It’s a tough sell: A young, unmarried teenager gets pregnant, but the father isn’t a man but God himself. And the girl is a virgin — and (some believe) remains one even after she delivers a strapping baby boy.
That’s the story of the Virgin Birth, one of the central tenets of faith for the world’s 2 billion Christians. The story is embraced by every branch of Christianity, from Eastern Orthodoxy to Mormonism, Catholic and Protestant.
And yet, many theologians, pastors and other Christians say the Virgin Birth gets short shrift at Christmastime. Finding the idea hard to swallow, many believers would rather focus on the cute little baby in the manger instead of the unusual way he got there.
Yet for other Christians, the Virgin Birth is a deal-breaker. You can equivocate about other biblical miracles, such as whether Mary’s son was really able to turn water into wine, but the Virgin Birth must be accepted as gospel.
Without it, they say, much of Christianity falls apart.
“To remove the miraculous from Christmas is to remove this central story of Christianity,” said Gary Burge, a professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. “It would dismantle the very center of Christian thought and take away the keystone of the arch of Christian theology.”
Why is the Virgin Birth the lynchpin of Christianity? Was it miracle or metaphor? And can you call yourself a Christian if you can’t accept the idea?
For Burge, an evangelical and author of “Theology Questions Everyone Asks,” the Virgin Birth is essential. His thinking goes like this: If Jesus was not virgin-born, then he was not the son of God; if he was not the son of God, then he was just another crucified man and not the sacrifice that would redeem the sins of the world.
“In Jesus, we don’t have a prophet who simply speaks as a human being about God. We have a son of God who presents the father to us,” he said. “It is a huge difference, absolutely huge. Put in jeopardy the Virgin Birth … and Christianity simply becomes a human gesture instead of a divine revelation.”
Burge’s thinking has a lot of followers. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that nearly three in four Americans think the Virgin Birth is historically accurate. Among evangelicals, the figure is even higher: 96 percent.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service