Suspending scepticism: History and the Virgin Birth (NT Wright)

Suspending scepticism: History and the Virgin Birth (NT Wright) January 1, 2012
Source: ABC | "Legends surround the birth and childhood of many figures who afterwards become important. But by comparison with other legends about other figures, the gospels' accounts of Jesus look restrained."

Below is a great introduction to the issue of the Virgin Birth.  NT Wright reflects on this in a recent article

Jesus’ birth usually gets far more attention than its role in the New Testament warrants. Christmas looms large in our culture, outshining even Easter in the popular mind.

Yet without Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 we would know nothing about it. Paul’s gospel includes Jesus’ Davidic descent (Rom. 1:3), but apart from that could exist without mention of his birth. One can be justified by faith with no knowledge of it. Likewise, John’s wonderful theological edifice has no need of it: God’s glory is revealed not in the manger; but on the cross.

If you try to express any New Testament theology without Jesus’ death and resurrection, you will find it cannot be done. “Man shall live for evermore,” says the song, “because of Christmas Day.” No, replies the New Testament; because of Calvary, Easter and Pentecost.

Nevertheless, the birth stories have become a test case in various controversies. If you believe in miracles, you believe in Jesus’ miraculous birth; if you don’t, you don’t. Both sides turn the question into a shibboleth, not for its own sake but to find out who’s in and who’s out.

The problem is that “miracle,” as used in these controversies, is not a biblical category. The God of the Bible is not a normally absent God who sometimes “intervenes.” This God is always present and active, often surprisingly so… CLICK HERE TO READ MORE OF THIS ARTICLE

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  • I agree that you don’t need to know about the Virgin birth to be saved.  Similarly, I do not have to know about King David, the Ten Commandments, Esther, or any other number of stories and characters detailed throughout scripture, to come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.  The issue (which from this excerpt Wright is not necessarily saying) is when people either fully reject, or, at least, have skeptical disdain for, what scripture says.  A relationship with Christ is not based on how you score on a theological and biblical SAT test, but, when someone rejects the testament of scripture it is a red flag.  

    Perhaps your viewpoint and Wright’s is more as a response to people who have hyper-elevated the virgin birth as a lithmus test for “true” Christianity.  But, while that may be the negative extreme of that position, I do not think it is incorrect to firmly defend the totality of the revealed word of God.    

    • @facebook-12412670:disqus … I think that if you read the rest of the article (as this is a mere introduction) you will see that he sets up this issue this way (which is a good response to both the Right and the Left) and then is happy to defend its historicity!  

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article. Thanks for pointing me to it. I’ve FB’d it myself to get more thinking about it.

  • Having read the full article, I’m with him in general that the details
    of incarnation via virgin birth are not absolutely essential to the
    Gospel proclamation, but it remains a core teaching of the Christian
    faith. The virgin birth was affirmed in Scripture and embraced by the
    orthodox catholic line of the church from the earliest centuries.

  • So interesting Kurt. I

  • So interesting Kurt.  I’ve actually been working on a short story of the Christmas story through the eyes of the shepherds, but I find myself weaving in the Gospel.  Really, Christs birth is the start of the gospel story (He came).  NT Wright is great.

  • JenG

    Thanks for linking this!

  • Great article, Kurt! I appreciate your linking this! I agree that too often the virgin birth arguments are really proxies for other, unrelated fights. It’s not actually a topic that ever concerned me much even as I believed it. I still wonder why the creed writers bothered to include it. Nevertheless I really track with Wright’s excellent reasoning.

  • Anonymous