Posts Tagged Virgin Birth

Bad Chemistry, Worse Theology

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”  Luke 1:35

One of the great, fundamental truths of the virgin birth is that it guarantees the sinlessness of Jesus Christ. It was necessary for the Son of God to become human through a miraculous conception and birth. The normal process always produces a new person, so for God’s Son to come into the world due to natural procreation would have produced a being with two persons. Since He was a pre-existent person, the Son of God needed only to take to Himself an impersonal human nature, and because it was impersonal, it was also sinless (since persons sin, not bodies). Mankind desperately needed a sinless substitute and the God-man, Jesus Christ, perfectly met both requirements—He was fully man and completely sinless.

As we have seen over the past few posts some very bad doctrine has been taught about the doctrine of Christ, and much of this bad doctrine has sprung from misguided efforts to protect a true doctrine. The same is true about some attempts to correlate Christ’s sinlessness and the virgin birth. In a sermon entitled, The Chemistry of the Blood, a preacher named M. R. DeHaan tried to make the case that the virgin birth was the key to Christ’s sinlessness because the virgin birth kept Jesus from having human blood. Quite honestly, this view is so strange, I will let him speak for himself:

This very fact that sin is in the blood necessitates the Virgin Birth of Christ if He was to be a son of Adam and yet a sinless man. For this very reason Christ could partake of Adam’s flesh, which is not inherently sinful, but He could not partake of Adam’s blood, which was completely impregnated with sin. God found a way by which Jesus, born of a woman (not man), could be a perfect human being, but, because He had not a drop of Adam’s blood in His veins, He did not share in Adam’s sin.

Although Jesus was of Adam’s race according to the flesh, yet He did not inherit Adam’s nature…sin is not transmitted through the flesh. It is transmitted through the blood and not the flesh…. Sinful heredity is transmitted through the blood and not the flesh. Even though Jesus, therefore, received His flesh, His body, from a sinful race, he could still be sinless as long as no drop of blood of this sinful race entered His veins. God must find a way whereby Jesus could be perfectly human according to the flesh and yet not have the blood of sinful humanity. That was the problem solved by the virgin birth.

Since this is only a brief post, I will have to give you the shortened version as to why this is an absolutely horrible teaching that contradicts the Scriptures and is defective at its core. DeHaan based his theory on a strange mixture of bad science and worse theology. The bad science, without getting too detailed, was that the father (not the mother or both together) supplies the blood for a newly formed baby, so the blood of Jesus came from His Father. The fact is that blood is produced within the body, so Jesus’ blood would have been produced by His body, not somehow transmitted to it from the Father (Who also happens to be immaterial and therefore does not have blood!). DeHaan does not successfully dodge this problem by arguing that the father gives life since, in fact, both parents supply the components that produce life.

There is a truckload of bad theology in this view! First, DeHaan makes the very strange case that we sin because we have tainted, sinful blood. This seems to be built on a Platonic view of material things that is contrary to the Bible—it attributes an ethical principle (sin) to a material entity (blood). Biblically, the sin nature is a personal, not material, reality. He even presses his analogy to the point of calling salvation a blood transfusion!

Second, DeHaan undercuts the genuine humanity of Jesus Christ in the same way that the ancient heresy of Eutychus and the Monophysites did. Since, according to DeHaan, Christ is some type of hybrid (human body and divine blood), He is not truly human at all.

Third, DeHaan’s view results in hopeless contradictions. If the blood/life flowing in the body of Jesus Christ is divine, then by definition it cannot die (God is eternal and self-existent). The point of the incarnation of Christ was for the purpose of death—it was necessary to become flesh and blood in order to die (Heb 2:14-17). DeHaan goes so far as to say that the body of Jesus did not decay because it had divine blood in it, yet he allows for that body to die while it has the divine lifeblood still in it. Likewise, he contradicts himself by claiming that the body did not decay because it had divine blood in it and also arguing that all the blood was shed and is preserved in heaven—you can’t have it both ways!

Sadly, DeHaan’s views have had wide circulation among fundamentalists for the past five decades. Whatever one may believe about the present location of the blood of Christ, there can be no biblical retreat from the fact that Jesus’ blood was human blood. (1) The Bible declares that Jesus partook of the same as His brethren, i.e., flesh and blood (Heb 2:14). (2) The Bible declares that Jesus’ blood was shed to atone for man’s sins and it was efficacious because it was a proper substitute (unlike bulls and goats). (3) The real necessity of the virgin birth was to enable a Person to become human without producing another person!

If you want to truly worship Jesus Christ, the virgin-born Son of God, then it is essential to embrace what the Bible teaches about His person and natures. The Christmas that we ought to be celebrating is one that commemorates the entrance into the world of the God-man, One person with two distinct natures, so that He could provide an infinite atonement for mankind’s sin. And He is truly worthy to worship!

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Modern Speculations & Heresy in Embryonic Form

14Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. Hebrews 2:14-15

The last post looked at some ancient heresies regarding the person of Jesus Christ. In one way or another, these false teachings compromised what the Scriptures teach about the genuineness of the Lord’s deity and humanity. If He were not genuinely human, He could not provide atonement for mankind’s sin. If He were not God, He could not provide an infinite atonement. He must be both to accomplish the miracle of redemption, and thankfully, the Bible clearly teaches both.

It would be nice if the false teachings in yesterday’s post were limited to ancient history, but they are not. For instance, the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus was “no more and no less than a perfect human,” therefore denying His true deity. Their teaching is simply a repeat of the ancient Arian heresy and must be rejected by Bible-believing Christians.

The straightforward denial of biblical teaching by the JW’s is easier to deal with than the more subtle missteps regarding truth that sometimes circulate even among professing Bible believers. A frightening example of this kind of doctrinal misstep is found in the writings of Henry Morris. While Dr. Morris has provided God’s people with many helpful materials regarding Creation Science, he has promoted a view of the virgin birth that is very speculative and ends up contradicting the Scriptures.

In December of 1993, he wrote, “Thus the body of the second Adam must be formed directly by God and placed in a virgin’s womb…. This wonderful body would not grow from a man’s seed, as in every other human birth, nor would it grow from a woman’s egg, for in either case a sin-carrying and mutation-carrying embryo would necessarily result. It must instead be a seed specially formed by the Creator Himself, then planted in the virgin’s womb, where it forthwith would become His ‘tabernacle’ for thirty-three years as He lived on His planet Earth among those He had come to save.”

 This view clearly contradicts the text above and many other Scriptures that make it clear that Jesus was a physical descendant of both Abraham and David (e.g., Rom 1:3; 9:5; 2 Sam 12:7). The fulfillment of the promises and the provision of a sacrifice both demanded that Jesus partake of His humanity from the human race, not by a direct work of creation. Although Morris, thankfully, does not deny the genuine humanity of Jesus Christ, he does inject vain speculations into the biblical teaching regarding the virgin birth.

The fact that the eternal Son of God could take to Himself a genuine human nature is truly a mystery—what the Apostle Paul says is part of the “mystery of godliness” (1 Tim 3:16). Rather than speculate about how it was accomplished (e.g., theories about a transplanted embryo), we should accept the revealed truth and marvel at the wonder of God Incarnate, Jesus our Lord!

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Ancient Heresies that Might Still Haunt Us

2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world (1 John 4:2-3).

The Bible informs us that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9), and that principle applies to doctrinal errors too. Before we move to consider the biblical teaching about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, we need to be reminded that Satan has launched attacks at the doctrine of Christ for centuries. The Apostle John issues the warnings above because the person and work of Christ are at the center of salvation, and the devil’s efforts (“the spirit of antichrist”) seem to focus on distorting the truth about Jesus Christ.

These two verses from 1 John teach clearly the deity (“has come”) and humanity (“in the flesh”) of Jesus Christ. Over the course of centuries many heresies have developed which denied one of these two essential truths. Please allow me to give a quick heresy overview:

  1. Nestorianism—an ancient heresy developed from the teachings of Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople. Nestorians believed that Christ has two distinct personalities, one human and one divine (i.e., He was a divine person [Son of God] and a human person [Jesus of Nazareth born of Mary]). This was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in A. D. 431.
  2. Docetism—this heresy takes its name from the Greek word dokeo which means “to seem or appear” and denied the genuine humanity of Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus was not truly human; He only seemed to be human. A second century Gnostic, Valentinus, argued that from conception to birth the Lord Jesus passed through the body of His mother “like water through a pipe” and that He derived no part of His humanity from her.
  3. Ebionism—this heresy arose, apparently, as an attempt to square belief in the deity of Jesus Christ with the biblical teaching about monotheism. Sadly, it did so by denying the deity of Christ (along with the biblical teaching about the virgin birth).
  4. Monarchianism
    • Dynamic—originated by Theodotus, a Byzantine leather merchant, and introduced to Rome @ 190 A.D. “He maintained…that prior to baptism Jesus was an ordinary man, although a completely virtuous one. At the baptism, the Spirit, or Christ, descended upon him, and from that time on he performed miraculous works of God” (Erickson, p. 333). The point was that there was no substantive presence of God in Jesus, only the working or force of God upon or in or through him.
    • Modal—in its attempt to guard the unity of the Godhead, modalism affirmed that there is one “Godhead which may be variously designated as Father, Son, or Spirit. The terms do not stand for real distinctions, but merely names which are appropriate and applicable at different times. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are identical—they are successive revelations of the same person. The modalistic solution to the paradox of threeness and oneness was, then, not three persons, but one person with three different names, roles, or activities” (Erickson, 334). One element of modalism was the belief that the Father suffered along with the Son, “since he was actually present in and personally identical with the Son” (p. 335). This is called patripassianism and is properly rejected as heretical.
  5. Arianism—an Alexandrian elder named Arius formulated a more thorough doctrine regarding Christ than did the Ebionites, but his basic teaching was the same—Jesus was not divine. Again, the driving force was an unrelenting, but distorted, defense of monotheism. The Word was not God, but the highest created being. He was not self-existent or eternal.
  6. Eutychianism/Monophysitism—in an overreaction to the Nestorian heresy, a group arose which denied that Jesus possessed two natures. They believed that Jesus possessed only one nature, God made flesh and become man. Some even seemed to move so far as to imply that this one nature was really a hybrid, a mixture of deity and humanity.

Failing to honor properly the Bible’s teaching about the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ always results in heresy. The doctrine of the virgin birth, therefore, is a wonderful window into how these two natures are united in One person—the God-man Jesus Christ.

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Cornerstone or Stumbling Stone?

22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” 24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:22-25

The doctrines of the virgin birth and deity of Jesus Christ have been at the center of theological debate for centuries. In the early centuries of Christianity much of the debate focused on the deity of Jesus Christ, although there are also ancient heresies related to the virgin birth. In the theological battle between modernists and fundamentalists in the early portion of the 20th century, the doctrine of the virgin birth rose to a place of prominence. This is interesting in light of the limited amount of Scripture that records and addresses it. The significance of the virgin birth as a watershed issue was not its prominence in the Bible, but the precision it brought to the doctrinal debate with liberals.

Fundamentalists made belief in the virgin birth a watershed issue because it immediately opened a window into crucial theology: (1) the deity of Christ, (2) the possibility of miracles, (3) the transcendence of God, and (4) the inspiration of the Bible. Those who accepted the virgin birth generally accepted each of these; those who rejected the virgin birth generally denied these. The virgin birth became a litmus test as to whether one believed in divinely revealed truth as the basis for Christianity or not. It made a clear divide between the fundamentalists and the modernists, or, in other words, between Christianity and liberalism.

Loyalty to God and the Scriptures maintains a cutting edge on our commitment to make clear distinctions between truth and error. As we move into the Christmas season, I want to focus the next few posts on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ in order to enable us to worship God for the great gift of His Son and to call us to remain steadfast in sound doctrine.

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