The Miracle of the Virgin Birth

In today’s blog, Dr. Juan Valdes delves into the deep writings of C.S. Lewis to enlighten us on a topic that is paramount to the Christian faith.

Isaiah 7:14 NASB
Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

C. S. Lewis, well-known for writing The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and other works, tackles the virgin birth of Christ with the same clarity and strong rational arguments typical of his dealings with the problem of pain, the problem of hell, etc.  Interestingly, he considered the miracle of the virgin birth to be, “… that miracle which for some reason proves hardest of all for the modern mind to accept,”1 yet he dealt with it rather briefly in his writings―a single paragraph in Mere Christianity and less than four pages in Miracles.   In spite of the brevity with which Lewis handles the topic, however, the problem is introduced, clarified, and resolved brilliantly.

If it can be established that there was no virgin birth, then the entire text of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, loses credibility.

So, why is the  virgin birth such a central point for Christianity? First and foremost, the reliability of the Bible is at stake when we question whether its prophecies are trustworthy. If it can be established that there was no virgin birth, then the entire text of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, loses credibility. Secondly, the very nature of Christ is dependent on His virgin birth. Were it not for the virgin birth, Christ would have been born under the curse of sin―sinful, and unable to assume the role of ‘second Adam’ as described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans (Romans 5).  

Isaiah 7:14 NKJV
Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 NKJV
For unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Let’s begin our look into this topic in an Old Testament prophetic book. Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6 refer to the birth of a promised child. John Oswalt in his commentary on this book is quick to point out that this child (of 9:6) could not be the son of the prophet Isaiah, or King Hezekiah, nor any other human: "No Israelite or Judean king was ever identified as 'Mighty God.' "2 Thus, if the two passages are allusions to the same promised child as Oswalt argues, "... all … are expressions of Immanuel."3 The prophecy, then, is clearly speaking of the coming Messiah.

Matthew 1:22,23 NKJV
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

In the New Testament, when Matthew’s interpretation of Isaiah is considered, there is little room for debate.  Oswalt emphatically argues,
"Suffice it to say here that if there was no intention to speak of the Messiah in Isaiah 7:14, then Matthew is guilty of misusing evidence in his claim that this proves Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. If that is so, much of the New Testament claim for the identity of Jesus must be discarded."4
John Walton further supports this claim,
“When Matthew, endowed with inspiration and benefiting from hindsight, presents the details of the birth of Jesus, he cannot but notice how strikingly appropriate Isaiah's words are to these details."5
If one considers that Matthew 1:23 is the inspired, inerrant, Word of God, then the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is clearly understood as having both an immediate fulfillment and a later messianic fulfillment in Jesus.
So, does it really make any difference whether Jesus was born of a virgin or not? Absolutely! If Jesus was not born of a virgin, then the Bible must be dismissed as unreliable.
Christians argue for the inspiration and inerrancy of God’s Word. But can a book with mistakes be considered inerrant? Can a book be trusted whose prophecies don’t come true? Is a “god” who makes mistakes worthy of the title?  How does Lewis weigh in on this topic? Not only does he defend the major (even controversial) doctrines of the Bible, such as the Trinity, hell, Heaven, the incarnation, the deity and words of Christ, and the like, nowhere in Lewis’ writings do we find a derogatory treatment of the Bible. For the conservative believer, as for Lewis, the virgin birth of Christ is non-negotiable. Either God is God and is able to relay the future through His prophets, or He is not God. Either God is perfect and inerrant Himself and thus His word is inerrant, or He is not.  
The doctrine of the virgin birth also reveals a key element in God’s plan for redemption.
The virgin birth of Christ was essential in the process of the New Creation that was necessary for fallen man and represented by the new Adam. This claim is precisely what the Apostle Paul argued in his letter to the Romans in chapter 5. The world, contaminated and fallen, needed a fresh start with a new creation that did not proceed from the loins of the first Adam. Hence, Adam was bypassed in one of the most incredible miracles in human history.  The denial of the virgin birth is the denial of the second Adam and thus the denial of the very divine nature of Christ that would redeem mankind.

Either God is God and is able to relay the future through His prophets, or He is not God. Either God is perfect and inerrant Himself and thus His word is inerrant, or He is not.  

Early on in Miracles, Lewis addressed the fallacy of Argumentum ab Annis, also known as “chronological snobbery,” where belief in miracles like the virgin birth are dismissed as old ideas of an ancient and ignorant people. He states,
“Thus, you will hear people say, ‘The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility.’ Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the course of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it. A moment’s thought shows this to be nonsense.”6
He quickly responds by pointing to the fact that Joseph did not initially believe it to be a miracle and was determined to leave his wife. Even they knew that virgins could not be pregnant. It wasn’t until God revealed himself to Joseph that he accepted it as a miracle. Lewis’ main argument in response to the scientific objection of a virgin birth centers on the conclusion that no birth is a human process; rather, every birth is the result of divine intervention. Lewis argues,
“In a normal act of generation, the father has no creative function. A microscopic particle of matter from his body, and a microscopic particle from the woman’s body, meet …The human father is merely an instrument, … the last in a long line of carriers. That line is in God’s hand. It is the instrument by which He normally creates man … no woman ever conceived a child … without Him.”7  
What makes the virgin birth of Christ different from every other birth is that God chose to bypass His traditional method of conception. God chose to intervene for a good reason, “But once, and for a special purpose, He dispensed with that long line … Once His life-giving finger touched a woman without passing through the ages of interlocked events.”8
In God’s redemptive plan, a human carrier could not bring the baggage (sin nature) of Adam into the conception of Christ, and thus He performed one of the greatest miracles recorded in Scripture.  The concluding words of Lewis’ arguments are among his finest and most memorable on the subject.
“He is doing now, small and close, what He does in a different fashion for every woman who conceives. He does it this time [at the conception of Christ] without a line of human ancestors: but even where He uses human ancestors, it is not the less He who gives life.”9 It is difficult, if not impossible, to argue against Lewis on this issue, for even modern science marvels at the “miracle of life.”
 As we move through the Advent calendar this year, we should consciously rejoice in this miracle―the event which truly opened the door for humankind to be redeemed from the penalty of sin. 
1  C. S. Lewis, Miracles (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2001), 223.
John N. Oswalt,  Isaiah: The NIV Application Commentary  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 160.
3 Ibid.
4 Oswalt, 143.
5  John H. Walton, “Isaiah 7:14- What’s in a name?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 30/3 (September 1987), 300.
6 Lewis, Miracles, 73.
7 Ibid., 224-225.
8  Ibid., 225.  
9 Ibid.
To learn more about Dr. Juan Valdes, or to book him as a speaker, please click HERE.

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