“Good News of Great Joy,” Day 20: The Scandal of the Virgin Birth

December 19, 2015

booklet_coverI recently created a 26-day Advent devotional booklet for my church called “Good News of Great Joy.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and Christmas day. Enjoy!

Scripture: 1 John 5:14-15

In his recent book on the first Christmas, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, the former Pope Benedict calls the virgin birth and resurrection a “scandal to the modern spirit”:

God is “allowed” to act in ideas and thoughts, in the spiritual domain—but not in the material. That is shocking. He does not belong there. But that is precisely the point: God is God and he does not operate merely on the level of ideas. In that sense, what is at stake in both of these moments is God’s very godhead. The question that they raise is: does matter belong to him?

Naturally we may not ascribe to God anything nonsensical or irrational, or anything that contradicts his creation. But here we are not dealing the the irrational or contradictory, but precisely with the positive—with God’s creative power, embracing the whole of being. In that sense these two moments—the virgin birth and the real resurrection from the tomb—are the cornerstones of faith. If God does not also have power over matter, then he simply is not God. But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ has has ushered in a new creation. So as the Creator he is also our Redeemer. Hence the conception and birth of Jesus from the Virgin Mary is a fundamental element of our faith and a radiant sign of hope.[1]

Do you believe that God has the power to operate in our physical world—rather than merely the spiritual realm? If so, do your prayers for others or yourself reflect this belief?

1. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (New York: Image, 2012), 56-7.

4 Responses to ““Good News of Great Joy,” Day 20: The Scandal of the Virgin Birth”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    I agree God acts in the physical realm. However, that leaves open the question of how He CHOOSES to act. I believe that God “directs” natural events, but I also believe God chose to act in different ways at different times to accomplish his purposes. Particularly, in my “humble” opinion :), in our day I don’t believe God acts “miraculously,” defined as “startlingly overriding natural laws.” Such as, raising people from the dead, giving sight to those born blind, healing a withered limb or shortened leg. When I hear such accounts, I “raise an eyebrow.” Case in point—someone in my Sunday School class recently said that when he and his family were once without money for groceries, God caused their milk jug not to run out—as he referred to it, “the milk that never ran dry,” a la Elijah’s miracle. How did I respond, you might ask? Well, to avoid my wife divorcing me for being too controversial or causing a scene, I kept my mouth shut. But I certainly did not believe it.

    • brentwhite Says:

      But that person is reading this blog! 😉

      I do believe that miracles happen, at least very rarely, as we’ve discussed. But I’m with you: I would be very skeptical of this man’s claim. Wouldn’t God far likelier act by having other people supply him with milk, for instance, than performing an Elijah-style miracle? Regardless, as you say, we’re not questioning God’s activity in our world, only the means by which he does it. A lot of people imagine that if God isn’t performing an Elijah-style miracle, then he isn’t doing anything at all, but that’s ridiculous.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        I agree as to the last. I can certainly think of times that events occurred which would have been entirely unlikely had God not been “involved,” though not “miraculous” (as I have defined it).

    • brentwhite Says:

      Glad your comment got through this time, by the way! If you get a chance, read my most recent post about free will. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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