Which virgin birth do you believe in? Atheism offers at least four, and Christianity offers one.
It’s that time of year again. At Christmas, we remember and celebrate the incarnation, the taking on of flesh, by Jesus Christ, the adding of human nature to his divine nature in the incarnation. The virgin birth is a very important part of that. We’ll talk about that a little at the end of the episode today.
It’s interesting, society thinks that Christians are the only ones who believe in a virgin birth. While that may be true if we’re talking about the virgin birth of a human being, atheism, at least in general, has a few different virgin births that it believes in, even if they would not describe it by that term.
I think it’s helpful for us to be aware of how different people think about different things. We’re going to talk about at least four different virgin births that atheism believes in and ascribes to.
The virgin birth of the universe
The first one, and the most notable, is that atheism believes in the virgin birth of the universe. The whole universe came from nothing, for no cause, for no purpose, on atheism. The big bang theory, from a secular perspective, is that everything came from nothing, and nothing is not like a small something. It’s the absence of anything. Everything came about with no cause, for no purpose, on atheism. That’s a virgin birth of everything that exists. Christians get criticized for believing in the “supernatural” when it comes to the virgin birth of a human being. How could a human come from nowhere, from no father?
But atheism affirms that everything that exists came from nothing. They might try to explain this in terms of natural laws. In fact, Stephen Hawking has said, because of the laws of nature, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Let that sentence just ring and hang in the air a minute. Something can’t create itself. It would have had to exist in order to create itself, but if it existed it wouldn’t need to create itself. That doesn’t work. It’s philosophical nonsense.
But more than that, we can’t have this idea that there are natural laws if there’s no nature. And more than that, as many people, Christians and non-Christians have pointed out, a natural law isn’t actually a law that prescribes how something must work. It’s more of a description of how things have worked in the past. For the Christian, we understand that a natural law is simply a description of how God has sustained his creation in the past. Creation is not self-sustaining and self-actualizing. On the Christian worldview, God created everything. Now that idea of God is repugnant to many people, but isn’t the alternative view, that everything came from nothing, isn’t that just intellectual suicide?
Now non-Christians will say it’s the Christian who creates intellectual suicide, but we at least can explain the cause of everything. If people ask about what caused God, that’s a category error. Because God, by definition, is an uncreated being. If you don’t have something like God in your belief system, you’re left with an infinite number of causes. What caused the cause that caused the cause that caused the cause? All of that to stay there must be a first uncaused cause, an unmoved mover. God makes sense of that. I don’t have to understand everything about God as we’ve talked about before, to be justified in believing that he exists, and more than that, that he created the universe.
Atheism affirms a virgin birth of a universe, which makes no sense, and Christianity affirms that God created the universe.
The virgin of birth life
The second virgin birth of atheism is life. Life came about from non-life in an evolutionary worldview. No one can explain how this can happen adequately. This is actually called abiogenesis, from non-life, life. But how did this happen? We don’t know. No one can actually demonstrate this, because if someone could demonstrate this in the lab, what they would not have shown is abiogenesis. They would have shown intelligent design. An intelligent scientist puts certain ingredients together and sets up certain conditions, and low and behold life comes. We’ve just demonstrated intelligent design.
Life comes about from non-life, complexity from non-complexity, on atheism, at least in general. This is a virgin birth of life.
But when Christians affirm the virgin birth of a single life, that’s intellectually not credible, but the virgin birth of all life? Very credible, we’re told. That’s obviously a gross contradiction and inconsistency.
The virgin birth of morality
But there’s a third virgin birth on atheism, so not just virgin birth of the universe, not just the virgin birth of all life. Morality actually somehow comes about from nothing on atheism, but exists. This is where I do want to try and be fair to atheists. There are a wide variety of views on atheism about morality. Some people would say there is no morality. Some people would say we make our own morality. Some people would say there are actual objective right and wrongs on atheism. “Killing is wrong for all people at all times. It doesn’t matter what culture they’re in,” some people would say on atheism. Now many atheists, if they’ve thought about their beliefs consistently, would not actually affirm that type of belief. They might say that evolution has created in us moral desires and moral intuitions. So it kind of came from nowhere, for no cause, once again.
Universally, we know and affirm that morality is best when we put other people first. To help someone at the sacrifice to yourself is seen to be morally good. To put yourself above others is seen and affirmed almost universally to be morally bad.
But what does evolution do? Does evolution create in animals a desire to put other people first? No, it creates in them a desire to put themselves first, because evolution-random mutation and natural selection-is about getting a single individual’s genes into the next generation. It’s about success in procreating. Putting other people first, as a rule, does not help someone, an organism or a human, procreate. Taking things, killing, those types of things are most effective at getting rid of obstacles to procreation, and yet we consider those types of behaviors and traits to be immoral, not moral.
Once again we’re left with saying, what view best explains reality? The idea that somehow humans have this moral intuition and knowledge (which they often suppress or behave inconsistently with, and that just came from nowhere),That’s view A, the atheism view. What about the Christian view, that God is the source and ground of morality, and that we are created in his image and therefore we’re moral creatures. We have moral knowledge. We can discover and learn moral truths. We have moral intuitions and we have guilt when we behave immorally, as we should. If you’re guilty, you should feel guilty.
Once again, we’re left with the question of what best explains the world as we see it and experience it. Atheism either says morality’s not real and objective or they would say, “We just decide for ourselves,” which is not real morality. If it could change tomorrow by a vote, it’s not actual morality. Or perhaps they’ll say that it came about through evolution, which once again, where did it come from? How did that happen? How do we get immaterial obligations like “I have to be nice to someone” from a materialistic process like evolution? There isn’t a satisfactory explanation for that. No, in other words, morality has a virgin birth in culture.
Now maybe I’m pushing that metaphor a little, but nonetheless, this is something that does not fit well in an atheistic worldview. Virgin birth of the universe, virgin birth of life, virgin birth of morality.
The virgin birth of human dignity
The last virgin birth we’ll talk about that doesn’t fit in Christianity is that of human dignity. In fact, we have heard in recent years this new type of crime that’s been spoken of called a crime against human dignity. It might be where you call someone a name or maybe where you refuse to serve them a cake because they want the cake for a certain type of event (like we’ve seen recently a case that went to the Supreme Court was over a Christian baker who refused to make cakes for same-sex ceremonies and adult-themed parties and different things like that. The people in this case have said that he harmed their dignity as humans.)
On atheism, broadly speaking, human dignity has a virgin birth. We can’t explain why humans have it and other animals don’t. Maybe it’s because we’re more complicated or advanced. That’s just a decision we made. There’s no actual dignity there on atheism. It’s just a decision that’s made corporately. Same idea with morality.
Multiple years ago when the case that went to the Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage, Obergefell, was being argued in oral arguments, what was said is that it was the government’s goal and job to bestow dignity on its citizens and its couples by conferring on them the right to marriage. It was said same-sex couples suffered harm to their dignity because they weren’t allowed to marry each other like heterosexuals were, they said.
Now I will say the law has never imposed a gay or straight test to see if you could marry. It has only said what types of people, what types of couples, were going to be created. Was the couple going to have two people of opposite sex ? That actually says nothing about their sexual orientation at all, so it did not discriminate based on orientation, it discriminated based on results and action. That’s a separate conversation for a separate day. Nonetheless, in arguing that, it was said that not allowing these people to marry harmed their dignity.
We’ve also heard that people are denied dignity if they can’t end their life when they want to end it perhaps they’re going through some type of terminal condition and they don’t want to let that condition take its course. They want to kill themselves now, either themselves or with the aid of a physician. What that’s called is death with dignity, people say.
What this says is that to fight for life and to let life take its natural course is not dignified, and that dignity is something we can increase in ourselves or detract from ourselves or take away from other people. Because, on atheism, dignity is not conferred by God. In fact, the reason humans have dignity in a Christian worldview, and I think this makes most sense of everything we see and experience, is that God has created us in his image and therefore not by decision of a group or a vote, not by how I feel about myself-none of those things-I have dignity because my creator has ascribed dignity to me. I have dignity because I bear his image. As God has dignity, I bear his image, I have dignity also. I am worthy of respect not because of how I act, or my height, or my abilities, but because I’m created in the image of the holy almighty God.
Here’s where I want us to step back and ask a question. People are searching for meaning. They seem to believe that life should be meaningful. They seem to believe that it’s wrong to harm other people, in other words, morality exists. They seem to believe that people have dignity. Once again, that makes sense. Christianity makes better sense of all of those innate moral desires and intuitions than atheism. Christianity explains why we have them, because we were created in God’s image. It explains why man actually is dignified, why man actually has this moral sense. It explains why we’re here, and yet often the atheist is inconsistent and goes through life believing he has dignity, believing he can do moral things that are good and bad, and that moral things can be done to him that are good and bad. He believes life has a purpose and yet his worldview supports none of that. Because on atheism, you have to invent dignity. You have to invent morality. On atheism, life somehow came from non-life with no proposed explanation, and no reproducibility.
The universe, everything that exists, came from nothing. And yet Christians are the ones who are told that we’re intellectually backwards for believing in miracles when atheism has so many things that it takes for granted that were just created out of thin air philosophically speaking.
I hope that’s given you a snapshot of how atheism actually has several virgin births, so to speak. Some of those push the metaphor a little more than others. But nonetheless, things that came out of nowhere.
The virgin birth of Jesus
Let’s actually talk a little bit about the virgin birth of Jesus. It is Christmas, after all.
In Matthew 1 we see that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” We see here affirmed that Mary had a child conceived by the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere in Matthew we’re told that she was a virgin when she conceived.
There have been Christians in recent years who have said, “You know what? The virgin birth is not that important. It’s not distinctive of the faith.” But the virgin birth is actually extremely closely tied to the Gospel, and here’s what I mean. We can’t just separate out the different miracles described in scripture like they’re a grab bag. Because often they’re attached to the overarching plan of redemption that God has been working from the garden all the way to the cross, and is still working today.
Here’s what I mean. We see in Galatians 4 where Paul says,
“When the appropriate had come, God sent out his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might be adopted as sons with full rights.”
Herein we see one of the ramifications of the Gospel is that we’re adopted as sons. We have that right to be sons because Christ redeemed us. How did he do that? Because he was born and lived under the law perfectly. We needed a man, a full human man with a full human nature, to live under the law to be our representative to God the Father.
That’s why Jesus was born of a woman. He was actually a man. He was truly man. But, he had to also be fully divine because no one else could have lived perfectly under the law. He could not have Adam’s original corruption, which is why, while he’s born of Mary, he’s conceived by the Holy Spirit. There’s a break in that line of passing on the original corruption that Adam suffered and passed on to all of his descendants, that they were born dead in sin. Jesus was not born dead in sin but he was truly man and he was truly God. That truth finds part of its source in the virgin birth.
Had there not begin a virgin birth, there would not have been a person like Jesus who was truly man and truly God.
If there is no man who’s truly man and truly God, he can’t go to the cross to be our redemption, and then we can’t be adopted as sons. You see, the Gospel actually has as a part of it the idea of the virgin birth. We can’t separate the person of Jesus from the work of Jesus. We can’t separate those things from the Gospel and we can’t separate the virgin birth from any of that either.
Christianity does affirm a virgin birth, a virgin birth of the savior who came to save men from their sins. We looked at that last week.
But atheism has several virgin births, several things that just pop into existence. Now the virgin birth of Jesus actually has a cause and someone who made it happen. We’re told that God did that through the Holy Spirit. Atheism and the creation of the universe has no creator, no cause, no purpose, and actually everything came from no thing. That makes much less sense.
This Christmas, let’s be prepared to talk about the virgin birth and why it’s important, and let’s understand how Christianity makes better sense of reality. That should just make us praise God all the more. Be prepared to articulate these truths with our non-Christian neighbors and coworkers, because people are open to hearing more about Jesus at this time than any other time of year. The best way to get people to understand the Gospel is not always through intellectual argument, though for many people that’s an important part. It’s also through arguments that touch their heart, and people’s hearts at this time of year are often more open than at any other time of year to hearing about the Gospel. Let’s be faith stewards with the opportunities God has given us.