I was at a debate this past weekend that featured Christopher Hitchens, and during the debate he made a big point of the notion that miracles such as the virgin birth should be discounted because they are absurd in the age of scientific enlightenment.
Miracles are not only possible but necessary in order to make sense of the universe in which we live. According to modern science, the universe not only had a beginning but it is also unfathomably fine-tuned to support life. Not only so, but the origin of life—information in the genetic code, irreducible complexity in biological systems, and the phenomenon of the human mind—pose intractable difficulties for merely natural explanations. Therefore, reason forces us to look beyond the natural world to a supernatural Designer who periodically intervenes in the affairs of his created handiwork. In other words, if we are willing to believe that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), we should have no problem accepting the virgin birth.
Furthermore, we are compelled by reason and evidence to acknowledge that the Bible is divine rather than merely human in origin. Manuscript evidence, archaeology, predictive prophecy, and the science of statistical probability together provide a persuasive case for the reliability of the Scripture. Thus, we may appeal legitimately to the Word of God as evidence for the virgin birth. Moreover, Christ, who demonstrated that he was God in human flesh, through the undeniable fact of the resurrection, pronounced the Scriptures infallible (John 10:35; 14:24-26; 15:26-27; 16:13; Hebrews 1:1-2), and if Christ concurs with the virgin birth, no one should have the temerity to contradict his claim.
One other point, while it is currently popular to suggest that the gospel writers borrowed the virgin birth motif from pagan mythology, the facts say otherwise. Stories of gods having sexual intercourse with women–––such as the sun-god Apollo becoming a snake and impregnating the mother of Augustus Caesar–––hardly parallel the virgin birth account. Moreover, given the strict monotheistic worldview of the New Testament authors it should stretch credulity beyond the breaking point to suppose they borrowed from pagan mythologies–––especially myths extolling the sexual exploits of pagan gods!
It has become all too common for people to buy into what has well been described as “a unique brand of fundamentalism” that values rhetoric and emotional stereotypes over reason and evidential substance. Those who suppose that the virgin birth is mythological would be well served to carefully consider defensible arguments rather than uncritically swallowing dogmatic assertions by men like Christopher Hitchens.
This Christmas season as we celebrate the virgin birth, Christ coming in human flesh, it is my prayer that you will be prepared, ready always to give an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within you with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). The point is not merely to counter Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Bart Ehrman or a host of other New Village Atheists. The point is that you may use your well reasoned answer as an opportunity to have the Holy Spirit move through you in the process of touching another life for time and for eternity.
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