By Hank Hanegraaff
Modernity has left many people with the false impression that the virgin birth is nothing more than ancient superstition. In an op-ed piece published by the New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof used the virgin birth of Jesus to shamelessly promote the Enlightenment’s false dichotomy between faith and reason. In his words, “The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time.” Kristof ends his piece with the following patronizing comment: “The heart is a wonderful organ, but so is the brain.” Those who have a truly open mind, however, should resist rejecting the virgin birth a priori (prior to examination).
First, miracles are not only possible, but they are 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 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. Thus, reason forces us to look beyond the natural world to a supernatural Designer who miraculously 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 (Genesis 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. The miraculous preservation of God’s Word via manuscripts and archaeology, together with prophecy, provides a cumulative case for the reliability of Scripture. Thus, we may legitimately appeal to the Word of God itself as supernatural evidence for the virgin birth. Moreover, Christ, who demonstrated that He was God in human flesh through the supernatural fact of His resurrection, pronounced the Scriptures infallible (John 10:35; 14:24–26; 15:26–27; 16:13; Hebrews 1:1–2). And if Christ affirmed the biblical record of the virgin birth, no one should have the temerity to contradict His claim.
Finally, while it is 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. What is more, given the strict monotheistic worldview of 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!
As we encounter those who capriciously cast aspersions on the miraculous nature of the virgin birth, we would do well to remember that it is our responsibility to use our well-reasoned responses as springboards for demonstrating that the historical account of Christ’s coming in flesh is faith founded on irrefut- able fact.
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:23 NKJV
For further study see Incarnation by Hank Hanegraaff and R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas, eds., In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997).
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