Friday, December 9, 2016

How Important Is The Virgin Birth?

In a recent sermon, Andy Stanley began a new Christmas series where he said, "“If somebody can predict their own death and then their own resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world.” What he is saying is why should we be concerned with how Jesus came when, in fact, he did come and did what he said he would do.

The problem with that is Christians should be concerned with how Jesus came because the virgin birth of Christ is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. It is the fulfillment of God's promise of a Messiah ever since God told Eve that a seed would come from her to crush the serpent (Genesis 3:15). How important is the virgin birth? Kevin DeYoung recently wrote four reasons why the virgin is essential to Christianity:

First, the virgin birth is essential to Christianity because it has been essential to Christianity.

That may sound like weak reasoning, but only if we care nothing about the history and catholicity of the church. Granted, the church can get things wrong, sometimes even for a long time. But if Christians, of all stripes in all places, have professed belief in the virgin birth for two millennia, maybe we should be slow to discount it as inconsequential. In his definitive study of the virgin birth, J. Gresham Machen concluded that “there can be no doubt that at the close of the second century the virgin birth of Christ was regarded as an absolutely essential part of the Christian belief by the Christian church in all parts of the known world.” Perhaps, then, we should not be so hasty in dismissing the doctrine as a take-it-or-leave-it element of the Christian faith.

Second, the Gospel writers clearly believed that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived.

We don’t know precisely how the Christ-child came to be in Mary’s womb, except that the conception was “from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20). But we do know that Mary understood the miraculous nature of this conception, having asked the angel “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). The Gospels do not present the virgin birth as some prehistoric myth or pagan copycat, but as “an orderly account” of actual history from eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4). If the virgin birth is false, the historical reliability of the Gospels is seriously undermined.

Third, the virgin birth demonstrates that Jesus was truly human and truly divine.

How can the virgin birth be an inconsequential spring for our jumping when it establishes the identity of our Lord and Savior? If Jesus had not been born of a human, we could not believe in his full humanity. But if his birth were like any other human birth—through the union of a human father and mother—we would question his full divinity. The virgin birth is necessary to secure both a real human nature and also a completely divine nature.

Fourth, the virgin birth is essential because it means Jesus did not inherit the curse of depravity that clings to Adam’s race.

Jesus was made like us in every way except for sin (Heb. 4:15; 7:26-27). Every human father begets a son or daughter with his sin nature. We may not understand completely how this works, but this is the way of the world after the fall. Sinners beget sinners (Psalm 51:5). Always. So if Joseph was the real father of Jesus, or Mary had been sleeping around with Larry, Jesus is not spotless, not innocent, and not perfectly holy. And as result, we have no mediator, no imputation of Christ’s righteousness (because he has no righteousness to impute to us), and no salvation.

DeYoung concludes the post by asking the question, is the virgin birth essential to Christianity? The answer is yes. Now, do you need to believe in the virgin birth to be saved? No. The Bible says that "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Nowhere in scripture does it say you must believe in the virgin birth to be saved, however, this is an essential doctrine that Christians need to embrace once they are equipped with Biblical truth from a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church.

In his classic book on Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem gives us three reasons why the virgin birth is an important doctrine:

1. It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord. Just as God had promised that the "seed" of a woman (Gen. 3:15) would ultimately destroy the serpent, so God brought it about by his own power, not through human effort.

2. The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person.

3. The virgin birth also makes possible Christ's true humanity without inherited sin.

For a pastor to say that I am not concerned with how Jesus got here is to say that things God has written and promise in Scripture is no big deal. Stanley has already made the claim that history stands a better testament than the Bible when it comes to Jesus. History is not sufficient in regards to the claims of Christianity. The Bible says God promised that a virgin will give birth to a son and we see that promise fulfilled in the virgin birth of Christ.

1 comment:

  1. So, who was Andy addressing on this topic? Believers were the audience. He is teaching believers to dissuade them from believing in the importance of the virgin birth.
    “A lot of people don’t believe it, and I understand that,” Stanley said.
    He also said, “Maybe the thought is they had to come up with some kind of myth about the birth of Jesus to give him street cred later on. Maybe that’s where that came from.”
    Andy called it “interesting” that only two of the four gospels mention the virgin birth. “Matthew gives us a version of the birth of Christ,” he said. “Luke does, but Mark and John, they don’t even mention it. A lot has been made about that.”
    This idea to disclaim the virgin birth isn’t new. The Gnostics which Paul warned about taught that Jesus was not born of a virgin. Why? Well that would be contrary to the “cosmos”.
    Irenaeus says of Valentinian Gnostics "Already many offshoots of many heretical sects have been made from the ones we have mentioned, because many of these people, in fact all, wish to be teachers and to forsake the heresy in which they had been. They insist on teaching in a novel manner, composing from one teaching another tenet, and then another from that. They declare themselves inventors of any opinion which they may have patched together." -Irenaeus, Book 1, Chp, 28, 1 (p. 92-93).
    Gnosticism has led to offshoots of many heretical beliefs. Per one Gnostic belief, humans are divided into a three-level hierarchy. Those who have the special knowledge, the gnosis, were superior humans whose destinies were not connected to those humans who did not “know”. Those who were bound or influenced by material matter were doomed, and in between were those who didn’t yet have the gnosis or special knowledge but could still be saved by those who had that knowledge.
    Do you see where this eschatology leads? Those who have a “special knowledge” in our culture might call it a greater awareness; evolved spirituality; enlightened humanism. In some churches, they are calling it “Progressive Christianity” and teach this enlightened doctrine to those who do not have the “gnosis” or special knowledge and introduce heretical doctrines that they connect to each other until the former doctrines are declared to be out of touch with our evolved culture and enlightenment. Those of us who hold to the truth are viewed as old school or unintelligent, sad people who will be lost because we will not accept this higher knowledge. These modern-day Gnostics demonstrate a kind of authoritative arrogance even in the mere denial of accepted doctrine. The implications are enormous for what we hold to be the nature of Christ, if you think about it. So, those who do not think the denial of the virgin birth is important as a tenant of belief also, it would seem, are inescapably to follow, and are relinquishing a stance on the importance of Christ and his person, nature, and role. If not that, they are opening their understanding of Christ and all the aspects of Christ up to innovations just as the Gnostics felt at liberty to bring.
    It is absurd to say that denial of the virgin birth has no effect on Christology. If a virgin birth was not possible then it follows that a resurrection was impossible. If these tenants of faith are impossible then there is no God and everything we believe is nothing more than delusional.