, “The man Joseph, the husband of Mary, did not have more than one wife, but Mary the wife of Joseph had another husband: God.”[6] 

The Virgin Birth According to the LDS Church 

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The idea that Jesus was conceived as a result of God and Mary having a one-night-stand is not only repugnant, but it makes Mary out to be polygamist (which apparently the Mormons don’t mind) and it contradicts the Biblical teaching that it was the Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary and created a human nature for the eternal Son of God (Luke 1:34-35).  

I hope you can understand the seriousness of these attacks. Sowing doubts about the reliability of God’s Word is one of Satan’s favorite pastimes. His typical strategy is to try to make some foundational element of a great truth appear insignificant, then ridicule it and call it into question. If he can get people to doubt or deny doctrine, then he can eventually destroy their faith and make them captives to lies. Here are 3 reasons for the centrality of the virgin birth.  

·         The doctrine is central to the Scripture’s authority
The virgin birth was foretold in the Old Testament (Is. 7:14) and fulfilled in the New Testament (Matt. 1:23). This is very important because, God predicted hundreds of years in advance that a Savior was coming and He gave His own people all the distinguishing features of Christ’s coming so they would not miss Him. God validated His word by sending His Son to earth exactly as He said He would by miraculously creating life in Mary’s womb. Fulfilled prophecy is an undeniable supernatural sign that the Bible is uniquely inspired by God and 100% trustworthy.  

·         The doctrine is central to the supernatural identity of Christ
Two essential components that were needed to ensure that Jesus was a qualified savior was that he had to be fully human and fully divine. There was only one way God could have met all of those requirements and that was thru the virgin birth. Consider the possibilities:   

If Jesus would have been born of an earthly father and mother then He would have been merely a man and the result would have been a fully human child that inherited the sin nature of his parents. Another sinner helps no one! In order be rescued you need a Savior who is not also in need of a rescue! The drowning don’t need doggy-paddlers, they need the Coast Guard! 

On the other hand, if Jesus would have descended from heaven bathed in ethereal light then He would have been God, but not man.  If Jesus would have come directly from heaven then he would have lacked a complete register of human emotions, human experiences, human pain, human joy, human suffering.  We would have been given a savior that we could not relate to. 

But God in his divine omniscience knew how to meet all the necessary conditions.  Because Jesus was not the flesh-and-blood  son of Joseph, Christ was able to preserve his full deity.  And the fact that Jesus was born of woman ensured that Jesus would obtain a full human nature.  Through the virgin birth we have Savior that can reach out and span the infinite gap between God and man.

·         The doctrine is central to the sinless purity of Christ
The Virgin Birth was God’s way of circumventing the sinful problem of humanity. How was God going to preserve the sinless nature of Jesus during that nine month incubation process while Mary was carrying the fetus of Jesus in her womb? Listen carefully, the following are the comments of Dr. M.R. DeHann a medical doctor turned Bible preacher from the 1950s.  In his book Chemistry of the Blood he explains:
“It is unnecessary that a single drop of blood be given to the developing embryo in the womb of the mother. Such is the case according to scientists.  The mother provides the fetus (the unborn developing infant) with the nutritive elements for the building of that little body in the secret of her womb, but all the blood which forms in it is formed inside the embryo itself.
From the time of conception to the time of the birth of the infant not one single drop of blood ever passes from mother to child. The placenta that mass of temporary tissue, better known as ‘afterbirth’, forming the link between mother and child is so constructed that although the soluble nutritive elements such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, salts, minerals and even antibodies pass freely from mother to child and the waste products of the child’s metabolism are passed back into the mother’s circulation. No actual interchange of a single drop of blood ever occurs normally.  All the blood which is in that child is produced in that child itself.  The mother contributes nothing.”[7]

How wonderfully God prepared for the Virgin Birth long ago when he designed the process of pregnancy at creation.  The foresight was there all along from the days of Eve. God provided a way whereby Jesus, would retain his deity, obtain a body human body and still be sinless, so that when Christ’s blood was shed on the cross redemption and payment for sin was made.           

[1] Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God (Nashville, TN: W Publishing, 1994), xviii. 
[2] Mark Beliles and Jerry Newcombe, Doubting Thomas: The Religious Life and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson (New York: Morgan James Publishing, 2015), 341. 
[3] C.S. Lewis, Miracles (San Francisco: Harper One, 1947), 73-75.
[4] Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code (New York: Double Day, 2003), 232.
[5] Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 179.
[6] John Ankerberg and John Weldon, What Do Mormon’s Really Believe (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2002), 81.
[7] M.R. DeHann, The Chemistry of the Blood (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1943), 31. 

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