Why Is the Virgin Birth Virtually the Most Important Teaching in the World and the Most Neglected
|By: John G. Weldon, PhD; ©2012|
|If Jesus is everything to us (the second Person of the godhead incarnate, the Son of God, the God-man and substitutionary, atoning Savior); and in Him are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3); and He alone is the path to God and the way to Heaven (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and the incarnation is His beginning (so to speak)—and further, without the incarnation there are no Christian teachings or even a Christianity—then what is more important or essential and foundational than the virgin birth through which the incarnation occurred?|
One might wonder if the title is a bit presumptuous? I don’t think so, although I’m open to persuasion.
This brief article is actually a notification of sorts for a new e-book on the virgin birth (although it’s not a summary, but largely new material), The Virgin Birth – The Most Important Teaching in the Bible – Or the World? The Celebration of Christmas as Proof of the Virgin Birth – and Why It Matters.
How does one possibly determine the most important teaching or subject in the world? To illustrate, there are probably over 25,000 different vocations in the world, but billions of different (and unique) subjects, and the number of different topics one could potentially study would be virtually infinite (in theory, from every subatomic particle to every human being to every stellar object large or small; trillions of yottabytes wouldn’t begin to cover it). Despite the immense nature of modern knowledge, what we don’t know today vastly outweighs what we do know and always will.
How would one ever determine a hierarchy of importance? It’s simple; one transcends everything.
To answer the question, one would begin by realizing what the single most important subject in the world must be—by definition it would have to be God, the one true God (Isa. 44:6, 8; 45:5, 18, 21; 46:9; John 17:3; 1 Tim. 1:17). By His very nature, the degree of importance of a perfect, immortal and infinite Being compared to anything dependent and finite is infinitely greater. So if God is the most important teaching or subject in the world, then His literal coming into this world as a human being for us (through a miraculous virginal incarnation, Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38) would by definition be the most important subject in and to the world, for us specifically, given the personal implications relative to our eternal destinies (John 8:24; Matt. 25:46).
After all, the virgin birth is fundamentally about Jesus Christ—the most important Person in history and the greatest, most exciting Treasure in the universe: more than anything else He reveals and glorifies God (John 1:18; Col. 1:15; 2:9). If Jesus is everything to us (the second Person of the godhead incarnate, the Son of God, the God-man and substitutionary, atoning Savior); and in Him are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3); and He alone is the path to God and the way to Heaven (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and the incarnation is His beginning (so to speak)—and further, without the incarnation there are no Christian teachings or even a Christianity—then what is more important or essential and foundational than the virgin birth through which the incarnation occurred?
The incarnation is why one of the most gifted thinkers and writers of the 20th century, G.K. Chesterton, pointed out that the incarnation of Jesus Christ “makes nothing but dust and nonsense of comparative religion.” He was right. Among all the religions that have ever been, only Christianity has an incarnation, and more specifically an incarnation proving beyond all doubt that God has publicly demonstrated His love for us (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8; 1 John 4:10) —in self-sacrificial ways infinitely beyond our understanding. Despite the claims of other religions as to having an incarnation, or being a divine revelation, no religion on earth has an incarnation objectively demonstrated in space-time history, nor does another religion have objective evidence for its truth claims relative to constituting an authentic divine revelation. But the incarnation doesn’t make dust and nonsense only of comparative religion, but of everything that isn’t the truth, which is quite a bit more (cf. John 14:6; 18:37; Col. 2:8, 20; 1 Tim. 6:20; 1 John 2:21; 4:6).
Nevertheless, the very idea of the incarnation is unique to the Christian faith. No other religion has anything slightly comparable. It teaches that God Himself (the second Person of the Trinity, an infinite-personal, triune Being), willingly took upon Himself human form (John 1:1, 14; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 2:16-17). He did this in order to die a substitutionary, atoning death and end death forever. He sacrificed Himself to pay the just price that God’s infinite holiness demanded to forgive our sins (1 John 2:2; 4:10). God Himself made an infinite sacrifice so that He could freely offer us a gift of eternal life (Rom. 5:15-; 6:23; 1 John 5:13) for simply trusting in what He has done through His Son. In part, this is a gift of living forever in a Heaven of unparalleled joy, love, excitement, adventure, fun and so much more. No other religion has this; again, nothing comes close. In every other major religion an incarnation is either mythical (e.g., ancient Greek and Roman), mythical and/or impossible (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism) or unthinkable (e.g. Islam). It’s only one of many reasons why, of all the religions and worldviews in the world, Christianity alone is fully true.
But the virgin birth is the most important teaching for other reasons. More than anything else, it tells us who this most important subject of all, God, truly is—i.e., whatever we see Jesus speaking and doing, it is God speaking and doing (John 5:19; 14:9). And again, without the virgin birth, the entirety of Christianity crumbles into nothingness in that virtually every major biblical doctrine is predicated upon it. In other words, without the virgin birth there is no Christianity—and further, there would not even be a celebration of Christmas. The celebration of Christmas per se demonstrates the historic fact of the virgin birth, as argued in my e-book.
But somehow, comparatively speaking, very few evangelical books seem to have been written on the virgin birth, although many excellent articles exist. Given so critical a teaching, one might have expected many more volumes. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, the last one was written about 40 years ago.
One way or another, this most important subject on earth, the one upon which Christianity stands or falls probably more than any other doctrine has been neglected compared to its worth. This may be due to its comparative lack of biblical emphasis, the criticism and ridicule it regularly receives from rationalistic skeptics and liberal theologians, the materialistic and antisupernatural bias of our culture, the lack of apologetic and theological emphasis in the Church and the fact that by its nature, it is less subject to the standard disciplines of apologetics—e.g., history, prophecy, archaeology, science, philosophy, and comparative religion. But perhaps not so much as many people think. Regardless, if nothing else, I could hope this brief article and my e-book might become an encouragement for interested Christian theologians, philosophers and apologists, Bible scholars and others to remedy the situation.
At any rate, just as God Himself is the most important Person in the universe and the incarnation the most important subject on earth (uniquely for us), so the most important personal issue on earth is for each of us to know God personally through Jesus Christ (John 17:3), to have our sins forgiven forever (Col. 2:13) and, by transferring our trust to Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43), to inherit a free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).
- “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NLT)
If you desire to know more about becoming a Christian, please see the homepage of www.JAshow.org.
- This will be published [mid-December 2013] on various e-platforms such as Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, and will go into considerably more detail. It’s possible that title may be changed to The Virgin Birth: The Celebration of Christmas as Proof of Virgin Birth; regardless it will be the only e-book I have written on the topic of the virgin birth.
- Extrapolating from the “Dictionary of Occupational Titles Introduction,” The Dictionary of Occupational Titles,” US Department of Labor; http://www.occupationalinfo.org/front_148.html.
- Given the massive expanse of the universe. In 2004, one study estimated that the universe was 156,000,000,000 light-years wide, but even if it were only one light-year wide (almost six trillion miles across) the point is made. (Robert Roy Britt, “Universe 156 Billion Light-Years Wide,” space.com). [What on earth does any of this have to do with the virgin birth?]
- As I stated in Ready with an Answer, ideas matter enormously, especially when ideas impact belief in God or distort God. The consequences for individual behavior, destiny and the quality of life in society generally hang in the balance. For example, the late Mortimer J. Adler points out the crucial importance of the issue of God’s existence to the greatest thinkers of the Western world. With the exception of only certain mathematicians and physicists, “all the authors of the great books are represented…. In sheer quantity of references, as well as in variety, this is the largest chapter. The reason is obvious. More consequences for thought and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question.” Mortimer Adler, editor in chief, William Gorman, gen. ed., The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World (Chicago: IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1952), Vol. 1, p. 543). Also see notes 13-14.
- As to intellectual and scientific credibility of miracles (which are not violations of the law of nature), and the fact that they occur more often than the vast majority of people ever suspect, see the books below. C.S. Lewis, Miracles; Craig S. Keener, Miracles: the Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (two volumes); R. Douglas Geivett, Gary R. Habermas (Eds.), In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History; Norman L. Geisler, Miracles and the Modern Mind: A Defense of Biblical Miracles; Richard Swineburne (ed.), Miracles; Joseph B. Onyango, The Case for Miracles: A Defense of God’s Action in the World; Montecue J. Lowry (PhDs in history and physics), Military Miracles and Biblical Prophecy: The Hand of God in History; Chris & Ted Stewart, Seven Miracles That Saved America; Larkin Spivey, Miracles of the American Revolution: Divine Intervention and the Birth of the Republic; C. John Collins, The God of Miracles: an Exegetical Examination of God’s Action in the World.
- “That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (NLT).
- See notes 18 and 5.
- One book of the same title argues that the Holy Spirit is The Most Important Person on Earth, and technically he is correct, since Jesus ascended to Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within believers and help evangelize the name of Christ (John 16:7-10); of course the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son and glorifies Him and only Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer of Calvary.
- See my forthcoming e-book.
- In The Everlasting Man, excerpt taken from “G.K. Chesterton: The Everlasting Man,” July 29, 2007.
- See note 14.
- See my article, “Heaven: A World of Love”; John Ankerberg Show; http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php?title=Heaven_-_A_World_of_Love.
- See my upcoming e-book. The mythical nature of the divine incarnation in ancient religions is widely conceded as in Hinduism and Buddhism; in Islam, Allah is too transcendent, superior and dignified to incarnate; it is forever beneath him. Compare chapters 4-5 of professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, God With Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God, 2011).
- In sum, only the Bible can logically be considered God’s revelation to mankind—no other alleged Scripture. Properly interpreted, everything the Bible teaches is true and without error. For a primer on why Christianity alone is a divine revelation and fully true, including objective prophetic, historical, textual, archaeological, scientific, legal and other evidence for its truth, see Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Warwick_Montgomery), Tractatus Logico-Theologicus (fourth edition, 2009); Dr. Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith; Dr. J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy www.apologetics315.com and John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Ready with an Answer, which together provide a compelling case. As to the inspiration, authority and inerrancy of Scripture see, e. g., Norman L. Geisler, William C. Roach, Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation; Robert Paul Lightner, A Biblical Case for Total Inerrancy; John Wenham, Christ and the Bible; Clark Pinnock, Biblical Revelation (while this book is itself excellent, sadly, the author later defected to theological universalism); Benjamin B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible; Rene Pache, The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture.
- Dr. H. L. Wilmington’s impressive Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible lists 14 different biblical reasons for the incarnation, 611-14.
- “It would not be an overstatement to say that the way to a proper understanding of God and his character is given foremost in a proper understanding of the Son of God, in the flesh, Jesus Christ.” (K. Scott Oliphint, God With Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God, Introduction. (Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary, is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.)
- See my upcoming e-book.
- See: Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels; I. Howard Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian. For example, Robert Glenn Gromacki, The Virgin Birth: Doctrine of Deity; Arthur Custance, The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation; James Orr, The Virgin Birth of Christ; J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ; Sir James Norman D. Anderson, The Mystery of the Incarnation; Harry Rimmer, A Scientist’s Viewpoint of the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ; Charles Spurgeon, Christ’s Incarnation: The Foundation of Christianity; George Herbert Box, The Virgin Birth of Jesus; Richard Swineburne, The Resurrection of God Incarnate. Also, Athanasius, On the Incarnation (which, in his Introduction, CS Lewis termed “a masterpiece”).
- Obviously, apart from the triune God Himself. See my upcoming e-book.
- Comparative is the key word. The specific passages in Isaiah, Matthew and Luke and the fact that the entire structure of biblical theology rests upon it (not to mention all the interconnected surrounding events of Jesus’ birth in Luke 1-2) make the doctrine clearly taught, and clearly important. As to why it is not directly emphasized in, e.g., Paul’s writings, we might note that there are other important doctrines receiving much more attention that also have comparatively little emphasis. In addition, the virgin birth is indistinguishable from the incarnation which is cited more frequently in Scripture (e.g. John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-8).
- See my upcoming e-book; although it is not a standard apologetic text on the subject, it does help illustrate that the virgin birth has more evidence to substantiate it than many people assume.
- After all, what the great Christian apologist, literary critic and novelist C.S. Lewis said about ancient literary works (and original sources) would be supremely true for knowing God personally through His Son Jesus Christ: “It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire” (C.S. Lewis, Introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, available online).