Do You Believe in the Virgin Birth?
The British weekly magazine The Spectator asked a number of notable people if they believed in the Virgin Birth. The answers tended to fall into three categories:
Yes, I do believe it and here’s why.
No, I don’t believe it and here’s why.
I’m not sure or it doesn’t really matter.
After reading the responses a few thoughts came to mind:
1) The Bible itself is perfectly clear that Jesus was born of a virgin. You can reject what the Bible says by some sort of source criticism or by dismissing it all as legend and embellishment, but you can’t successfully argue that the Bible doesn’t teach the Virgin Birth.
2) No one really knows how it happened. The Bible describes the conception itself using picturesque imagery. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). It is a pure miracle that we cannot explain or reproduce.
3) The truth of the Virgin Birth cannot be separated from the rest of the biblical testimony regarding Jesus Christ. Ann Widdecombe does an admirable job of capturing this truth in just two sentences:
"If Christ was also God, then he cannot have been born purely of humans, so his incarnation as a man must have been via a virgin. Thus I see no reason to doubt the testimony of scripture that Jesus was not the son of Joseph, but of God."
4) We don’t need to spend time trying to “prove” the Virgin Birth. We would be wiser to simply explain why this truth matters so much–and why Christians generally have always believed it. Certain truths flow one from the other. Is there a God? Has he entered the human race and become one with us? If he came by way of the Incarnation, should the Virgin Birth surprise us? No. If you accept John 1:14 as your starting point, then the miraculous conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb–while mysterious to us–should not pose a problem for faith.
5) The Virgin Birth helps us understand who Jesus was–the God-man. As a man, he was born of a woman. As God, he was born of a virgin. Michael Holman offers a succinct statement of the historic Christian viewpoint:
"If we do not believe in the Virgin Birth, we deny the very divinity of Christ, relegating him to simply a great human being, but not the Son of God. But I believe that Jesus Christ is truly God, and truly man; that his Incarnation was through the divine intervention of the Holy Spirit; that God himself is his Father; and that his mother, Mary, was a woman. The Virgin Birth is, therefore, a core Christian belief, and is a doctrine in which I firmly believe."
6) The Virgin Birth challenges us to believe what we cannot explain or fully understand. We need not shy away from that reality. I personally would not care to worship a God whose ways I can fully explain. It is enough to know that Jesus entered and exited this world through extraordinary miracles (the virgin birth, the resurrection, the ascension). Those amazing events are exactly what we would expect if God became a man. We wouldn’t predict them in advance, but looking back we would say, “Yes, it had to happen that way.” The Virgin Birth doesn’t “prove” the deity of Christ, but it does illustrate it and is perfectly consistent with it. Iain Duncan Smith says it very well:
"This secular society prides itself that all its decisions will be based on logic, tempered by experience and underscored by scientific evidence. On that basis the Virgin Birth is physiologically impossible. And yet, the whole point about a deity is that logic has nothing to do with it and if you believe in God, as I do, the impossible becomes possible. As Jesus was the Son of God his birth was special. And as the Son of God sired by the deity, then the Virgin Birth is not only possible but unique and credible."
7) While others may choose not to believe, Christians rightly celebrate the great miracle that brought God’s Son to the earth. Far from being incidental, the Virgin Birth helps us answer the question, “What child is this?” His conception was miraculous because he was God. His birth was like any other birth because he was man. As I ponder this paradox (God becoming man while not ceasing to be God) I am reminded of the famous remark regarding the Trinity, “If you try to explain it, you will lose your mind. If you deny it, you will lose you soul.” Something like that applies to the Virgin Birth also. Which leads me to my favorite answer, the one given by historian Paul Johnson:
"The Incarnation is the most delightful, human, visually beautiful and delicate of all Christian beliefs. The idea of God’s son coming to earth in the womb of a virgin, and being born in a manger, is beyond the power of any mortal imagination to invent and is so obviously true that anyone who denies it must have the feelings of a brute."
Some don’t believe it, others think it doesn’t matter, but I am happy to join with Christians around the world in saying, “I do believe in the Virgin Birth, it does matter, and I gladly worship Him who was ‘conceived of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.’”