Miracle or Myth?

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that
have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by
those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything
from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly
account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know
the certainty of the things you have been taught.

—Luke 1:1–4

Modernity has left many 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 of 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 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 (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 (see Day 5, on pages 25–29). The miraculous preservation of God’s Word via manuscripts, archaeology, and prophecy together provide a cumulative case for the reliability of Scripture. Thus, we may legitimately appeal to the Word of God 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 concurs with the biblical record of the virgin birth, no one should have the temerity to contradict His claim.

Finally, 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. 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 irrefutable fact.

Reading

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26–38)

Questions

Why should we allow for both natural and supernatural explanations in order to make sense of the world in which we live?

Why isn’t appealing to Scripture as the basis for believing in the miraculous virgin birth merely circular reasoning?

Christmas Carol

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
—Charles Wesley

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful all ye nations rise; join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time, behold him come; offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th’ incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.
Mild, he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”