In the 1930’s J. Gresham Machen wrote that belief in the virgin birth “is certainly necessary to Christianity,” and also “necessary to the corporate witness of the Church.” In the concluding chapter of his excellent scholarly book, The Virgin Birth of Christ, Machen made some great conclusions on his lengthy study of the biblical truth that Christ was born of the virgin Mary. I’ll list one of them here:
“What shall we think of Jesus Christ? That is the question of all questions, and it can be answered aright only when the evidence is taken as a whole. It is a fact of history, which no serious historian can deny, that in the first century of our era there walked upon this earth One who was like none other among the children of men. Reduce the sources of information all you will, and still that mysterious figure remains, that figure who is attested in the Epistles of Paul, that figure who walks before us in lifelike, self-evidencing fashion in the Gospels, that figure upon whom the Christian Church was built.
Many have been the efforts to explain Him in terms of what is common to mankind, to explain Him as a product of forces elsewhere operative in the world. Those explanations may satisfy the man who treats the evidence, in pedantic fashion, bit by bit; but they will never satisfy the man who can view the whole. View Jesus in the light of God and against the dark background of sin, view Him as the satisfaction of man’s deepest need, as the One who alone can lead into all glory and all truth, and you will come, despite all, to the stupendous conviction that the New Testament is true, that God walked here upon the earth, that the eternal Son, because He loved us, came into this world to die for our sins upon the cross.
When you have arrived at that conviction you will turn with very different eyes to the story of the virgin and her child. Wonders will no longer repel you. Rather will you say: “So and so only did it behoove this One, as distinguished from all others, to be born.”
I always appreciate the reverent clarity of Machen’s writing. While some parts of The Virgin Birth of Christ are harder to read, the concluding chapter isn’t too bad. It’s very much worth reading if you haven’t – or re-reading if you have!
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)