Why is belief in the virgin birth of Jesus important? A virgin is one who has not experienced sexual intercourse and so the real issue here is conception more than birth. So why then is belief in the virgin conception important?
For men like James Tabor it is important that we do not believe in the virgin birth. He claims that a Roman soldier named Pantera raped Mary. I searched the web for this rogue but only found references to his alleged grave after ploughing through dozens of references to a heavy metal rock band by that name! How fitting! For men like Bishop Spong it is also important not to believe in the virgin conception of Jesus because such an event would be supernatural and such things are just not scientific! Here is the first reason why the virgin conception is important. God is supernatural; spiritual rebirth is supernatural; eternal life is supernatural.
Christianity is not so much a learned religious or philosophical system as it is a supernatural relationship between Jesus and his disciples.
To erase the supernatural from the pages of the Bible is to reduce faith to knowledge, the Gospel to a philosophy, and relationship with God to a religious system. Of course we cannot understand or scientifically explain the supernatural; it is mysterious to us. God is utterly mysterious except when he chooses to reveal of himself to us. The origin of life is mysterious. How did life start on Earth? Evolutionists cannot answer that question because the origin of life is supernatural; it is a mystery. How does human life start at the moment of conception? Doctors don’t know; it’s mysteriously supernatural. To deny the virgin conception of Jesus is to open the door to a blanket denial of all that is supernatural. To reject the supernatural is to reject God because God is supernatural.
A second reason why the issue is important is that the Bible states the matter very clearly. When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was about to become pregnant, she responded with “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) To dismiss the virgin conception of Jesus as myth is to compromise the integrity of the Bible. If we dismiss the virgin conception as myth, then why not dismiss the resurrection as well? And you know Paul wrote that ‘if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.’ (1 Corinthians 15:14)
The virgin conception also has a bearing on the doctrine of the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Son did not merely appear on Earth as an illusion, or a heavenly projection; he became incarnate. ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14) Jesus was God-incarnate. The angel explained to Mary that, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) The Holy Spirit ‘fathered’ Jesus and so Jesus was fully divine. However, Jesus was born both of the Holy Spirit and of Mary. She was not simply an incubator. She participated in the earthly incarnation of God the Son; she was his mother in the fullest sense. Therefore, Jesus was fully human. He was fully God and fully man. Bishop Spong claims that this is unscientific, and thus unbelievable. Yet neither he, nor anyone else can explain ‘scientifically’ how a sperm from a human father can combine with an egg from a woman to form, not just new cells, but a new life. Why is it so hard then to believe that the Holy Spirit could interact with a human ovum to create a new life-form? A life that was eternally pre-existent as God the Son, yet temporally formed in this earthly dimension as Jesus the man? Son of God and Son of Man.
The doctrine of the virgin conception also has an impact on the doctrine of salvation.
It was because Jesus Christ was fully human that he could represent humanity as our redeemer. He was entitled to settle the penalty clause of the violated covenant between God and man because he was a man. However, he could only effectively cancel the sin debt of billions of humans because he was God. If Jesus were neither fully God, nor fully man, then the atonement would have been either unlawful or ineffective. So, to dismiss the virgin conception as myth casts a long shadow over the key doctrine of the atonement.
The virgin conception is important. To dismiss it as myth is to start down the slippery slope of anti-supernatural materialism. To dismiss it, or reduce its importance, is to cast serious doubt on at least four pillars of the Christian Faith – the incarnation of God the Son, his atonement on the cross of Calvary, his resurrection from the dead, and the veracity of the Bible.