This article first appeared in the Ask Hank column of the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL, volume 27, number 4 (2004). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org
“‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ — which means, ‘God with us’” (Matt. 1:23 NIV).
In an op-ed piece published by the New York Times (August 15, 2003), 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 before examining the evidence for it.
Several lines of evidence support the miracle of the virgin birth (technically it should be called the virgin conception). 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. Reason, therefore, 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, reason and evidence compel us to acknowledge that the Bible is divine rather than human in origin. Manuscript evidence, archaeology, predictive prophecy, and the science of statistical probability together provide a persuasive case for the reliability of Scripture; thus, we may legitimately appeal to the Word of God as evidence for the virgin birth. Christ, moreover, who demonstrated that He was God in human flesh through the undeniable fact of His resurrection, pronounced the Scriptures infallible (John10:35; 14:24–26; 15:26–27; 16:13; Heb. 1:1–2). If Christ concurs with the biblical record, therefore, no one should have the temerity to contradict its claims.
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 in the Gospels. Moreover, 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! It has become all too common for people to buy into what has been well described as “a unique brand of fundamentalism” — a skepticism that values rhetoric and emotion over reason and evidence. Those who suppose that the virgin birth is mythological would be well advised to carefully consider defensible arguments rather than uncritically swallowing dogmatic assertions.
— Hank Hanegraaff
For further study, see 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).
This article first appeared in the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL, volume 40, number 02 (2017). The full text of this article in PDF format can be obtained by clicking here. For further information or to subscribe to the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL go to: http://www.equip.org/christian-research-journal/
Supposed contradictions among Gospel parallels are well known. Some writers advocate a “one-size-fits-all” approach to such problems. They may default to additive harmonization, to multiplying the number of times Jesus said or did something, or several other approaches. Historians of antiquity, however, have to be eclectic. There is a broad scholarly consensus that the New Testament Gospels are biographies of Jesus and that they adopt many of the conventions of the ancient writing of history and biography. Michael Licona’s new book, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?, builds on this consensus with an impressive, detailed study of one important ancient Greek biographer, Plutarch. By comparing the way Plutarch narrates the same events in the lives of the same people in more than one of his biographies, Licona isolates eight recurring compositional devices, which he then applies to Gospel parallels. Licona’s applications fall into three broad categories. The majority of his observations involve very minor differences among Gospel parallels and are largely noncontroversial, and the approach is scarcely novel. A second category involves more creative but still generally persuasive application of the compositional devices to Gospel differences. In a number of instances, however, and comprising a third category, Licona defaults to Plutarch’s devices too quickly, when other ways of explaining apparent discrepancies among the Gospels should be preferred. Particularly important is the observation that we never need resort to arguing that one or more of the Gospel writers simply invented details or episodes with no basis in the historical events of the lives of Jesus and His contemporaries.Does the Book of Isaiah Idealize Vegetarianism? By: Andrew T. Abernethy
This article first appeared in the Practical Hermeneutics column of the CHRISTIAN RESEARCHJOURNAL, volume 40, number 02 (2017). The full text of this article in PDF format can be obtained by clicking here. For further information or to subscribe to the CHRISTIAN RESEARCHJOURNAL go to: http://www.equip.org/christian-research-journal/
During seminary, I lived in a dorm with a student from a small island off of Norway and Denmark. I asked him, “What is the biggest difference between people from the United States and the Faroe Islands?” His response struck me: “People in the United States do not know where their meat comes from. In the Faroes, we see fish and chicken — alive — before we slaughter and eat them.” He’s right. Most of us Westerners do not even think about a cow or chicken being slaughtered as we eat a steak or chicken sandwich.The Man in the High Castle and the Necessity of Moral Faith By: Marybeth Baggett Amazon Studios is heavily invested in the success of their original television series The Man in the High Castle. Reportedly, the second season cost upwards of $107 million to produce, or about $11 million per episode.And they’re not finished yet; the third season is set to release in early October, with a fourth season already in pre-production. It is far from clear whether or not Amazon’s gamble will pay off in terms of soliciting new subscribers for their streaming service, but the studio’s choice of this program as one to boost makes sense, both because of its rich source material (adapted from a novel of the same name written by legendary science fiction author Philip K. Dick) and because it taps into the anxieties and concerns of our highly charged political moment. Judging from comments Isa Hackett — Dick’s daughter and a producer on the show — made at this year’s Comic-Con,the forthcoming seasons will focus even more intently on the resonances between the characters’ situations and what’s currently transpiring in American government and culture.
I am struggling with besetting sin; am I still saved?All Sermons by Hank Hanegraaff