Friday, December 24, 2010

Belief in the Virgin Birth of Jesus Is Not Optional

This morning, I received an email from an Episcopal pastor named Steve.  He didn't provide his last name or the location of the congregation he serves - just Pastor Steve, St. John's Episcopal Church.  He was writing to inform me that he had run across an article I had written in The Morning Sun (our local newspaper) a few years back and wanted to commend me for "boldly confessing the truth in the public square."  He went on to say that he had read my article in a recent Bible Study at the congregation where he serves, in which he was teaching on the necessity of the Virgin Birth of our Lord.  He concluded his short note by saying that he agrees wholeheartedly that one cannot be a true Christian if one does not believe in the Virgin Birth, and that he laments the fact that many in his fellowship believe and teach otherwise.

This brought to mind an incident I was involved in around four years ago.  A few ladies in the congregation I serve were members of a local book club.  They had just finished reading "The Da Vinci Code," by Dan Brown, and asked me if I would be willing to join them for the discussion they would be having.  Of course, I agreed.  When I got there that evening, there was another "pastor" there as well - a Presbyterian woman.  I thought to myself, "Oh, this is going to be loads of fun."  As we began discussing the book, I was asked what I thought about Brown's claims that the Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicaea to vote on which Gospels would be included in the Bible, and that it was during that Council that it was decided that the Church would confess Jesus as Divine, etc.  I explained that Brown was simply butchering history and presented the truth about what actually happened at that Council, emphasizing that the first draft of the Nicene Creed emerged from that Council, not because they wanted to make Jesus Divine all of a sudden, but in order to refute the Christological heresies that were infiltrating the Church in that day.  I went on to mention that all Christians confess the Nicene Creed as truth.  The Presbyterian woman stated that she disagreed with me.  She said, "I'm a Christian, but I don't believe in everything that is confessed in that Creed."  "Really?" I asked.  "Which parts of the Nicene Creed do you not believe?"  She said, "Well, for instance, I do not believe that Jesus was born of an actual virgin . . ."  Before she could continue, I said, "Well, then, you are not a Christian."  I think the woman's eyes about popped out of her head, and there was a collective gasp heard in the room.  "I most certainly am a Christian," the woman responded.  "Just because I don't believe that Jesus was born of a virgin doesn't change that."  "Yes, it does," I said.  I went on to explain to her, and the group, that if Jesus is not born of a virgin, He cannot be our Savior, and that if we deny the Virgin Birth, we believe in a different Jesus than the One revealed to us in Holy Scripture.  After my lengthy diatribe, the woman said, "Well, I disagree with you, but I'm not going to argue with you.  I believe what I believe."  She mainly kept quiet for the rest of the evening, as we continued to discuss other aspects of Brown's book.  When the discussion concluded and everyone was getting ready to leave, I had several of the ladies approach me and thank me for bearing witness to the truth.  But, I also received a few dirty looks from a few ladies as they were departing.  It was a most interesting evening, and one that I shall not soon forget.

Anyway, here is the article I alluded to above:

Belief in the Virgin Birth of Jesus Is Not Optional
(Published in The Morning Sun on Saturday, December 29, 2007)  

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

There is a scene in the recent hit movie, “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby,” which is very illustrative of the have-Christianity-your way mentality that rules in our day and age.  Ricky Bobby (played by Will Ferrell) is saying grace with his family and directing his prayer to the “8 pound, 6 ounce, newborn Baby Jesus.”  Don’t ask me how he knows that Jesus weighed 8 pounds, six ounces at His birth.  I have been studying theology for many years and have never stumbled across that little nugget of information.  But, that’s not the point.  As he continues his prayer, making several references to the Baby Jesus, his wife becomes irritated and interrupts him, saying, “You know, Jesus did grow up!”  Ricky Bobby replies, “I like the Baby Jesus the best.  When you say grace, you can say it to grown up Jesus or bearded Jesus or whatever Jesus you like.”  Then the other characters sitting around the table get in on the act, stating which version of Jesus they like best – “ninja Jesus, rock-and-roll Jesus, etc.”  After this deep theological conversation runs its course, Ricky Bobby resumes and concludes his prayer to the version of Jesus which is his personal favorite – Baby Jesus. 

While this scene occurs in a comedy and is meant to be funny, it is actually a pretty accurate parody of how Christian theology is done today.  The Bible is no longer confessed to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God by many who claim to be Christian today.  It may have some truth in it which comes from God, but it is also filled with legend and myths made up by men, and it is up to us to decide which parts are fact and which are fictional.  In other words, like the characters in “Talladega Nights,” we get to pick and choose which parts of the Bible we like best, which, of course, means that we get to construct Jesus in our own personal image. 

This is great, isn’t it?  We get to pick and choose!  We get to decide for ourselves which version of Jesus we like best.  And, the really cool thing about this new way of doing Christian theology is that everybody gets to be right.  You get to pick your favorite version of Jesus and I get to pick mine and it doesn’t matter if my version is completely contradictory to yours, we both get to be right, because in this new way of doing Christian theology there are no absolute truths.  Truth is relative.  Truth is subjective, not objective.  Truth is in the eye of the beholder.  Whatever you believe about Jesus is just as true as what I believe.

This is how Christian leaders, like Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, can make the claim that believing in such things as the virgin birth of Jesus is not necessary for one to be Christian.  He made this statement last week during an interview, claiming that, while he personally believes in the virgin birth, he does not feel that it is a “hurdle” all those who wish to be Christian must leap over.  And, according to the “theology of Ricky Bobby,” he is absolutely right.

But, according to true Christian theology, which is rooted in the belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, he and Ricky Bobby, and all who believe like them, are absolutely wrong.  I know it is unpopular and politically incorrect to tell people they are wrong today, but true Christianity never claimed to be popular or politically correct.  True Christianity does not allow its adherents to pick and choose what they want to believe.  There is no room within true Christianity for personal opinions and desires.  You either believe what God says in His Word or you don’t.  Period.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts. 

Thus, belief in the virgin birth of Christ is not optional.  You certainly do not have to believe in the virgin birth.  You just don’t get to be a Christian if you don’t.  The same is true of all the chief articles of the Christian faith as confessed in the three ecumenical Creeds of Christendom (Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed).  If you do not confess what is contained in those Creeds to be true, you are not a Christian.  Well, at least not a true Christian. 

What is truly amazing is that such absolute and exclusive statements in our day and age is considered by most to be radical, while holding the belief that two contradictory views about something can be equally true is embraced as normal.  Think about that for a minute.  Let it sink in. 

Now imagine that you and another person are both staring at a blue wall.  There’s no debating that the wall is blue.  Blue paint was used.  It’s blue!  You’re thinking to yourself, “That’s a really nice shade of blue there,” when the other person chimes in and says, “I like that red wall.”  You say, “Excuse me, are you talking about that wall there, the blue wall?”  “Blue?” the person replies, “that wall is red.”

You tell me, which of the persons in that example is speaking crazy talk?  Everyone in the world would agree it is the person who is staring at a blue wall and claiming that it is red.  But, in the world of Christian theology today, it is the person who maintains that the blue wall is blue, for such a person is obviously intolerant and unloving, not allowing for the other person’s belief to coexist as equal truth.  So be it.  I know that a blue wall is blue, not red.  And, I know that Jesus Christ is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God . . . and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.”  How do I know?  It’s not because I like the virgin-born version of Jesus the best, it’s because that’s the only version of Jesus which exists.  At least that’s what my Bible says.  Does yours say something different?  I highly doubt it! 

In Christ,   
Rev. Thomas C. Messer, Pastor
Peace Lutheran Church ~ Alma, MI

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