One of my seminary classmates ran into a problem in the process of getting ordained to the ministry. His scholarly approach to the Bible did not sit well with the more conservative members of his ordination committee. One of our professors agreed to coach him on answering their questions with integrity and truth, but in a way that might satisfy those who took a more literalist view of the Bible.
He made it through the committee with a tie vote; therefore, the larger governing body, a meeting of about 400 people, would have to examine him and decide whether or not to ordain him.
His examination began well. With poise and confidence, he articulated his answers in such a way that respected the authority of Scripture while embracing the tools of academic biblical criticism. Then, it happened. An elderly man came to the microphone and asked, “Young man, do you believe in the virgin birth?”
In the brief pause between the asking of the question and the breath he took to answer, perhaps two seconds, I could see in his frozen expression all the phrases, all the complex theological doctrine pass before his eyes: historicity versus narrative theological witness; the line between faith and superstition; modern magical thinking versus ancient theological witness. He turned slightly and made eye contact with his professor-coach who sat on the front pew.
She was frantically nodding her head and mouthing the words, “YES! YES! JUST SAY YES!”
In my posts this week, I will do my best to tread through the minefield between the academic and the pastoral approach to the story of the virgin birth of Jesus in the Gospel According to Luke.
Before I don my steel-plated boots, I’ll stop here and turn it over to you, dear readers. How important to you is the doctrine of the virgin birth? Why does it matter, or why not?