When it comes to the virgin birth, there is no shortage of modern objections. It reeks of premodern ignorance and superstition. It is scientifically impossible. And it’s unnecessary, for Jesus can be a powerful example for us even if He is merely human.
How do we respond to such objections? That is, what makes this doctrine so important, and what is lost if we do not affirm it?
“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” neatly summarizes the essentials of the virgin birth. The hymn, written by an anonymous fifteenth-century German composer under the title “Es ist ein’ Ros’ entsprungen” (It is a rose sprung up), points to the supernatural nature of the conception of Christ, affirms His true humanity and true divinity, and concludes that these truths confirm Christ’s office as our Savior.
a supernatural event
Ours is a largely materialist age that says that what we can experience with our senses and through observation and experimentation is all there is. Conversely, the Bible is a thoroughly supernatural book. It asserts the freedom of God not only to act through the systems of nature that He has created but also to act outside or against those systems.
The virgin birth is a supremely supernatural event, and to affirm it is to affirm something about both God and the world. It is to say that God continues to intervene and act in the lives of His creatures. It is also to say that we cannot fully understand or control creation. These can be terrifying thoughts for modern people, so it is no wonder that the virgin birth has come under attack.
Mary, the “virgin mother kind,” did indeed conceive Jesus miraculously, apart from an earthly father. Instead, in an echo of the creation account, she was told, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).