Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is The Virgin Birth Important?

Christmas is over (in the commercialized holiday sense at least) and it was a good one for me and my family.

As far as the "war on Christmas" goes... I'm not sure whether or not a winner was declared. Was Christ kept in Christmas or not? Who knows... I guess for now the battles have ceased and we can move on to other, just as important battles, such as Easter and presidents day.

One thing I didn't touch on but did see a lot of conversation about this year was the virgin birth. Of course, the virgin birth is one of those staple beliefs for many Christians. And many will probably be upset that i'm even bringing this up,even though my intent is neither to affirm or deny such a birth

But I've heard many say that belief in a virgin birth is necessary for salvation and crucial to obtaining a ticket to "glory land" (that's southern baptist talk for heaven by the way).

Just look at how Rob Bell was treated several years ago (back when conservatives still considered him a Christian) for even suggesting that one could possibly think about questioning the virgin birth in his book "Velvet Elvis"...

What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?

But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word “virgin” in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word “virgin” could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?"
- "Velvet Elvis" pg 26

Even though he goes on to affirm the virgin birth on the very next page, many critics wrote Rob off as a heretic... And this was long before he suggested the possibly that God may love everyone who has ever lived.

I am not denying (nor affirming) the virgin birth here, but I find it odd that it has become one of the non-negotiable beliefs for so many.

Here are just a few reasons why the virgin birth could have such a place of priority for some.

A "literal view" of scripture. The bible says it so I believe it. But for most, so called "literalist", their literalism only applies to certain abstract beliefs and is thrown out the window when it comes to the teachings of Jesus. (like loving our enemies and giving to those that ask).

The strict belief in "original sin" and the understanding that Adam's sin is passed down through the male seed. Therefore, if Jesus was born of an earthly father, he too would be infected with the disease. This was a very popular belief in and around the first century. Therefore, a virgin birth is crucial to the gospel (aka salvation from hell).

However, I find it strange that such an important and necessary occurrence is only mentioned in two of the four gospels. What were Mark (the earliest gospel) and John (the latest gospel) thinking? Not to mention Paul never brings up the virgin birth one time.

And then there are the accounts we do have which occur in Matthew and Luke, and are very different from one another. One version mentions a miraculous star that appears as a guide, wise men (or kings) bearing gifts, and an "exodus like" genocide ordered by the king In an attempt to kill baby Jesus forcing the Joseph family to flee to Egypt for safety, while the other gospel mentions shepherds and angels but nothing about a star, athreat to Jesus' life, or a retreat to Egypt for that matter. There are several other significant differences as well.

So my question... Do you think a belief in the virgin birth is necessary or important, and if so, what about those who only had either Mark's account of the gospel or John's version, neither mentioning anything about a virgin birth?


JustinGaynor said...

I think any time God fulfills a promise it's important...whether it's 'literal', 'figurative', 'abstract'or 'concrete'...or some beautiful array of all those dimensions, it is to His glory that it is shows him faithful and loving.

neal said...

I heard a comment on that evil network, NPR the other day that is worth repeating. "I didn't begin to grow in faith until I stopped asking 'How is this true?' of the scriptures and started asking 'What does this mean?'"

"Reading literally" does mean "taking literally".

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