Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Is the Virgin Birth a Myth? (Part 3)

Read Part 1 | Part 2

An American Atheists digital billboard in Times Square that mocks Christmas. Image credit

Why do skeptics accuse “that Christianity is not unique in its story of Christ’s incarnation, but that stories of supernatural births are common to pagan gods”? (Source: Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics) In short, they claim that our belief in the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus was, to quote an infamous line from a Filipino movie, “nothing but a second-rate, trying hard, copycat.” 

According to Dr. Norman Geisler, Christian defender of the faith, “One reason for the vehemence of these pronouncements is that, if true, the virgin birth establishes beyond question the life of Jesus as a supernatural intervention of God. If antisupernaturalists [those who do not believe in miracles and in a supernatural God] concede at this point, they have no case left.” (Baker. Emphasis added.) 

Another billboard of the American Atheists. Image credit

If the virgin birth really happened, then our faith is factual. If not, then it is fake.

One proof that the virgin birth really occurred was that, unlike myths, “Persons, places, and events identified in connection with Christ’s birth are accurate historically. Even details once thought to be errors have been vindicated by research.” (Ibid. Emphasis added.) 

For example, Scottish archaeologist Sir William Mitchell Ramsay used to question the reliability of the Book of Acts. (Luke, its author, wrote the Gospel that bore his name.) He wrote that, before his research, he believed Luke “wished to influence the minds of people in his own time by a highly wrought and imaginative description of the early Church. …by setting forth a carefully coloured account of events and persons”. (The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament) 

Sir William Mitchell Ramsay. Image credit

After thirty years of studying first-century Christianity, he concluded, “You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice.” (Ibid. Emphasis added) For Ramsay, Luke was a historian par excellence. What Ramsay thought to be error have been vindicated by his own research. Thus, just as the Book of Acts is reliable, so also the Gospel of Luke.

"The Annunciation by Eustache Le Sueur, an example of 17th-century Marian art. The Angel Gabriel announces to Mary her pregnancy with Jesus". Caption and image credit

So, when we read Luke’s account, we can rest assured that the virgin birth of Jesus actually happened!
And [the angel Gabriel] came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! … Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. … And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:28, 30-31, 34-35, ESV)
This brings us to our next proof. When we compare the Bible and pagan myths, we see a huge difference. Geisler pointed out
No Greek myth spoke of the literal incarnation of a monotheistic God into human form. In Christianity the second person of the Godhead became human. In pagan religions gods were only disguised as humans; they were not really human. In pagan myths a god and human invariably mated sexually, which was not true in the Christian account. (Baker)
Actually, it was the pagans who copied from Christians and not the other way around. Of course, skeptics scoff at that claim because these pagan cults (such as Mithraism) predate Christianity. But they assume falsely that these cults were static (did not evolve). In reality, these cults change like a chameleon according to what was in vogue during that time. Geisler added, “Greek myths of gods who became human postdate the time of Christ, so the Gospel writers could not have borrowed from them.” (Ibid) So, when Christianity gained popularity, the pagans plagiarized its teachings. They, not us, were the copycats.

Dr. Norman Geisler and me. I met him in the Global Proclamation Academy (2008) of the Ramesh Richard Evangelism and Church Health held in concert with Dallas Theological Seminary.

Brethren, “we did not follow cleverly devised myths” (2 Peter 1:16a). But, our faith is founded on facts!

Read Part 1 | Part 2