A lot of people say: “No way can I believe in a virgin birth.” They imply that it would be crazy to believe in such a thing. But really, every person – every single one of us – is committed to belief in a virgin birth, whether we realize it or not. For there are two kinds of virgin birth. There’s, of course, the one we find in Chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel: “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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 1:38).
Okay, you say, yes that’s the virgin birth Christians say they believe in, but tell me what other virgin birth is there? Well, a Princeton professor (Peter Singer) who is one of the world’s most influential atheists has stated: “We can assume that somehow in the primeval soup we got collections of molecules that became self-replicating; and I don’t think we need any miraculous or mysterious [explanation].”
Wait a minute! How is that not a mysterious explanation? Or take the brilliant Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking’s latest attempt to propose an atheistic explanation for our universe: “… the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” He’s talking, in effect, about the birth of the universe, isn’t he? And he’s saying he believes – because he certainly can’t prove it – he believes the universe just spontaneously created itself out of nothing and out of nowhere. No-one or nothing else was involved in the birth of the universe: it was a virgin birth. So, it’s not a matter of whether we believe in a virgin birth, it’s just a matter of which virgin birth we choose to accept – either the virgin birth of the universe or the virgin birth of Jesus Christ – either the virgin birth of the whole creation or the virgin birth of the creator.
We can believe in the virgin birth of an atheistic universe that’s indifferent to us – a universe where “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference” (Dawkins). Or we can believe in the virgin birth of a creator who loves us so deeply that he came to be born among us and to live beside us, to call us “family” (Hebrews 2:11) and “friends” (John 15:15), and to give himself the name “God with us” (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14).
Let’s explore the chance option a bit further. That’s the atheistic view that talks about the virgin birth of the universe all by chance. The poet Steve Turner has written about such a thing, saying:
If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear
State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!
It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.
I’m sure his brilliant satire isn’t lost on you! He begins by saying ‘If chance be the Father of all flesh …’ One professor who believed in chance being our Father said this: we are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because comets struck the earth and wiped out dinosaurs, thereby giving mammals a chance not otherwise available (so thank your lucky stars in a literal sense); because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a “higher” answer – but none exists. This explanation, though superficially troubling, if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilarating. (Stephen Jay Gould)
Let me ask you: is that exhilarating? Is that more sensible than belief in the virgin birth of Christianity? Once, Malcolm Muggeridge may have once thought so, but he faced up to the bankruptcy of that way of thinking, and later in life embraced Christianity, then wrote: “In one lifetime I have seen my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world … I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian proclaim to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years; an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin with his own assumption of power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon … All in one little lifetime. All gone with the wind. … Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades… “All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind. Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”
So, in summary, he’s saying: Over the wreck of time, standing tall above the debris of history, is the person of Christ – a life so powerful it reset the clocks some 2,000 years ago – and in him alone forgiveness can be found.
Let me conclude now by sharing an illustration about God’s provision of forgiveness for the problem of human sin. I’m going to use the biblical example of a man called Saul, the first king of Israel. God said to him one day: ‘you shall … be changed into another man’. Then the Bible confirms by telling us: ‘God changed his heart’ (1 Samuel 10:6,9). That’s what we also need. He’d been out searching for some animals that’d gone astray when God, through his Old Testament prophet, spoke into his life’s situation. God pictures us like straying animals who’ve all strayed away from him. If you read Saul’s story, you’ll find that in one day, God met him with his problem; provided for his needs and gave him the power to be changed into a new person. Associated with these things were a hill, a tree and a tomb.
And it’s because of ‘a green hill far away outside a city wall’, and because of the tree there on which Jesus Christ the son of God died for our sins, and because of the fact that his nearby tomb is now empty – that our deceitful, sin-sick heart, the source of all life’s problems, can be changed by God and cleansed by faith. All God asks us to do is to turn from our self-centred, self-choosing, self-serving ways and come to Christ, just as we are, because he’ll change us, but come believing that the only remedy to the problem of your heart lies in God’s provision at the cross of Jesus. There’s no other power to change.
Those who come to Christ find completeness in him, and learn to worship God for:
1) The quickening of our conscience by his holiness
2) The nourishing of our minds by his truth
3) The enlarging of our hearts by his love
4) The purifying of our imagination by his beauty
5) The submission of our wills to his purpose.
That’s how we can truly worship our Maker!