Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Virgin Birth

Preaching through the Shorter Catechism we returned for the second part of our mediation on Q22.  We use “Learning the Christian Faith: The Shorter Catechism for Today”, by Roland Ward,  which includes brief commentary, an appendix on church government, and a useful overview of church history.

Q: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A: Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.

It did strike me that often we confine our preaching on the Virgin Birth to the period around Christmas – a once a year passing reference to the mystery of Christ’s conception.  Given that in the Scottish Reformed tradition some churches choose not to celebrate Christmas or the Advent season, sermons on the means of Christ’s incarnation may be very few and far between.  In addition to this the neglect, indeed antipathy, in some evangelical Presbyterian circles to the use of the Belief, (the Scottish term for the Apostles Creed, as used by the Scottish Reformers and the Church of Scotland from 1564), also means that the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ “was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary” is rarely rehearsed in congregational worship.

We do not restrict our preaching of the cross to Easter. Why should we restrict the preaching of the Virgin Birth to Christmas?  This fundamental non-negotiable truth of Christology has immense practical as well as doctrinal significance, therefore it should be proclaimed regularly. The fact that a 2004 Sunday Times survey showed that 37% of Scottish ministers reject the Virgin Birth – and the figure would probably be greater now – means that this is a truth that is either neglected, denied or re-interpreted by a significant number in the mainline liberal church.  (The survey was only of Church of Scotland ministers.)

We can only counteract such neglect and false teaching by frequent reference to the mystery of Christ’s incarnation in our worship, (using the Creed), in our preaching, and in our catechetical instruction.  The Virgin Birth is too good to keep only for Christmas!

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